What it means to be a highly sensitive person
Depending on who you are speaking to or the context, the word empath can have different meanings. Sometimes, it means someone who is highly sensitive to energy in others and their environment. In this way, the word is synonymous with intuitive or psychic. Other times, it’s used to specifically describe a type of intuitive person – someone whose strongest spiritual gift is clairsentience or psychic feeling. This is someone who can intuitively read another or a space through feeling, emotion, and sensation.
For our purposes, I’ll be using the former, broader usage of empath as the highly sensitive person. Because I write a lot about how to open yourself in sacred meditation and learning to communicate with your soul and spirit guides, we should talk more about what it means to live and thrive as a highly sensitive person or empath and some of the challenges that can come up.
Some of us were born this way – very open, soaking energy up like sponges, carrying our knowings around as children before we knew what it meant or what to do with them. Others of us recovered those gifts later in life after shutting them down for a time to fit in, live a normal life or appease our loved ones. Whatever your path to becoming an empath or highly sensitive person, it’s important to know that being highly sensitive comes with challenges just as it comes with blessings. The blessings are big, beautiful and life changing. The gift of the empath is an effortless experience of unity. We feel automatically at one with all around us. This is a profound gift, and simply existing in this world in such a way is a service to others. Your being here with this form of consciousness helps the human family remember that unity state of being, which is increasingly available in the higher realms as our soul collective ascends in consciousness. In a way, empaths are beacons of unity, showing the human collective where it’s going. Sort of like a canary in a coal mine. But like any personality type, living as a highly sensitive person comes with its own challenges. If understood properly, these liabilities can be mitigated and managed. So, here are a few types of imbalances to watch for:
- Maintain a Strong Sense of Self – Empaths can become easily overwhelmed in groups. In large group settings, we can become like radios that are tuned to every channel at once but can’t get one clear signal. This can manifest as severe social anxiety, ADHD, stage fright, exhaustion and general overwhelm. Some of us may even lean on drinking or other numbing strategies in group settings to shut down the sensitivity avalanche that we encounter when out and about. It’s likely you’ll do better in small group settings and especially one on one. Be sure to make time EVERY DAY to be in your own energy and get time alone. This will enable you to deeply know what your own energy feels like, what your center feels like and that will enable you to hold this frequency when in crowds. Empaths have to balance their social time with their alone time, which is another way of saying go “home” within yourself regularly. Daily meditation of 10 minutes is highly beneficial. Daily journaling to build and maintain the sense of self is highly encouraged. The thing to understand about experiencing the collective v. the self is that the empath is the most at risk of getting lost in the collective. Losing the sense of self in others is the liability that comes with this gift, and for many of us, it takes years to realize the necessity of solitude and what it takes to get it. Any practices that mirror the sense of self are recommended as well for this challenge: talk therapy, using a feelings wheel, journaling, art-making, doing what you love (which is your spiritual home and center) all can help. Every day, check in with yourself via these kind of questions: what am I feeling today, what is my opinion on this, what do I need.
- Stay off the Rollercoaster – Sometimes, we empaths can erroneously feel it’s our job to be afflicted by our sensitivity for the sake of others. But it doesn’t have to be this way; you always have agency. To walk the masterful level of this path, you are meant to maturely wield your empathy and serve from that place in a way that is balanced. You are meant to find balance between love of self and love of others. If you are chronically getting on emotional rollercoaster rides with others when you witness the suffering of others (animals that need rescuing, friends going through a hard time, romantic partners that are in turmoil, etc.), this is a sign that your emotional permeability is wielding you and not the other way around. Most empaths have to work hard not to fall into codependent behavior patterns, i.e. chronic emotional enmeshment. An empath’s codependent patterns are a calling to integrate the fact that she is a highly sensitive person and master this aspect of herself, as chronic emotional enmeshment is one of the shadow sides of sensitivity. Getting more alone time is highly recommended as mentioned above. More importantly, make a choice to value and prioritize your emotional equilibrium. The surprising thing here is that equanimity actually allows the empath to sense more of his or her soul and serve others more effectively. Counterintuitively, emotional independence is a much stronger position psychically for the empath. This is because we carry more spiritual power when we are healed and balanced. One of the hardest parts of this gift is finally understanding that just because you can feel others pain and suffering does not mean you belong there. You are meant to locate your emotional locus and center within your own life and being and serve with your empathy from your center and equilibrium. From this emotional/psychic independence, your empathy will become a tool you use in service rather than a force that is wielding you. Books on setting healthy boundaries and understanding codependent patterns can be a big help to any empaths who feel they need a strengthened emotional center.
- Stay Grounded, Stay in the Body – this may seem obvious, but it bears mentioning, because as highly sensitive persons, our first language comes from the upper four chakras. We are super comfortable with spiritual, mental and emotional energy. We sometimes get lost in the higher energy centers and can neglect our physical needs like healthy eating, exercise and drinking water, walking and moving our body, getting sun on our skin and our feet on the ground, getting around nature, etc. The more present we can be in our body and our earth-based chakras, the healthier and happy we will be as people – but you should know this is also a key to being a stronger intuitive. The more rooted into the material plane you are, the higher you can go in spirit. Here are some potential strategies for your grounding practice: Strong morning and evening routines are recommended. Taking the time to eat properly. A 15-minute workout or yoga series daily. Getting in nature at least weekly will effortlessly retune you to Earth’s base tones. Lastly, sitting for 5 minutes a day with mindful breathing is one of the single most important grounding exercises for empaths.
- Be selective – As a highly sensitive person, you will eventually learn that it pays off to be more selective about to which energies you expose yourself. When someone with distorted energy comes into the room, the empaths will be the first to feel it. To the extent that you can manage who you are around, it makes sense to surround yourself with positive, healthy people. But, let’s just be real, life is messier than that. Baring monastic life, sometimes there’s no avoiding negative and unbalanced people, so if you’re out in the world and feel you need an extra buffer, feel free to surround yourself with white holy light. You can do this by envisioning yourself surrounded on all sides by a sphere of white light. Ask Archangel Michael to help with this if needed. If something unsettling appears to you intuitively when you are around negative people or are in a space where the energy is charged, it’s important to affirm you are safe. Allowing yourself to fall into fearful emotions will not support you in any situation. Affirm your safety by invoking Michael or your light shield, and/or employ a boundary and remove yourself from the situation if possible. It’s important to curate the media you consume as well. Horror movies, gore, and dark television and books aren’t recommended for highly sensitive people. Especially if you are a practicing intuitive and opening your channel to communicate with the higher realms. It’s important that you keep your energy as high and positive as possible when you are practicing in this field. If you do feel the need to experience darker content through any form of media, affirm your protection and oneness with divine light. And just cleanse your aura to the extent possible before sleep or meditation.
Remember, everyone has their gifts. Specifically, the empaths of the world are here to hold the frequencies of unity consciousness – the form of consciousness that is more readily experienced in the heavenly and nirvanic realms. Empaths, by simply being themselves, are serving the human family in such a profound way, by showing the way home. By reminding us all that at our core we are one.
To be a thoughtful steward of this gift, the empath must every day ask his or herself “what in me needs balancing.” Every day, the empath must return home to their center. To discover and rediscover the balance between love of the collective and love of the self.
Below are some resources that may support you on your path…
- Boundaries, Where I End and You Begin, to examine the role of boundaries in your life
- The Highly Sensitive Person, to understand the nature of this personality type
- My Youtube video on Discernment and Boundaries for the Empath
Be well, and happy travels all. If you need any support on your spiritual path, I am taking on new clients for intuitive readings in April and May. See my homepage for contact info.