This is the second post in a series to help empaths deepen their gifts while avoiding the common traps that compromise their energetic and physical health.
Empaths are prone to emotional flooding. Not only can they be overwhelmed by their own emotions, the held emotions of others can flood their energy field and body. We are all connected and no one knows that more than an empath.
In my work, being an empath is helpful. I have clients who will speak unemotionally about a highly charged topic in their lives. But, I feel the emotions underneath their words. If there is repressed grief, I will feel like my throat or heart is splitting open with teary sobs wanting to pour forth. If there is unacknowledged anger, I feel heat in my belly or hot energy moving up my spine and over my shoulders. I may feel a scream deep in my belly or throat.
It wouldn’t be healing or appropriate, if I sobbed or lashed out angrily during a client’s session. What is one to do with these emotions that are coursing through the body?
Most often, an empath will feel another’s emotions, but not be flooded by them. Typically, emotional flooding occurs someone else’s emotions hits your unhealed past, trauma or repressed emotions. Very quickly, emotions can build and overwhelm you. The emotions are overpowering . You fear the dreaded ugly cry might happen or the urge to lash out and hit something.
Weddings, funerals, parties and group meetings can drain an empath. I attend a middle school parenting group and there are a lot of unexpressed emotions in the room. I feel them coursing through my body. I have to parse out what I feel from what others are feeling. When someone finally expresses their anger or sadness, the energy in the room shifts and people start breathing again.
If you find yourself emotionally flooded and overwhelmed, here’s how to lessen the impact:
Check if you’re holding your breath. My husband admitted to me he was afraid he couldn’t hold it together at an upcoming memorial service. My advice was to breathe when he felt emotions building. Holding one’s breath holds down emotions. But, the intensity can keep building. People unconsciously hold their breath when emotions are surfacing. Breathing keeps the energy moving and often allows it to gently dissipate or express.
Feel and Move Your Body.
After checking your breath, check in to see if you can feel your body. If you can’t, bring your attention to your feet or your seat on your chair. Press your feet into the ground or rotate your ankles. Check your hands. Are they hot or cold? Flex your fingers to bring energy to them. If you’re trying to hold it together, you’ll cut off awareness of everything except the overpowering emotions. Your body is a resource that can help discharge the energy you’re holding.
If you lose touch with your body, you’re no longer grounded. Grounding keeps you connected to the earth and to the present moment. It gives you another resource to deal with the emotions and, more likely, your emotional expression will be appropriate for your surroundings. Emotion moves upward. You can direct the emotional energy downward by belly breathing or directing the energy down your legs and into the earth. Bending your knees a bit and letting your weight drop into your feet is helpful, too.
If you’re fortunate to be next to someone you trust, reach out and hold their hand or link your arm in their arm. Then, sense the other person energetically and sense your shared energy field. This helps settle both of your systems. Knowing we aren’t alone always feels comforting. You can ground and support each other silently and energetically.
If you feel tossed around by emotions, I urge you to seek professional help. I’ve helped clients learn to regulate their emotions and become more centered and grounded in overwhelming circumstances. If you have unhealed trauma, working with a body-oriented practitioner will help you move the trauma out of your body. Overtime, you will find yourself capable of confronting challenges without collapsing energetically and emotionally.