Estimates show that 15-20% of the earth’s population falls under the category of highly sensitive while another 2-3% are empathic. Knowing you’re an empath doesn’t mean that you know how to survive it. Having a better understanding of the types of empathy you’re experiencing can also help you to recognize the proper survival technique to employ.
Types of Empathy
Astrologically speaking, there are three different types of empathy that we experience. Each type is associated with the Moon and specifically with the Moon in a water sign, as:
Moon in Pisces
This type of empathy is the most intense as we struggle to determine where someone else’s emotions end and ours begin.
When this sort of sensory overload takes place, it’s difficult for us to pin point the source of what we feel or reason for feeling it.
Moon in Cancer
This type of empathy is very nurturing and helpful in nature. We can feel the emotions of others, but there’s a clear line between theirs and ours. It’s also the most exhausting of the three types.
Our empathy will also draw us to the weak – children, animals, and those who are sick.
Moon in Scorpio
This type of empathy goes to the source of the emotion for the other person. We are the natural psychologists for our friends. This empathy allows us to see the pain at the heart of evil.
There’s only one rule to survival for an empath. That rule is, first and foremost, you must take care of you.
Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? You take care of others. That’s what you do. Besides, you’re taking care of yourself. You’ve been attempting to eat healthy-ish.
That effort alone should count for something…right?
You’re driven to help and care for others. It’s in the fiber of your soul. The problem is, as an empath, you can be so hardwired with that drive that you neglect yourself in the process. It can be very easy for you to allow your attention to the needs of others come at the price of sacrificing your own.
As Dr. Judith Orloff confirms, there must be a balance and finding that balance is key to the art of empathy.
Balance requires staying tuned into your own emotions even while dealing with those of others.
We must have an awareness of ourselves that will allow us to step back now and then, periodically taking personal inventory. It’s the best way to make sure that we aren’t losing ourselves in the process.
Steps to Maintain Rule #1
Once we have the goal to take care of ourselves in mind, there are certain steps we must follow to bring our plan to fruition. To ensure that we’re taking proper care of ourselves we must:
- Set boundaries
- Increase our emotional intelligence
- Know our limitations
- Make sure we have an empathic support network
Each step puts you closer to being healthier and happier.
Set Personal Boundaries
According to Mariana Brockarova Ph.D. of Psychology Today, setting boundaries with others is essential to our self-worth.
Personal boundaries keep us from saying “yes” out of habit by requiring us to be accountable to ourselves. In turn, this accountability raises our self-worth as our value becomes more and more self-evident.
This one can be difficult, especially in today’s world where we’re conditioned for instant gratification.
As the natural empaths of the Zodiac, this is compounded for Cancerians.
When someone asks us for help, we feel the pressure to answer right then and there. Once boundaries have been set, this issue can become a thing of the past.
It can also be difficult because setting personal boundaries for ourselves can seem selfish in nature.
To that I have but one question: How can self-preservation, which is essential to our survival, be selfish? The walls of your home are your personal boundaries too. It is no more selfish to set personal boundaries than it is to live indoors.
Raise your EQ
Just because we feel everything doesn’t mean we recognize or can actually name what those feelings are. As an empath on the autism spectrum, I can tell you that it can be difficult enough getting a handle on size and strength of what you’re feeling.
That can become further complicated if you try determining why you’re feeling what you feel, especially if you’re in a large group at the time.
It’s only difficult though. Not impossible.
Work on your ability to recognize and distinguish between your feelings and the feelings of others. Evaluate them and learn to regulate your own. Even the University of Florida has acknowledged it’s important to raise our emotional intelligence.
Know Our Limitations
As The Wall Street Journal points out, knowing our limits and being aware of where we are in relation to them is important. This knowledge helps us to recognize when we are reaching our limitations and when we have surpassed them.
Saving everyone is not an option.
If you have even the remotest of faith in a Divine Plan, you must wake up to that fact.
We don’t know where our paths are going so how can we possibly know where others are headed?
Often, we forget that others have their own paths to walk and destinations to find.
They also have their own lessons to learn. They are experiencing these feelings for a reason. If someone always tied your shoes for you, you probably would’ve still learned to do it, but only by attempting to tie them yourself.
We must be willing to let them do it themselves.
A wise friend once told me that it isn’t what we go through, but how we get through it.
Perhaps our purpose isn’t always to alleviate the source of their emotions, but rather to help them get through them successfully. Encourage and support them. You might both be surprised by the growth it brings to everyone involved.
We don’t know the lessons that the Universe is attempting to teach them. It could be a lesson that will put them on the path they should be on but keep purposely avoiding. We mistakenly think we’re helping, but the reality is that we’re only delaying their enlightenment. We’ve become more of a hindrance than a help which was the exact opposite of our intent.
We need to be extra cautious of this sort of behavior because the Universe has been known to remove our abilities to help those people if we keep getting in the way.
Developing those boundaries mentioned earlier also allows you to get a different perspective on these things because it gives you a little distance. It gives you the ability to see the trees and the forest, so to speak.
Growing Our Empath Networks
This is about getting and giving. It’s an exchange of energy that will deplete you if you’re giving without receiving in return.
The opposite is true in relationships between empaths.
The more good energy we receive, the more we have in our possession to give it seems.
Take a headcount of the empaths in your life.
For most of us, it’s only a few because to survive we’ve developed a tendency to be introverts.
Of those few, examine those relationships closely and you’ll find that there is a fulfillment in them that doesn’t exist in your relationships with others.
They’ve never had an agenda in their interactions with you and interactions with them leave you feeling energized.
Those two reasons alone are why you need more of them in your life.
You’ll find the more you’re around each other, the more positive you’ll feel and the stronger you’ll become in your ability to stand up against negativity.
How do you do that? Well, go back to that whole thing about not getting in the way of others.
Sometimes the only way we can do that is to back off a bit and let them get back on their journey. Put a truly solid trust in the Divine Plan with an acceptance in your heart of it working toward a greater good.
The Universe will take it from there.
By showing you’ve learned the lesson of not standing in the way of others, perhaps you’ll even find yourself rewarded with an empath to fill the void. If so, buckle up. Spending some recharge time with them can be some of the most healing which is one step closer to that peace I mentioned earlier.
We usually know how to prepare for people who have regular roles in our lives. We’ve learned what to expect and how to deal with coworkers, family, and friends who lean toward the difficult side. For some, that keeps them busy enough that the rest goes unnoticed.
For others, public places, especially those that are crowded can cause a sensory overload.
One of the best protections from collecting the “emotional garbage” of the outside world that I’ve found is white light. Mentally encapsulate yourself in it like a Teflon shield against negative emotions.
You’ll find that you don’t pick up nearly as much emotional garbage when you’re out which means you won’t feel quite so drained later.
If you forget to do this before you leave but remember once you’re out, don’t worry. You can do this at anytime and anywhere.
Take Time to Recharge
The fact is, for us as empaths we tend to recharge the most by unplugging from the world and locking ourselves away to the wonderful, sweet comfort of our personal sanctuary. If given the opportunity, we’d love nothing more than to hide away reading, writing, playing video games and just chilling out with our pets. Do it and do it a lot.
Down time allows us to rest and that rest promotes healing. Just remember, when recharging, you need to give your emotional collection centers a rest. That means limiting our exposure to things like social media, the news media, and other negativity. We don’t realize how much we pick up.
The study conducted by Manuel Gomez- Rodriguez, Krishna P. Gummadi, and Bernhard Scholkopf for the Proceedings of the Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media states, “Social media users and microbloggers receive an endless flow of information, often at a rate far higher than their cognitive abilities to process the information.”
Their study goes on to say that the social media users who suffer the worst are the most active and popular confirming that limiting our exposure to social media can keep the issue to a minimum.
Some find social media is most manageable if they view the pages of those things that interest them or people I want to keep in touch with.
Back to Rule #1
Repeat after me: It is not selfish to take care of myself because if I am to help and take proper care of others, I should be at my best.
Once you start taking care of you and surrounding yourself with people who allow you to do so, you’ll experience a different reality. You’ll learn and grow. You can find your strength and nurture it.
Most importantly, you won’t settle for less.
I won’t tell you that doing these things aren’t going to be scary at times. I promise you that it will be. The unknown always is, and growth requires change. To that, I only have one word: Faith.
One of my favorite quotes on this is by Cynthia Occelli. She said, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.
The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
If you use this survival guide, you will not just survive. You, my dear, will thrive.