Those with Deep Empathic Sensitivity can Develop Compassion Fatigue
Many years ago, I found out the depth of my empathic sensitivity quite unexpectedly. I was actually soaking up stomachaches and headaches from my students during their guitar lessons.
There was nothing in anything I had learned up to this point that explained how such a thing was possible. I also realized that I had probably always been doing this, but was completely unaware of it.
Now I was aware! And I had a big problem.
I had to figure out what was my own stuff and what I had soaked up from somebody else. Most days I felt like a sponge!
Why is it important to not take on anyone else’s conditions?
Because it can lead to serious physical, emotional, mental and spiritual problems.
The medical community even has a term for this sensitivity – compassion fatigue.
Deeply empathic nurses and doctors who serve people with traumatic and serious injuries, often take their patients’ conditions on, creating symptoms not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
What are the symptoms of this sensitivity? Here’s a short list from the following website: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/symptoms.html
- Excessive blaming
- Bottled up emotions
- Isolation from others
- Substance abuse used to mask feelings
- Compulsive behaviors such as overspending, overeating, gambling, sexual addictions
- Poor self-care (i.e., hygiene, appearance)
- Legal problems, indebtedness
- Chronic physical ailments such as gastrointestinal problems and recurrent colds
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mentally and physically tired
- In denial about problems”
It seems that every time I chat with a friend lately, – and many of my friends are healers, our conversation turns to difficulty in managing increasing sensitivity to what is going on not only in their own lives, and in their circle of friends but to even what is going on in the world in general.
There are serious physical, emotional, mental and spiritual symptoms to this ‘sensitivity.’
5 Tips to Manage (or Reduce) the Symptoms
Here are some ways to manage this.
Since my realization of my own empathic sensitivity, I have been collecting as many tools as I can get my hands on to help me manage it.
- Here is an amazing quote from a neuroscientist who suffered and documented her stroke and recovery process several years ago from her book, “My Stroke of Insight”.
This reminder is incredibly powerful to sideswipe any appearance of the “Drama Queen”.
Jill BolteTaylor – 90 Second Rule, from her book "My Stroke of Insight"
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.
This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away. After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.”
- Release excess emotional energy. CONSCIOUSLY use the natural voice of the body. We do this all the time when we sigh or groan. These sounds stimulate the release of hormones that reduce stress and help the body heal and manage pain.
I recommend that you do a vocalized sigh. Start around the middle of your vocal range and let the sound of your voice drop into the low range as you sigh. Notice your shoulders drop and the body relax.
- This one is a little goofy, but works really well. Imagine you have a toilet flush lever by your ear. Push on the lever and imagine the swirling water flushing anything that isn’t yours easily and gently out of your body.
Swirling water going down the drain is a vortex. Like a tornado. A vortex is a powerful image to use for clearing this kind of energy.
If you decide to use this I recommend that you create intention that any energy that is not yours be released down the drain and immediately dissolved harmlessly.
- I also recommend that you become really familiar with your own energy – I call it frequency – so that you can determine right away if you have taken on any energy that doesn’t feel like yours.
Your own energy and your energy field is strong after a treatment like a massage, or reiki or any other modality that leaves you feeling balanced and calm.
Remember this feeling and the strength in your field. This is your energy. Know what it feels like when it is strong.
When you have a strong foundation and memory of your own energy you will more easily tell if something foreign enters your field.
- If you want to learn more, there are a couple of websites that I recommend:
empathicperspectives.blogspot.com This website has great general information for empaths.
www.drjudithorloff.com. Dr. Orloff is a clinical psychiatrist who is also an empath.