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Are You Absorbing Other People’s Emotions?

Are you a highly sensitive person?

Are you frequently exhausted and overwhelmed after interacting with others? You may be inadvertently absorbing the energy of those around you. Sometimes, it may be hard for you to figure out which emotions are yours and which ones belong to someone else. If this sounds familiar, you may be feeding off other people’s energy. Rather than a mental health condition, being highly sensitive is considered a personality trait measured on a scaleTrusted Source.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is an individual who possesses a heightened level of sensitivity to external stimuli and experiences. This term was popularized by Dr. Elaine Aron, a psychologist, in her research and books. HSPs have a more sensitive nervous system, which means they are more attuned to subtleties in their environment, including sensory input, emotions, and social cues. Some key characteristics of highly sensitive people include:

  1. Deep Processing: HSPs tend to process information and experiences more deeply and thoroughly than others. They may reflect on situations and emotions extensively.

  2. Overwhelm: Because they are highly attuned to stimuli, HSPs can become easily overwhelmed by too much sensory input or stress. They may need more downtime to recharge.

  3. Strong Emotional Responses: HSPs often experience strong emotional reactions to both positive and negative stimuli. They may be more empathetic and attuned to the emotions of others.

  4. Sensitivity to Stimuli: They may have heightened sensitivity to sensory input such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors.

  5. Detail-Oriented: HSPs often notice subtle details that others might overlook. This can be an asset in some situations, such as in creative or analytical tasks.

  6. Empathy: They tend to be highly empathetic and can readily understand and relate to the feelings and experiences of others.

It's important to note that being a highly sensitive person is not a disorder; it's simply a personality trait. HSPs make up about 15-20% of the population, and this trait can have both advantages and challenges. While HSPs may be more susceptible to stress and overwhelm, they can also excel in roles that require deep thinking, creativity, and empathy.

Understanding and embracing one's sensitivity is crucial for HSPs to live a balanced and fulfilling life. They may need to implement self-care strategies, set boundaries, and create environments that are conducive to their sensitivities. Additionally, therapy and support from friends and family can help manage the unique challenges that come with being a highly sensitive person. How do you know if you’re an HSP? Some of the signs include:

  • having a robust inner world, with deep thoughts and feelings

  • feeling you can easily pick up on the emotions of others

  • being consistently called “sensitive” by your loved ones

  • feeling deeply touched by music, art, nature, or human triumph and struggles

  • being overwhelmed by itchy clothing, loud noises, bright lights, or strong scents

  • avoiding movies, TV shows, or other media that involve violence or horror

  • being able to learn music by ear

  • needing to retreat to a calm, quiet, dark space when things feel hectic

  • feeling overwhelmed by many tasks in a short space of time

  • arranging your physical space to avoid feeling overwhelmed

  • having a difficult time multitasking

My Awaken To Empath and Highly Sensitive Traits

When I first learned that I was an Empath and a Highly Sensitive Person everything started to make sense about my thinking, moods, and behavior patterns.

  • I tend to lose myself in relationships.

  • I tend to abandon my own needs to save, fix, rescue, please, give advice, and make sure others' emotional and physical needs are cared for.

  • In times of stress, I needed to retreat to a calm, quiet space when things felt hectic living in Panama City, Florida the ocean was my escape. Water always calmed me down and helped me think clearly.

  • Being consistently called “sensitive” by my loved ones, I was a big old crybaby. I cried if someone was mad or disappointed in me. I cried to movies, music, and news stories. I cried if someone looked at me. I just cried.

  • I never had a good sense of who I was, my likes, dislikes, my strengths, or weaknesses. I just adapted to the world around me and made other people's expectations, demands, and feelings my own goals and responsibilities.

As a child, I always felt different, unimportant, and inadequate after my mom left me to live with my grandmother to pursue her career in law enforcement. Whenever I tried to express my needs or feelings I was never seen or heard. When I would ask why I couldn't live with my mom my grandmother would always respond with, "Your mama is working!" This left me confused and frustrated because I saw other kids including my cousins who lived with their mothers and fathers who all worked. And I didn't even know who my father was and my mother was now gone. I only got to visit during the summer. This experience left me with a sense of abandonment and childhood emotional neglect. But as an adult, I understand now that my grandmother did the best she could to provide for my physical needs. After healing my emotional wounds I learned that she and no one in my family was ever taught how to deal with difficult emotions or taught how to show one self self compassion when hurt or in pain. I come from a generation of low emotional intelligence folks who suppress difficult emotions. None of us were ever taught how to communicate our needs or feelings without anger, blame, or disrespect. Running away, shaming others, or avoiding and suppressing difficult emotions with work, alcohol, gambling, lottery, sex, drugs, approval addiction, and food is how we learn to cope.

This dysfunction along with anxious attachment and the ability to feel other people's moods has affected the way I relate to people in my relationships. Being an Empath and Highly Sensitive person means my personality trait called sensory processing is more advanced than others. The reality is that at times we all can tap into empathy to understand how people feel when sad or happy. However, folks like me have this channel open all day, every day, all the time with no shutting it off. The trait may involve:

  • being able to process a greater depth of information

  • having increased emotional reactivity and empathy

  • having a greater awareness of subtleties in the environment

  • being overstimulated easily

I learned that my mom also has this gift but her sensitivity shows up in her dreams and she tends to be a know-it, yet I must admit that what she knows is mostly right. I ask her how she knows these things she just shrugs it off as luck and says I just always know for some reason. She believes in the supernatural just as I do. But like I said our family doesn't communicate our feelings or anything for that matter. Although she knows things about people before they even know and God shows her during her dreams she gives him all the glory. I also learned that when she was born she was born with a veil over her face. It's known that folks with a veil over their face at birth have unique gifts. Maybe you to have these gifts!

How to avoid absorbing other people’s emotions

Avoiding absorbing other people's emotions, especially if you're an empathetic or highly sensitive person, can be important for maintaining your own emotional well-being. Here are some strategies to help you prevent or manage the absorption of others' emotions:

Set Boundaries:

Establish and communicate clear emotional boundaries. Let people know that while you care about their feelings, you need to maintain your emotional well-being.

Practice Self-Awareness:

Be aware of your own emotional state. Understanding your emotions can help you distinguish between your feelings and those of others.

Grounding Techniques:

Use grounding exercises to stay present and centered. These can include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or physical activities like yoga or walking in nature.

Protective Visualization:

Before entering a situation where you know you'll be around emotionally charged individuals, visualize yourself surrounded by a protective bubble or shield that deflects negative energies.

Limit Exposure:

If you know someone's emotions are particularly draining or negative, limit your exposure to them when possible. You don't have to completely avoid them, but you can manage your interactions.

Choose Your Social Circle Wisely:

Surround yourself with people who are supportive, positive, and understanding of your sensitivity.

Use Verbal Affirmations:

Remind yourself through verbal affirmations that you are in control of your own emotions and that you don't have to take on the feelings of others.

Practice Detachment:

While empathy is a valuable trait, practice a certain level of emotional detachment in situations where you need to protect your own well-being.

Protective Objects or Clothing:

Some people find it helpful to wear or carry certain objects that have personal significance and make them feel protected or grounded.

Regular Self-Care:

Engage in regular self-care routines, such as getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

Therapy or Support Groups:

Consider seeking support from a therapist or joining support groups for empathetic individuals. They can provide guidance and coping strategies.

Learning to Say No:

Don't feel obligated to say yes to every request or situation that may trigger your empathetic response. Learning to say no when necessary is essential for self-preservation.

Remember that it's not about completely shutting yourself off from others' emotions or empathy but finding a healthy balance that allows you to support others while safeguarding your own emotional well-being. Over time, with practice and self-awareness, you can develop effective strategies to avoid absorbing other people's emotions excessively.

There are several ways you can take your power back and protect yourself from feeding off people’s energies. Consider creating boundaries so you can navigate difficult situations more easily.

Boundaries can come in many forms. Therefore it may look different for each person but it may include:

  • saying no

  • reducing the frequency of social interactions

  • setting a time limit on visits

  • keeping certain topics off-limits

Practice grounding activities so you can understand your limitations. There are many activities and lifestyle habits that may help you feel rooted and connected to an inner sense of calm. These include:

  • mindfulness and meditation

  • yoga

  • slow living

  • minimalism

  • somatic experiencing

Spend time in nature

You may find it helpful to recalibrate your senses in nature, taking a break from interactions.

Try taking a walk in a nearby park, spending some time watching waves move in and out like I used to, or putting your feet on the earth in the forest. Spending time in nature has a healing effect. It makes some people feel closer to God/Universe. It calms your nervous system and makes you feel more at ease and peaceful.

Make time for self-care

Besides finding a quiet place to retreat and process your experience, try journaling or expressive art about your emotions or taking a warm shower or bath to reset your nerves. When I'm feeling negative or burned out I always self-soothe with a spiritual bath to balance my chakras and remove negative energies that I may have picked up from other people's moods and life situations. Florida water is also good when encountering a lot of negativity or people with emotional problems. As a nutritionist, intuitive spiritual counselor, wellness, and leadership coach I spray Florida water after each session so I'm functional enough to enter into my next sessions without the heavy emotions I just experienced from my last sessions. However, I believe that self-care is personal only you know what you need to feel happy, whole, and complete. Therefore, do what feels right for you!

My spiritual adviser who brought to my awareness my gift of empathy told me that, "When you absorb other people’s emotions and moods, you may feel more connected to those around you, which can be a powerful experience. However, your ability to attune may also be like a sponge: You end up inadvertently cleaning up the mess as if their problems, life choices, and happiness were your responsibility. She said that we are not responsible for the choices, moods, and happiness of others. We can't control people. We only have control of how we choose to respond to people's opinions and behavior. You must learn how to protect your energy. Increasing self-awareness, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself, and doing personal development work will help you manage your heightened sensitivity."

Spiritual Tools

She gave me a book to help me understand my gift and how to survive out in the world. The book was written by psychiatrist, Judith Orloff, M.D. In conjunction with reading this book and a few others, I learned more about my family history by actually talking to my mom about my family and her childhood experience, my ancestors, African spirituality, and plant-based whole foods, all of which I added to my wellness plan.

I hope this gives you clarity about why you may be absorbing others' energy or feeling responsible for others' happiness. If you think you are an Empath or Highly Sensitive contact us today for a FREE Quiz.

Until then find peace of mind in the idea that you may be an Empath or Highly Sensitive Person with unique gifts that can help others heal emotional wounds similar to your own.


Help Developing A Plan For Self-Care

Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your own busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.

Dr. Nikki LeToya White

About The Author:

Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC

Art Wellness Studio and Botanica provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. Loving her low-sugar balance lifestyle.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Nikki LeToya White

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