I had this realization not too long ago, and it was hard pill to swallow. As empaths I believe that we feel other people’s pain because we are afraid to feel our own. We people-please and cater to the needs of others because we often haven’t identified what it is we truly want nor have we learnt how to honor our own needs. Focusing on the exterior is a distraction to what is actually going on within.
Most often than not, empaths were brought up in a family environment where our emotions were not acknowledged. We grew up not feeling seen and heard. In an attempt to control our environment, protect ourselves and get the affection we craved we became experts at deciphering what other people were feeling. Do you find it hard to figure out exactly how you feel, to trust your intuition and decision-making skills? Even, for things as small as not knowing what you want to eat for dinner? This is a common challenge amongst empaths and the reason for it is that we have been too focused on other people’s emotions and needs that we have neglected our own. Sometimes it can even feel like we don’t really know who we are, what makes up happy and what we truly want in life. We have this loose sense of self because of entanglement with others.
Here are some of my favorite techniques that I recommend to my clients, so that they can drop into their bodies, identify and honor their needs, as well as start trusting themselves more.
- Put a daily reminder on your phone asking “How do I feel?”, “What do I need?”
This daily practice helps us to cultivate mindfulness and urges us to go inwards and identify what we are feeling and what we need. When you practice this, I would then like you to honor your needs. If you feel tired, take a nap. If you are anxious, do some deep breathing. Connecting with your emotions and honoring your needs is also a big part of reparenting. Reparenting is giving ourselves what our parents weren’t able to give us as children and it is a great way to start healing core wounds, trauma and cultivate self-love.
- Connect with your heart
If you are indecisive about something or not sure how you feel, ask your heart. It always knows. You can do this by first calming the mind with some mindful breathing, then place your hands on your heart, notice the warmth that you feel in the palms of your hands. Sit there for a moment and breathe deeply into your hearts center. Then ask your question and notice what answer comes up. You might hear a voice, a bodily sensation or just have a deep feeling of inner knowing. This is also a great practice to discern if a certain decision or action is coming from a place of love or fear. You can follow a guided meditation I have on this within the personal growth app YesWeTrust.
- Force yourself to have a preference
Have you ever gone out with friends and they ask if you want Italian or Mexican and you normally say you don’t mind? They ask what you feel like doing and you say “I’m easy”? It’s great to be an easy-going person, but could it be that you also have never really tuned in to what your preference is at the time because you want to avoid conflict and people please? Here, in these small real-life scenarios, I urge you to force yourself to choose. Even if you prefer Italian 5% more than Mexican, voice that preference. Get into a habit of making a choice. Again, this is a great reparenting technique, but it will also help in strengthening your decision-making abilities and creating a stronger sense of self.
- Learn to tell the difference between fear and intuition
This is a question I get a lot from my clients; how to tell the difference between fear and intuition. One way is this: fear is contracting, you feel like you are getting smaller, there is a tightness and you might even feel your shoulders collapsing inward. This happens because the body is trying to protect itself and protect the heart. When you hear the voice of fear it might sound abrupt, almost like it’s yelling at you, you might experience tensions and anxiety. On the contrary, intuition is like a soft nudge leading you towards the right direction, it feels expansive, safe and calm. Your body is open and it arises as a soft wave of inner knowing.
- Start an embodiment practice
As you may have noticed, most of the tips above entail tuning into our bodies. When we have an overactive mind and are rushing to get our errands done for the day, cultivating mindfulness around bodily sensations can be challenging. Some great embodiment practices that help us to do this are Qi-Gong, Dancing (I personally love tango and contact dance), Yoga, Breathwork and Dynamic Mediations (like shaking, walking meditation etc.). These rhythmic activities are also great for releasing stored emotions and trauma from the body.
Which technique resonates the most? Try them out and feel free to share your experiences or let me know if you need any guidance in the comment section below. I will personally respond!