Are these emotions mine? This question is one of the biggest obstacles an empath will face. Having to feel the emotions of others on top of one’s own can make life super confusing and it is not difficult for empaths to lose themselves in a big, overwhelming mess of feelings that may or may not even be theirs.
The ability to determine whether or not an emotion is yours is a very important skill that every empath needs to learn for sanity’s sake. In fact, it will be essential in helping you achieve the status of skilled empath. After all, how can you be empowered if you don’t even know which emotions are yours?
I will share with you 3 simple steps you can start to employ right away to help you figure out whether or not an emotion you are feeling is actually yours.
These steps emphasize your ability to feel, while also allowing you to practice being honest with and really getting to know yourself. Knowing which emotions are yours is a part of becoming self-aware, and self-awareness is one of the keys to really getting a handle on overactive empathy.
Practice these steps anytime you are feeling confused about the emotions you are feeling, but remember to be patient with yourself. It takes time to really get the hang of it, but with practice it will eventually become second nature.
Step #1 What am I feeling?
While in the midst of an emotional upheaval, regardless of where the emotions came from, it is not uncommon for our brains to start over thinking, trying to process why we are feeling the way we are. We may spin our wheels for a while and come up empty handed, which can lead to confusion and frustration.
When we can’t come up with a good reason as to why we feel the way we do, our overthinking brains may start to make up reasons that explain our feelings. All of this is absolutely unhelpful and will cause you to get stuck in analysis paralysis, which only amplifies the emotions you already feel. Ugh! No wonder being an empath is so hard!
So for this first step, I encourage you to quiet your brain as much as you can, and stop trying to figure out WHY you feel the way you do. Instead, I invite you to simply observe the way you are feeling and allow yourself to just feel. Then ask yourself one simple question;
“WHAT am I feeling?”
Before accomplishing this exercise, make sure that you are in a safe space and can be alone in a quiet area for a few moments (with no smart phone! Seriously, leave it in another room). I highly recommend getting yourself grounded and centered to the best of your ability before doing this exercise. This will help to calm you down, allowing the words to come to you more easily.
Once you are relatively grounded and centered (I say relatively because it can be hard to be calm when you’re emotional), take a few deep breaths and feel the emotions in their entirety. Don’t hold back. Emotions are simply waves coming and going and there is no need to shy away from them.
Allowing yourself the opportunity to actually feel emotions (especially painful ones) can be very relieving, and in general, once you have faced the emotion and felt it, it has less power over you and is less potent. Once you have allowed yourself to feel the emotion(s) without thinking too hard about it, it then becomes easy to put a name to it.
Once you have put a name to the emotion or emotions you are feeling, proceed to step #2.
Step #2 Is there a legitimate reason as to why I’m feeling this way?
In step #1, you briefly turn your brain off and allow yourself to simply feel. In step #2, you turn your brain back on and ask yourself if there is any particular reason why you are feeling the way you do. This step requires total honesty with yourself. You are not being judged or graded here, so be as honest with yourself as possible.
For example, let’s say that in step #1, you identified that you are feeling angry. Now that you have a name for the emotion you are feeling, your brain will very easily start coming up with reasons as to why you would be feeling angry. Your task is to sift through those reasons and see if any of them fit.
When you first start doing these self-awareness exercises, you will probably find yourself coming up with all sorts of reasons as to why you are feeling angry. And to be honest, many of them will probably be silly, such as “I’m angry because my husband didn’t wash the dishes”, or “I’m angry because somebody cut me off while driving earlier.”
While both of those scenarios may be irritating, they more than likely are not all out anger-provoking. So if you are feeling angry and you can’t think of one truly legitimate reason as to why you are angry, chances are you are picking up on someone else’s emotions.
Since emotions are very subjective and can be tricky to pinpoint, if after completing steps 1 and 2 you are still unsure as to whether or not an emotion is yours, proceed to step #3.
Step #3 Did I suddenly start feeling this emotion from out of nowhere?
Being empathic and taking on the emotions of others can often happen at lightning fast speed. One minute you may be feeling totally fine, the next minute you may be feeling like the world is going to end.
If you are very suddenly feeling a super intense emotion (or emotions) that came up from out of nowhere, and you were not able to come up with any good reasons as to why you would be feeling that emotion from step #2, chances are highly likely that the emotion isn’t yours. It really is as simple as that.
My advice is to breathe and take relief in the fact that the emotions you are feeling belong to somebody else, and are not your own. This knowledge is generally relieving enough to take the edge off, making the emotions seem less powerful, and therefore easier to overcome.
The Bottom line
When you get to really know yourself, distinguishing your emotions from the emotions of others becomes a lot easier. But as I keep saying, it’s all a process that takes time and practice makes improvement (because come on- there’s no such thing as perfection, but we can all improve!).
Use the 3 steps outlined here when you are unsure if an emotion is yours or not, and you will eventually get to the point where it just becomes a habit and you will know right away if you are feeling the emotions of another. Keep at it. It gets easier, I promise!
P.S. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download my free eBook “Let That Shit Go: The Empath’s Guide to Releasing Emotions”. This eBook is incredibly handy to rid yourself of emotions that aren’t yours. I also recommend checking out this post on clearing your energy field after you’ve had a bad empath day.
I hope it helps!