Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD, is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, empathy, and intuitive development. A member of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Staff, her bestselling books include The Empath’s Survival Guide, Thriving as an EmpathEmotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. She specializes in treating empaths and sensitive people in her private practice. Find more inspiration at Dr. Orloff’s website, drjudithorloff.com.

Author photo © Bob Riha Jr

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Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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5 Ways to Combat Energy Vampires This Holiday Season

For empaths and sensitive people, the holidays can be extra stressful because they are exposed to more socializing and holiday events. This means interacting with relatives, friends or acquaintances who may be energy vampires. Since empaths are emotional sponges, they tend to absorb other people’s negative energy unless they have a plan to approach the holiday season. Here are some tips from my book: Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People.

Identify the energy vampires in your life

In your journal, write down the name of five energy vampires in your life that you may encounter over the holiday season. Then, write down what type of energy vampire they are so you know exactly how they drain your energy. For instance, The Criticizer: For instance they might say, “Oh dear, it looks like you’ve put on a few pounds!.” Or the Drama Queen, Controller, Narcissist or Passive Aggressive.

Journal about strategies to use

It’s important to pre-plan the strategies you use with these people. Write these in your journal. For instance, if you’re going to encounter a drama queen/king, tell yourself “I will not ask them how they are doing or look deeply into their eyes to encourage long stories. I will not feed into the drama queen/kings antics.” Map out your strategies so you are prepared.

Set clear boundaries

Boundaries are essential for all empaths and sensitive people to learn. Because we wear invisible signs around our necks saying “I can help you”, people flock from far and wide to tell us their life stories. Thus, it is important to set boundaries with energy vampires, and limit the time you interact with them. If necessary, escape into the bathroom for some quiet time.

No is a complete sentence

When dealing with energy vampires, such as rageaholics, it is important to learn how to say “no” to someone dumping anger on you. As an empath, anger feels toxic to me so I don’t allow it in my vicinity. If you’re going to encounter an angry person who tends to dump, be prepared to say “no” to them and politely excuse yourself to talk to someone else.

Notice your emotional triggers

We tend to be drained if our own unresolved issues are activated. So, it is healthy to examine your emotional triggers so you can’t be drained by people pushing your buttons. For instance, are you triggered by sadness, depression or anxiety? Or when someone tries to control you? Identify your triggers and begin to heal them in your private meditations or with a guide. This self-healing will help you be a more empowered empath!

Judith OrloffJudith Orloff, MD, is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and intuitive development. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, her bestselling books include Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Find more inspiration at Dr. Orloff’s website drjudithorloff.com.

 

The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way.

EXPLORE NOW

6 Tips for Empaths to Survive the Holidays

 

Being in crowds and around energy vampires can be very challenging, almost overwhelming for empaths. During times of stress their ability to be emotional sponges heightens, which overrides their sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Crowds or negativity, though, often feel assaultive, exhausting.

For empaths to fully enjoy the holiday gatherings with family and friends, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. Since I’m an empath, I want to help them cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.

I’ve always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. After being in crowds I would leave feeling anxious, depressed, or tired. When I got home, I’d just crawl into bed, yearning for peace and quiet.

Here are six strategies to help you manage empathy more effectively and stay centered without absorbing negative energies.

1. Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend anyone. At the gathering try not to sit next to the identified energy vampire. Physical closeness increases empathy.

2. Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s energies, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power. In contrast, holding your breath keeps negativity lodged in your body. To purify fear and pain, exhale stress and inhale calm. Picture unwholesome emotions as a gray fog lifting from your body, and wellness as a clear light entering it. This can produce quick results.

3. Practice Guerilla Meditation. Be sure to meditate before the gathering, centering yourself, connecting to spirit, feeling your heart. Get strong. If you counter emotional or physical distress while at an event, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. You can do this by taking refuge in the bathroom or an empty room. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love. This has saved me many times at social functions where I feel depleted by others.

4. Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Set clear limits and boundaries with people, nicely cutting them off at the pass if they get critical or mean. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

5. Visualize protection around you. Research has shown that visualization is a healing mind/body technique. A practical form of protection many people use, including health care practitioners with difficult patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field to keep out intruders.

6. Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. Here are some practical examples of what to do in situations that predictably stymie empaths. If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing–even if you adore the people — take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded. If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide by Dr. Judith Orloff.

Judith Orloff, MD, is the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide (Sounds True, 2017). She is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and intuitive development.

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Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

Book
Learn More
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Sounds True

Digital Audio
Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

Learn More

What is Somatic Abolitionism?

Somatic Abolitionism is a living, embodied anti-racist practice, a form of culture building, and a way of being in the world. In this immersive audio workshop, Resmaa Menakem presents ten sessions of insights and body-based practices to help listeners liberate themselves—and all of us—from racialized trauma and the strictures of white-body supremacy.

Listen to the first 15 minutes of this audio program:

This is an adapted excerpt from You, Me, Us and Racialized Trauma by Resmaa Menakem.

You, Me, Us, and Racialized Trauma

Somatic Abolitionism is a living, embodied anti-racist practice, a form of culture building, and a way of being in the world. In an immersive audio workshop, Resmaa Menakem presents ten sessions of insights and body-based practices to help listeners liberate themselves—and all of us—from racialized trauma and the strictures of white-body supremacy.

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Are You Suffering from Empathic Distress? How to Recla...

Are you exhausted, anxious, or overwhelmed? Maybe your life is challenging. Or perhaps the state of the world and others’ suffering feels unbearable. If your life is going well, but you still feel miserable, maybe you have some guilt or shame. You are not alone. You may be suffering from empathic distress.

Most of us have been taught that empathy is wholly positive and should be fostered in children and revered in adults. This idea is partly correct. The absence of empathy is clearly problematic. When the ability to sense or care about others’ feelings or pain is missing, we edge into sociopathy. However, empathy is experiencing another person’s pain as our own. In small doses and for short periods, it allows us a deeper understanding of our fellow beings. But it can also make it harder to help, because the pain is spread around, not diminished. If your friend breaks their leg and you experience genuine empathy, it might feel like your leg is broken too. This makes it harder for you to function and definitely harder for you to help them.

Empathy can make us sick, overwhelmed, and burned out.

Many people feel helpless in the face of the magnitude of suffering in the world today. It can result in what appears to be apathy at first but is actually empathic distress, which means “hurting for others while feeling unable to help.” An op-ed in the New York Times titled “That Numbness You’re Feeling? There’s a Word for It” described this phenomenon and cited some of the research I used to create the Sounds True audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World.

The Research

Neuroscientists Olga Klimecki and Tania Singer identified empathy as a contributing factor to burnout, primarily but not exclusively, among healthcare workers and therapists. The older term compassion fatigue is a “misnomer.” Compassion and empathy have distinctly different impacts on our bodies and psyches. Compassion is witnessing and being willing to help when possible and appropriate. Empathy is taking on others’ pain as our own. Empathy often creates “more distress.” It is a huge distinction.

Empathy is overrated and fatiguing. Compassion is what we need. Unfortunately, we often confuse the two. This dynamic is one reason why developing healthy energetic boundaries is essential.

Decreasing Empathic Distress

Being unable to adjust between compassion and empathy is a big reason many people feel drained and overwhelmed. Research about the critical difference between compassion and empathy aligns with many spiritual concepts of energetic boundaries. It also challenges some. One of the ways we inadvertently make things difficult for ourselves is when we believe that to be good, kind, “spiritual” people, we must always be wide open. We must be at one with the universe, be open to everyone, and say yes to everything. There is a paradox here. We are all one on some level, but we need to embrace the ability to differentiate ourselves from others at times to steward our own health.

We have reached a tipping point with empathic distress; it is a crisis within the crises.

Klimecki and Singer focus on how training in compassion meditation can help reduce empathic distress, shifting from an experience of absorbing others’ energy to a state of kindness toward others with clear self-differentiation. The distinction between empathy and compassion is one of the first things we cover in Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World. The course also includes a full set of tools for addressing empathic distress from the perspective of energetic boundaries.

Here are a few additional steps you can take today to begin reducing empathic distress:

  1. Be clear about your direct responsibilities and what is not yours.
  2. Pause before entering new situations: conversations, appointments with clients, meetings, etc. Take a moment to reset yourself with a breath and an intention for how you want to engage.
  3. Pay attention to how you feel after interactions with people, places, and media. Note over time when your mood or body feels drained so that you can prepare more thoroughly in the future, consider how to minimize those interactions if they are optional, and take time to reset after engaging.

 

Mara Bishop

Mara Bishop is a shamanic practitioner, intuitive consultant, teacher, author, and artist. In private practice, she uses her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method to provide an integrated approach to spiritual healing, personal growth, and emotional well-being. Her books Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys and Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence are resource guides for spiritual practice. She resides in Durham, North Carolina. For more, visit wholespirit.com.


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