Judith Orloff: How To Thrive as an Empath

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April 4, 2017

Judith Orloff: How To Thrive as an Empath

Judith Orloff April 4, 2017

Judith Orloff, MD, is a psychiatrist and the New York Times bestselling author of books such as The Power of Surrender. With Sounds True, Dr. Orloff has recently published The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Dr. Orloff explore the lives of empaths: what being an empath entails, how to approach the world as one, and how the rest of us have much to learn from these particularly sensitive people. Judith shares helpful practices for when empaths feel overwhelmed by a world that always seems to be cranked up to eleven. Finally, Tami joins Dr. Orloff in a guided heart-breathing meditation designed to open all of us to empathy’s most potent gifts. (67 minutes)

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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-Rhia-2015

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Also By Author

5 Ways to Combat Energy Vampires This Holiday Season

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 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. Use promo code HOLIDAY10 and receive an additional 10% off your order.

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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.

The New Science of Empathy and Empaths

Dear friends,

The Dalai Lama says, “Empathy is the most precious human quality.” During these stressful times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I feel passionately that empathy is the medicine the world needs right now.

Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding. In my new book The Empath’s Survival Guide, I discuss the following intriguing scientific explanations of empathy and empaths. These will help us more deeply understand the power of empathy so we can utilize and honor it in our lives.

  1. The Mirror Neuron System

Researchers have discovered a specialized group of brain cells that are responsible for compassion. These cells enable everyone to mirror emotions—to share another person’s pain, fear, or joy. Because empaths are thought to have hyper-responsive mirror neurons, we deeply resonate with other people’s feelings.

 

  1. Electromagnetic Fields

The second finding is based on the fact that both the brain and the heart generate electromagnetic fields. According to the HeartMath Institute, these fields transmit information about people’s thoughts and emotions. Empaths may be particularly sensitive to this input and tend to become overwhelmed by it.

 

  1. Emotional Contagion

Research has shown that many people pick up the emotions of those around them. For instance, one crying infant will set off a wave of crying in a hospital ward. Or one person loudly expressing anxiety in the workplace can spread it to other workers. People commonly catch other people’s feelings in groups.

 

  1. Increased Dopamine Sensitivity

The fourth finding involves dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases the activity of neurons and is associated with the pleasure response. Research has shown that introverted empaths tend to have a higher sensitivity to dopamine than extroverts. Basically, they need less dopamine to feel happy.

 

  1. Synesthesia

The fifth finding, which I find particularly compelling, is the extraordinary state called “mirror-touch synesthesia.” Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two different senses are paired in the brain. For instance, you see colors when you hear a piece of music or you taste words. Famous synesthetics include Isaac Newton, Billy Joel, and violinist Itzhak Perlman. However, with mirror-touch synesthesia, people can actually feel the emotions and sensations of others in their own bodies as if these were their own.

Studies show that one out of every five people is highly sensitive. It is my heartfelt wish that you or someone you love will benefit from The Empath’s Survival Guide and gain the tools to cherish your precious sensitivities. Get your free chapter and download bonus gifts.

With gratitude,

Dr. Judith Orloff

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Reflecting on the discovery of this “flower” in the shadows, I’m reminded of, and heartened by, the fertility of dark times. Many people are feeling a collective spiritual darkness now, exhausted and frustrated, maybe also angry and scared. Having compassion for ourselves and others is especially important in times of literal and metaphorical darkness. How can we do this if we already feel overloaded?

Nature is our ultimate model and guide—in the light, in the dark, and in the most surprising and gorgeous ways. Cue the weird, glorious cabbage flower which came to life in the dark. What was being shown there?

There is the clear compost metaphor. Compost is the stuff we reject, the moldy, wilted, too hard, too soft, nasty bits that don’t make it to the table. It’s also the leftovers from delicious things we appreciate and enjoy, silky mango skins, green tea leaves, dark coffee grounds.

It all transforms into a rich sloop that eventually nourishes future plants. Our personal work includes processing our own “dark” sides, the parts we’d like to hide or discard. Self-compassion (and compassion for others) holds both the rejected and respected parts of who we are. Like composting, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s potent. Research shows self-compassion helps us stay present and kindhearted without sinking into absorptive empathy, which can lead to overload and burnout. This meditation is part of the toolkit in the audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out.

The cycles of the natural world, into which we are interwoven, take time. It’s hard to be patient, to let everything, both scorned and enjoyed, stew in our symbolic personal compost piles. The speed with which that brew changes from nasty to nourishing varies widely with the internal and external conditions. Sometimes all those different elements take a long time to dissolve and break down. Sometimes it turns around faster than we think possible, like time-lapse photography of a log rotting on the forest floor with new green shoots springing to life overnight. Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

The dark supports transformation. Times of literal darkness are needed for regeneration. Roots, seeds, and bulbs prepare. People and animals sleep. Times of symbolic darkness are also helpful. In darkness, transformative processes happen without spectators, often below the level of our conscious awareness. These are periods of catharsis, healing after trauma, cocooning in preparation for the next version of ourselves and our world.

We sometimes feel hopeless and helpless in the dark. Our society avoids sinking into it. Instead, we gravitate towards purveyors of easy “love and light!” spirituality, shying away from the deep, gooey work that happens to the larval versions of ourselves (and those around us) when we’re in the darkness of the cocoon. Self-compassion is most needed when we’re a mess.

The dark is a vital part of the wheel of our days, our years, our lifetimes. We need it to survive and be healthy in the long term. So, let’s embrace it, explore it, and be gentle with ourselves as we confront our fear of it. From this darkness we are nourished to bloom into the light.

@ 2021 Mara Bishop MA

Preorder Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism, psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and plants.

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