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Empaths need to learn how to cope.
As an empath myself, I don't think so.
I've been flooded by my emotions ever since I was a child.
Now I'm a grown man, and I'm still navigating the world as an empath.
And I know that there are certain triggers for empaths to watch out for.
I went from "Being an empath is killing me!" to "Wow, I'm actually a super empath and love the powers of sensitivity it gives me"
Today you're going to get a brief overview of what an empath is.
Then, you'll get into the meat of dealing with emotional triggers
By the end of this article, you'll know something big: Instead of your emotions being in control, you'll learn to use your great emotional sensitivity to your advantage.
What Is an Empath Exactly? (What Does it Mean to Be an Empath?)
An empath, at the most basic level, is a person who feels their emotions very strongly.
It is also a person who is very sensitive to the emotions of others.
This can be a great strength, but it can also be a cause for concern.
Because, in the real world there are, unfortunately, many situations in which empaths can be harmed and, in the worst cases, taken advantage of by others.
Maybe you're familiar with the term highly sensitive person, which was coined by Elaine Aron. She wrote a book of the same name that goes over the whole idea, but it's not exactly what we are talking about here.
An empath deals in the currency of empathy.
Empaths are experts when it comes to knowing how others are feeling.
They also are sensitive to highly emotional scenarios and content. Whether these play out in real-life or are depicted on TV or in movies, it doesn't matter: the empath feels it in the here and now.
As a result, energy depletion is a real concern for the empath.
Because feeling emotions strongly comes at a cost, as I am well aware.
That's why we're talking about triggers.
Because if you know the emotional triggers to look out for, you can prepare yourself accordingly.
So let's dive in--because there's no time to waste.
1. Be Careful What You Watch and Listen To
This is something that is not talked about enough.
But I know, from many, many conversations with other empaths, that the content we consume matters.
Maybe you've heard the phrase garbage in, garbage out.
Empaths don't have a tendency to consume content that is garbage, per se, but there are absolutely certain types of material that can destroy an empath's ability to regulate emotions.
Here are a few types of emotional content that I avoid because I find it so deeply upsetting:
- Violent scenes
- Aggressive, narcissistic (or even psychopathic behavior)
- Obscene sexual scenes
- Watching people deal with extreme emotional or physical pain
- Content that is created with the sole purpose of shocking people (Think of movies like Saw)
What do all these examples have in common?
They were created with a clear goal in mind: to stir up emotions. To make people feel something.
That's great if you have a hard time feeling your feelings.
But empaths have no such problem. Their problem is feeling regulation, NOT escalation.
What to Do About This Emotional Trigger
1. Make a list of what kind of content affects you most.
You have to bring this to awareness before you can make a change.
2. Also make a list of common scenarios in which you become overwhelmed.
Controlling your content intake is one thing, but you also need to know if you are intentionally, or unintentionally, putting yourself in situations that are seriously emotionally harmful.
3. Still don't know what to do exactly? Track your energy levels.
Empaths have a hard time with emotional regulation, and if you find yourself exhausted, there is a good chance you recently spent time doing something that sapped your emotional levels.
4. Follow through on what's best for you.
As an empath, I know how common it is for your less-empathy-controlled friends and family to want you to do stuff because they think you can "just deal with it."
This led me to go see Get Out in the theater, and I almost had a panic attack.
The scenes of emotional and physical violence were so intense, I literally stumbled and choked my way out of the theater at the end. While other people were saying, "Bro! Did you see how that guy died??, I was stuck in my head and body about the emotional and physical impact of what it would be like if those scenes actually happened in real life.
It affected me deeply, and although the movie was an incisive social commentary, I never should have seen it in the theater. It was too much for me.
2. Empathetic People vs. Others: Balance Your Relationships to Balance Your Energy
I've had several relationships that never should have been relationships in the first place.
This has happened in "friendships" and in the workplace alike.
It's also happened with family members.
I'm sure you know what I'm getting at.
If you're an emotionally sensitive person, there are certain types of people who are just not good for you.
And they're not good for you because the way they deal with energy and emotions is diametrically opposed to how you deal with them.
Some people are energy vampires.
Others are just cruel, narcissistic people.
Whatever the case, you must learn to put limits on the negative energy that emanates from certain people who just do not mesh nicely with the empathetic individual that you are.
What you need to remember is that an empathetic person is a sensitive person.
And as much as we hope that everyone in the world is this way, the way we are, it's simply not the case.
And let's be honest, if it were the case, the world probably wouldn't work very well.
We can't all be touchy-feely emotional types.
Empathic people see the world one way, but there are other kinds of people as well, such as critical people, intense people, and type-A people, to name a few.
Not all the people listed will sap the feelings of an emotional person.
But they are the ones who are more likely to do it than another empath.
You know when you meet another empath because they just get it.
They do things that you would do.
They are sensitive to your emotions because they know what it feels like to get their own emotions hijacked by others.
So, what does this all mean?
It means that emotional boundaries are vitally important.
Here's what that looks like.
What to Do About This Emotional Trigger: Tips for Setting Boundaries With Other People
1. Find other empathic individuals who get you, the other emotional sponges of the world. Consider this the anti-boundary.
Are there people who, rather than depleting your energy, lift you up and help you feel whole again?
Find them and hold onto them.
Pencil time in your calendar to hang out with them.
Emotional energy is a great strength, and one of the best ways to get it is to spend time with people who nourish you and make you feel like your best self.
2. Think of three people in your life--the entire span of your life--who have caused you the most emotional distress. These three people will serve as your template for what to avoid.
And if you can't avoid them, this three-person composite will help prepare you for how to deal with people who couldn't care less about your emotions.
I think of old bosses who treated me terribly, who yelled at people and made jabs about their perceived weaknesses.
I also think of individuals who talked over me and never once asked me a question about my life.
Who are the people who fit this description in your life?
3. Don't make promises you know you don't want to keep. Certain kinds of people can't feel emotions like you do. There is one particularly pernicious relationship you should know about--the empath-narcissist relationship.
This is when someone who needs constant attention and flattery plays on your emotional strengths to suck the life out of you.
If you think you are dealing with someone like this, where you get nothing in return for all you've given to them, then you need to know what you will tolerate and be prepared to say "no" to certain demands.
This comes at a cost in this particular relationship, as narcissists will try to make you feel less than and not good enough for refusing to obey their every wish.
The narcissist is essentially the opposite of an empath.
This is why you need to know yourself and know what you stand for before you do battle with this kind of person.
4. Get ahead of relationship fatigue by making time for yourself, while also knowing that the hardest person to accept is often yourself.
Not all empaths are intorverts, but there seems to be a strong connection.
And if there's one thing I know well, it's that I need to create time for myself so that I can be at my best around others.
Some ways you can make time for yourself and boost your capacity for a strong emotional response to challenging situations:
- Spend time in nature. Being outside in nature and present in the moment has a potent, restorative effect.
- Carve out time just to think. You heard me, make time for thinking time. Sensitive individuals need time to come to terms with their emotions, both positive emotions and negative emotions. You can also use this time to develop life strategies, actions you will take in response to your most common triggers.
- If you are dealing with sensory overload, take it seriously. Step back and recharge. You can't pour from an empty cup.
Empaths and Sensitive Individuals of the World, Have Hope: You Can Learn to Manage Your Emotional Experience
If you are an empath, you know what it's like to be in emotional pain.
You know what it feels like to deal with emotional abuse, even if the person you're dealing with didn't intend it to happen to you.
But being sensitive to the feelings of people is not a death sentence. Far from it.
It can actually be the source of some of the greatest meaning you'll ever experience.
It has been for me.
But only because I've learned about common triggers for empaths--and then adapted to the triggers that personally affect me the most.
A trigger for empaths in general doesn't automatically mean it's a trigger for you.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that you're a sensitive person, and that means you're often the hardest person you have to deal with.
So, take what you've learned today about triggers and see what applies to your life.
The term empath is often viewed negatively, but you and I know that it's also a source of great pride.
Own who you are.
You see and feel things that others don't.
And create spaces, both emotional and physical, for yourself.
You're going to feel many more emotions in your life.
But you're also well on your way in this healing journey.
As someone who lives with the emotional volume turned way up, you have a valuable ability to know what it takes to bring the world into a beautiful balance for everyone to enjoy.