A few years ago I wrote a guest post about Bipolar Disorder and High Sensitivity for the website Mental Health Talk.
It’s been interesting to read it back to myself. I realise I’ve changed my views slightly since then- mainly that I no longer see bipolar disorder as an illness:
“From here onwards in my blog I am going to use the term “Bipolar Disorder” only to describe behaviours that have been grouped accordingly by psychiatrists. So the term will henceforth appear in italics. I no longer believe I have Bipolar Disorder, but am a completely whole individual, 100% healthy, but who just requires a different lifestyle to maintain balance.”
From my blog post Abraham Hicks Part 1: Bipolar Disorder
I believe I was diagnosed as bipolar due to the fact that I am extremely sensitive and it is this which has caused major life challenges for me, coupled with reaction to chronic trauma throughout my infancy through to adulthood.
I definitely relate to Elaine Aron’s perception of the Highly Sensitive Person: somebody who is more sensitive to stimulation from environmental cues, as well as more easily overwhelmed. For more in depth discussion on this, please see my article Bipolar Disorder and High Sensitivity.
But I’ve also never felt that this fully describes the deeper extreme sensitivity that I feel. The only term I’ve ever found to explain this is Empath.
Empaths: Energy Sensitivity.
My understanding of the term Empath is a person who is extremely sensitive to the emotions and energy of other people and the environment.
Being a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP, has never explained how I can become overwhelmed by somebody else’s sadness or joy. I don’t just imagine it, I feel it. It’s as if I can merge myself with them and actually feel the emotion they are going through.
Without an awareness of this, therefore no skills or training in managing this energy sensitivity, it is no wonder that I got diagnosed as having bipolar disorder as my emotions were all over the place!! I could take on suicidal depressions, raging anger, irritability- any emotion and it probably didn’t originate from me!
It is not just being around an angry person that may cause me to feel their anger- which I often experience as a very fearful defence. Anger or any emotions can hang around in the environment. For example- if work colleagues in a meeting have just had a heated discussion about an issue that has generated frustration and anger- the anger and intense emotions can hang about as a cloud of energy in the room. So when I enter the room I immediately feel the intensity and chaos of emotion- it’s like the molecules in the air change. That’s how it feels to me.
Learning to defend myself against these energies and protect myself is a massive ongoing project. A big part of this is clearing my energy so that I release any energy that does not belong to me. It’s kind of like an energetic shower! Since working on these skills, I have noticed a definite improvement in my mood changes and ability to remain balanced and peaceful.
In my opinion there are many people out there who experience energies in this way who have no idea that they are being affected massively by other people’s emotions. They turn up in doctor’s offices with depression and anxiety that could be cleared and managed on an energetic level. It is empowering to realise you can take back control of your emotional experiences, rather than experiencing your emotions as out of control and running away with you.
Empathy as a Gift
Once on the road to managing and balancing energetic sensitivity, it is possible to use this skill in a way that helps other people. Being able to feel how somebody else is feeling, but also being able to clear it away when necessary, can help you relate to somebody else’s experience and help you develop as an effective counsellor.
But it can be taken further to a psychic level.
As well as experiencing the energy of other people, you may be able to read their aura. It is possible to get a sense of what they like, what is going on in their life, what they spend their time thinking about etc. You may receive visual images or words in your mind, or feel a sense of what they are like as a person.
This is not only possible with living people, but we also pick up on energy of beings in spirit. We may receive images/thoughts/feelings from spirits who may be trying to communicate with us, or again, they may leave an environment in a cloud of feeling, like anger or fear. Think of visiting an old haunted house- any feelings of the place being creepy and unnerving are completely valid, as the spirit is likely to be fearful or angry.
As well as more negative energies, we can also communicate with higher energies- those in spirit who are peaceful and loving, as well as guides, and angel energies. This is such a beautiful experience and so worth developing and spending time on. I’ll definitely write more this in future as it is an important part of my life now. There are many benefits to connecting with loved ones in spirit, as well as guides- you receive so much love and support, as well as guidance and wisdom. To know we are not alone and are always supported and championed is so comforting and uplifting!
We learn to control who we interact with through intention. I always have the intention to work with the higher energies only. This can lead us to become really great healers.
But again, if you have been picking up on the energies of spirits as well as the living- no wonder your emotions are rocked around tumultuously!
Is an Empath born or made?
I don’t know for sure!
My understanding is that we can be born highly sensitive. Due to that sensitivity we may be more likely to experience events and daily living (that other people cope with easily) as traumatic, or experience extreme trauma. Trauma would then increase our sensitivity as we are always ‘switched on’, scanning the environment for potential trouble so that we are able to control what we can in order to avoid any threat- for example, conflict. This is called hypervigilance. We are so tuned in to other people’s wellbeing, emotions, and our environment that we are basically practicing being even more sensitive without realising. We become so good at it that we enter the realms of being an empath.
So basically I think that Highly Sensitive People are born, and that trauma can create an empath from a Highly Sensitive Person.
This is just a theory that feels right to me.
To me it explains why I have found it so difficult to function in the world. Everybody else seems to get along with life so easily, whilst I have felt tossed about by every little thing in the environment. But knowing that I can have mastery over this energy sensitivity is so empowering. I can take back control and learn to use this as something positive in my life.
Being labelled as bipolar is so disempowering, that suddenly realising that actually you are experiencing energies as an empath can feel very exciting! Due to our sensitivity it could trigger a burst of positive high vibration energy, which is important to manage through your awareness of it, by staying grounded, and working on staying peaceful and centred. More on this in a future post!
It is easy to see being an empath as something quite special, which it is, but it does not mean we are in any way better than anybody else. Some people are good at carpentry, some at sport, we’re good at being empaths!
There is so much more to this topic which I’d like to explore in future!
Bipolar Disorder and High Sensitivity – my guest blog post on Mental Health Talk.
Bipolar: Your Mood May Not Be Your Own – guest post on Mental Health Talk.
Absorbing Others’ Energy – a fascinating and very useful video by Ralph Smart.
You’re So Sensitive
Hypomania and Grounding
Depression and Grounding
Grounding for Emotional Wellbeing – a video featuring a meditation exercise to help you to ground yourself.