Since I’ve started reading this book, The Empath’s Survival Guide by Dr Judith Orloff, some aspects of my life have changed. I had waited for an authentic guide like this book for a long time, and her explanations of empathy are fascinating. Dr Orloff states:
“I challenge the status quo and create a new normal for how to view sensitivity, wherever you are on the spectrum.”
Growing up with sensitivity
While reading, I found a couple of commonalities between the author and myself.
“Like many empathic children…” like she says, I too never fit in.
I was born in a family of medical workers. I was an only child and spent a lot of time by myself. My family were practitioners and managed a small clinic, and our house was located on the same premises as the clinic building. I grew up among the medical staff and outpatients who regularly visited. From the window of my room, I was also able to see inpatients through the windows of the ward, even emergency patients sent by ambulance.
It happened that I would regularly sense patients’ symptoms and emotional distress, throughout my body and mind. I didn’t know what I was experiencing. My family members had much stronger intuitive abilities to feel this. This sort of conversation was a normal topic in my family. But I was just overwhelmed and frightened by what surrounded me.
First, I tried the self-assessment in the book to identify whether I am an empath and which traits I have. All 20 checklist items fell into the “yes” category for me, although a reaction to caffeine happens only when I am tired. The result was a full-blown empath. All three types, physical, emotional, and intuitive empath, are related to me. I especially resonate with premonitions, dreams, plants and Earth, and I love water and oceans. The author says, “maybe this is genetically transmitted”. It is certain in my case.
What I like about this book
There are excellent scientific explanations for the following:
1) The neuroscience perspectives for empathy and compassion. This precisely describes how all traits differ from each other. I’ve gained a much better understanding of the differences.
2) Differences between Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) and empaths. Also, empaths sense subtle energy called prana and absorb this into our bodies. HSPs normally don’t.
3) Many protection strategies to make you feel safe and peaceful.
My favourite strategy is Grounding and Earthing visualisation. I’ve been unconsciously using a similar method, without being taught by anyone. The section on this strategy assured me that touching the ground and nature (even in imagination) has a certain healing effect on me.
When I feel tired, I sit on a chair, close my eyes and imagine walking on a white sandy beach by the beautiful ocean. My feet and body are just connected to the Earth by tubes. I walk along the white beach for 20 to 30 minutes. Every day I do this naturally. This gives me a profound comfort and a peaceful mind.
“The planet does not need more successful people”
Coping with fear is the biggest challenge for empaths.
“Many of my female patients have been reluctant to authentically express their sensitivities for fear of being misunderstood, judged, or abandoned.”
I do feel like this. After reading this book, I decided not to hide it, to use the sensitivities, and share my experience with people who can also be highly sensitive. I like the final chapter of the book, where Dr. Orloff quotes David Orr:
“The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.”