Sometimes, when an empath absorbs the emotions of another, the root of these emotions is clear cut and obvious. For example, seeing someone slamming on their horn and raging in traffic makes it simple to pinpoint why you suddenly feel angry. Or watching a reality show and the contestant messes up, a wave of embarrassment rushing through their body. It doesn’t take much emotional awareness to understand why you now feel the physical ache of embarrassment as well.
However, there are many times throughout the day when we feel fluctuating emotions without a clue as to whether they belong to us or to someone else. A moment of sudden sadness becomes confusing when we aren’t sure if it was linked to a passing thought or the energy of a passing person. Feeling global emotions can further confuse the situation.
When we are unable to pinpoint whether an emotion is genuinely ours or if it belongs to another, processing and releasing the emotion becomes difficult and sometimes impossible. Instead of moving forward, our energy is spent attempting to understand the emotion.
So what if there was an easier way to determine whether the emotions we feel belong to us or those around us?
Check In With Yourself
The first step to discovering the source of the emotion is figuring out exactly what it is. Conflicting emotions are common and can confuse the situation, so by separating what we are feeling and getting clear about the specific emotion, we can move toward discovering who the emotion belongs to.
In order to do this, it is important to check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling right now. But don’t just feel the emotion, give it a label too. Make the label as specific is possible. Instead of saying you feel sadness, take it further and decide if it is grief, regret, longing, hopelessness, boredom, or some other label.
The idea behind labeling it is not to box it in or offer the emotion judgment, but instead to become very clear about what exactly the emotion is and how it feels in your body.
Yours or Theirs?
After you have honed in and labeled the emotion, it’s time to determine whether this emotion belongs to you or someone else.
Emotions that are not yours, but instead are frequencies that you are absorbing tend to have some common characteristics. Take the label that you have assigned your emotional state and ask yourself a few questions:
1. Did this emotion pop up out of the blue or does it have a clear cause? Usually feelings, both physical and emotional, do not pop up out of the blue. If you experience a sudden change in how you feel without an obvious cause, it may be a sign that the feeling is being picked up from someone else.
2. How strong or weak is this emotion? When picking up other people’s energies, they tend to manifest in our bodies as very weak, almost difficult to detect, or blaringly strong. Most people feel day to day moods on a temperate scale, short of obvious instances like elation, surprise or anger, so if a feeling seems to be mild or overtly strong (without clear cause), it may belong to someone else.
3. Does this emotion conflict with how I believe I should feel right now? While it is definitely possible to have two conflicting emotions at one time, it is rare that one is not stronger than the other. If the emotions you are feeling seem to conflict strongly, almost as though they are competing for your attention, one might not be yours.
4. Is this feeling familiar or is this something I haven’t really experienced before? Most people, given their lives of ups and downs, have learned how their emotions feel. Anger, sadness, and joy are all very familiar. But each person feels these emotions in a different way. If you feel an emotion that seems unfamiliar or confusing, one where you may not be able to give it a name, this may be a feeling coming from an outside source. Empaths have the ability to feel exactly what those around them feel, even if that means it is an emotion outside of their normal realm of understanding.
Check in with yourself four or five times throughout the day and label your emotions. After you have a label, ask yourself the four questions listed above and try to decide whether the emotion belongs to you or if you think it may be from someone else.
Try not to get discouraged if things still seem confusing at first. Learning to distinguish your emotions from others will take a great deal of practice since you are essentially challenging what has always been your norm. Start with those that feel easier and move on to more complex emotions as you continue to practice.
If you are still struggling, consider using alternative techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique which can also help you quickly understand which emotions belong to you. I offer an in-depth look at how to use this technique in my Empath’s Guide to Emotional Freedom Techniques program.