by Judith Orloff, M.D.
printed with permission
I learned to honor my energy needs the hard way. As a psychiatrist who specializes in intuition, I knew how important it was to listen to my body, yet still I'd vacillate between intense weeks of speaking tours to bouts of utter exhaustion at home. I couldn't turn down irresistible opportunities. Here was my dilemma: I trusted my intuition and was committed to living by it, but I had a blind spot. Although I was quite successful at helping others at trusting intuition and leading high energy lives, I was ignoring my own energy crises. Finally my fatigue was so profound I had to change.
I know firsthand how important it is for us to cherish our precious energy so we don't compromise our capacity for passion. I now believe that the most profound transformations can only take place on an energetic level. I've met many patients who've spent much time and money on talk therapy, hoping that intellectual insights will bring emotional freedom, but they're disappointed. As much as I love the linear mind, my approach, which I call Energy Psychiatry, goes further to also facilitate a conscious rebuilding of subtle energies, the most basic life force in each of us.
Do You Get Drained By Other People's Energy?
Our bodies are made of flesh and blood, but they're also composed of energy fields, though sadly I wasn't taught this in medical school. Each day we encounter a wide range of energies both positive and negative. Positive energy includes compassion, courage, forgiveness and faith. Negative energy includes fear, anger, hopelessness and shame. We need to be experts at dealing with energy so we don't get demolished by draining situations or people who are energy vampires.
Like me, you may be an intuitive empath, someone who's so sensitive to energy you pick it up but you're also drained by it. This goes way beyond feeling sympathy for a distraught friend; we actually take on their pain either emotionally or physically. To cope we take refuge in solitude. We empaths are so attuned to others that we can feel what's going on inside of them. This can put us on energy overload and aggravate everything from chronic fatigue to overeating.
Growing up, my girlfriends couldn't wait to hit the malls, but I dreaded them. I always felt overwhelmed and exhausted around crowds, though I was clueless as to why. What's the matter? friends would ask, shooting me the weirdest looks. All I knew was that crowded places and I just didn't mix. I'd go there feeling fine but leave nervous, depressed, or with some new ache or pain. Unsuspectingly, I was a gigantic sponge, absorbing the energy of people around me.
Thank goodness as my intuition matured, I realized I had intuitive empathy. Once I learned to protect my energy, empathy has become a gift enhancing my compassion. Here's how empathy works: the more people per square foot, the more our energy fields intersect - thus the tendency to become overloaded in high-density areas. This aspect of intuition is the most neglected.
Empaths unintentionally can make even a good doctor's life hell. They manifest so many unexplained symptoms that frustrated physicians write them off as hypochondriacs. Empaths are notoriously misdiagnosed. Patients have come to me with obesity who've failed diets because they needed strategies other than eating to protect themselves from negative energy. Others were labeled with agoraphobia or panic disorder, having received only minor relief from traditional treatments. Some were nearly house-bound.
They'd all say, I dislike crowded places where there's no quick escape. Forget department stores, busy streets, elevators, tunnels. I just avoid them. This sounded very familiar, so I decided to take a history of how these people processed subtle energy in the world, something all health professionals must be trained to assess. Voila! I found many were undiagnosed empaths. For me, this changed everything. My job as a physician then became teaching my patients to center themselves and protect their energy.
How do you know if you're an empath? What are the signs?
*Have you ever sat next to someone at a dinner who seems pleasant, but suddenly you're nauseous, have a headache, or feel drained?
*Are you uncomfortable in crowds, and even go out of your way to avoid them?
*Do you get easily over-stimulated by people or prefer being alone?
*When someone is in pain, do you start feeling it too?
*Do you overeat around people you're uncomfortable with?
If you've answered yes to one or more questions, it's likely you have experienced intuitive empathy. Responding yes to every question indicates empathy is draining your energy.
Tips to Build Positive Energy:
1.Take an inventory of people in your life who give energy, and people who drain. Specifically identify the energy vampires, and begin to evaluate ones you'd like to limit contact with or eliminate. Plan at least one complete afternoon with people who give off positive energy and avoid drainers. Notice how this beneficially affects your physical and emotional well-being.
2. Set clear boundaries. It's crucial to limit the time you spend discussing a vampire's gripes. When approaching her, remember: the difference between being a bitch and setting boundaries is attitude. Instead of saying, You're selfish and self-obsessed, and I can't take you anymore, which a part of you likely feels, take a breath and shift to your heart.
3. Meditate. Sitting in meditation is a life-line to your center, to the earth. It will ground you when you've been struck by a vampire. By calming the mind, you can re-align with your essence. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Then gently extend your awareness downward to strata, bedrock, minerals, and soil. From the base of your spine, begin to feel a continuity with the earth's core. Picture having a long tail that roots in that center. Allow the earth's energy to infuse your body and stabilize you. Whether you meditate for five minutes or an hour, this is sacred time.
4. Walk away. If you feel your energy being zapped, don't hesitate to politely excuse yourself from a killing conversation. Move at least twenty feet from the person, outside the range of his or her energy field. I have to go to the bathroom is a foolproof line. Most people are oblivious to how their energy impacts others. For years, reluctant to hurt anyone's feelings, I needlessly endured these types of situations and suffered. How many of us are so loathe to appear rude that a raving maniac can be right in our face, and still we don't budge for fear of offending? In a spot, physically removing yourself is a sure quick solution.
5. Build an energy shield around you. When you're with vampires you can't get away from, visualize a protective shield of white light surrounding every inch of you. This lets positive energy in but keeps negative energy out. It's particularly efficient for vampires at family dinners or social events where you're trapped.
I hope I've inspired you to be more fierce about asserting your energy needs. Never put yourself down as being overly sensitive. Sensitivity is an asset as long as you learn how to protect yourself from negative vibes. Understanding how you react energetically in the world is particularly important if you're chronically tired and want to build vitality. Knowledge is power. Meeting your energy needs can balance mind, body, and spirit to create a vibrant life.
------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
Adapted by author Judith Orloff, M.D., from Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love, Three Rivers Press, 2005. Printed here with permission.
Dr. Judith Orloff, M.D., is a psychiatrist, energy and intuition expert, and author of the bestselling books Positive Energy, Guide to Intuitive Healing and Second Sight. She is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA with a private practice in Los Angeles, and she leads workshops on the interrelationship of intuition, energy, and medicine. For information about her books, audiotapes and workshops, and to subscribe to her free E-newsletter, visit www.drjudithorloff. com. She also offers free mini classes on YouTube. To take advantuage of this great opportunity, just stop by www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd.