Empaths and Childhood Trauma (And What to Do About It)


Empaths and Childhood Trauma (And What to Do About It)

Getty/Paolo Cordoni

Empaths often have a history of childhood trauma. Explore how empathy is both a gift and a challenge, and learn how to navigate your past experiences for a brighter future.

Empaths are people who tend to be very sensitive to other people’s moods, emotions, and energy. They can tell when what you’re saying doesn’t match what you’re feeling. They’ll feel other people’s emotions—both good and bad—as if they were their own. You won’t tend to find an empath in a crowd—it’s so overwhelming to have everyone’s energy coming in at once that many empaths would rather stay home with a few people they feel safe with (or only in exactly the right crowd).

Empathy is a gift, and it’s something that is well used in the healing field and in many other social and work environments. It’s a difficult gift, however, because it means we can get confused about what’s ours and what’s not ours and can spend a lot of time and energy processing other people’s emotions at the expense of our own. Often, it’s simply exhausting.

The Connection Between Empathy and Childhood Trauma

I’ve noticed a correlation between people with strong empathic gifts and childhood trauma. I’m not sure which one comes first, but empathetic people will tend to be the lightning rod for everyone else’s feelings in the family, and if something difficult is going on, especially if it’s unacknowledged, the empath in the family will feel everyone else’s feelings about this issue. This will tend to be the child who expresses the emotional symptoms of the whole family. This empathetic ability is rarely supported and resolved, so it’s likely that this child ends up acting out in various ways and/or suffering with disordered eating, consistent illness, or other issues.

In some cases, a child’s empathy will be cultivated out of a sheer need to survive. In an abusive, chaotic, or stressful environment, it benefits a child to be so attuned to everyone else’s needs and moods that they get really good at predicting those things and warding them off in order to keep themselves safer. In an environment where expressions of emotion are disallowed or punished, the empath might be forced to feel their own and everyone else’s feelings in total silence, shoving those emotions down, which is a recipe for chronic illness or pain in later life.

Energetic Boundaries for Empaths

The good news is, empaths can work on their emotional and energetic boundaries in order to be able to turn back to themselves and care for themselves again. And we can do this in a way that doesn’t shut out other people, but rather modulates what energies we let in and when. When we become aware of our abilities, we can use them to our own and other people’s benefit (yes, very much like superheroes!). Here are some things that can help:

  • Talk to a counselor: They can help you develop skills for recognizing your needs and boundaries and standing up for them. Processing and integrating traumatic experiences is sometimes a part of that practice.

  • Practice the Shield meditation: Imagine a simple energetic shield or bubble that only lets in what you want. (Listen to this guided meditation here.)

  • Try the Clearing Light meditation: Envision a cleansing light releasing energy that’s not yours. (Listen to this guided meditation here.)

  • Question what you’re feeling: When you’re feeling something big and sudden, ask yourself, Is this mine? Sometimes that’s enough to help release it.

  • Cast the Not Mine spell: When you do suspect that you’ve taken on someone else’s energy, repeat the words “Not mine” three times out loud with conviction. It can be magic!

  • Cultivate energetic hygiene: Practice these things often, once or twice a day, or whenever you feel the need to, especially if you plan to be in a crowd or spend time with someone who tends to drain your energy.

Support yourself with these coping tips for empaths.


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Empaths and Childhood Trauma And What To Do About It

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