Living Sensitivity

Setting Boundaries As An Empath

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How’s your boundary setting going? I wanted to talk about the process of setting boundaries as an empath specifically because I felt like certain issues may come up, especially if you’re exploring it consciously for the first time – Dana’s post is a great primer if you’re new to it! For me, I kept coming up against resistance within myself, and having situations become potentially explosive before I realized, damn, a boundary is needed here! But as always, it’s a learning process – I only truly embody my lessons when I’ve had a couple of hard knocks anyway, so… Keep that in mind lovers, if you find yourself faltering sometimes, it’s really okay – we’re all learning!

Exploring my resistance

So, my first attempts around setting boundaries was pretty rough-going in hindsight. What made enforcing boundaries a lot easier over time was really digging deep and delving into the root causes of my resistance to setting and sticking to them. (This book – The Empath as Archetype – was really helpful in the process, by the way.) Bringing those root causes up into the level of my conscious awareness, and rigorously examining them, nipped a lot of the guilt and mixed emotions over setting boundaries in the bud. Those emotions and beliefs created the energy that fueled my resistance.

Understanding two major things really helped the process. The first piece was identifying why it felt strange and counterintuitive to me to enforce certain boundaries, thus making it seem like a painful or unnatural thing to do. Part of it was because my ego and skeptical mind were putting up a big fight in accepting the whole idea of being an empath, along with all its spiritual implications. I had to not just understand but also fully accept that as an empath, Oneness is my reality, and I had to start participating in that reality! At the same time, I was also subconsciously resisting certain boundaries on the soul level, because healthy boundaries in the physical world felt a lot like separation, which can feel lonely and alienating; it didn’t feel natural to me as an empath. What a crazy internal struggle! It was a really confusing time for me…only right now, years later, can I even put into words that foggy, soupy time.

The second thing that really helped was tackling the deep seated issues that that prevented me from accepting certain boundaries. For example, one was the false belief that ‘giving’ endlessly = love.

That’s because the natural way of the empath is to ‘give’ – in the sense of unconsciously wanting to heal others, and to make them ‘whole’. Which is actually a really beautiful thing! But an untrained empath ends up doing that by carrying others’ burdens energetically. Learning how to consciously wield that gift of energetic support feels a little strange and counterintuitive, at least at first. Plus, I had to understand that carrying others’ stuff like that ISN’T actually truly giving – it might temporarily help others as it gives them a sense of psychic relief – but in the long run, it actually gets in the way of them figuring out their own stuff, and evolving in their own time, on their own spiritual journeys. Which achieves the opposite effect of the initial intention! So I’ve had to let that belief go…and channel that energy into other creative projects, such as this blog :)

It hasn’t been a particularly easy process, but it’s definitely been a worthwhile endeavor. Because since embarking on this empath empowerment path for more than 3 years now, I now feel more confident and at peace than I have before. I feel safer around people and and new situations, yet still keeping myself open to the world. Hopefully others feel more comfortable around me too, now that I’ve stopped getting right to the heart of things in casual conversations, bringing up uncomfortable topics just because I see them as Truth, plain as day to me!

My goal is to be able to have boundaries without rigidity – keeping my heart open and wielding my personal power with strength and compassion. I know one day I’ll get there, and so will you, if that’s your wish too! Here are some other things I’ve learnt on this journey.

When enforcing boundaries, be prepared to:

  1. Communicate. Be prepared to voice your needs often. Practice saying no and stating – and standing by – your boundaries firmly, despite the initial discomfort.
  2. Deal with people not liking it.
  3. Stand firm. Especially at the beginning, when it still feels novel and uncomfortable.
  4. Observe the emotions that come up for you in the process of enforcing your boundaries. These will be the clues that will help you in understanding yourself and any baggage around asserting your needs.

Boundaries around communicating with others

1. As an empath, I’m able to viscerally empathize with others’ points of view so easily that I tend to forget my own. I have to remind myself – hey! I have needs too! The solution? To give myself time to respond, rather than just react. To get back in touch with my core and to allow myself to take that time before making a decision. As empaths often feel their decisions in their bodies and their intuition, it often takes a little longer for that decision to reach their conscious minds. This sometimes means having to physically remove myself from the situation, e.g. excusing myself to go to the bathroom or even just simply saying “Give me 5 minutes to think about it!”

2. I might observe someone struggling or having a problem they are trying to work out, and the solution MIGHT seem to be clear to me, but before I offer them any advice or opinion, I would either ask them if they want it, or they would have to ask me for it. If they do want it, I take care to assert it in a mindful and gentle way. It’s important to be gentle because often, many people’s seemingly simple struggles are tied to deeper emotional issues that are deep rooted, complex and multifaceted… addressing them in a direct or brusque way could be akin to a psychic attack or be extremely triggering. It’s like telling a person struggling with depression to just ‘get over it!’ And if they say no, LEAVE IT ALONE. Even if it is staring at you in the face, do not comment, do not bring it up again, and continue treating them as who they really are: a whole person, a unique soul, who is just on their path. Ultimately, it’s all about trusting that:

“Spirit provides the people, places, and things we need, if we are not dependent on specifics.” – The Empath as Archetype, by Elaine La Joie

Boundaries around feeling safe in my skin as a sensitive

1. When I have a strong gut feeling, I trust it. Even when everything on the surface seems okay, I trust my gut about what I pick up about people – and I draw a line to make it clear (preferably not in a confrontational way!). It doesn’t mean I judge them, just that if it seems off, especially if an exchange or transaction is about to happen, I would rather not go through with it, even if it is inconvenient.

2. I don’t justify my down time to anyone. I don’t apologize for needing extra time to myself or allow myself to feel guilty about it. THIS has been the most life-changing form of self-care for me. It means no longer apologizing for who I am, no longer judging myself for my needs.

3.  Consciously letting things go – energetically and mentally. Picking a lot of stuff up means also having information and emotional overload. I’ve had to learn to regard most of these as static and white noise – feeling any kind of way about it doesn’t mean I have to react to it or to even respond at all. 99% of it is truly not my responsibility. And even if I feel sad, or upset… sometimes I’ve had to accept there’s really nothing to be done about it. And constantly practice letting things go.

4. Filtering. I am careful about whose opinions and thoughts I accept, and the extent to which I allow them to influence my own, and also trusting my reading of the energy or underlying intention of someone’s words, especially if it’s at odds with what they’re saying on the surface. What matters most is always your internal guidance.

“Having strong boundaries means exercising control over what ideas and opinions we take in, and which we disregard.” – This is What It Really Means to Have Healthy Boundaries

And most importantly, have a lot of compassion for yourself on this process, dear empaths. Be gentle. It really isn’t easy – a lot of it is really deep inner work that’s not for the faint hearted! But it will be rewarding, I promise.

We all deserve to feel safe and supported on our journeys.

So much love to all of you!

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