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  • Writer's pictureNikki

How I stopped avoiding being an empath...and you can too

Updated: Feb 22

Phoenix Rising Tree of Life
Living Bravely Life Coaching

The text read, “I need to talk to you ASAP.” I excused myself from the executive meeting and called my husband.

“How is he?”

“It’s not good. You have to come now,” he responded.

This was the day I could no longer avoid being an empath.

I ugly cried the entire 45 minutes it took to get there. I called my husband while I was driving. “Where is he?” “He’s in the other room,” he said. He’s all alone,” I wailed through the river of tears. “Tell him momma’s comin’. I arrived to the reception desk and could barely get out of my mouth, “I’m here for...” before crying again. They knew immediately and led me through a door into an exam room. “Momma’s here.” He acknowledged my presence with a tail wag. There he was laying on the exam scale. Covered in blankets.

Basset Hound
My sweet boy, Hampton

This was the start of my journey in really understanding what it means to be an empath. To allow myself to feel again. To connect to myself. To connect to others.

But I didn’t know how. I had put on my armor a long time ago to keep the hurt out. And now here I was experiencing the worst pain in my life. I hadn’t let myself connect to anything like I had to Hampton. Any loss is overwhelming. Unbearable, really. I felt it on such a deep level because I had stopped letting myself feel much of anything in my life. Stuffing emotions was second nature to me. I didn’t even have to think about doing it. It just happened. Daily.

But I couldn’t stuff this. I had to feel this. The only other time I felt this raw was when my grandfather passed away. In this uncontrollable moment, I had to let everything in. And everything I had stuffed down started to come up.

Empaths have a tendency to avoid emotions.

It’s not so much about avoiding the happy ones. Usually we have lived some painful experiences in our life and because we feel things so intensely, aren’t able to compartmentalize them, we keep people at arm's length, hoping to avoid any more pain.

As I worked through my grief, my counselor asked me if I had seen Inside Out. I had not seen it so I rented it. An overwhelming flood of emotions and tears came at the end of the movie. Raw. I saw myself in that little girl. I felt seen. I had a better understanding of how emotions work inside of me. And now I wanted to understand my emotions. I wanted to clearly identify what my emotion was and recognize what it felt like so I could welcome it when it showed up again. One of the best tools someone gifted me was a feel wheel. I keep it visible on my desk. I do a lot less stuffing these days and stay in a place of curiosity when an emotion arrives. And, most importantly, I don’t berate myself for feeling it.

Here’s how I work through my emotion using the feel wheel:

  1. I start by identifying the basic emotion I’m feeling. It’s usually anger.

  2. I look at the next layer of emotions “behind” anger.

  3. I use a dictionary to clearly identify which word fits my emotion.

  4. Then I look at the next layer of emotion for that particular word and narrow it down further, again using a dictionary to understand what the word means.

Usually, anger is a mask for a more vulnerable emotion we are experiencing. Once I can identify the word that names my emotion, I can work to a root cause. As an empath, I am plagued by rumination and dreams if I don’t proactively work through it.

I want to walk through life experiencing a peaceful mind, heart, and spirit.

You, too, can stop avoiding being an empath. Embrace yourself. You are filled with beautiful emotions. Avoiding the dark ones keeps you from experiencing the light ones. Remember, it’s through the darkness we find the light.

Nikki Hewett
Namaste, my empath friends

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