Boundaries for Empaths

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I don’t honestly remember hearing much about boundaries until I was in my late twenties. Even then, my memories of it are very vague and generic. For some reason, I have this memory of people asking me about my boundaries but not teaching me about them or how to implement them. Webster’s dictionary defines boundaries as: A point or limit that indicates where two things become different. This seems so simple and basic. I can remember thinking why do I need to define where you begin and I end, we are different people. Shouldn’t that be obvious? As an empath boundaries have been crucial in my life. When I first became aware of my empath abilities it was so overwhelming to me. I remember feeling like I was constantly drowning in other people’s energy. At the time I was working in a residential substance abuse center and it was a toxic nightmare for me. Just walking down the hall I would be overcome with so much anger, jealousy, shame, guilt and regret. It never occurred to me, that to experience these feelings as if they are my own is intrusive.

Finally, a very wise woman came into my life. She began teaching me about boundaries. She taught me crucial skills like “not looking at other people’s thoughts” and empowered me to set some very firm boundaries around energy. One of my personal favorite boundaries is “I am unwilling to absorb anyone else’s energy. I want to be aware of it, but I’m unwilling to absorb it.” This boundary was such a huge paradigm shift for me. Prior to enacting it, I was somewhat like a sailboat, just floating whichever way the wind blew me.

Back in the very early 2000’s I watched an Oprah episode that I kept recorded on a VHS tape for the longest time. Regardless of your feelings of Oprah, this is a very valid suggestion. She had a speaker talking about boundaries. The suggestion was given that before you make any commitment you respond with, “I need to check my schedule and get back to you.” This gives you an opportunity to figure out if you want to do it, if you will enjoy doing it, and whether or not you are able to do it. The key here is to respond back afterwards with an answer either way. This one tool literally changed my life. Prior to this technique, I committed to everything and I either didn’t show up at all or I showed up completely resentful. Neither response is particularly helpful or healthy.

I talk with a lot of my clients about boundaries (both empath and non empath a like) and typically ask them to complete the following sentence prompts with around 12 completions{Which I also learned from the Oprah Show}:

1. People may not ___________. 2. I have a right to ask for ____________. 3. To protect my time and energy, it's OK to _________________. Whether you consider yourself an empath or Highly Sensitive Person, I wanted to offer you some guidance in protecting your boundaries and empowering you for success. My suggestions are as follows:

1. Eliminate the amount of negativity in your life: For me this meant limiting interactions with certain people, no matter who they were, and not watching the news anymore. Many times this also means I won’t watch war movies or movies that I perceive as being “dark”. 2. Balance: Getting enough sleep, hydrating your body, nourishing your body, and enjoying your body are absolute needs. If you sleep 20 hours a day, it’s not going to be very long before you are feeling exhausted and withdrawn. I recommend striving for balance in every area. 3. Gratitude: I am in love with using gratitude in my life. I prefer to make gratitude lists using the format: I am grateful for _________ because__________. Even if it’s not accurate currently, this sets the stage for it to occur. 4. Schedule down time: Most empath’s and highly sensitive people I know need down time in the same way other humans need air. It’s crucial to our survival. This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s very much a reality. Basically empaths are like energetic sponges, constantly absorbing crap from everywhere. 5. “Is This Mine?”: Dain Heer talks about asking your body “is this mine” for every feeling, mood, thought, pain, interaction, etc. I differ from what Dain says in what to do with it if it’s not yours. I prefer to send it to the earth to be transposed into positive. (My concern with returning it back to the sender is that creates an environment where an energetic pissing match can occur). 6. De-cluttering: I suspect that a large part of the reason I don’t collect things (papers, books, junk, etc) and can never conceive of being a hoarder is that I am keenly aware that negativity breads in clutter. Don’t get me wrong I’m not ever really a million percent organized, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. 7. Don’t be intrusive: When I was first developing my abilities, I had some well-intentioned people around me. They were always trying to tell me what I was feeling. Here is the disconnect, it was through their own personal filter. As a result, it can never be accurate. The quickest ways to shut an empath or highly sensitive person down is to exude intrusiveness or judgment. 8. Protection: This is a constant topic of conversation in my Facebook group Inspired Empath. Here is my basic premise on this one: everything is based on intent. So I don’t care if you spritz yourself with downy fabric softener, if you believe it will keep you safe it absolutely will. Decision is 98% of the battle. 9. Grounding: I literally ground about 25 times a day. Some times, depending on the energy I have experienced or interacted with, it may be a bit more. Grounding is such a huge tool for me because it allows me to discard any excess energy that is not serving my highest good. (Notice I’m not concerned where the energy originated, be it with me or another person). I have experienced countless clients in my psychotherapy practice who were misdiagnosed with depression, when in actuality they were empaths. I would love to hear from you about your experience about your boundaries.

Jenn Bovee LCSW is a psychotherapist, Mind set coach and spiritual mentor. She treats clients in person and at a distance. Learn more about her here: www.JennBoveeLCSW.com