So much has been written on the topic of thriving as an empath.
Many articles and columns have been released on how to “survive” as a sensitive person susceptible to absorbing other’s energy. These articles mention techniques such as “blocking,” “shielding” and “protecting” oneself from others. Unfortunately, this approach unknowingly harnesses the language of victimhood and weakness.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, shielding, protecting and blocking yourself off from others is not only a useless technique, but it is also detrimental to your well-being. As an empath, I’ve actually tried these techniques many times, but they created more harm and stress than good. For others, creating barriers was the only defence available. I completely understand this: what else are you supposed to do when you feel bombarded, murky, sick and imbalanced?
Today, I want to challenge these commonly prescribed techniques. While I personally believe that there are many positive complementary techniques out there that help to reduce your stress as an empath, I believe the following technique is the single most important one you can learn.
It goes like this:
Surrender —> Observe —> Accept —> Release
I abbreviate this technique to: SOAR.
The word “SOAR” nicely doubles to mean “to fly or transcend.” You can soar far above the darkness and emotional congestion you experience as an empath. We’ll find out how below.
Your Empathic Abilities Don’t Have to Be a Curse
Aren’t you sick of being told that sensitivity is a weakness? In reality, it is sensitivity that allows us to experience a life of depth. It is sensitivity that allows us to listen to our deepest needs and dreams. It is sensitivity that allows us to be of service to others. It is sensitivity that permits us to perceive the intricate beauty and divinity of life.
To the untrained empath, empathic abilities equal incessant pain, muddy confusion and rollercoaster emotions. But they don’t have to.
SOAR is a technique I created, but on the other hand, didn’t really create. Inspired by zen philosophy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), SOAR is very much a way of life. Thus, it is not just a slap-and-dash technique that can be easily plastered over pain: it requires practice, persistence and hella willpower! Thankfully, we all possess this.
S.O.A.R Broken Down
SOAR can be broken down in the following way:
Surrender — Relax your body. Take a deep breath in. Consciously surrender to whatever tension or discomfort you are feeling without fighting it. Feel the emotions within you. Before surrendering, it helps to first clearly identify what you are feeling, e.g. lethargy, anger, muscle tension, melancholy, fear.
Observe — Allow yourself to purely feel the emotions within you, without judgement. What do they look like, sound like, taste like or even smell like? Use your senses to build a tangible image of them. For example, the anxiety within you may feel like a wet, swampy puddle oozing through your core. Or the overwhelming sensation of clashing energy may look like fierce red fireworks. Remember: observe these emotions without becoming attached to them. Of course, this is easier said than done (and a whole book could be written on this topic, which I’m considering!). Simply allow the feelings to rise and flow, like the ocean’s tides.
Accept — As you observe the emotions and sensations within you, accept them. Don’t resist them. Welcome them as temporary sojourners in the temple of your body. Soon they will leave. Nothing ever remains. Remember that.
Release — As you go through the gentle motions of surrender, observation and acceptance, you will eventually sense the feelings dissipating. While very intense and jammed away emotions can return again, don’t let this stress you out. Go through each of these steps again as many times as you need.
SOAR is a technique that must be practiced like meditation first, and a moment-to-moment experience later. Set aside a few minutes every day (such as in your lunch break at work), and focus on calming and relaxing yourself. There are so many ways you can do this, e.g. through visualization, focusing on your breath, walking on grass, humming, listening to music, etc.
It is imperative that you learn a self-soothing practice that appeals to you. Without centering yourself, you won’t have much success with the rest of the steps.
Below I will provide a simple transcript of what SOAR practice is like in action:
I’m feeling sick and anxious today. So many people are walking around me, talking loudly, laughing, gossiping, demanding and brimming with nervous vibes. I’ve got to take a break. My tea break is soon, thank god. I will focus on deepening my breath for the mean time.
I feel tired and have this angry, impatient vibe in me. I’ll now take a deep breath in and out. I’ll feel the grass beneath my feet and the wind on my face. I’ll centre myself in nature.
[10 minutes pass]
I’m feeling more grounded now. But I have this lurking restlessness in me. It tastes bitter and looks like an ominous storm cloud. I will watch it. It is here, but I will allow it to be here. I feel it in my stomach, neck and shoulders, but I will allow it to be there. I will watch it. As I remain grounded in nature, I am watching it. I am accepting it as it is. It is here, but I am not fighting it.
[More minutes pass]
All my attention is going into feeling and consciously experiencing this emotion as it is. No more, no less. I am present with this uncomfortable feeling. I can feel it slipping away. I can feel it leave my body as it meets the light of my consciousness. It is fading away.
Experiment with SOAR. Above I vocalized the transcript as if someone had internally, and you may like to try that as well. On the other hand, you may like to simply focus on fulfilling each step wordlessly.
Remember, the purpose of this technique is essentially the development of mindfulness, non-attachment and non-resistance. Therefore, you don’t need to rigidly follow this step-by-step process. Instead, aim to let it flow naturally from you. Whenever any emotion is met with conscious acceptance and non-attachment, it passes away. Us empaths suffer so much because we are in the habit of unconsciously resisting and attaching to everything that we absorb.
Over to you …
Try experimenting with SOAR for one week. Be patient. This technique requires serious dedication and effort. But I hope that what I’ve provided you in this article can inspire some deep change towards your approach to your empathic abilities. Yes, they can be honed and mastered. And thankfully they can become a source of strength for you, rather than a weakness.
What is your relationship with your empathic abilities? Please share … I’m sure we’ll all be able to benefit!