We talk about handling our own emotions.

What about other peoples’ emotions?

Part of being an empath (or just a human) is that you can’t help being aware of what other people are feeling. It’s probably part of what makes you a great therapist.

But sometimes, particularly with people we are very close to it becomes difficult to separate our stuff from theirs.

A client of mine was getting married. She told me she’d been thinking about walking up the aisle and how, because of some family history she would be very aware of her father’s difficult emotions. She was worried how this might affect her own enjoyment, so she came up with the idea of mentally practising walking up the aisle, being aware of her father’s feelings and choosing to lovingly hand them back. She wasn’t saying she wouldn’t ever be available to talk about things with her father, or that she loved him any less. Simply that she needed, in that very special moment to be able to separate her emotions from his.

How often have you heard something that sounds like criticism, maybe of your work, the way you dress, the way you laugh? Only to realise with time, or maybe a chat with a good friend that there was a whole lot of emotion behind that barb, that had nothing to do with you. You could spend hours, days even ruminating over the words, trying to find where you have been wrong. Or you could decide to hand that person back their own emotions and carry on with your day.

Easy to say of course. Often the feelings overwhelm us before we know it, triggering the negative reaction we didn’t want. There are ways however to increase the probability that you’ll react as you would like. I know I sound like a stuck record but it comes down to knowing what keeps you happy, calm and predisposed to being kind to yourself. Walking, running, lifting weights, breathing exercises, socialising, meditation, it doesn’t matter. If you’re able to do more of those things, more often you’ll likely increase the chances of being able to pause and make the decision to not to accept someone else’s emotions. Careful though, the flip side of this is that you’ll probably become more aware of when you need to take back some of your own.

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