Question: “I’m very sensitive. I can easily feel other people emotions. But, often, it feels as though I’m just bombarded and sometimes I don’t know where my emotions stop and another’s begin. I just have strong empathy abilities, right?”

Answer: Maybe.

In my spiritual travels, I’ve met many empathetic people. Being empathetic isn’t always a good thing. One dictionary defines empathetic as a “ready comprehension of others’ states.” Being empathetic means one can easily identify with and have an understanding of another person’s feelings, situation, or motives. However, understanding another’s emotions and actually feeling them are two totally different things. By taking on the feelings of another you are tapping into codependency and taking on their issues as your own.

So, what happens when you feel empathy for others too closely; so close, in fact, that you mistake it for your own or can’t seem to shake it?

In these cases, I believe you have crossed the line from empathy to codependency. (Keep in mind that this is only my belief.) I’m certain you’ve all heard of codependency. It’s so familiar in this world that it’s like air — it’s everywhere. Look around…if you don’t know a codependent, then you probably are one. Although the strict definition of codependency defines a person who “is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition,” I think codependent traits can be exhibited whether an addition is currently present or not. As a rule, many of us are the product of our environments. If you grew up around alcoholics, you don’t have to drink to have the same thought patterns and rationalization tendencies as an alcoholic. After all, if you were taught by an addict, chances are you don’t know another way of thinking. As such, I’d like to offer a new definition of codependency that explains it as I’ve experienced it.

"A codependent is someone who is so accustomed to rationalizing the actions of someone else that they begin to have only unhealthy relationships. It is quite common for a codependent to only seek friends with problems bigger than their own. In this way, a codependent can focus solely on “fixing” their friends and never have to truly look at themselves."

Now, if you’ve read this entire page and still think that the “bombarded” feelings you have are strictly empathy, there are few techniques you can use to shield yourself from taking those feelings on as your own.

1. First and foremost, remind yourself that these feelings belong with another person. Taking on those feelings is a lot like carrying someone else’s luggage through the airport. In life, we all have to carry our own suitcase full of, well, full of crap. Taking on another’s feeling through empathy is akin to taking their suitcase full of crap from them and offering to carry it. But, the thing is, you already have your own bag (and probably the bags of your spouse, children, parents and siblings — unless you’ve already returned them). At some point, you will simply be too weak to carry anyone’s bag, let alone your own. So, do yourself and your friend a favor and let them carry their own suitcase.

2. Take a shower at the end of the day and picture yourself as a miner who has just spent the entire day working. You’re covered in black soot from head to toe. Visualize the black soot falling from your body and down the shower drain. Then, visualize purple light coming through the water and covering your entire body to protect you for the next day.

3. In meditation, visualize a white light coming down and surrounding your entire body in an oval (egg) shape. The white light will provide protection. This way, when others throw their crap your way, it will simply bounce off. (Remember when you were a kid? “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” — that’s what you’re going for here.)

4. In the shower, exfoliate with table salt. Salt is known to have protective qualities against unseen energies. Simply rubbing it on your physical body can provide protection for the day to come.

Use these techniques daily. If after two weeks you don’t feel any improvement, congratulations — you’re codependent! For help with codependency, I personally recommend two books: Codependent No More by Melody Beattie and Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson by Joan Borysenko.

Author's Bio: 

It seems that every time you turn around, someone wants to be a “Life Coach.” That’s definitely not the role I’m trying to fill, nor is it my attempt at becoming your psychologist. Instead, my passion is to provide spiritual food-for-thought to those who are interested.

As a Spiritual Life Coach, my role is best fulfilled when I’m providing inspiration and tools that help others achieve their life’s goals using techniques that have helped me succeed in life through a few struggles of my own.