Blocking: Self-preservation for empaths
On Tuesday morning I got an anguished text from a wonderful friend, which led me to write this post.
My friend is a brilliant woman, a mother, and a writer, and she reads and contributes to all things political. She is also an empath. And y’all, she was HOT in this text message. It had to do with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and reliving old traumas, and being a woman in today’s society.
I won’t share exactly what she said because this post is not about politics. This post IS about what happens to we humans, especially empaths, when our energy is disrupted by what’s going on in the world. It’s about how to protect ourselves in times of turmoil. It’s about rewiring our brains so we aren’t constantly subject to external stressors.
I’m going to use a recent experience of my own as an example.
Earlier this year, as the outrage over family separations at the border grew to a boiling point, I hit a wall.
Every single day I woke up heavy, grieving, afraid to look at the news but feeling like it was my responsibility to do so. So I read, and read, and got more and more upset. I am an empath, and I also happen to be a mother, and I took the stories of the border separations so much to heart that I scared myself a little. I didn’t know how to keep in touch with what was going on without completely breaking down.
Then I learned about the concept of blocking. Through blocking I learned how to trick my brain into believing it was protected, so I could be functional in my day to day life.
The best way I can describe this is to picture a membrane. Information can get through the membrane, but feelings can’t. My own personal blocking technique is to imagine a clear plastic raincoat (because fashion is my go-to, but you can pick a bubble, or a waterfall- whatever resonates with you). Before I read the news, before I jump on the phone with a client, sometimes first thing in the morning, I mime putting on that raincoat and tying the belt. I’ve even found myself doing it in the middle of a conversation with a loved one who is going through something difficult.
When I do this blocking technique, I can be with the person, or the news, in a more powerful way. I have a lot more courage, more acceptance, more focus. The empathy is still there - but it’s not all-consuming.
The idea is not that you and I can’t have feelings. That would be unhealthy. It’s that we don’t have to have all the feelings, all of the time. I’m not helping anyone by spending 3 weeks in a fog of depression and outrage. This way, I can give myself space to feel, but I don’t have to get stuck there unless I say so. I have a choice.