Empath Fatigue – is your compassion wearing you thin?

by Caroline van Kimmenade

empath fatigueSo, you know you’re an empath. You’re someone who feels other people’s feelings. You’re having these crazy emotional fluctuations all day when you’re around other people… only to heave a sigh of relief when you’re alone and things magically settle down.

Being an empath isn’t easy. For one, it takes a lot of time to get used to the idea, and ignore all the western “this is impossible” mental chatter. It took me quite a while for sure.

I remember once upon a time having a conversation with my mother about this. I’d observed that I very frequently had ideas at the exact same time that other people had them. How did I know that? Because I’d say something and someone else would say “I was just thinking that!”. Then there were the occurences of feeling just fine, and then sitting next to someone and suddenly having e.g. a stomach ache out of nowhere. Upon asking this other person, it would turn out that she actually had a very upset stomach herself, and had had it all day. Hmmm, interesting. Talking to a sad person, I’d become the one feeling sad. And so on.

Working -at the time- in a building with a lot of people clearly didn’t help. I often felt like things were going over my head, literally. There’d be all kinds of sensations I was picking up on, and I had no idea what they meant or what to do with them.

So, one fine day, I decided to broach the subject with my mother (looking back, I really don’t know why I thought that would be a good idea). My mother decidedly stated that my theory: that we live in a kind of shared soup of energy that we can all “log” into – was utter crap. And that was that, for her. Not for me of course.

Mainstream culture (+ my mom), definitely believes empaths are non-existent. That perspective is probably preferable to maintain if you’re not an empath yourself. I mean, why bother complicating your own worldview unless you absolutely must, right?

What this leads to however is that “being an empath” + “being conditioned to believe empaths don’t exist” leads to big DENIAL. For years, you walk around taking in loads of emotions, aches and pains from other people – worried you’re a hypochondriac, or worse, completely crazy – and not reaching out for help because , seriously, who would you turn to?

sponge heartAs a result, you keep “sponging” all kinds of emotional and mental energy from other people. Energy that is not yours, that doesn’t suit you and that really is not your responsibility in the first place. You use your sensitivity to help people in need and “magically” know what someone is dealing with… only to become incredibly burdened by the woes of the world.

Then one day, you blow a fuse. You’ve got so many people plugged into your source of compassion, that your body flips a switch and shuts down your system all together. That’s when you need to start doing some serious inner research, and it ain’t easy.

For empaths, there are generally a few specific areas that require sorting out:

1. Your deep sense of purpose. On the surface it may be “take care of the elderly in my local nursing home”, “be a great mom” or “be a whiz at my high-tech job” but deep down in the depths of your subconscious it’s probably something like “heal all the people on earth” and “take care of everyone” (meaning: literally everyone!). Serious superhero stuff, and serious fantasy stuff too. The problem is, when you log into the energetic soup around you with the deep intention to heal everyone, then you’re flying yourself straight into a crapstorm. It’s only a matter of time before you collapse.

The solution: learn the skills that allow you to dive into your subconscious beliefs and clear out all disfuctional superhero conditioning, one step at a time.

2. Your place in the world.

Yet, that’s what we often grow up to believe & do. Learning to set boundaries, take good care of yourself and communicate to others how you want to be treated is essential. Again, you need to start treating yourself as a breakable human being, not as a superhero made out of bouncy rubber.

3. Never mind oneness, study separation. I know, to be part of the spiritual in-crowd, you have to be obsessed with oneness. But I’m telling you, as an empath, you’ve got oneness covered. You’re living it, XL. Instead, you need to learn how to distinguish between what is actually your own energy, versus what is other people’s stuff. And then you need to learn what to do with all those meatballs that aren’t yours and how to roll them back into the big energy soup.

4. Get clear on enabling versus empowering. Most of the care-taking that we grow up doing is enabling, not empowering. When we see other people as victims who can’t care for themselves, then we are enabling them in their victimhood stance. Empowerment requires setting a good example (taking care of ourself and doing our own healing) and encouraging others to take back their power and make their own decisions.

5. Getting help. As the prime helpers in our hub, we’re not used to getting help. Yet, figuring out energy stuff on your own, while possible, is a long and trecherous road. It also involves a lot of unnecessary suffering. More-over, subconscious rewiring is tough stuff. I’d say, if you can get a trailguide, then do it.

So, that’s the plan.

How could the need for such a plan be showing up?

Apart from the pointers I already brought up, it’s: fatigue. Being an untrained empath will make you bone tired. You may be depressed too, but not necessarily. You may just be worn-out and overwhelmed to the point of feeling like, scarily enough, “anything goes”. You’ve tried holding your finger in the dam, but when the dam breaks anyway, all you can do is try to stay afloat and hope for the best.

Some pointers on fatigue symptoms and their misinterpretation:

1. Fear. Waves of “non-sensical” fear are common in empath fatigue. More often than not, those fears are trying to get your attention for a reason: something is off on the energetic level. Since the energetic (aura) level of our being is invisible and not felt unless we focus on it consciously, our body needs a way to alert us to serious problems. More often than not, fear is the way. While things may look fine on the surface, you may have serious energy leakages on the subtle aura level that require addressing. Don’t dismiss your fears.. Be grateful when nothing seems to be amiss physically (treat it like a window of opportunity) and get to work tracking the cause of the fear.

2. Exhaustion. While exhaustion can be due to many things, a big factor for empaths is draining relationships. These are the people that you feel depleted and depressed by after an interaction. Chances are, that you are also affected by these same people long-distance…by means of connections through the energy soup. Know that ultimately, you are the one holding the reins, but it can take a lot of work to get down to the source of the draining. Better start digging sooner than later and better start setting boundaries with draining people a.s.a.p. Draining is stronger up close, so keeping certain people at village-length will definitely help.

Naturally, all the other fatigue factors apply too: working too hard, not sleeping enough, mineral deficiencies, viral infections, toxicity. Yet, while all these factors are written about extensively in various places online, the specific empath aspects of fatigue and illness involving fatigue (like CFS/ME/fybromialgia) are generally not discussed or known. So while it’s important to look at the whole picture (work environment / quality of relationships / sense of purpose / physical fitness / general stressors / general health etc), it’s important to factor in additional energetic factors when you’re an empath. They may be playing a much bigger role than you realize and be able to account for various mysterious symptoms that cannot be explained in any other way.


If this is you, then take a look at the on-line empath course so that you can finally stop hurting for others and instead, get back in touch with your own inner peace and well-being.


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1 Marie April 24, 2014

” But I’m telling you, as an empath, you’ve got oneness covered. You’re living it, XL.” I laughed out loud, reading this. Oh yes!

I was also intrigued, reading about fear. I’ve been feeling lots of no-source fear lately, but this was a new approach to me. So useful.

2 Mary November 3, 2014

I laughed out loud when I read “you’ve got oneness covered…” too. No wonder I always think, “oh God no please,” when I read anything about us being “one with the universe or the world.” And I immediately find I need a nap when hearing that. Tiredness. For years and years, my journals always started with “I am so tired.”

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