Is Transmuting Energy the Solution for Empath Overwhelm?

by Caroline van Kimmenade

Empath overwhelm is the worst! It’s also very misunderstood. And where discussions of empath overwhelm pop up, discussions on the best methods for transmuting energy tend to follow.

Many empaths see it as their job to turn darkness into light. Like Magic Alchemists, they move through the world with an all-seeing eye, ready to cleanse, clean and transmute. Yet, does this lighten the load? Or does it cement the problem?

Many empaths assume that since the problem of being an empath is feeling + absorbing energy from others, and that that is a “fixed” way of being, the best we can do is learn to transmute energy we absorb.

Makes sense right? If you’re stuck with something (other people’s energy), you might as well make (aka transmute) the best of it.


The Empath Overwhelm of Cleaning up the Planet

Absorbing energy from others is overwhelming. What’s more troubling though is that in order to explain why we absorb, there are very high-horse, and very very popular ideas out there that it is the job of empaths to clean up the planet. That we are huge vacuum cleaners for all the “toxic” energy in the world.

An Unofficial Spiritual Society of Human Vacuum Cleaners if you will.

A Tactical Team of Energy Transmuting Ninjas

A Rainbow Club of Vibe Shifters

A Love and Light Organisation for the Official Transmuting of Toxic Energies

The Rumbas Among the Spiritual Folk.

o.k. –  you get the idea

Now naturally, when you think of yourself as a vacuum cleaner, your solutions are going to be along those lines too: when the vacuum cleaner is “full”, you need to empty out the bag!

And just like many artists are doing with plastic waste, wouldn’t it be cool if we could take that trash and turn it into something beautiful?

Well, as it turns out, there are a lot of things you can in fact do with energy. Transmuting energy is one of the options out there.

So what is happening is that many empaths are out there working very hard to take energy waste and turn it into art. Into beauty. Into light. Into love.

But does that actually work? I mean, does that solve more problems than it creates?


Let’s Start with some Common Assumptions

It’s pretty standard for energy healers and other people sensitive to energy to speak of energy as “toxic”. This is good, that is bad. Hence the vacuum cleaner metaphor: who is going to suck up all this trash?

But, do we know for sure that that “toxic” energy is actually trash, or is that an assumption, a judgement?

As people, we all have our likes and dislikes. Personally, I don’t give a hoot about cars. But to call them trash? (They pollute though, so if I wanted to equate cars with trash, I would actually have a point).

If I sucked up someone’s Mercedes with my empath superpowers and transmuted it into an artwork, would I be making the world a better place?

Obviously, people’s energy is not a car. In fact, it’s mostly emotions and beliefs, and some other stuff.

But lets stick with the car metaphor – because I like a challenge.

The energy that empaths typically pick up on is in fact mostly emotional energy that other people reject. It’s the car-wrecks dumped out back. It’s the cars people deny they have (Errr, that thing in the garage under a blanket? No! It’s a piano. It just has very big wheels..). It’s the cars nobody wants (or should want). It’s the cars that are constantly getting their drivers into trouble:



Imagine being the only one who notices all the “Reliant Robins” on their side by the side of the road. You’d feel compelled to set them straight. And if it happens enough, you’d want to suck the whole thing up and transmute it into something more reliable.

Now imagine that you’re the driver of a Reliant Robin, and as far as you’re concerned, the Reliant Robin is the only car you could drive. You’re stuck with it. So crashing or not, you set off in your Reliant Robin every day.

Now imagine that Reliant Robin is invisible.

Now imagine it’s not a car, but a kind of energy bubble.

It’s not that strange that people who are sensitive to other people’s energetic car crashes want to make things right and clean it up.

Yet, does that mean that empaths need to literally suck it up?


The Empath Job of Transmuting Energy

If all people happily drove their own cars – and made sure their cars were working properly –  empaths would be out of a “job”.

What I mean is: if everyone on the planet took responsibility for all their emotions and thoughts (not just the ones that looked like a fancy Maserati) then empaths wouldn’t feel any toxicity at all. In a way, the overwhelm that empaths feel is the result of a kind of emotional and psychic overspill. Not everyone is sensitive to it, but empaths are.

There are just a lot of people going about their business, pretending everything is fine, but in reality, they are rolling down the road in a Reliant Robin.

It’s really painful to watch.

But does that mean it’s smart for empaths to get involved?

If someone decides to drive around in a Reliant Robin – which is clearly a safety hazard – but they keep driving it anyway… do you need to run after them to constantly fix their life? Or would that be enabling? You just “happen” to be at the streetcorner every time they crash, to push them back up. Hmmm.

It’s a lot of work.

But – mixing metaphors here – you are a Divine Super Vacuum Cleaner, sent by the Light Brigades to rescue all the clueless Reliant Robin Drivers. If you just suck up all the toxic fumes, and transmute them into daisies, the world will be a better place.

Ehm, but wait a minute. Doesn’t that car make more fumes like – all the time?

Doesn’t that troubled person create more trouble all the time?

It does.

They do.

And once you start labeling some emotions as “toxic energy” and you look more closely, you’ll see that people are constantly making more of it. Your work is never done. Worse, you never make any real progress.

Instead, you just keep busy transmuting energy, and transmuting more energy and doing some more transmuting of energy. Hold on – I just need to step away for a moment because I need to take 10 minutes or so for transmuting energy. No biggie, just some toxic trash that wafted my way. I’ll be right back.

Oh, it’s taking a little longer than I though.

Be right back.


drawing of person eating toxic energy cars and transmuting them into good energy flowers


Now it Becomes a Race to Transmute more Energy

Not ready to give up on the idea of toxic energy, many empaths hence are faced with a race against humanity. They have to super suck their way through society. All that toxicity needs to be absorbed and transmuted!

So what’s the solution?

  • Power up your vacuum cleaner engine?
  • Work more?
  • Work faster?
  • Be more efficient?

If toxic energy is a “given”.

And being born an empath is a “given”.

1+ 1 = work really hard the rest of your life to clean up all the toxic energy.

But let’s rewind just for a moment. I said earlier that empaths are sensitive to a kind of emotional overspill. They pick up on the energy that other people don’t want to deal with.

The question is, does an emotion that someone rejects, automatically constitute trash?

I mean, in a way, yes. People throw away the darnest things. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Yet, as treasure hunters would argue: just because someone throws it away, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any value.


Is Empath Overwhelm due to Toxic Energy?

The trouble with the idea of “toxic” energy is that most emotional energy is just that: emotional energy.

Some is light, some is heavy. Some is fun, some is depressing.

Yet, as people, and in our society, there is a tendency to label anything we do not enjoy as toxic. There are very strong beliefs among many people about which feelings are the “right” ones to feel and which ones are the “wrong” ones to feel.

Most of us don’t like anger, and we don’t like depression. Yet, that doesn’t mean that those feelings are just trash. They do in fact have a purpose

(For more details on that, I’ve created a whole series in the Happy Sensitive Library on the purpose of difficult feelings: why they are there and what they help us realise. If you worry about “bad” feelings, you need to check this out, it will make a world of difference).

In a way, all the emotions we deny, resist and reject are our spiritual homework. They are the algebra we don’t want to do. We’d rather dance, or paint a rainbow! Yet, nobody would argue algebra is trash just because many people find it difficult and/or would rather do something else.


Hey! This is Your Mind! I Decide What’s Toxic!

There is more to this idea of emotions as trash, of course. For one, we live in a very head-first society. Yes, we literally dive head-first into life. Or at least, that’s what we’re expected to do.

From that head-first perspective, we have some very strong opinions and judgements about what “should” and “shouldn’t” be happening in our body. What we “should” and “shouldn’t” be feeling.

The stronger we believe that we get to decide which emotions are o.k. and which aren’t, the stronger our tendency will be to reject those “toxic” feelings in ourselves and others.

You are not the exception when you are uncomfortable with feeling anger, or rage. Most people are. Then there are some people who revel in those feelings and use them to terrorise the neigborhood. Yet none of this means that those emotions themselves are without a purpose.

When we intend to transmute something, we are making a lot of assumptions about how the world should be. We are also – as empaths – meddling in other people’s business. Furthermore, by becoming the dedicated trash collectors, we are endlessly cycling through all the algebra in the world.

It’s tiresome.


Vacuum Cleaner Optimising

There are many people who assume: well, if I naturally absorb trash because I am an empath then the best I can do is to become a more efficient vacuum cleaner!

  • I can up my inner power. That way I can clean a room in half the time!
  • I can get snappy about emptying out my inner collection bag, that way I can get back to the business of cleaning more quickly!
  • And then I can take all the trash I collected and turn it into something else, something pretty!

O.k. so you are committed to being a hard-working vacuuming machine. But did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grow up? Did you actively and excitedly sign up for a life of cleaning? Or is it more something you were born into? Like the women who are born into prostitution and it’s the only job they know or can be trained in by their family, so they figure they just need to accept that?

When something is all you know, it’s logical to create a mythology about how “what is, is meant to be”. This can make you feel better and affirm that your life has purpose, even when you feel like you’re drowning.

When something is all you know, it’s logical to assume that the “way out” is just to be better, faster and more efficient at what you’re doing. Maybe if you try harder, you can get off work early and have a little time to yourself.


Oooh, Scary Idea!

Challenging those assumptions, that perhaps this isn’t just who you are and what you need to do, is unconventional. It can feel unsafe. It can also bring up lots of questions: if you were to stop being a spiritual vacuum cleaner, who or what would you be?

To all this, some people would say: Caroline, you completely mix up this metaphor: yes, we are vacuum cleaners, but we can just put a strong membrane in front of the vaccuum mouth, that way, no matter how hard we suck, we don’t absorb anything! Problem solved.

Point taken. Shielding is actually a whole problematic topic in and of itself (it also tends to stop working after a while, and you need to remember to put up and maintain this filter multiple times a day, which is exhausting in itself). However, even if you were to accept shielding as a workable solution, the question remains: why on earth do you believe you are and must remain a vacuum cleaner in the first place?

What if I told you that you can actually release the vacuum cleaner conditioning? (Not by thinking really hard. There are some big steps I’d need to teach you on how to do this, but it’s possible!)


It’s like Alcoholism

We don’t look at an alcoholic and say: “oh, you are just destined to drink your whole life, because that’s just who you are.” We believe it’s something someone can change.

Yes, they need to be reminded that they could fall back into old patterns, but we don’t assume they are destined to drink. We don’t assume that the best way to help them is to give them cleansing teas that get the alcohol out of their body more quickly and then to drink harder. We don’t tell them to channel their drunkenness into art saying that it has a purpose.

Although… the Starving Artist, the Intoxicated Artist and the Depressed Artist are actually popular myths about what it “takes” to make good art. So yes, that is actually another accepted rabbit hole to go down if you have a drinking problem.

Well, guess what, the spiritual world has similar, very unhealthy myths. Why? Because it’s easier to drink and write, than to face the root of a drinking problem.

It’s easier to talk about how cleaning up other people’s “toxicity” makes us spiritual world saviours than it is to examine our own deeper reasons for doing this cleaning up in the first place.

It’s easier- when you feel affected by other people’s energy – to find a way to make everyone feel better, than it is to wonder: why am I so affected by what they are feeling in the first place?

I mean sure, the reason why you feel affected by what others are feeling is that you are an empath. But apart from giving you an identity, does that really explain anything? If anything, it just cements, confirms and encourages what you are doing.


Circular Empath Reasoning

If you see someone drinking far too much in a bar, would your explanation of why they do that, be that they are “just an alcoholic”? Would looking at it that way be empowering, or enabling for the person doing the drinking?

Hopefully, underneath all the drinking, you still have questions about the person who adopted drinking as a habit. What are their dreams? Who are they apart from their drinking? When and why did things go off the rails? What are healthier coping mechanisms that they might adopt?

Similarly, we need to step away from seeing being an empath as a fixed identity, and instead inquire into it as: why did someone adopt absorbing energy as a habit?

Transmuting practices don’t answer that question. They just posit that because you are an empath, you need to be transmuting energy to stay clear.

These are attemtps to manage the problem. Yet in providing ways to manage the problem better, they do not resolve it. They just turn empaths into more capable sufferers. (The same is true for all kinds of cleansing and clearing practices. Absorb and cleanse is not a long-term solution, it’s just busy work to keep your head above water).


Being Efficient at Transmuting Energy Shouldn’t Be the Goal

Just as many alcoholics can be “functioning alcoholics” for a long time, before the shit hits the fan, empaths can be functioning empaths before the shit hits the fan too. “Efficiency” tactics prolong that “functioning empath” stage, but they do not prevent the inevitable crash.

Years ago, I read the Anthony Kiedis’ (of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) biography Scar Tissue. One of the things that still stands out to me about Anthony and the band’s experiences is the way they’d binge on watermelon to get all kinds of drugs out of their system. The formula was: get high for a period of time – eat lots of water melon to sober up and recover – get high – watermelon – drugs – watermelon etc.

By going on drug binges, and then cleansing binges, they were able to maintain some kind of semi-functional equilibrium, for a surprisingly long time, before it all came crashing down. They were intuitive about how to keep their body healthy – but only healthy enough to keep doing unhealthy things to it!

While watermelon is healthy, it’s less healthy when it’s used as a way to prolong a very unhealthy life style.


Spiritual Watermelons

As an empath, there are lots of spiritual watermelons at your disposal. There are lots of ways to feel better, that don’t address the root issue, and one day, it will all come crashing down.

Unfortuntely, if you’ve spent years and years learning cleansing and transmuting tools, only to have everything fall apart, that can be a doubly-traumatising experience.

There are accomplished spiritual teachers out there who spent their whole life learning energy transmuting and cleansing techniques. Believe you me, they are not happy to discover that none of those techniques prevent their empath crashing.

Eventually, they can get so resentful about all the work they’ve done, that they do not, at any cost, want to learn anything new. I’ve met people like this. They are cranky and unwilling to learn one more thing.

The exhaustion that comes from being a good and dedicated little empath vacuum cleaner is real. You can reach a breaking point where you just give up completely.

So what I’d like to say about that is: if you’re looking for tools now, don’t take the easy route and do the cleansing and transmuting of energy and all that other surface fluff stuff out there. Use your desire to learn and put it towards a real empath education that will serve you for life. Your future self will thank you.

P.S. I’m biased, but I believe true empath education begins here.

Not sure you’re an empath? (It’s good to question it!) – start with a Clarity Call or take this self-study course.


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