7 Strategies for Empaths to Heal Trauma & PTSD

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Empaths and sensitive people often experience some level of post-traumatic stress.

This is, in part, because they’re on sensory overload for so many years their systems are flooded with adrenaline. Other reasons include early neglect, abuse, or simply that they didn’t feel “seen” or have their sensitivities supported in their families. I’ve written about this topic in my new book “Thriving as an Empath”.

Early trauma can come in many forms. Possible sources include::

  • Hearing your parents or siblings frequently argue
  • Being repeatedly yelled at
  • Physical and/or emotional abuse
  • Being shamed or blamed for being “overly sensitive.”
  • Being bullied

Even experiencing intense ongoing household noise and chaos can feel traumatic. An empathic child’s highly sensitive system can absorb more stress than others would in these situations.

When empaths are exposed to early trauma or abuse their young nervous system may develop without healing making them hypervigilant. They can become exquisitely attuned to their environment to ward off threats and ensure they are safe or enter a state of hyperarousal. This hypervigilance is extremely draining for empaths.

Your past can still affect you now. When you are exposed to a similar stimulus as an adult such as a disagreement with your partner, you may have an exaggerated emotional response because you are flashing back to the original trauma. (This is similar to a veteran who misreads a car backfiring as an exploding bomb.) With post-traumatic stress, your system can’t fully return to its calmer state before the upset or even the initial incident. You are never quite at rest and remain aware of protecting yourself from further threats.

Empaths are often mistaken for being aloof or snobbish, but others don’t realize that the distance you seem to keep is because you’re focused on protecting yourself and ensuring that the ground is solid. The Buddhists say, there is always a groundless ground there to support you. Even when you are inundated with excessive stimulation, the groundless ground is always there.

To find your solid ground follow these seven strategies from “Thriving as an Empath” to help heal your past trauma.

7 Healing Strategies

1. Journal about your early traumas. Then you can be aware of them. None are “too small” to count. This is the first step to freeing yourself from the past.

2. Retrieve your inner child. In a quiet moment, think back to when the early trauma occurred. How old were you? Where did it take place? Then picture yourself returning to the house or other location where it happened and retrieving your wounded inner child who has been stuck there. Tell the child “I am sorry you were hurt and I will never allow that to happen to you again.” Then take the child home with you to care for with love.

3. Emotional Release. As you heal, many emotions will surface: anger, fear, depression, self-doubt. Let yourself feel and express these emotions—a supportive therapist can create a safe environment for you to do this.

4. Set Clear Boundaries. Learn to stick up for yourself. Don’t be a doormat. If someone isn’t treating you well, say in a firm, neutral tone, “Let’s discuss this when you’re calmer” or “It hurts my feelings when you say…I’d appreciate it if you would stop.” Also remember that “No” is a complete sentence. Sensitive people are often afraid to disappoint others but it’s essential to get in the habit of saying “no” when something doesn’t feel right.

5. Conscious Breathing. When your old traumas are being triggered take a few slow deep breaths to calm your system before your respond.

6. Meditate. Regular meditation calms the mind, body, and soul. It decreases sensory overload and keeps your system in a peaceful state.

7. Practice Self-Compassion. Shower yourself with love and kindness as you go through the healing process. You are a caring person who deserves to be loved.

It is often helpful to consult a therapist to work through the original trauma. Useful techniques for clearing trauma include EMDR, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and somatic awareness. Since trauma often lodges in the body it’s also useful to get regular massage or energy work to clear any remnants that are hanging on.

Give yourself time to heal. Be patient and loving with yourself. Mourn the losses you experience. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and memories without any judgement. Healing is an exercise in loving yourself.

The great news is that past trauma can be healed. In that process, you will become more at ease with your empathic abilities and learn to protect your sensitivities using the strategies I suggested. As a result, you’ll be able to relax more. The world will feel like a safer place to inhabit.

S E T  Y O U R  I N T E N T I O N

I will identify my early traumas. I will notice how my reactions to them may be repeating in my relationships today. I am capable of healing from these wounds.

Empaths, Trauma & PTSD Video

(Adapted from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” and “The Empath’s Empowerment Journal” by Judith Orloff, MD)

 

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her new book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

17 thoughts on “7 Strategies for Empaths to Heal Trauma & PTSD

  1. I’m an Empath, have been since I was a very little girl. I remember seeing spirits in my room, I remember vivid dreams when I was 3 on up that was relevant to my life. My mom said I always kept saying that I wanted to heal people when I was younger. I could look at a picture of someone and “know “ that that person was going to be significant in my life one way or the other. Back in the 80’s before they had cell phones I could telepathically communicate, as with a good friend of mine who lived 15 miles away, she was in an abusive relationship and if the abuse started I knew I had to go get her and most every time she’d be outside waiting for me to pick her up. Sadly I have a rare spinal cord disease and it causes debilitating pain so I have to take medication for it, and it has somewhat altered my abilities. I have cptsd and they keep wanting me to take meds for it but I’m done with them. I feel worse taking them than I did before. I still sense spirits and they’ve made theirselves known, I can still ‘sense’ things such as feelings, true feelings that is, I can ‘feel others’. Just not as good as I used to. My great grandma could do a lot of things but didn’t tell many people in those days because she would have been a witch and burned at the stake. So we have always been told not to tell anyone. Now I don’t feel so alone, thank you all.

  2. This is so helpful for me to read and see the comments too. I am currently listening to “The Empath’s Survival Guide” which I checked out from the library. I am breathing a big sigh of relief as I feel understood at last and can understand myself better. Thank you.

  3. thankyou for The Empath’s survival Guide. It is my first introduction to your work. What is stated in your book relates personally to me. I feel right at Home. I very rarely feel right at home. it is extremely comforting and healing to know that I am not odd or strange and there are actually many others with the same challenges as me. WOW
    I want to continue learning from you. where do I start?
    Thankyou,

  4. Thank you Judith, I will buy the book, another one of yours, at Barnes and Noble.
    God Bless you,
    Jean Lovecchio

  5. Whst if you don’t remember childhood … just the feeling of terror, being unsafe … so can’t go back to the first traumatic incident or any other early traumas?

    1. It’s not always necessary to go back. What is important I learned through professional help is what we can do to help ourselves? Not always asking why this happened? What happened? Etc. But what we can to get better now to find peace and love for ourselves.💜💜💜😊
      Peace to you

  6. Having just become aware of Energy Vampires and my Empathic roots I have found your books and this group a fantastic support for me in going forward.
    I just wondered if you ever did UK workshops?
    Suzie

  7. I also wanted to say that I think its very cool and generouse that you share your info and put this group together, it has been a major resorce for me! Lastly, thank you for acknowledging the empath and making into something positive, and helping us/me to use it as a gift to help, rather than viewing it as a curse!

  8. Hi Judith Orloff, that was some helpful info and I would really like to get the book; im quite low income and I was wondering if you have a digital copy or a used copy thats cheaper? Actually I dont know the cost of the book at all, after most of my monthly bills get paid, groceries etc there isnt much, if any money left! Im trying to live on survivors benefits from social scurity and due to some health issues I cannot work at this time, sooo, do you think you mite be able help with this endeavor? Thanx!

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