How to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Negative Emotions

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Dr. Judith Orloff, MD | all things healing

Emotional freedom means learning how to stay centered in a stressful, highly emotionally charged world. Since emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration are energies, you can potentially “catch” them from people without realizing it. If you tend to be an emotional sponge, it’s vital to know how to avoid taking on an individual’s negative emotions or the free-floating kind in crowds. Another twist is that chronic anxiety, depression, or stress can turn you into an emotional sponge by wearing down your defenses. Suddenly, you become hyper-attuned to others, especially those with similar pain. That’s how empathy works; we zero in on hot-button issues that are unresolved in ourselves. From an energetic standpoint, negative emotions can originate from several sources. What you’re feeling may be your own, it may be someone else’s or it may be a combination. I’ll explain how to tell the difference and strategically bolster positive emotions so you don’t shoulder negativity that doesn’t belong to you.

This wasn’t something I always knew how to do. Growing up, my girlfriends couldn't wait to hit the shopping malls and go to parties, the bigger the better–but I didn't share their excitement. I always felt overwhelmed, exhausted around large groups of people, though I was clueless why. “What's the matter with you?” friends would say, shooting me the weirdest looks. All I knew was that crowded places and I just didn't mix. I'd go there feeling just fine but leave nervous, depressed, or with some horrible new ache or pain. Unsuspectingly, I was a gigantic sponge, absorbing the emotions of people around me.

With my patients, I’ve also seen how absorbing other people’s emotions can trigger panic attacks, depression, food, sex and drug binges, and a plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than two million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue. It’s likely that many of them are emotional sponges.

Here are some strategies from Emotional Freedom to practice. They will help you to stop absorbing other people’s emotions.

Emotional Action Step: How to Stay Centered in a Stressful World 

To detach from other people’s negative emotions:

*
 First, ask yourself: Is the feeling mine or someone else’s? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator. For instance, if you’ve just watched a comedy, yet you came home from the movie theater feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in close proximity, energy fields overlap. The same is true with going to a mall or packed concert. 

* When possible, distance yourself from the suspected source. Move at least twenty feet away; see if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don’t hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of depression imposing on you.  

For a few minutes, center yourself by concentrating on your breath: This connects you to your essence. Keep exhaling negativity, inhaling calm. This helps to ground yourself and purify fear or other difficult emotions Visualize negativity as gray fog lifting from your body, and hope as golden light entering. This can yield quick results. 

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