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Published on October 2nd, 2017 | by lsevante

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The Empath’s Survival Guide, An Interview with Dr. Judith Orloff

by Lainie Sevante Wulkan

Zeta Global Radio host Lainie Sevante Wulkan recently caught up with New York Times bestselling author Judith Orloff, M.D., to discuss her latest book, The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.

Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting-edge knowledge of intuition, energy and spirituality. She specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and has been featured on the Today Show, CNN; O, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today.

LSW: I’m always thrilled when I speak to somebody who speaks from experience themselves. Can you tell us a little about your background and then we’ll dive into your new book.   

JO: Well, I’m a psychiatrist at UCLA. I also have a private practice in Los Angeles, and ever since I’ve been a little girl I’ve been an empath.  An empath is somebody who is very open to the world. They don’t have the usual boundaries or filters that other people have. So empaths feel everything. As a child I’d go into shopping malls or other crowded places and I’d go in feeling fine and walk out with some kind of ache or pain I didn’t have before. I literally took it on or I’d be feeling anxious or depressed. So, I didn’t realize as an empathic child that I was an emotional sponge because empaths are sponges for other people’s emotions and energies and physical symptoms. And so I grew up with this ability and my mother, who is a doctor, said ‘oh, no, dear, just develop a thicker skin.” As a child, it’s very hard to hear that because you feel like there’s something wrong with you.

LSW: I think I’ve heard that many times before and I’m sure many people can relate to that.  Because of the sensitivities we feel, we don’t know how to identify them so people like to put their own
judgement on them. 

JO: Yeah, lots of judgement. I grew up believing something was wrong with me and I needed to fix something inside of myself which isn’t true. So as an empathic child I had fantasies that a spaceship would land in my front yard to take me to my true home, my true family of people who would get me. And that’s very common for empaths to feel because they have these abilities to sense energy and they have this very highly developed intuition.

LSW: Some of us are just now learning what being an empath is and feeling like they can really relate to this. Is being an empath something we are born with or is this something that we develop? Can I suddenly become empathic now that I’ve had a spiritual awakening?

 JO: I think it’s all of the above.  All babies are sensitive, but some are just wide open to the world so they are born as empaths, whereas others can develop it. What I’ve seen on my book tour for the Empath’s Survival Guide is that more and more adults are becoming empaths when they weren’t before because of the incredible stress in the world that we’re inundated with. Their defenses are getting broken down so they’re becoming new empaths. This is really interesting to me because their usual senses are not there anymore so they’re feeling everything. For instance, they can’t watch the news because it just hurts them too much whereas before they could watch the news and it was upsetting but it didn’t hurt them, like a really deep gut hurt that happens to empaths.

LSW: Can someone just feel like they can relate to everybody because they’re tapping into the sensitive energies of others? 

JO: Yes, that’s exactly what empaths do. They’re emotional sponges and they can tap into the energy of others, the world of subtle energy, which is called qi in Chinese medicine or shakti. Empaths feel that intensely so they can feel other people’s energy; not only that, they absorb it. That’s just an empath’s world, and I feel that it’s a travesty how empaths are misdiagnosed in our conventional health care system. Traditional medicine doesn’t believe in subtle energy so they don’t have that context to say “Oh, you’re absorbing energy into your own body. Here’s a technique how not to do that or how to take care of yourself.” So my goal as a psychiatrist in the system is to really educate other healthcare practitioners about how to diagnose empaths. Otherwise they get various diagnoses such as chronic anxiety disorder, chronic depression, agoraphobia, chronic fatigue and all the autoimmune diseases.

When an empath is on sensory overload, they have stress hormones flooding their system which decreases their immunity. And that’s why, in this book, I wanted to offer people tools to avoid sensory overload as much as you can and take control of your stress hormones so that you don’t let them run out of control.

LSW: I think that’s very powerful and compelling. You go to such incredible lengths, chapter by chapter, on a variety of topics so I just wanted to acknowledge you for that. There’s a quote that stood out for me. You said, “There is no membrane that separates us from the world.” And I love that so much because I’m always talking about the veil. But you know, hearing that from you, it really just aligned for me. 

JO: Right! It’s also subtle energy language that we’re talking here. It’s very subtle and empaths understand it. If you’re an empath and you want to understand yourself, here’s some language to help you.  And I just want to say there are different types of empath. There are physical empaths, and these are people who are especially attuned to other people’s physical symptoms and tend to absorb them into their own bodies. So you can pick up somebody’s anxiety or you become energized with someone’s sense of well-being. You see it can go either way.

And then there are emotional empaths where you mainly pick up people’s emotions and you could become a sponge for their feelings, both happy and sad.

And then they’re intuitive empaths that I mentioned before where you have extraordinary perceptual abilities and you can know things via your gut and your intuition that maybe other people don’t know. And then a subset of all of that, there can be introverted and extroverted empaths. The way to know if you’re an empath is to take the self-assessment test in the book.

LSW: I know it’s important for people to take the test to get a sense of who they are. 

JO: Yes, you can see whether you’re a full-fledged empath, a moderate or slight empath, and you can self-diagnose yourself. The questions include “Have I been labeled as ‘overly sensitive’ all my life in a derogatory way?” “Do crowds drain me and do I need alone time to revive myself?” “Do noise, smells or non-stop talkers overstimulate me?” “Do I prefer taking my own car places so I can leave early if I need to?” “Am I afraid of becoming suffocated by intimate relationships?” So those are just a few questions that you could ask yourself. Am I an empath? Do I identify with that? Do I go on sensory overload if I don’t have alone time? These are all pretty common to empaths.

LSW And then once they determine the level that they are, then what are their next steps? 

JO: There’s a companion audio called Essential Tools for Empaths, which I read, and it’s talking about topics in the book but also I lead people through meditations and other strategies that are not in the book.

I also have an empath support community on Facebook. These groups are popping up all over the world. And it’s so heartening to me that people are gathering together and supporting one another. The beauty of being an empath is that we can connect to kindred spirits. And I wanted the book to be a link for everyone who is sensitive to come together and understand themselves and share with the group.

To learn more about Dr. Orloff’s books and workshop schedule, and to sign up for her free empath support newsletter, visit DrJudithOrloff.com.  To sign up for her upcoming Empath Support 8 week online course visit TinyUrl.com/ybq3c5d9. To hear the full interview, visit BBSRadio.com/Podcast/Zeta-Global-Radio-ZGR-September-16-2017


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