Once upon a time, I was struggling to find myself. I was working with a spiritual counselor and energy healer to deconstruct who I was, how I developed all these unhealthy patterns of behavior, and find my true self buried under piles of energetic and emotional armor.
I had recently discovered I was an empath. I had all the bad habits of someone who learned to people-please young and could read a room quickly–adjusting my behavior to blend in and/or be liked. I was untrained in managing my energy so it tended to leak out all over the place.
I had no idea how to show up in my various circles and BE myself. I was used to playing the role of who everyone wanted me to be.
- My family expected me to be the spoiled youngest child who was always angry.
- My friends wanted to see that dependable person who was always supportive and available with a shoulder to cry on, someone who helped them out and made them feel better.
- My work colleagues saw me as a great administrator who made the trains run on time and kept the business operating smoothly.
Like many empaths, my default personality was to suppress my own needs and interests while focusing on how I could be helpful. Except with my family, where I felt safe to let off the steam that builds up when you are pretending to not have any needs.
This pattern was not working for me anymore, however changing it was complicated because I was a master at merging and it served me well by keeping me safe my whole life.
Merging energy is common for unaware empaths. It is something we are born doing–allowing our energy field to merge with another’s in order to “read” them–who they are and what they needed from us, how best to blend or fit in.
This practice can be useful in many circumstances but only if it is done consciously and ethically. Most of the time empaths are unaware they are doing it, it is simply how they exist in the world.
What are Boundaries?
Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.
Personal boundaries start with energetic boundaries. Energetic boundaries are the container we each have around us called an aura. Our aura is our personal energy field that varies in size but is typically an egg shaped bubble of energy that extends out from our body about 3 feet in all directions, including above our heads and below our feet.
It is the aura that we are blending when empaths merge. When we merge, we end up with energetic parts of other people left behind in our field. These energy bits effect us. Repeated merging leaves us with energetic build up that influences how we think, what we believe, and what we “like.”
It doesn’t actually change our likes or dislikes but it clouds our ability to be in touch with our true nature. We instead take on the likes and dislikes, interests and quirks of other people. Not intentionally, but as a by-product of an unconscious tool we use to fit in and feel comfortable in a world we don’t truly understand.
The Downside of Merging
Empath lose themselves in unconscious merging. Their merged energy systems and their highly sensitive nature means they feel what the other person is feeling as much or sometimes more, than the other person. Being entrained in their emotions makes it hard for empaths to be honest about how they feel if there is a chance they could upset, anger, or hurt the person they are merged with energetically.
As you can probably understand, most unaware empaths are conflict avoidant; choosing to bury their true feelings, and in many cases bury them so well, even the empath doesn’t know them.
The unfortunate results of merging unconsciously are a lack of honesty with friends and family, a lack of emotional integrity within the empath, and a loss of identity as they lose touch with their sense of self.
Empaths will then get to a point where they burnout because they don’t know who they are, they struggle with relationships, and decision making all because they lack an authentic identity.
How Energetic Boundaries Lead to Personal Boundaries
Personal boundaries didn’t make sense to me until I developed energetic boundaries. I understood the language, I knew boundaries logically but not viscerally. I struggled because when I was merged with others I lost myself so completely that I couldn’t imagine upsetting someone by telling them the way I felt. I would go along with them because it was so uncomfortable not to.
In order to keep from merging, an empath needs to learn to keep their energy contained within their own aura. This takes the diligent practice of simple energy tools–grounding and clearing. When an empath learns to keep their aura cleared of other people’s energy, that field acts as insulation. A buffer that mutes other people’s thoughts, feelings, and energy.
After a while, that buffer allows an empath to start feeling and hearing their own thoughts, feelings, and energy. Their authentic personality emerges over time. Once it surfaces, the empath–free of the energy of their friends and family begins to naturally act in their own self interest.
Setting and holding personal boundaries can take time and practice. But the instinct to hold a boundary and the very visceral experience of a boundary is finally possible when empaths fully protect their energy.
In an upcoming blog, I will discuss when merging is appropriate and nourishing to a relationship. Merging is one of the gifts empath can enjoy when they learn to do it consciously. Personal boundaries are the natural outcome of energetic boundaries and indeed a requirement for happy and healthy relationships.
If you are interested in learning more about boundaries, sign up to receive a FREE 38-minute pre-recorded class called Boundaries for Empaths.