Self-Awareness Tools for Empaths

Dr. Judith Orloff has taken the lead in bringing the needs of empaths to our attention. In The Empath’s Survival Guide, she explains the important difference between having empathy and being an empath.

Having empathy means our heart goes out to another person in joy or pain. . . but for empaths it goes much further. We actually feel others’ emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our own bodies, without the usual defenses that most people have.

In case you’re wondering why you should care, let me add. You’re probably an empath too, even if a latent or undercover one. To the point, in his praise of The Empath’s Survival Guide, the venerable Dr. Joe Dispenza concludes: “Dr. Orloff does a brilliant job of helping us discover the empath in all of us.”

So, let’s get practical.

The Empath’s Survival Guide offers an array of tools to help sensitive people develop healthy coping mechanisms in a high-stress, high-stimulus world, while at the same time optimizing their unique gifts: intuition, compassion, creativity, and spiritual connection. (In the context of the multi-dimensional Life Wheel, this translates as honing the ability to honor and protect awareness of the middle and innermost levels, while simultaneously strengthening the protective, physical layer.)

Meditation is a strategy Dr. Orloff highly recommends. She calls it “Opening to a Higher Power.” (Dr. Joe’s meditations likewise serve this purpose.)

But there’s one powerful tool they do not mention. It’s related to meditation, but in a unique, extraordinary way — namely, the Chinese I Ching, especially in a version free of unnecessary hocus pocus, sexist assumptions and flowery talk, The Common Sense Book of Change.

The text has a long history. In the last century, psychologist Dr. Carl Jung picked up on it. In his introduction to the first genuinely useful English translation, Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to explain its power – precipitating seemingly magical and awesome non-local connections of understanding, insight, and awareness. This affect may be due to the similarity between the opening and closing lines of the 64 hexagrams and the geometric patterns seen by meditators in deep trance. (Dr. Joe is a fan of synchronisities. He tells students, as they grow in their meditative practice, to look for confirming synchronisities to appear in their lives.)

The Book of Change is a meditative tool especially suited to empaths’ needs. Its introspective method is safely accessed in the privacy of one’s own room. It gives those unable to bear the stress of travel much less mixing in crowds of thousands to participate in Dr. Joe’s popular events, another means of cultivating heightened awareness. Its benefits are cost-effective. And it is consistently available on a daily basis . . .  most especially in emergencies . . . for immediate use.

The Introduction to The Common Sense Book of Change makes its direct connection with Dr. Joe’s work strikingly apparent. In meditation CDs, he intones, “Become AWARE. Become Aware that you’re Aware.”

When, following Jung’s example, I asked, “What does the CSBOC have to offer its readers?” its answer was AWARENESS.

Hexagram 20

Personally, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to The Book of Change. In The I Ching and Me, I wrote:

For me, the Book of Change is a gateway to magic. On this side, it has been a close companion, good friend and advisor through the years. On the far side, perhaps remembered from lifetimes past, it speaks to me from a place beyond time and space.

With it, I was never alone, even and especially when I was loneliest in crowded rooms. When the world impelled suicide, it brought me back to a deeper, all-pervasive love of life.

Without it, it’s doubtful I would have survived the challenges and dangers of my “interesting” youth. Which is why, in the spirit of paying it forward, I have gone to considerable lengths to make this book in its essence available, most especially to sensitives.

Because, Yes. I’m an empath too. I clearly remember an incident from early teen years. Mom came at me in a rage, fists flying. For many years, her exact words stuck – indelibly imprinted — in my mind. “Stop being so damn hyper-sensitive and act normal like everyone else.” (Our family physician gave her the term. She used it as a complaint, like a club.)

By now, the pain has been released, the memory transformed into wisdom. When I told OA about the incident, he simply remarked, “Good advice.” (Easier said than done, I thought.) What I’ve learned is that the functional word in her demand was ACT. Act as if normal. The challenge is to honor inner awareness while, at the same time acting within the bounds of social norms.)

The reason this was so hard for me to do this was that I picked up on and responded to the non-verbal messages people broadcast, which are often quite at odds with their verbal statements.


It confused me terribly. Not to mention that my unwelcome awareness frustrated and angered the verbal message senders. Whether they were unaware of the disconnect or were simply invested in saving face, exposure was perceived as a threat. Embarrassing. Enraging. (Along similar lines, in the context of energy vampires, Dr. Christine Northrup describes the effect of mixed messages as “cognitive dissonance.”)

Especially at times when I felt obliged to keep others’ dark secrets and had no one in the world to turn to, I depended on The Book of Change to validate what I “knew” and advise on the wisest way to act on this information, one situation at a time. For example, consistent with Dr. Orloff’s emphasis on the necessity of establishing clear boundaries, I often received this advice:

IC 60 Limits

At other times, when life became exceptionally chaotic and it seemed as if there was no way out of an impossible situation, I would read this and be comforted:

IC 52 Stillness

When I worked as an Administrative Assistant at the now-dissolved UW-Madison Eating Disorders Clinic, it broke my heart to observe how sadly the treatments and advice inflicted on suffering young women (often empaths at a loss to survive in abusive families) missed the mark. I dearly wished someone would offer the same self-counseling remedy that worked for me. They might, for example, have found this, as I did again recently:

IC 27 Growth

The Book of Change has been instrumental in maintaining my sanity and weaving safely through the uncertainties of an environment dominated by energy vampires – a concept well defined, in case you’re unfamiliar, by Dr. Christian Northrup in Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships That Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.

Ultimately, the decision may come to this:

IC 21 Breakthrough

Whether this Breakthrough occurs on inward spiritual and mental levels, or on the material plane of physical location, personal relationships and job situation, depends on immediate circumstance. Or, since the levels are interdependent, each influencing the others, the necessary change might eventually span the whole continuum.

book header bird

Since I’ve already given you plenty to absorb already, I’ll save a second, powerful tool for empaths – Personalizing the Life Wheel – for next time.

In the meantime, all best