Evolving with Empathy: Interview with Dr Judith Orloff   by Vanessa Finnigan

Do you tend to absorb other people’s stresses, emotions, and symptoms? Do you get overstimulated by noise, odors, and non-stop talkers? Have you been called sensitive, intuitive, and introverted? According to Dr Judith Orloff, multiple New York Times best-selling author, psychiatrist, and empath, these are just a few indicators that may reveal you are an empath and experience the world differently from other people.

In our Western world, being a super extrovert, sporting legend or rock star is highly valued. We live in a world of intellectualising and many walk around ‘living in their head’, and not being in their body. In contrast, living with more empathy offers a path to move into heart-based embodiment. In fact, Dr Judith believes empathy not only holds the keys to our evolution, but it will also become the new ‘rock-star’ quality.

“I believe empathy is a trait that will save the world. It will bring back civility and connection in the world and change how we are with each other,” she shared.

Being an empath is a way of being that includes high intuition, ‘feeling all the feels’, high sensitivity/awareness, with a caring/kind nature. You tend to be born an empath, but traumatic events can open you up to functioning with more empathy.

Dr Judith revealed an empath who has ‘done the inner work’ or continues to evolve does not get stuck in over-giving to the point of burn-out, martyrdom or co-dependency. These areas and more are covered with enlightening insight and clarity in her incredible new book, ‘The Genius of Empathy’.

Dr Judith clarified empathy is a healing tool, not just a way to be nice to someone. It’s a way of being where you are really open, loving and intuitive, but you don’t have the same filters others have. A lot of information and energy can come in and so learning skills to protect yourself is vital. It’s about learning how to not take on the stress of others to the point of burning out or becoming a hermit.

Dr Judith shares her 5 tips from her book to assist in this area:

How to ‘observe and not absorb’ people’s energy:

  1. Your philosophy has to be a healthy one- it’s not healthy to believe that in order to be compassionate you have to take on the stress of others. Many healers burn out because they give 300%.
  2. You can’t fix anybody- it’s not your job, let them heal and go through their own process. Of course, you can guide or hold space for people. Empaths jump into people’s skin; they want to help so much and it’s not a healthy way to be.
  3. It’s important to centre and ground yourself. One way is you can visualise roots of a tree, going through your legs and feet, anchoring you to the Earth, it’s a good feeling to feel solid.
  4. Hold a heart centered place- focus on sending love and you just listen with an open heart which can do so much for people, you don’t have to do anything, or fix anything, or take anything away from someone.
  5. It’s important to take care of yourself, go for a walk, have a bath with candles and fill yourself up again. There are many ways to practice self-care and self-empathy.

Dr Judith is a rare find in the world, she has integrated the psychiatry/ medical world with the spiritual world and offers sessions and classes to the general public and also has a private psychiatry practice in Los Angeles, America. She sees many empaths and highly sensitive practitioners who have burnt out or haven’t realised their full capacities and gifts as an empath. She believes the integration of the two worlds is the new way forward for the health care system.

In many ways her own experience and long-term process of integrating ‘science and spirit’ has allowed her to evolve and reach so many more people. Dr Judith grew up as an empathic child in a family of physicians (twenty-five doctors in the family). Where her parents were physicians and linear, logical, rational people, she was more intuitive and sensitive. And she was often told, “you just have to develop a thicker skin,” which she said doesn’t help.

“I have been on a healing path for a long time. I was ashamed of my empathic and intuitive abilities and premonitions, and I grew up feeling like there was something wrong with me,” she shared. Then one night she had a dream which inspired her to go and study to become a psychiatrist and get the credentials to legitimise her intuitive, empathic insights within the field of medicine.  To be whole, she had to integrate her whole self and she had teachers to help her integrate both worlds. And part of what inspired her to write her new book was to give empath practitioners tools to not only keep going but to really thrive.

Dr Judith commented, the biggest challenge with empathy is empathy fatigue- giving too much of yourself to the point of getting sick. That’s why it’s good to limit how much empathy you give to people, including to narcissistic and anti-social personalities who can suck empaths dry and who are empathy deficient.  “We need to replenish, we need to sleep, we need nature, alone time, good water, and food. People will come up to me after a workshop and ask me to be there for them in some way but I’m too tired. I would love to answer their question, but I’m tired right now and I need to go practice self-care,” she said. Giving and having empathy for others is a beautiful thing when it’s done in a balanced way.

So, what’s healthy giving versus unhealthy giving? You don’t want to be a co-dependent giver, where you focus on others non-stop and become preoccupied with giving. Are you thinking about other people more than yourself all the time? Are you over helping and people pleasing or being a martyr? You don’t need to be on call for everyone 24 hours a day!

“You have to honour your gifts but not take on other’s stresses. The heart is the centre of empathy, and the book shows you how to have self-empathy. Open your heart and show yourself self-empathy every day,” she shared.

Dr Judith smiles, “I talk to many of my therapist friends and the general consensus is, it’s easier to help others- it’s harder to practice empathy towards ourselves. The genius of empathy is applying it to ourselves-regularly.”

Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. She has spoken at the American Psychiatric Association, Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women’s Summit, Google, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Gateway Asia. The New England Journal of Medicine writes, “Dr. Judith Orloff advises physicians on improving their intuitive powers. Her simple but powerful message is ‘Listen to your patients.’”

Dr Judith Orloff’s new book, ‘The Genius of Empathy’ is out now and to find out more information please go to: https://drjudithorloff.com/the-genius-of-empathy-description/

To find out more about being an empath please visit: https://drjudithorloff.com/quizzes/are-you-an-empath-20-question-self-assessment-test/


Vanessa Finnigan is the founder, editor and publisher of Holistic Bliss.
Holistic Bliss is also available to be downloaded as a free App (downloaded in 52 countries) and you can receive notifications about new articles and cover personalities on your phone.

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