Can you guess THE most common challenge of being an HSP?
Here are some clues (quotes from our HSP community)…
- “I can take over the feelings of other people just by sitting next to them.”
- “It can be painful to care so much about all living things.”
- “The thing I find hardest is absorbing the emotions of people around me.”
- “The hardest part is having to process SO much throughout the day – not only my many emotions, but sometimes the emotions/energy of the people around me.”
All of these struggles come from energetic boundary issues.
Have you heard of energetic boundaries?
I hadn’t until a few years ago, but understanding this concept has changed my life!
Let me paint you a picture of my life before I healed my energetic boundaries:
- I constantly tuned into the emotional states of those around me so I could adjust how I showed up
- I soaked up others’ energy like a sponge
- I was often confused about whether my feelings were mine or someone else’s
- I was exhausted from carrying and feeling so much emotion
I felt all of this pain because my energetic boundaries were compromised.
So what are energetic boundaries?
Cyndi Dale, author of the book Energetic Boundaries says, “Our energetic boundaries border our spiritual selves and promote our true nature…When created and managed correctly, they make sure that our real selves- not the ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that aren’t us- are in charge of our lives.
And they share information with the world, telling everyone exactly who we are, what we want, and how they can treat you…Quite simply, without boundaries, we can’t share who we are with the world.”
In other words, energetic boundaries are like energetic/spiritual skin.
Just like our physical skin protects us from absorbing every pollutant in our environment, healthy energetic boundaries keep us from absorbing all the energetic “stuff” in our environment.
Energetic boundaries protect us by keeping in the energy that supports us and letting out what doesn’t.
They also draw to us things that we need like guidance, relationships, life lessons, and healing.
Many of us either didn’t develop healthy energetic boundaries or had ours damaged due to things like dysfunctional family dynamics or traumatic life experiences.
If you’re wondering whether you have compromised energetic boundaries, here are some common symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed by others’ feelings, moods, and needs
- People pleasing, even when it’s harmful to you
- Out-of-the-blue, intense attacks of negativity
- Anger, frustration and exhaustion from carrying everyone else’s “stuff”
- Recurring struggles with work, relationships, and/or money
- Heaviness and physical ailments from absorbing outside energies
- Generalized anxiety and a sense of needing to be vigilant all the time
If you experience these symptoms, there’s nothing wrong with you! It just means you’re an HSP and have been through some hard stuff, like me.
In future posts, I’ll teach you more about this topic: what happens to your energetic boundaries when they’re damaged, why healing them means more energy and freedom for you, and tips for strengthening your energetic boundaries.
But for now, let’s explore what most people mean when they refer to “boundaries,” and why energetic boundaries are a bit different.
Energetic Boundaries vs. Relational Boundaries
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “boundaries” before; it’s an important topic!
Here’s the thing though: after years of my own therapy and getting pretty darn good at setting boundaries, I still felt exhausted at the end of the day, like I was carrying around a 50 lb. backpack of the world’s emotional junk.
What was going on? If I was decent at setting boundaries, why did I feel this way?
Well, when most people use the word “boundaries”, they’re talking about relational boundaries.
Here’s an example of a relational boundary: my friend wants to talk at 9pm tonight, but that’s too late for me. I let her know, “I’d love to connect with you, but I’d rather talk earlier in the day. How about tomorrow?”
In this case, I successfully set a relational boundary (woohoo, that’s huge!)
But it’s possible to set a relational boundary like above and still:
- Feel your friend’s emotions in your own body
- Feel like it’s your job or duty to be there for them
- Wonder if you’re selfish for setting a boundary
- Feel nervous and guilty after voicing your needs
- Feel like you’re carrying some of your friend’s emotion but don’t know why
- Feel confused about where your emotions end and where theirs begin
This has everything to do with your energetic boundaries.
So what exactly is the difference between relational and energetic boundaries?
Relational boundaries have to do with more concrete elements of a relationship (the time you’re willing to give, ways you expect to be treated, your choices in regards to touch and your body, etc.)
Energetic boundaries have to do with the unseen energy that’s exchanged between you and the world (ie. how much access others get to your energy and how much energy and emotion you absorb from others).
They’re two very different types of boundaries that require two very different types of skills.
The reason I felt so burdened despite my boundary setting skills is that I didn’t know how to set energetic boundaries (and didn’t even know they existed!).
How does that sit with you? Does it make sense?
Ask yourself: do I struggle more with relational or energetic boundaries? Or with both?
Real Experiences with Energetic Boundaries
I’ve been exploring energy with some of the Highly Sensitive People who took my Intuitive Warrior Journey program. Recently, they sat down with me and shared first-hand about their experiences with energetic boundaries.
I learned SO much, and was blown away by what they shared and I thought you would be too.
Can you relate to any of these themes that emerged?
- We are exhausted. Being a sponge that soaks up others’ energies is utterly draining.
- We feel in a bind: how do we have empathy without burning out and how do we have boundaries without feeling disconnected? Most people have felt like they’ve had to choose between one or the other: boundaries or empathy.
- We feel confused about who we are. The energy from the outside world is so loud and distracting that it’s often hard to hold on to what WE think and feel.
- Having permeable energetic boundaries has helped at times, and we’re a bit scared of losing that coping mechanism. Diffuse EBs can allow us to tune-in to the moods and needs of others, and if we grew up with any degree of chaos or unpredictability, that sixth sense may have helped keep us safe.
- We’re ready for a change. As one person shared, “I want to feel safe in myself and know that I can just be me.” We want to feel grounded, connected, and like we can turn some of our energy back towards ourselves.
What do you think? Can you relate?
I’m so excited to be working on an Energetic Boundary healing course to address all those needs. What are your energetic boundary questions? What do you hope to see/hear from me? (leave a comment and let me know!)
While you’re waiting, here’s a simple energy shifting tool:
The Energetic Swiffer Duster
At the end of each day, or after a draining experience, imagine dragging a swiffer from your head down to your toes, inside and outside of your body.
Imagine the duster picking up all the energy that doesn’t serve you or belong to you. Do this as many times as you need to to release the residue that isn’t yours.
This simple exercise is part of good energetic hygiene. Just like we need to brush our teeth daily, it’s a good idea to clean ourselves off in this way too.
If you give it a try, I’d love to hear your experience with it.
If you’d like more guidance on becoming an HSP who’s free from the burden of over-responsibility, watch our free workshop, How to Break Free from Empathy Overload.