The idea of setting energetic (and practical) boundaries and creating safe psychic space is increasingly important, so I intend to write more about it. For now, here is an excerpt from my book Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence.
We communicate with each other all the time, engaging each other’s bodies and energies. Setting boundaries on that energetic contact can be challenging; however, limiting the degree to which you allow others into your energetic space can be crucial for your mental health. People, especially sensitive or empathic people, often have difficulty separating themselves from others, once their energies have mingled. If you are sensitive and don’t make an effort to protect yourself from other peoples’ energy, you will pick up thoughts and emotions from everyone you are near—either physically or emotionally.
There is a time and place for this type of connectedness. In an intimate relationship it can be bonding. In a therapeutic relationship it can yield positive results through deeper understanding. But allowing strangers or more casual acquaintances to have such an impact on your energetic system can be unhealthy. A clear sense of what it feels like to be you—alone, inside your body—is important. If you have this baseline conception of yourself, it can help you understand why you feel certain things at certain times. If you’re an easy going person when you’re alone, but after spending the afternoon with a friend who is more edgy and uptight you come away feeling nervous, you can separate that person’s feelings and characteristics from your own. This is one reason why spending time alone is important. Emotions are easier to pick up than a cold if you’re sensitive. Just being around others can become overwhelming for sensitive people who haven’t learned to set up boundaries. Half the battle is simply acknowledging that you are picking up other people’s energy. If you can identify that influence, you can choose who you want to let that close and when. It’s not always that easy, but once you have a clearer idea of who you are alone and are aware of the effect of other people on you, it is much easier to bring yourself back to your own center and release the energies from other people that attach to you.
I once had lunch with a friend who was feeling very sad. I loved her dearly and wanted very much to help her. My empathy allowed a transference of emotions and for the rest of the day I was miserably sad. Even though I’m aware of this dynamic, it took me more than a day to shake an emotion that I’d clearly picked up from her. Our deep connection and my willingness to listen and be supportive were helpful, but it wasn’t helpful to either one of us for me to become sad too.
The goal is to be able to consciously choose to experience another person’s energy and then to clear that energy away from your own. In a personal relationship, close connectedness can help you see a person’s perspective more easily. It can help you be sensitive to their needs. It can help create an atmosphere of understanding and empathy. In a professional capacity, you want to be able to connect closely to a person in order to give them a helpful counseling session, or to be able to understand what expectations they have in your business dealings. But you need to be able to return to your identity relatively clear of anyone else’s. This can be hard, but it gets easier with practice.
Essentially, there are three phases of psychic protection. The first is preparation. The second is the time during an encounter. And the third is cleansing afterward. In the preparation phase, you work to consciously choose your boundaries. On an intellectual level, you increase your awareness of your interactions with others and make some decisions. If someone is difficult for you to be around, pushes your buttons, or engages you in power struggles, you know you need to prepare before being with them. It’s a good idea to think about how you will react if they say something hurtful or try to get you to do something you don’t want to. Have a strategy for keeping your center. On a spiritual level, you work on your “shield,” by developing a strong energy body. In a meditation, visualize yourself surrounded by a cocoon of white light. Pay attention to the quality of that light and see if there are any holes or gaps in the cocoon. If there are repairs needed, put your hands in that spot on your body and visualize white light flooding into the space and filling the gaps. Keep this visualization up until the cocoon feels strong and unbroken. Practice this periodically. Tune into your luminous egg of light briefly throughout the day to keep it strong and energized. It never goes away, because it is your energy field, but you can nourish it with attention in order to strengthen your ability to set boundaries.