Skip to content

How Empaths Can Empower Themselves To Choose Between Feeling & Observing

Tanya Carroll Richardson
June 17, 2020
Tanya Carroll Richardson
By Tanya Carroll Richardson
mbg Contributor
Tanya Carroll Richardson is an author and professional intuitive, giving readings to clients all over the world.
Women in Jean Jackets Linked Arm in Arm
Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy
June 17, 2020
We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our commerce guidelines. Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.

Empaths are hyperperceptive and naturally wired to feel the energies and emotions of others. Yet with practice and intention, empaths can choose to be observers as well. This witnessing is less draining, yet at times empaths will want to feel both joyful and painful emotions and energies in the world.

Some examples of times when empaths might choose to open up and feel include when they have been feeling isolated or when they think opening up to feel with people could benefit others. Times when they might want to simply witness include when they are feeling emotionally drained or when they can best support someone else by taking on the role of observer.

In my book Self-Care for Empaths, I explain how learning about these two techniques allows you to feel empowered about—not at the mercy of—your sensitivity. Here is an overview of what each option—feeling or observing—is like for empaths and how to practice them.

How to tell when you're opening up to feel:


You experience energetic, emotional, and even physical changes in yourself.

Opening up to feel means feeling the energies and emotions of others so intimately it's as if the energies and emotions of others are your own. If you're with a friend celebrating a big win, or reading about something tragic in the news, and you feel emotional changes in your system like suddenly feeling elated around your friend or experiencing a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes while following the news, you are opening up to feel. Watch for changes in your energy body too—like the energy around you becoming thicker or heavier or having the energy become lighter or more peaceful.


Your heart energy is activated and tender.

Is your heart going out to someone or a group of people? Your heart energy allows you to feel deeply compassionate for others, as opposed to intellectualizing what is happening. Your emotions will inform your opinions and thoughts when opening up to feel.


You get intuitive information through the psychic pathway of clairsentience.

There are four main psychic pathways. When you open up to feel, you engage the feeling psychic pathway, which all empaths are naturally strong in. Intuitive hits will come through feelings—energetic, emotional, and even physical (like chills or any other brief physical sensation).


You feel changed physically, emotionally, or energetically even after the interaction is over.

If you have been opening up to feel joyful emotions or warm energy, your energy body will still be buzzing for a while. If you were opening up to feel into individual or collective trauma, you will still feel heartache or drained for a bit afterward.

When opening up to feel, remember to:

  1. Go into your heart with tenderness. Allow yourself to be emotionally moved or energetically changed.
  2.  Imagine your energy body as a cape or cloak that you are letting hang loose and open around your physical body.

How to tell when you're engaging witnessing energy to observe:


You are picking up on the energies and emotions of others, yet those energies and emotions are not affecting your own.

You'll notice that people could feel anxious or relaxed, for example, but instead of feeling it in your own system, you will be registering it intellectually. Choosing to or automatically going into witnessing energy does not make you cold or unfeeling. When others are feeling very intense, sometimes the best way to support them is from a more neutral place. Intense energy, even when it's challenging, can be very attractive and alive. With witnessing energy, you are surfing around or on top of intense energy waves.


You observe other people's energy with curiosity.

Instead of wanting to change someone else's emotion, relate to their emotion, or feel with them, you are giving them space to have their own emotional experience. Name their emotion to stay in witnessing energy, like thinking, "My boss seems really aggravated today" or "My friend seems pumped and inspired."


You imagine space between your energy body and someone else’s.

Witnessing energy is remaining mindful of how your invisible yet very real energy body is separate from someone else's. Imagine your energy body—which extends past and is much larger than your physical body—shrinking back into your physical body. Imagine open space between your energy body and someone else's, whether you are interacting in person or over the phone, on video, or over email. I encourage empaths to create a sanctuary at home, but there is also a sanctuary inside yourself you can retreat to anytime with witnessing energy.


You get intuitive information through the intellectual psychic pathway of claircognizance.

Claircognizant intuitive hits often arrive in your mind as out-of-the-box thoughts fully formed, as opposed to thoughts you logically strategized your way to. Large chunks of complex information can be downloaded instantly into your brain with claircognizance, just like information can be downloaded quickly to a computer.

When engaging witnessing energy, remember to:

  1. Go into your head with curiosity. Classify energies and emotions as opposed to feeling them.
  2. Imagine your energy body as a cape or cloak that you are wrapping snugly around your physical body.

Since an empath's default wiring is to open up and feel, remember that mindfully choosing how you interact with others or the world is not an exact or perfect science. And opening up to feel with your empath sensitivity or engaging witnessing energy to observe might not be a choice at all—it could happen organically. And it's not always an either/or proposition. Your sensitive system could practice balance by switching back and forth between both options during a single interaction.

There is no right or wrong choice, and ultimately an empath's life demands balance—including a balance of opening up to feel or engaging witnessing energy to observe.

Tanya Carroll Richardson author page.
Tanya Carroll Richardson

Tanya Carroll Richardson is a professional intuitive who has given readings to thousands of clients all over the world. She’s the author of nine nonfiction books including Empath Heart, Angel Intuition, Are You an Earth Angel?, and Self-Care for Empaths. Tanya has an annual calendar, A Year of Self-Love, and two oracle decks, Awakening Intuition and Grief, Grace, and Healing.