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Feeling the Feelings of Others

A study of what it’s like to be empathic

by Bibi Deitz

September 15, 2017


The phrase “I know exactly how you feel” is thrown around a lot, but for some, it’s meant literally. When David Sauvage, an empath, says something like that, he’s not speaking hyperbolically. Though some may scoff — Sauvage is the first to admit that he spent years as a skeptic himself — people who have had a firsthand experience of either feeling someone else’s feelings or having their own feelings described to them by an empath might beg to differ.

Sauvage participated in The Assemblage’s Awakening Your Psychic Abilities event, and spoke to us about deep-seated emotions, skepticism and doubt, mirror neurons, following your intuition and the great paradigm shift taking place in the world.

The Assemblage: If somebody is reading this and they have no idea who you are and what your background is, can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing when do ‘empathic readings?’

David Sauvage: I call the readings I do either “energy readings” or “empathic readings.” I tune into people’s feelings and I feel them myself. Most empaths feel other people’s feeling in unpredictable ways. Thanks to training, luck and who knows what, I am capable of tuning into the person I’m sitting with, very specifically, and feeling what they’re feeling in that exact moment and also on a deeper level. I tune into somebody and I can feel all of these different layers of their emotions — what’s driving them, how these feelings fit together — and merely by bringing awareness, it can be very healing and awakening for people. At the end of each reading, I offer something of how to process or work with their feelings.

David giving a reading at The Assemblage. Photos by Inna Shnayder

TA: Can we hear a little more about the specifics of what you do when you give a reading?

DS: When people sit in front of me, I close my eyes and I ask myself what I am feeling as I allow their energy into my body. I describe what I’m feeling to the best of my ability, and then a flow starts. I have my eyes closed the whole time. I don’t want to see the people’s faces. I don’t want to react to their reactions to me. I want to be pure to the experience I’m having.

TA: What’s the catalyst for someone to come and seek you out, generally?

DS: In the Assemblage here today, the catalyst was, “This’ll be interesting,” which is a perfectly fun catalyst. I really enjoy people who are like, “What is this bullshit?” or “Somebody’s going to do what?” I like that, I welcome that. I welcome skepticism, I welcome curiosity, I welcome a desire to be entertained. There are also deeper reasons for wanting to sit with me. Often it’s a feeling of disconnection: “I don’t know what’s going on with me and I would love to have somebody put that into words with me and help me figure it out.”

Often somebody’s further along in their path and they know what’s going on, but they want validation in that, they want to be seen, they want to be understood, and they want to feel what the next steps are.

Sometimes people are further along, and they know exactly where they are emotionally. They’ve done a lot of work. But they just can’t figure out one fucking thing. There’s a glitch or there’s something off. Sometimes people come to me because they want to do absolutely everything they can to heal. So they add me to the mix. They’re suffering from a compulsion to be their best self, which is just causing them stress.

More and more, people are coming to me saying, “How do I deal with other people’s feelings?” I’m doing a lot more of that work. I’m not trying to do that work — I’m happy to help people who aren’t empaths at all — but because I’m putting myself out there as somebody who has learned how to process the feelings of others, people are coming to me asking “How do you do that?” And I love the teaching — teaching people how to feel the feelings of others if you don’t know how, or teaching people what to do with the feelings of others if it’s already happening to you and you can’t control it.

TA: You just mentioned skepticism, and I saw in a bio of yours that you mentioned you’re a former skeptic yourself. Can you talk about how it’s been to go from feeling skeptical about this kind of thing to integrating it into your daily life?

DS: What’s interesting about being an empath is that there’s nothing to be skeptical about. There is no reasonable doubt in the world that people feel other people’s feelings. This is a scientifically verifiable and trivial truth. So the idea that some people would be more capable of feeling other people’s feelings than others is also trivially true. So, in some ways, there’s not much to be skeptical of. If you sit with me and I feel what you’re feeling and I reflect it back to you, and it resonates, what is there to distrust?

On the other hand, there is a place where being an empath slides into being a psychic, or being a psychic slides into being an empath, and we don’t really know how information travels. We could talk about mirror neurons and how I might be unconsciously mirroring what you’re doing in your body, which gives me a sense of what you’re feeling; maybe that’s one theory of what I’m experiencing, but the science isn’t there yet, and I’ve had experiences that cannot really be explained by, “Oh, I’m physically present with this person and I must be perceptive.” I’ve had extremely specific insights into what’s going on with people.

Like, for instance, sitting in a cab and knowing that the cab driver was sad because he’d quit his job being an accountant years ago. Where does that come from? Knowing that two people across the room would marry, even though they hadn’t met yet. Stuff like that. I’m not alone; we all have flashes of stupendous awareness that we can’t explain

I guess they started happening to me at a fast enough rate that this skeptical part of me couldn’t process it. As a skeptic, I want to be subject to the best data or information available, and it became sillier to dismiss it than to accept it. I would defy anybody who does a deep dive into this scientific evidence of psychic phenomena to come out saying anything other than, “This is real and people have supernatural gifts.”

People who say that this stuff is all bullshit — they’re not so much skeptical as they are dogmatic, and they’re just holding onto a dying worldview, because they’re too afraid to open up to something in themselves that they don’t want to see, which may have been the case with me too, at the beginning of this journey.

TA: Since more people are interested in this kind of thing right now — wellness is cool — do you feel like this is being met with more openness than it would have been maybe 20 years ago?

DS: I spoke at a “consciousness hacking” event, and it was mostly a bunch of men trying to figure out how to use the latest technology to give themselves an edge. Very much on the rational, left-brain side of the equation. I was talking about my ability to tune into people remotely, so if you give me a picture of someone, or just a name, I can tune into this person remotely and tell you what’s going on with them. And I was like, “I know this sounds like bullshit to you guys, because I wouldn’t believe it either, and you’d want to subject it to scientific testing before you’d even begin to believe it.”

But I was actually wrong. They were like, “No, that seems possible. Whatever, we don’t know.” There’s a kind of awareness, even in skeptical, left-brain science types that there are other layers of information that are coming through that we can’t explain. I feel the time is ripe for this. People are way more open than they were even two years ago. Forget 20 years ago. Dramatically different. Me, saying, “I’m a psychic,” two years ago was a whole different vibe than saying “I’m a psychic” now. Saying, “I’m an empath,” two years ago, mostly it was like, “Oh, what does that mean?” Now it’s like, “Oh, I feel stuff too.” The culture’s totally shifting in this direction. I don’t know if it’s part of wellness so much as it is a new open-mindedness to intuition and a part of an overall cultural trend toward truth and away from consumerist bullshit. The consumerist bullshit narrative will still get layered on top of this; people will still sell wellness as if its primary purpose is to consume it. But it’s pointing in the direction of awesomeness. And I’m all for it.