Compulsive Overeaters take on other people’s feelings.

What do I mean by that?

Empathy or having compassion for other people’s emotions is something all people have to some extent. Except for psychopaths who, I’ve been told by researchers, that psychopaths do not have any. I’ve never met one so I can’t say for sure.

Often, when people go into couple’s counseling, they learn to develop and put into words their empathy for their partner’s point of view.

But there is such a thing has having too much empathy. My mom told me about a dentist from her childhood who she described as “Too sensitive to be a dentist.” What she meant was that he felt so bad for his patients it got in the way of him keeping an upbeat approach, reassuring the people he treated.

Sometimes we can feel so bad for another person’s pain so intensely that we lose our own perspective, and how much we hurt as a result of their behavior. Sometimes our feeling bad for another person drains or even incapacitates us in our lives.

If we feel the emotions of everyone around us so much that we become confused about our own, it is time to use the bubble exercise.

The rules of the bubble are simple. Once we put the bubble around us, we can hear everything, see everything we did previously. But we can no longer feel the feelings of anyone outside the bubble. What a relief!

You can create a bubble of any size, shape, color or thickness. The bubble may be as small as just outside your skin or as big as the room you are in. The bubble can be spherical, ovoid, or irregular. You can make your bubble clear, iridescent, or any color you want. I happen to like sea green as a restful color, but that’s just my taste. Finally, you can make it as thin as a soap bubble up to several inches thick.

Some people like to add special features to their bubbles. One class participant of mine wanted a zipper on hers, so she didn’t get claustrophobic. Someone else I supervised added a sound dampening feature to hers, so the noises around her were reduced in volume but not muffled completely. A friend of mine put a B.S. detector on her bubble, to instantly repel any hogwash coming her way.

If you’re not sure how you want to construct your bubble, feel free to try out something and see if you like it or not. If you don’t, you can always change.

Now, sit in a comfortable, upright position and close your eyes. If closing your eyes makes you anxious, you can look down at the floor, instead. Lead yourself through The Body Scan to identify your sensations prior to putting up your bubble (see previous blog on my website.)

Slowly construct your bubble around you, imagining all its properties. Stay with it for a minute or so.

Next, do another body scan and notice how you feel after you’ve put up your bubble. You might feel calmer, more relaxed or your mind might be clearer. If you don’t feel any different, you might want to change your bubble in some way and see if that helps.

If you notice a change from using your bubble, why not put it to a more rigorous test?

Again, close your eyes or look down to the ground. Put your bubble into place and get comfortable with it there.

Then, imagine someone outside your bubble who pushes your buttons. Notice what they’re wearing, how they hold themselves, the expression on their face and their mannerisms. Hear the sound of their voice.

Were you able to keep your bubble up while you imagined them there? If you were, you did not pick up on their feelings or feel badly for them. If not, put your bubble back in place or even change it in some way. Then, try to imagine this person again, this time keeping your bubble intact.

With practice, you can get better and better at keeping your bubble in place and other people’s emotions at bay. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. You might even try the bubble exercise for a few minutes each day and see how it improves your emotional life.

This exercise has helped many of my clients keep better boundaries with the people in their lives. It can help you, too.