Updated: March 5, 2019
Emotions are a stunning expression of our energy, the “vibe” we give off. We register these with intuition. Some people feel good to be around; they improve your mood and vitality. Others are draining; you instinctively want to get away.
This “subtle energy” can be felt inches or feet from the body, though it‘s invisible. Indigenous cultures honour this energy as life force. In Chinese medicine it‘s called chi, a vitality that‘s essential to health. Though the molecular structure of subtle energy isn‘t fully defined, scientists have measured increased photon emissions and electromagnetic readings about healers who emit it during their work.
Emotional energy is contagious. It can make the difference between a toxic and healthy relationship. It‘s crucial to get a clear read on this aspect of anyone you plan to regularly interact with. Then, you can decide whether a relationship is feasible based on your energetic compatibility.
In my medical practice and life this chemistry is a deal breaker. Experience has taught me that it‘s pointless to work with a patient or form a friendship if such basic rapport isn‘t there. You don‘t have to force a fit when the energy feels right.
Forcing anything is simply the mind‘s attempt to interfere with flow. Of course, we all have quirks, anxieties, and fears, but energy cements your bond with others and motivates you to work through the rough spots. Nevertheless, healthy relationships have a momentum that carries them, a surrender that feels more natural when you‘re both in sync.
When reading emotions, realize that what others say or how they appear frequently don‘t match their energy. You must let go of the notion that what you see is what you always get.
As a psychiatrist, I‘ve observed how people go to great lengths, purposely or not, to appear in certain ways—either to impress, say the right thing, or sell you on something—but this “self” isn‘t aligned with their true emotions.
Consider these examples: your spouse apologizes for blowing up but her hostility still lingers. A man you just met tries to charm you, but you don‘t feel much heart there. A friend seems cheerful but you sense that she‘s hurting inside. Realize: just because people smile doesn’t mean they’re happy. Or just because people are reserved, doesn’t mean they’re not ecstatic.
Ultimately, the energy transmitted by someone’s smile and presence tells the truth about where they’re at. So, be smart enough to correlate a person‘s energy with their emotions. Most people aren‘t being intentionally misleading—often they don‘t know what they feel or project. They might tell you one thing—and believe it—but you‘ll learn to decode their emotions.
Here, the surrender to focus on is saying “yes” to the messages your body sends. Your mind may want to talk you out of your body‘s wisdom. Don‘t allow it to. Reading energy lets you attune to how you relate to people, who you feel comfortable around and who you don‘t. To avoid bad relationships and regrets, you must let go of trying to convince yourself of anything the body‘s intuition doesn‘t affirm.
To help with this surrender, here‘s what to do. When identifying how you energetically respond to others always ask, How does my body feel? Does my energy go up or down? Then follow your body‘s lead rather than resisting it.
In practical terms this means: you want to marry someone who increases your energy not drains it, regardless of how perfect he or she looks on paper. You want to sit beside a coworker who‘s positive, not negative. You want to choose friends you resonate with so that you can nurture each other. Then notice the positive difference in your life. To experience the pleasure of compatible relationships, use the following tips.
Strategies to read emotional energy
Sense people’s presence – This is the overall energy we emit, not necessarily congruent with words or behaviour. It‘s the emotional atmosphere surrounding us like a rain cloud or the sun. For instance, they may give off an aura of mystery, joy, or sadness. To compare extremes, think of the Dalai Lama‘s light, compassionate presence versus Charles Manson‘s deranged darkness.
Presence is also associated with charisma, a personal magnetism that you‘re drawn to. Warning: charisma doesn‘t always contain heart, something to beware of. Charisma without heart can‘t be trusted. It‘s a dangerous combination present in many con artists and seducers.
As you read people notice: does their overall energy feel warm? Calming? Uplifting? Invigorating like a breath of fresh air? Or is it draining? Cold? Detached? Angry? Jarring? Depressed? Do they have a friendly presence that attracts you? Or are you getting the willies, making you back off.
Also see if people look anchored in their bodies, indicating their feet are firmly planted on the ground. Or are they floating outside themselves, which may indicate flakiness and distractibility?
Watch people’s eyes – We can make love or hate with our eyes. Our eyes transmit powerful energies, what the Sufi poet Rumi calls “the glance.” Just as the brain has an electromagnetic signal extending beyond the body, studies indicate that the eyes project this too.
In fact, research reveals that people can sense when they‘re being stared at, even when no one is in sight—an experience reported by police officers, soldiers and hunters. Indigenous cultures respect the energy of the eyes. Some believe that the “evil eye” is a gaze that inflicts injury or bad luck on its target. Also, science has documented “the look of love.”
Joining eyes with a loved one (or dog!) triggers a biochemical response, releasing oxytocin, the warm and fuzzy “love hormone.” The more oxytocin your brain has, the more trusting and peaceful you‘ll feel.
Take time to observe people‘s eyes. Are they caring? Sexy? Tranquil? Mean? Angry? The way others look at you can make you feel adored or afraid. Also determine: is there someone at home in their eyes, indicating a capacity for intimacy? Or do they seem to be guarded or hiding?
Certain people‘s eyes can be hypnotic. Avoid looking deeply into eyes you distrust or sense may be dangerous. The less you engage negative people, the less they’ll zone in on you. On the other hand, feel free to fall into people’s eyes who you cherish. Enjoy all that beautiful energy!
Notice the feel of a handshake, hug and touch – We share emotional energy through physical contact much like an electrical current. Ask yourself, Does a handshake or hug feel warm, comfortable, confident? Or is it off-putting so you want to withdraw? Are people‘s hands clammy, signaling anxiety. Or limp, suggesting being non-committal and timid? Is their grip too strong, even crushing your fingers, indicating aggression or over control?
Along with physical cues, the energy of touch reveals people‘s emotions. Some hugs and handshakes impart kindness, joy, and calm whereas others feel clingy, draining, even hostile. Therefore, spend time with people whose energy you like.
Be wary of those you don‘t so you‘re not depleted. Avoid physical contact (including making love) with anyone whose energy doesn‘t feel good.
Listen for people’s tone of voice and laugh – The tone and volume of our voice can tell much about our emotions. Sound frequencies create vibrations. Some frequencies we hear. Below an audible range, sound can be felt (think of a bass’ vibration.)
When reading people, notice how their tone of voice affects you. Words ride the energy of tone, its warmth and coldness. Ask yourself: Does their tone feel soothing? Or is it abrasive, snippy, or whiny?
Are they a soft-talker or mumbler whom you can barely hear, signs of meekness or low self-esteem? Or do they talk too loud or too much, signs of anxiety, narcissism, or insensitivity. Are they fast-talkers, trying to sell you something? Or boring you to death with a slow monotone, suggesting depression and no spontaneity?
Be aware of sighing which relays sadness or frustration. Also, a pinched voice suggests emotional repression, over control, or a thyroid disorder.
Always observe how much people laugh, a sign of lightheartedness. Does their laugh sound genuine? Fake? Child-like? Joyous? Or are they overly serious, rarely laughing? In addition, FBI profilers interpret a quivering voice and sudden change in pitch as potential signs of deception.
Sense people’s heart energy – The most important aspect to read about energy is whether people exude a sense of heart. This is the loving-kindness in us, our capacity for empathy, giving and connection.
When heart is present you‘ll feel the warmth of unconditional love emanating from others which makes you feel safe and at ease. It‘s the unspoken sense of being accepted, not judged. No one can fake this.
Our heart presence builds through our good intentions, deeds and emotional work to overcome fear and negativity. The heart is the most positive quality anyone can have. It‘s healthy to be drawn to it.
Reading energy is a game-changer where intense emotions blur your clarity. It enables you to see past fantasies or desires to pinpoint someone‘s motivations by sensing invisible messages they give off.
I was once attracted to a man, a successful financial manager who knew exactly what to say to melt my heart. Todd was from the country club set and much too conservative for my taste—I often fall for wild, creative men. Yet he was smart, boyishly playful, seemed to “see” me and respect my sensitivities. We could discuss anything from politics to the nature of the universe and he‘d speak to me in an appreciative low tone of voice I melted around (I‘m very responsive to sound).
Still, from the start, when I looked into Todd‘s eyes, I had the oddest feeling—there was no “there” there. His eyes seemed cold, vacant, even a touch mean. However, for better or worse, I was drawn to him, which doesn‘t happen to me every day.
I really wanted to surrender to my romantic feelings for Todd, to explain away the niggling truth his eyes conveyed, though I knew I ignored this red flag at my own peril. But, as the desiring mind can do when it wants something, it downplayed intuition. I rationalized, “You‘re just too picky. Todd is wonderful. It‘s crazy to let his eyes stop me.” My friends also told me this, and I agreed. So, for a year, I stayed in the relationship. But in the end, this man‘s eyes revealed his true colours.
The problem was that Todd was a super-smooth operator and my raging hormones were blinding me. Also, I was naïve. I confused his seductive energy with heartfelt caring and was horribly susceptible to the charisma he wielded so well. It was a perfect storm of forces I didn‘t have a handle on. I needed to sort them through before I could read him from a neutral place which at that time was light years away.
A policy of mine is to study what makes me weak or strong, so I can learn from it. If something knocks me off my centre I want to know why and not repeat the situation. To break Todd‘s spell, I had to grasp that what excited him most was not to love me but to have power over me. I just couldn‘t grasp how he or anyone could feel that way. He‘d reel me in with gorgeous intimacy, then be unavailable. Or he‘d be incredibly sensitive, then incredibly cold. I kept wracking my brains, “What could he possibly be getting from this.”
Slowly, I came to understand that he got off on the rush of being in control. For him, it was an aphrodisiac. I didn‘t operate like this, nor had that been a dynamic in my past relationships. But, thanks to Todd, I can recognize it now.
In retrospect, I‘m grateful to have learned this lesson about power versus love from a perfect teacher. Also, I realized that once again, I‘d talked myself out of intuition in favour of passion. I‘d surrendered to the wrong thing, to what I wanted, rather than what I “saw.” However, being human, sometimes I have to keep making the same mistakes until I finally learn. Today, I value the energy of the eyes more than ever. It communicates an essence in someone if we can trust this.
In your life, get used to reading people‘s emotions. Factor what you sense into your total assessment. Maybe just a single red flag will appear so you‘re not sure what to do. Then, take your time. Watch how people treat you. Notice if their words back up their behaviour. The purpose of reading energy is to become more empathic by sensing the nuances of different personalities. Stay alert to the signals energy sends so that you can see the whole person.
This article was excerpted from Judith Orloff’s book The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being. Copyright © 2014 by Judith Orloff, MD. All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, New York, a Penguin Random House Company. Buy the book>>