Are you clairsentient?

Are you the type of person who can walk into a room and notice the energy of the place? Can you sense what people are really thinking, even though their words might not suggest so? Are you able to feel other people’s emotions? If so, you are what is called a “sensitive” person. Sensitivity is often an underrated quality in our culture. Common thought suggests it’s better to be robust and thick-skinned to be able to cope with our pushy culture and get the goodies of power and status that come from being able to manipulate the energy around you. There is no need to be ashamed of your sensitivity, though. It’s a beneficial capacity to have. But sensitivity is not useful in and of itself. What matters is how a person does or does not manage this sensitivity.

A naïve acceptance of sensitivity can lead to being too easily swayed by the outside world, to being at the mercy of its constant influence, which limits the ability to function well. On the other hand, hiding or ignoring our sensitivity wastes a valuable personal resource. Managed well, sensitivity gives access to the capacity for wisdom and discernment, useful tools in a world overloaded with dubious stimulus and information.

What is sensitivity?

Another word for sensitivity is “clairsentience”. Just as the word “clairvoyant” literally means “clear seeing”, referring to a person’s ability to see what is hidden, clairsentient means “clear feeling”. Physics tells us everything is made of energy. People, their actions and events all radiate energy, even though we can’t actually see this energy. Clairsentience means having the ability to feel this energetic emanation.

A person who is sensitive feels this invisible world of energy but is at its mercy. Someone who is clairsentient feels the energy with accuracy and manages this level of “information”. The trick therefore is to move from being sensitive to being clairsentient.

We are all made of energy and are born with the ability to feel energy. We aren’t rough with babies or young children because we know they are sensitive. We respect this. We love their delicacy and the sweetness that emanates from them. By the time we reach adulthood, though, most of us have lost much of this sweetness. Many people lose their sensitivity along the way, too.

Why isn’t everyone sensitive? Imagine you are being born. You are exquisitely aware of everything around you — the sounds, the textures. You experience the world as energy; you experience people as energy.

Imagine that your parents are not fully present. Being present means being embodied in yourself and emanating the energy of your true self. Being present gives you the capacity to love. This does not refer to our misconceptions of love as an emotion, it means love as the capacity to fully see and accept the truth of another’s being. So your parents are physically there but they haven’t developed their own awareness, so they are not very “present”.

From your parents’ diminished perspective they cannot really see you; see your being, the quality of your presence, the texture of your energy, your light, your love. They don’t see you. (There is no judgement implied here. Your parents weren’t “seen” by their parents, either. This is just the way it went.)

So back to your birth … you are beaming but your parents don’t see this. They are looking through the “fog” of their own needs — what they want their child to be, what their own experiences of childhood were, what the experience of their own parents was and what the world has done to them over their lifetime. Their conditioning has diminished their capacity to see and feel.

So as a baby you look out at your parents. You see them and feel them. But you are not met in this. You are not seen. Imagine the sadness that results. You feel something like: “I have come from love, from a realm where all is recognised and all is met in complete acceptance. I was known. Completely. But here I am not known.” Imagine how that feels.

Then imagine the fear. You are all alone here. There is no one to greet you and say, “I see you there. I feel your light. I know you see me, too. Welcome to the world.” Then imagine the self-doubt. Maybe you think to yourself (unconsciously since you’re still a baby): “I have come from a realm of love. It is not here with me now. So I must have done something very bad. There must be something wrong with me. How can I make this better?”

The empty, lonely, frightened feeling of not being met makes you reach out energetically to your family. You send out feelers to check out what’s going on out there. And then you work out what your parents might need from you and then you do this or become that so you can receive some version of love/presence in return from your parents. This love substitute might be in the form of approval for being good, recognition for trying hard, attention for illness. And so your strategy for survival in the world begins.

The problem here is that you have left your own being-ness. Instead of your presence being enough, you now have to do things in order to receive something resembling love from others. You are now focused outside yourself, picking up all the cues, signals and information from the energy around you.

This is a painful way to exist. We lose touch with our true selves and it causes sorrow. Some children avoid this sorrow by shutting down or avoiding the information coming to them from their clairsentient ability. Over the years, they ignore or totally lose this capacity. The fact that our culture ignores energetic awareness tells you how many people choose this option.

Some people remain clairsentient but, since they have deserted their true selves, they are open energy fields where the “information” from outside constantly bombards them. These are the people we call sensitive or highly sensitive. They have retained the ability to sense energy but don’t know how to manage this capacity. And they may feel strange and wonder why others aren’t the same as them in this regard.

Having no boundaries

If we desert the inner self to focus on the energy outside, it leaves a vacancy inside. There is no presence inside, no emanation of self that would otherwise create an energy “boundary” around us. It is like we have no energetic “skin”. This means that without realising it, sensitive people just let the outside energy come in.

People, events, opinions — they all invade and impose themselves on the sensitive person. When external energy dominates, we end up disempowered and possibly overwhelmed. We end up at the mercy of others’ whims, not choosing what and how we want things to be. It can be hard to express ourselves and can result in anxiety or depression. Others may harden or become too forceful because it’s the only way they know to make a shield around themselves.

Being self-involved

There is a risk that as a sensitive person you can become over-involved with your internal energy states because, unlike some other people, you can actually feel them! You may dwell on it all and get lost in the drama of your own story. But, because you have left your inner self, you bring attention to the emotions but you are alone in this emotional energy. There is no anchor. With the absence of your inner self you are in the emotions but you are not with yourself in the emotion. So you get over-emotional, lost in its energy. The emotion wins. It is bigger than you. You are not its master.

If you are not with yourself when emotions happen, it’s as if you are saying, “I am this sadness.” In contrast, if you are with your inner self, you feel, “I am present with myself and I feel the energy of sadness happening inside.” If you are master of your emotions you can bring attention to them but not involvement. When you are with your feelings but not in them, you realise they are not you; they are just energy to be cleared. This is emotional maturity.

Being self-conscious

Once you have left your self to focus on the external world it’s like you get stuck out there. This means that when you come back to noticing yourself you are doing so as if from the outside. You are your own observer. You are not with you; you look at you. This may all sound confusing but it’s just that if we have a reasonably high level of awareness we can move this awareness around and focus it wherever we like. This awareness can be inside with yourself or it can go outside and look back at you. If you are one of those people who have remained sensitive and aware, the self-observation process will be experienced as self-consciousness. It is painful because you are empty inside yourself and so are at the mercy of your own outer viewpoint.

When you are self-conscious you are focused on the workings of your personality, the thoughts and emotions going on inside. But, since you have no boundary between you and the outside, you can’t hide this “information” from the outside world, so you end up being embarrassed easily.

When you are your own observer it leads to insecurity because it’s like you are alone there on the inside, always being observed, even by yourself. There is no one on your side. And this observation can be quite critical at times because it has absorbed all the external criteria we are supposed to measure up to. The situation is also sad because you have left yourself. There is a sad child inside waiting forever to be met.


If for many years we desert our selves and use our awareness to observe our selves from the outside, eventually we are left with emptiness. It’s like without attention the being-ness of the self inside fades further away and there is a hole inside where we should reside.

Many people are numb or distracted, so they don’t notice this emptiness. But a sensitive person feels the absence and this brings on feelings of angst. All we know is something is wrong; it is not meant to be this way. But we don’t know how to fix it. Even teens can feel this angst and this is why some young people are already depressed and suicidal.

The emptiness also leads to anxiety and panic. This is because we are conscious of feeling all of life but we can’t process it since we have no centre — we are just afloat in it all. There is no anchor.

Some philosophies encourage emptiness but for a sensitive person it is harmful. Now it’s true that we don’t want our awareness to get lost in the content of our minds or emotions and we don’t want to fall for thinking our identities are our personalities or any roles we play or activities we undertake. But this doesn’t have to mean emptiness. The presence inside that we left years ago is still waiting, hidden sometimes, but still waiting for our awareness to return to it. If we choose to return we become present–to-self.


Present-to-self means you are in you, feeling your own centre. It means there is an anchored sense of being-ness or self in whatever activity you engage in. We have to choose to come back to ourselves and focus inside on our own inner being-ness rather than focus our awareness on external stimulus.

The self we left all those years ago resides in the inner heart. There is a quality or texture to the presence of this heart — it will be experienced as gentleness or stillness. This stillness is the frequency or vibration of the soul.

The inner heart can be buried beneath the weight of mental activity, hidden by the pain of living with emptiness, or camouflaged by the drama of our emotional hearts. Since the inner heart emanates love, then love for self reopens the doorway. Since the inner heart emanates stillness, then stillness will usher us back in.

Stillness versus emptiness

When we are present-to-self we can return to stillness. It is where we are meant to be, so no movement is required. This brings our beings to rest. The risk with stillness is that it can get confused with emptiness. But emptiness is a vacancy whereas stillness has a quality to it — it has fullness. If you are aware but not present-to-self, you get emptiness.

For example, if you were empty you would say: “I am aware of my hand picking up the cup.” If you were present-to-self you would say: “I feel the gentle presence in my hand as it picks up the cup.”

Here is another way of highlighting the difference: If you are empty: “The cup is being picked up.” If you are present-to-self: “I am in the hand picking up the cup.”

Discerning energy

For a sensitive person the difference between stillness and emptiness is very important. If we are empty we feel everything but cannot discern between the energies around us — there is nothing to measure the different frequencies by. If we are still, then from this still place we can compare the outer energies to this stillness. We move from sensitivity to the discernment that is clairsentience.

Discernment is important because there are different frequencies of energy. There is the energy of the soul and then there is etheric/astral energy that is not soulful. Soul energy has a fine energetic frequency. It has stillness and we feel gentle in it. In comparison, other energy may feel buzzy, thick or heavy inside us. We may feel it in someone else as an agitation or pressure. It can even be charismatic and seductive. But it is not gentle and it is not still.

To clarify a little, if soul energy was a gentle waving line, etheric energy is a jagged line. When you are full of etheric energy you feel agitated or emotional. It stimulates you and lifts you out of yourself. Soul energy embeds you in you.

The human body and psyche are our vehicles and we can choose to fuel them with whichever energy we want. The choice is ours. But, obviously, the energy of the soul cannot exist in a rough, dense vehicle. If we are aggressive or don’t treat our selves with care, we will be full of astral energy. To be en-souled we need gentleness and grace.

Now the sensitive person has a head start here because they can already feel the energetic frequencies around them. Their awareness doesn’t have to be refined and they can tell the difference between something that is gentle and something that is not. Once you know the difference it’s easy to discern; you just have to be present-to-self and in stillness so that from there you can measure what you are feeling.

Sensitivity and wisdom

The capacity for discernment contributes to the development of wisdom. Life can become simpler in many ways. For a start, your boundary becomes clear: you don’t blame yourself for the issues of others. Rather than feeling something like: “Oh dear that person is upset. What did I do wrong? I’d better make them feel better”, you feel, “Ah, that person is upset. Now, what am I feeling? Is there any action I need to take or not?” No more being hooked into emotional dramas.

With clairsentience you can sense what’s going on with people and know who to get involved with; not from gut feeling but because you are in stillness. You can also feel yourself and therefore know how to self-care rather than push or over-work yourself. You can create an environment that supports you because you can feel what works and what doesn’t.

When you are present-to-self you can feel your own Beauty inside compared with when you are empty. So you can enjoy your self by just being. You don’t have to do anything. Enjoyment is subtle but constant. No more searching for the next treat, the next distraction, the next fix.

Now you can move through the world gently and with presence. Imagine touching your child with this gentle presence. Imagine moving around your home in this energy.

Finally and most importantly, you don’t have to impose your energy on others or feel imposed on by them. You are in you and you allow others to be themselves. Now, that’s getting close to a definition of love! Sensitivity in the service of love. That’s surely worth honouring.

Support for a sensitive nature


  • Focus on your own breath. This brings your focus away from the external world and back inside yourself.
  • As much as possible, breathe gently. This is you choosing the quality of the energy you want to be in rather than letting the world choose for you.
  • Avoid living in chaos. Keep things simple.
  • Have a routine in life that supports you to have regular moments when you tune back into you.
  • Have a mantra — regularly ask yourself: “How am I feeling inside right now? Am I with me?”
  • Avoid foods that cause agitation or change your state of consciousness, such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
  • Practise walking in a gentle rhythm and stay focused inside. Then up the ante — walk down a busy street. Can you stay with your own rhythm, breathing gently? Next, practise during interactions with people. Watch your breathing. Does it change? If so bring it back to gentleness.

NOTE: this is the follow up to a previous article on sensitivity published on issue 126 of WellBeing.

Cynthia Hickman is a psychologist working in private practice in Melbourne. T: 0417 103 018

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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