The Myth of Energetic Transference

I can’t tell you how many times I have clients say to me, “I take on other people’s negative energy. Can you help with that?” I usually answer, “Yes I can, but first let’s have a conversation about what I’m helping with.” I can completely relate to the “experience” of taking on someone else’s energy. As a lifelong empath, feeling other people’s emotions, physical issues or even thinking their thoughts is something I’m very familiar with. So why did I put the word “experience” in quotes? While we may feel like we’ve taken on someone else’s stuff, or that they’ve given us their negative energy, what is actually happening is something else entirely and it would behoove us to dig a little deeper into what is really going on.

Let’s say I notice a stranger on the street who is angry, or I bump into a friend who is angry and then later in the day I notice I’m feeling angry. If there was no situation to illicit these feelings I might conclude that it must have been these angry people who gave me their anger. If we believe in energetic transference then this is a very common conclusion to jump to. 

Looking at this situation from the perspective that everything is vibration; every thought and every emotion, then anger has a particular vibration or resonance. Now let’s say I have some issues with anger (Who me? No way! I don’t know what you’re talking about.) I may feel like it’s not ok to get angry, or to express it, or to witness others getting angry. I may have some judgements about anger and I certainly don’t like getting angry (because of said judgements) so whenever I feel angry, I inherently repress it, resist it and I push it away. You may have heard the expression, “what we resist, persists” and that is exactly what is happening here. 

Now let’s look at this situation from the perspective that everything is energy and all energy likes to move.

Graphic image of waves and bars

Emotion is simply energy in motion but as soon as I resist that movement (because I don’t like it and I judge it) it ceases to flow. Now that anger becomes an inertial energetic charge in my energy field. It hasn’t gone anywhere but it’s no longer in my awareness…until I’m around someone angry. Then that little emotional charge recognizes a comrade in arms and begins to vibrate. If you strike a tuning fork and hold it up to another tuning fork in the same pitch, the one that wasn’t struck begins to vibrate because there is a vibrational resonance. It’s a similar situation here. My own unresolved anger begins to react to the anger of others. There was no transference. I didn’t take anything on and nothing was given to me. The only stuff I have is my own.

So now we get to what I do when clients say to me, “I take on other people’s stuff.” First I explain pretty much what I wrote above and then we have a conversation about what kinds of “stuff” they feel they take on. Most of us aren’t sensitive to absolutely everything. We all have a particular flavor, much like ice cream, that we prefer. For some of us, it’s sadness, for others it’s anger, or grief, or fear. Figuring out what “flavor” pushes our buttons and elicits a reaction can be invaluable information in moving through this world with more ease. Awareness precedes change so really getting our awareness around what triggers us is half the battle. In my practice, once uncovered we take that emotional issue through a protocol that releases and transforms those stuck emotional charges and other aspects of conditioning. That is the way that we heal it. 

It can also be valuable to explore the judgments we might have towards a particular issue. Allow me to share a personal experience regarding the issue of anger. For many years I erroneously thought that spiritual people didn’t get angry, and so I judged anger to mean “spiritually unevolved.” Since I value my own spiritual growth, that was motivation enough to push my own anger away. This resistance towards anger was constantly being reflected back to me in my life. I seemed to magnetize angry people and it was incredibly annoying. I would think (cue the victim consciousness music), “Why am I attracting all these angry people?!” When I really started to do some healing work on my own unintegrated anger, both through energy healing and various forms of self-inquiry, the way I related to anger started to shift. 

I still remember the moment when I realized that my experience with anger was changing. I was driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood looking for a particular street. Apparently, I wasn’t going fast enough for the person behind me because he started screaming in a bloody rage, pretty much every expletive in the English language. I looked at him through my rearview mirror and his face and his eyes were red like a cartoon. I remember thinking, “That man is really angry.” It was only after I had taken the turn that I realized that I had no reaction to his anger. I didn’t feel threatened or wronged or angry myself. I had simply observed without judgement. I’m not suggesting that I’ve worked through all of my anger issues but I am way more comfortable with anger in general and way less reactive towards it.


So by rethinking the idea of energetic transference we can choose to take responsibility for our own emotional material. No longer the hapless victims of some kind of universal game of energetic paintball, we can be empowered in knowing that what we feel is our own. Response to our feelings can be a conscious choice instead of a knee-jerk reaction. What could be more freeing than that?



  1. So well set forth. My challenge is how do i neutralize that anger? I know i have it-i see it flash over and over, before I even realize it’s happening, but no amount of sitting, exploring, trying to understand its source change the charge. I feel like someone other than me is acting through me.

    • Hi Estela, forgive the delayed reply. I am just seeing your comment now. Anger can be a tough one and I can relate ti that feeling of it being someone else or ‘other’. That is usually just a way of distancing ourselves from it because we judge it. Perhaps write down a list of what’s wrong with anger, how you’re not ok with it. That may provide some insight. I know for me, I made anger mean, “spiritually un-evolved”. Since I value my own spiritual growth, I had to repress anger because that didn’t fit into my idea of what a spiritual being was. Once I let go of the illusion that anger is unspiritual, I am much more allowing of anger when it does arise…as it will, because you are a human being:-)

      I hope this helps.

      • Sarah, I thank you so much for writing this article as it made me think about all the states of being/threat I attach to anger.

        Anger doesn’t feel “unspiritual” to me, but I could totally see how that would create a suppression in anyone who associated anger with impeding their own growth and that was a fantastic example to share about how it was blocking you (and gave me a starting point to get curious).

        For me, anger in my family was definitely attached to a lot of negative experiences: betrayal, abandonment, physical/mental/verbal abuse… You did not want to be on the receiving end of anger in my family, especially if it was coming from my father and then my mother/aunts/uncles…

        Anger seemed to be woven into most of the HURT in my family either through the threat of violence or actual violence carried out. Anger was definitely attached to losing control, physical altercations and the justification of harming another person.

        When I am noticing I am feeling mad more frequently it is often connected with frustration over some kind of disrespect or sensing my boundaries are being ignored/violated.

        I think I have also resisted expressing my anger because I am afraid I will explode on someone verbally if I really let it all out (lose control) or harm someone by hitting below the belt with nasty things said in retaliation.

        I would never put my hands on someone in anger, but there is “emotional violence” that I can feel tempted by. In most cases, I choose not to go there, but it can be hard as this was the model and it still seems like the most hostile/harmful anger I deal with is expressed by family members.

        There was/is quite a bit of revenge behavior connected to anger in my family. It’s like there is a philosophy of “if you hit me, I will punch you back and go harder/smarter”.

        I resist this with my whole person as I find it repugnant to gleefully turn on someone you claim to love the second you are offended. Retaliation behavior kind of diminishes all the spiritual talk and publicly professed values for me and so when I see it, it conjures up a lot of disgust around hypocrisy too since many of my relatives are Christian.

        I may even fear that if I were to truly let all my anger out it would get so ugly and I wouldn’t restrain myself and would end up being just the same as my mom/dad and others who are willing to draw blood over perceived insults, let alone actual offense.

        So, I am wondering if my association with anger is more connected to a fear of violence or a fear of becoming violent/losing control or much more foundational, where I am fearing becoming my parents (or the angry version of my parents) when I have worked very hard to do things differently.

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