Understanding Residual Energy vs. Spirit

October 7, 2020 5:41 pm Published by

If you identify as an empath or highly sensitive person (HSP), you’ve probably experienced residual energy and encounters with Spirit. Here’s the thing, though. Each of these is totally different; they present in different ways, have different purposes and should be dealt with in different ways. 

Empaths and HSP’s are much more sensitive to extrasensory information. Check out this past post if you want to learn more about empaths.

One thing you need to know as an empath or HSP is how to differentiate and deal with different kinds of energy. Once you understand some of the fundamental differences between residual energy vs. Spirits, you’ll be able to approach them in a way that makes more sense too. 

understanding residual energy vs spirits

What’s Residual Energy

Residual energy is emotional energy that’s been imprinted from a person (living or crossed over) onto clothes, furniture, objects, and places. Residual energy is often most potent when the person who left the imprinted energy experienced strong emotions or was around the object/place regularly. This is why homes will often have such a strong feeling, especially for empaths, because our living spaces collect and hold onto so much energy.

Jewelry, keys, wallets, and glasses are everyday items that can collect a lot of residual energy. Any place or object that a person frequently visits or uses is subject to collecting residual energy. Crystals are also a prime target for residual energy to hang out as they’re so great at storing information, especially the quartz family. Learn more about caring for your crystals here. 

residual energy on objects vs spirits

Being an empath made so much more sense to me once I understood residual energy. I’ve never been a fan of thrifting and don’t like to own secondhand furniture. It always felt overwhelming to me. Thrift stores are energetically “noisy,” and being in one makes me feel like I’m being bombarded with information and feelings that aren’t mine. When I learned that I was an empath, this made sense. Because antique stores are rife with residual energy, they are a strong pass for me. 

Watch more on this topic on our IGTV here.

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What, or who, are Spirits? 

Before I dive in here, I want to point out that I’m using the term “Spirit” very broadly. Breaking this word down could literally take up a book in and of itself! Spirits could be loved ones passed on, ancestors well before your time, angelic beings, animal spirits, guides, elemental spirits, or even malevolent spirits. A Spirit could be an entity that was once human (loved one passed on or an ancestor) or a being that was never in human form (angels, animal spirits, guides, etc.) For the purposes of this article, I’m grouping all of these into one and referring to them as “Spirits.” 

The reason I’m doing this is that there’s one big difference between residual energy and Spirits, and that’s consciousness. All Spirits have consciousness, residual energy does not. Think of residual energy as the leftover imprint of someone’s emotions. Whereas Spirits are aware of what they are doing and what they want. 

How to tell the difference between residual energy and Spirits?

Residual energy doesn’t decide to let itself be known or try to contact you. It just is. On the other hand, Spirits usually have a goal or a desire to make contact with you or let themselves be known. This distinction is the easiest way to discern between residual energy vs. a Spirit. 

The way that you experience residual energy or Spirits will depend a lot on how you experience extra sensory information (clairsentient, clairalience, clairvoyant, etc.) If this is new to you, hop on over to this article to learn more about the different clairs and how they each present. 

Regardless of how you experience extrasensory information, a few things can be a clear sign of residual energy vs. a Spirit. 

residual energy vs spirits how to tell the difference and what to do

Residual Energy: 

  • Will cause you to notice emotions when you pick up an item or walk into a space. 
  • If you ask the thing or space a question, you usually won’t get an answer, or the answer will not be directed at you.
  • The sensations you experience with the object or space usually lessen over time. 
  • Though you may experience images and sounds connected to an item or space, they’re not directed at you; they’re just there. 
  • They are usually easier to cleanse away (if desired), or you can simply distance yourself from the object to place. 
  • Residual energy can be composed of both positive or negative emotions. 


  • Usually have a purpose or a goal in making themselves known to you. 
  • Will continue to let themselves be known to you, even if you move locations. 
  • Will be more forceful in letting themselves be known to you.
  • May be contacting you to help you, request help, or could have maleficent intentions. You will need to determine this by communicating with the Spirit. 
  • Similar to residual energy, Spirits can inhabit objects, people, and places. Use the above points to discern. 
  • Though typical energy cleansing methods (herb cleansing, etc.) may work (if desired), a Spirit may require more in-depth techniques to communicate with or remove them.  

Why does it matter and how to work with these energies? 

If you identify as an empath or HSP, it’s essential to understand outside energies affecting you. If you inadvertently surround yourself with objects with strong residual energy, it may be difficult to discern between your emotions and the emotions of the residual energy. Understanding when residual energy is present can cue you to take the necessary steps to either remove the object or energetically cleanse the object or space. 

Here are some general suggestions for clearing residual energy from objects, places, and your aura.

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There are some instances where you might like to keep residual energy. If you have a cherished object from a loved one that has their residual energy on it, you may very well want to keep it and that’s totally fine!

It’s equally important to be aware of a Spirit occupying your energetic field. Now, how you approach and handle connecting with a Spirit is much more in-depth than what I can cover here.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to communicate with the Spirit to ascertain its intentions and then take action based on what you learn. Here are some suggestions for honing your ability to communicate with Spirit. 

connecting to spirit with cards residual energy vs spirits

Using tools like oracle or tarot cards can help you communicate with Spirit. The featured deck shown here is The Ritual Deck.

  • Hone your intuitive abilities by working with your third eye chakra. Learn more about this here
  • Use a tool to help you communicate with the Spirit like a pendulum, oracle or tarot cards, or through meditation
  • Be straightforward and ask the Spirit for clear communication. 
  • If you think you’re being contacted by an evil Spirit, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone with more experience in this realm to help. 

As Spiritual beings in physical form, we must understand both physical and extrasensory information. This may seem like a small shift in understanding, but it’s a powerful one. I hope this made you feel more empowered to discern and work with the different energies surrounding you. If you have a question or a comment, I encourage you to ask on our Instagram page here.

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About Cassie

Cassie Uhl is the author of five books and two card decks, an artist, intuitive energy healer, and death doula. Her lineage and practices are rooted in pagan earth-based spiritual practices of Northern Europe. She approaches her work and clients with trauma-informed support through all phases of life. She currently resides on the land of the Myaamia people in so-called Indiana of the US.