How to Tell the Difference: Residual Energy vs. Spirits

Sensing a presence? Learn how to tell if that presence is a Spirit or if it's simply residual energy in need of clearing. 

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana

When it comes to unseen energy, there’s a lot of it.

If you’ve ever walked into a room, long after people have left and gone home for the day, and you’ve felt immediately tense or anxious, you’ve felt what’s called residual energy.

This is the energy that can be left behind from human interactions, and even yes, non-human presences, long after contributing parties have left the scene.

In meeting rooms, conference halls, classrooms, and even stores around the holidays, most people have experienced at least one instance of feeling of anxious, nervous, or tense for seemingly no reason of their own as soon as they enter the space - even if there are few, if any, people around.

When individuals interact, have an argument, get stressed out, and feel worried, those emotions mostly do not stay bottled up within us, though we might think they do.

If we argue with each other, speak in raised tones, or even audibly sigh, we release energy into the environment around us.

Physically, we’ve emoted.

But, we can also emote without speaking a word. You also know this to be true if you’ve ever sat next to a friend or loved one who was going through a hard time, but was trying to keep it to themselves.

This is because energy is carried around us and within us.

When we move from place to place, often, this energy can be left behind and is where the phrase, “clear the air,” comes from.

Clearing the air is the act of clearing the energy and the emotional turmoil present in the space and between any lingering parties.

You clear energy that is left behind.

When the energy IS NOT cleared, it’s residual. It’s left behind in the space.

Residual energy is just one type of lingering energy that we can’t see.

And there are other types of energy we can’t see.

One biggie is Spirits. Deceased People. Angels. Loved Ones. Guides. Earthbounds Spirits otherwise known as Ghost. Etcetera etcetera.

Those who take the form of Spirit have no physical body.

But, they still operate as energetic beings just like we do, only without the heavy, physically dense body that we have.

When we die, our Spirit transcends this life and we lose our physical body. What remains, is our individual Spirit that made us who we were while on Earth, and the energy that comprises and is used to operate as a Spiritual being.

Without a physical body, Spirits exist as energetically diffuse, but very much present, beings in the (mostly) unseen world of energy and Spirit.

Whether you’ve been feeling energy or presences your whole life, or you’ve only just developed this ability, the psychic ability of clairsentience, you’re now at a point where you want to get to know this unseen world a little better.

You want to be able to distinguish between individual and residual energy when you sense something or someone with you.

From there, you can start to ask questions. But before you can do that, the ability to tell the difference between the types of unseen energy in the Spiritual and Energetic worlds is key.

While there are many levels of distinction, the first level of identification is individual in general vs. residual energy.

When you feel an energy or a presence in the room with you, how can you tell if this is residual energy or a sentient being?

Sensing a presence? Learn how to tell if that presence is a Spirit or if it's simply residual energy in need of clearing. 

How to Tell: Residual Energy vs. Spirit

Step 1. Calm down.

Try to relax and remind yourself, that whatever it is, you can handle it. This is your space and you have the control here. Using your intuitive abilities is required here, and doing this effectively, requires a calm and relaxed state of mind free of anxiety and worry. To connect with this energy, spirit or not, you need to be free of barriers and blockages - and fear is a big one.

Sit down. Take a few deep breaths. You can do this.

Step 2. Does it respond?

Once calm, it’s time to make the distinction between residual, non-thinking, energy and an intelligent being.

Residual energy is left behind by other people or persons. It’s not currently with the original owner and cannot respond to you in any way. It is non-intelligent.

A Spirit, on the other hand, is a sentient, intelligent being that can respond to you if you ask and are open to receiving a response.

To tell the difference, all you have to do is ask for something and wait for a response.

Ask for a noise, a sensation, breeze, a door closing, a flash of light, or some sign that there is a sentient being there with you capable of interacting.

And then sit quietly and wait for a response.

If you don’t get one - chances are it’s residual energy. If you do get a response, it’s Spirit.

Keep an open mind, however, because, in some cases, the sign you ask for may be one that the Spirit in question doesn’t know how to produce. Learning to create signs and indications of presence is a skill.

This may take practice. If the first time you do it, you accidentally miss a sign and decide it’s energy, don’t worry. You’ll get another chance and you’ll start to notice what signs are most often used to indicate presence and you’ll learn what to look for.

Each person has different intuitive abilities and each Spirit has different communication preferences. The more you try, the more you will identify your strongest abilities in the way Spirit chooses to communicate with you.

If it’s sound, clairaudience.

If it’s a sensation, clairsentience.

If it’s a light flash, clairvoyance.

And if it’s an immediate knowing the answer, claircognizance.

This exercise is a great way to practice your discernment skills, and it’s also a great way to hone and identify your strongest intuitive abilities.

The next step, after identifying Spirit vs. Energy, is deciding if this is a Spirit you even want to communicate with.

This is the act of discerning Light vs. Dark.

Find out how to do that, here.

With love,


LAST UPDATED: April 13, 2015

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