I am an empath. I can sense the emotions of others without trying. I don’t know why or how, I just KNOW.
In retrospect, I can see how difficult it was for me as a child, this ability to feel things so intensely. My mother always told me that I “wear my heart on my sleeve.” She meant that I was so open, so trusting that I could be wounded easily. And she was right. I could share in the joy of others easily and happily, but I was often confused by their cruelty, selfishness and fear. I was an open, honest, accepting and loving child, always wanting to experience new things, always willing to share in the fun with others. In my naivety, I expected others to behave the same way and would suffer deep hurt when confronted with the uglier sides of human nature. It took a very long time to learn how to how to properly process the emotions coming at me. Where at first I felt too much, I also went through a time where I felt too little. I allowed my brain to take the lead, thinking it would protect me. That didn’t go well at all. I ended up married to a narcissist. A regimented, controlling and tyrannical man. All because I had not allowed myself to feel the truth of his nature, allowed myself to be deceived by the endless rationalizations of his behavior that my brain provided.
I also learned that as an empath, you can never shut off the emotions that you feel from others. You are a sponge. And as a sponge, you take in the emotions of those closest to you most readily, so be mindful of that. I was married to a dark, fearful and damaged man. I pulled that into me. I felt that weight and became sad, lonely, isolated and lost. And a sponge full of water is useless. That’s how I felt. Weighty, worthless and drowning in a grief I could not understand.
But then, I was wrung out. By a friend from the past, a person full of kindness and compassion, who had known me as I once was, who saw me struggling and picked me up and wrung the pain from me so that I could be myself again. I felt I could breathe, once more. From then on, I understood that I have to do that to myself, from time to time. I have learned that balance between the head and the heart is essential for me to be productive and happy. I can be free to feel, but I must use my brain as a filter for what I feel.
(Wow, this post has become far more emo than I intended-damnable Venus in Cancer-but I’ll leave it in the hopes that it may benefit someone out there dealing with what I once faced.)
Anyway, this article, Traits of an Empath, by Christel Broederlow, does a good job of describing what I experience as an empath.
Empathy is the ability to read and understand people and be in-tune with or resonate with others, voluntarily or involuntarily of one’s empath capacity.
Empaths have the ability to scan another’s psyche for thoughts and feelings or for past, present, and future life occurrences. Many empaths are unaware of how this actually works, and have long accepted that they were sensitive to others.
Empaths Sense Deep Emotions
Empathy is a feeling of another’s true emotions to a point where an empath can relate to that person by sensing true feelings that run deeper than those portrayed on the surface. People commonly put on a show of expression. This is a learned trait of hiding authentic expression in an increasingly demanding society.
An empath can sense the truth behind the cover and will act compassionately to help that person express him/herself, thus making them feel at ease and not so desperately alone.
Empaths experience empathy towards family, children, friends, close associates, complete strangers, pets, plants and inanimate objects. Empathy is not held by time or space. Thus, an empath can feel the emotions of people and things at a distance. Some are empathic towards animals (ie: The Horse Whisperer), to nature, to the planetary system, to mechanical devices or to buildings etc. Others will have a combination of the above.
Deep Sense of Knowing
Empaths are highly sensitive. This is the term commonly used in describing one’s abilities (sensitivity) to another’s emotions and feelings. Empaths have a deep sense of knowing that accompanies empathy and are often compassionate, considerate, and understanding of others.
There are also varying levels of strength in empaths which may be related to the individual’s awareness of self, understanding of the powers of empathy, and/or the acceptance or non-acceptance of empathy by those associated with them, including family and peers. Generally, those who are empathic grow up with these tendencies and do not learn about them until later in life.
Empathy is genetic, inherent in our DNA, and passed from generation to generation. It is studied both by traditional science and alternative healing practitioners.
Empathy has both biological/genetic and spiritual aspects.
Empaths often possess the ability to sense others on many different levels. From their position in observing what another is saying, feeling and thinking, they come to understand another. They can become very proficient at reading another person’s body language and/or study intently the eye movements. While this in itself is not empathy, it is a side-shoot that comes from being observant of others. In a sense, empaths have a complete communication package.
How Empathy Works
While there is much we don’t yet understand about how empathy works, we do have some information. Everything has an energetic vibration or frequency and an empath is able to sense these vibrations and recognize even the subtlest changes undetectable to the naked eye or the five senses.
Words of expression hold an energetic pattern that originates from the speaker. They have a specific meaning particular to the speaker. Behind that expression is a power or force-field, better known as energy. For example, hate often brings about an intense feeling that immediately accompanies the word. The word hate becomes strengthened with the speaker’s feeling. It is that person’s feelings (energy) that are picked up by empaths, whether the words are spoken, thought or just felt without verbal or bodily expression.
Empaths are often poets in motion. They are the born writers, singers, and artists with a high degree of creativity and imagination. They are known for many talents as their interests are varied, broad and continual, loving, loyal and humorous. They often have interests in many cultures and view them with a broad-minded perspective. They are mother, father, child, friend, nurse, caregiver, teacher, doctor, sales people… to psychic, clairvoyant, healer, etc. (That is not to say that any of these categories are all empaths.) The list is extensive and really unimportant. It is more important to notice that empaths are everywhere–in every culture and throughout the world.
Empaths Are Good Listeners
Empaths are often very affectionate in personality and expression, great listeners and counselors (and not just in the professional area). They will find themselves helping others and often putting their own needs aside to do so. In the same breath, they can be much the opposite. They may be quiet, withdrawn from the outside world, loners, depressed, neurotic, life’s daydreamers, or even narcissistic.
They are most often passionate towards nature and respect its bountiful beauty. One will often find empaths enjoying the outdoors, beaches, walking, etc. Empaths may find themselves continually drawn to nature as a form of release. It is the opportune place to recapture their senses and gain a sense of peace in the hectic lives they may live. The time to get away from it all and unwind with nature becomes essential to the empath. Animals are often dear to the heart of empaths, not as a power object, but as a natural love. It is not uncommon for empaths to have more than one pet in their homes.
Traits of an Empath
Empaths are often quiet and can take a while to handle a compliment for they’re more inclined to point out another’s positive attributes. They are highly expressive in all areas of emotional connection, and talk openly, and, at times, quite frankly in respect to themselves. They may have few problems talking about their feelings.
However, they can be the exact opposite: reclusive and apparently unresponsive at the best of times. They may even appear ignorant. Some are very good at blocking out others and that’s not always a bad thing, at least for the learning empath struggling with a barrage of emotions from others, as well as their own feelings.
Empaths have a tendency to openly feel what is outside of them more so than what is inside of them. This can cause empaths to ignore their own needs. In general an empath is non-violent, non-aggressive and leans more towards being the peacemaker. Any area filled with disharmony creates an uncomfortable feeling in an empath. If they find themselves in the middle of a confrontation, they will endeavor to settle the situation as quickly as possible, if not avoid it all together. If any harsh words are expressed in defending themselves, they will likely resent their lack of self-control, and have a preference to peacefully resolve the problem quickly.
Empaths are sensitive to TV, videos, movies, news and broadcasts. Violence or emotional dramas depicting shocking scenes of physical or emotional pain inflicted on adults, children or animals can bring an empath easily to tears. At times, they may feel physically ill or choke back the tears. Some empaths will struggle to comprehend any such cruelty, and will have grave difficulty in expressing themselves in the face of another’s ignorance, closed-mindedness and obvious lack of compassion. They simply cannot justify the suffering they feel and see.
People of all walks of life and animals are attracted to the warmth and genuine compassion of empaths. Regardless of whether others are aware of one being empathic, people are drawn to them as a metal object is to a magnet! They are like beacons of light.
Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about the most personal things, and before they know it, they have poured out their hearts and souls without intending to do so consciously. It is as though on a sub-conscious level that person knows instinctively that empaths would listen with compassionate understanding.
Here are the listeners of life. Empaths are often problem solvers, thinkers, and studiers of many things. As far as empaths are concerned, where a problem is, so too is the answer. They often will search until they find one–if only for peace of mind.
Written by Christel Broederlow Copyright (c) 2002 Christel Broederlow Shortened Version from The Empath Report 101
About this contributor: Christel Broederlow is a natural born empath and author of numerous articles about empathy through personal experience and continual research. Her Web site, The Empath Report, previously hosted at Geocities is no longer active.