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The Empath: Feeling Other People's Feelings

Updated on August 31, 2013

What Is An Empath?

An empath, as the word suggests, is someone who has too much empathy and therefore they cannot help picking up on the feelings of other people around them.

It's almost as if they feel other people's feelings.

However, despite the fact that some people believe empaths only exist in science-fiction or that it's a paranormal subject, it's actually a very different phenomenon from telepathy.

It's important to distinguish the difference between empathy and telepathy - they are two completely different subjects, although telepathy is present in many animals on Earth.

An empath could be considered to be the direct opposite of a narcissist. Whereas a narcissist has a severe lack of empathy and is only ever attuned to their own emotions and needs, an empath cannot help being attuned to the emotions and needs of other people.

However, although some of them may do so, not all empaths necessarily neglect themselves for this reason.

An empath is described as someone who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. Most empaths are female although, on rare occasions, male empaths have also been found.

However, female empaths seem to be much better at controlling their "affliction" than male empaths.

Difference Between Empathy & Telepathy

Empathy is the ability to understand somebody else's situation from their own point of view and to understand how a situation makes them feel and affects them.

Empaths often find themselves sympathizing with, or feeling the feelings of, the people around them.

These people don't necessarily have to say anything to the empath, the empath picks up on their emotions anyway subconsciously and naturally and this can sometimes drive them crazy.

This does not just happen to empaths with people they already know or just their own family members, it also happens with when surrounded by strangers in public and this can sometimes be extremely difficult for an empath to cope with.

Heightened Communication

The empath is not a mind-reader and does not pick up on other people's feelings, thoughts and emotions simply by knowing what they are thinking.

Instead, they naturally and intuitively pick up on the subconscious cues and signals that other people send out (ie their unconscious communication), which they are extremely receptive to.

It has been estimated that our spoken language only accounts for approximately 20% of our communication with body language and other forms of unconscious communication making up the other 80%.

Although all of us rely on unconscious communication to a certain extent, it can be difficult for many of us to truly know what a person is really thinking or feeling, or to learn how to read people.

However, an empath's ability and capacity to pick up on such unconscious communication is highly accentuated and this is something they do completely naturally without ever having to consciously be aware of it, or thinking about what they are doing - it just happens, though they don't necessarily always want it to happen and, if inappropriate, this can sometimes cause them great anguish.

By Sparkster

New eBook by this author out now!


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    • Annette Hendley profile image

      Annette Hendley 4 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      The sub concious mind is amazing. I have just finished reading David Eagleman's book Incognito which is all about how our brains work and how much is really controlled by our subconscious mind. Very interesting article.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Hubs 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you Annette. Indeed the subconscious mind is probably the most powerful tool on the planet.

    • Rhonda_M profile image

      Rhonda Malomet 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thanks for your hub. As an empath myself, I pick up a lot on other people's feelings, which tell me a lot about who they are. Some people try to present one way, yet under the surface are thinking and feeling something else. At one time I was overwhelmed by the feelings of others, but have learned to create "psychic" boundaries, something every empath needs to do. For more on the subconscious mind see my hub

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      I agree with Rhonda, having experienced the same myself. I DO NOT believe that being an empath is a curse or any kind of "affliction." Instead, it's a sensitivity and skill that most people could, but don't have - that empaths develop when young.

      Certain members of my family used to mock me for being "too sensitive." From my point of view, they could have benefitted from a little more sensitivity themselves. People who are not empathic, even a little, can be outright cold killers - and I've met a few like that (not my family). That kind of person I refuse to associate with at all.

      Meanwhile, being empathic allows me to experience the full measure of someone's love, joy, excitement, and sense of adventure, and to share mine. On the other hand, I also experience other people's depression, scorn, or anger so, like Rhonda, I have learned to sidetrack it, walk away from it or, if necessary, refuse to associate anymore.

      What that equates to is that we empaths become people who uplift life. We encourage and reflect back the joy that life can bring. As such, we are VERY MUCH NEEDED in a society that is attempting to improve itself, like here in the United States.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Hubs 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the comments Rhonda and Watergeek. I'll admit that I was a bit unsure about using the word "infliction" (which should be "affliction" as you correctly point out) so thank you for clearing that up. I didn't really want to use the word "gift" either though. I have heard that many empaths can learn how to control their "skill" which is good. The world could do with more empathy!

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      I believe that empathy is another basic sense, like the five that most of us use commonly. Some are trained into using it more than others. For example, I am the oldest of eight children. I was taught to watch out for the safety and the feelings of others from the time I was young. I was also mocked a lot as a kid, so I learned to protect myself by anticipating the feelings of the other kids at school. And my parents had their issues with each other, which I learned to "read."

      When you get extra sensitized like that, you learn after awhile to both protect yourself and use it to understand your world for the benefit of yourself and others. I believe that anyone can train themselves to be empathic, just like they can train themselves to hear better or see better.

    • Rhonda_M profile image

      Rhonda Malomet 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I agree, that one can use the 'empath' dial to help others. It comes in handy in the different pursuits I've taken on such as teaching, counselling, and more recently in my self employment. I've become very certain of when I'm tapping into other people, and can articulate clearly and quickly my insights, which adds more value to the service I'm providing. Usually I get that 'startled look' "oh" (like I've hit a truth).

      There was a time in my life when I thought I'd 'lose' it because of the intensity of my own 'stuff' and other people's. Having worked on that a lot, I'm fairly good at not letting other people's stuff overwhelm me, but I have my moments. I also read a book, the "Highly Sensitive Person" (hsp) which a book empathes should read.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Voted up! Interesting article! Cheers!

    • Jen Card profile image

      Jen Card 4 years ago

      In my opinion this is a gift. I believe the ability was meant to assist others in healing. The hindrance of being an empath is not understanding what the ability is, thus the individual thinks themselves ... Nuts!

      Can you imagine a life that is pleasant, carefree and healthy? Then, within hours it is turned upside down after leaving a shopping center and returning home to not only feelings, but thoughts as well of anger, jealousy or anxiety? It is not an easy way of life for those that do not understand this sense they possess.

      I believe many individuals end up being mistaken for having a disorder and the result is a mis-diagnosis of a disorder that does not exist.

      A mastered empath has to constantly work at being aware of their "own" life and familiar with the "self", it then becomes a fluid ability to identify the emotions one has taken on, which actually belong to someone else. Another really good article! Thank you. ~Jen

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Hubs 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you all for your great comments, I can relate to a lot of what you have said, I used to experience this kind of thing quite a bit when I was younger, not so much now though.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      Jen, you totally nabbed it. I started really understanding what was up when I started meditating on a regular basis. It made such an impact to be able to identify my own energy. Then I could tell when it was changing due to someone else's influence.

      It made the nature of others' energy more clear too, so I could read them better and decide whether to keep them in my life or let them go, try to help them or not and how, and whether or not they were telling the truth about a thing. Love this conversation, Sparkster. Thanks for sparking it. ;)

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Hubs 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      My pleasure! I'm glad there are a few people here who have been able to provide more insight.

    • marsmadness profile image

      Robert Hughey 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very powerful and insightful hub. I have honestly considered myself empathic for a very long time, but I very seldom come forward and talk about it.

      For the longest time I had thought I must be crazy for believing it but I felt I could both feel others' emotional energy, and it could really affect me if I wasn't paying attention to it not being my own emotions. It's been helpful to understand the motivation of other people, but more so, I learned I could have a very real effect on someone else's emotional state if I really exerted myself.

      If I imagined focusing my feelings (or the feelings I wanted another to have, as I'd have to 'push' myself to feel those emotions myself first) as though they originated inside that other person's head, then I have seen real results. It's exhausting too, but it's like exercising a new muscle group. I'm not psychic, whatever that really is, and I'm only beginning to see what practice can do for increasing my reach. I'm not very receptive unless I'm touching someone, but I can usually create influence from within the same room. I can only think that I should continue to research these concepts, and perhaps meet up eventually with others who are working to understand these abilities that other cultures have been aware and developing for millennia.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      What I realized was that just as others' feelings affect me, so do mine affect them to a degree, whether or not they're aware of it. I've decided to keep myself clear and in a centered, good mood as often as possible. It makes my days good and has an uplifting effect on others too, plus it protects me from others' negative feelings. That way I'm a force for good in the world.

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Williams 4 years ago

      Wow, this is amazing, I have been able to sense others feeling since I was a child. Unfortunately, I have had very little luck learning how to control it, other than avoiding social situations! Thanks for posting this informative article, I voted up!

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Hubs 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hey Lisa, thanks for commenting. I hope this hub and the comments provide you with some insight.

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