The Empath Within - Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Empathy and the Highly Sensitive Person
The popular book "The Sociopath Next Door" paints a detailed picture of sociopaths in society. Author Martha Stout puts forth the theory that there is literally a socipath on each block. It makes you wonder, if 1 in 25 people is a sociopath is it possible that nature has somehow balanced that out with an opposite number?
The first time a friend of mine suggested that I was an empath I wasn't sure whether or not to take her seriously. The more we talked about it, the more I understood what it was she was saying. I tend to form very strong emotional bonds with other people, so much so that there have been times that I knew things that I shouldn't have known.
My children and I are very close, but we didn't know how close until recently. My daughter has been living with her father in Germany to finish out school. One night I awoke from a dead sleep with my daughter on my mind. Even more I could feel her in my heart. It took me awhile to calm down and convince myself that she was okay. I was just being silly after all...
I later discovered that my daughter was in the emergency room with lower abdominal pains very near the time that I woke up thinking of her. We honestly do know when one another is in pain.
There have been times when I swore I could feel the pain of other people as well. Even total strangers.
Empathy - 1. Understanding and entering into another's feelings. 2. Sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish)
When you empathize with another you share their feelings intensely. While there is nothing in the DSM-IV regarding the term empath, many people who describe themselves as empaths feel that they have gone beyond simple empathy and developed a deep form of intuition with regard to the feelings of others. Also described as "deeply sensitive" people or "hypersensitive," they pick up on other people's emotions even at a distance, and experience those feelings as if they were their own.
There are many ideas as to how this happens, but the most likely explanation is that empaths pick up on certain emotional cues from other people that the average person doesn't notice. Empaths are very skilled at reading body language, eye movements, and pick up on the overall energy of another person, allowing them to see things that most people may miss. Empaths could be constantly watching and reading these cues without even realizing it.
For whatever reason empaths tend to know people on a deeper level, often sensing things about the other person before a subject is even discussed. While most relationships with people hover on a superficial level, a relationship with an empath is deep and powerful.
It is very difficult for an empath to be judgmental of another person, because they sense those things below the surface. While the rest of the world may only see the actions of the other person, an empath understands the emotions that underlie each action. Empaths often know when someone is hiding something or not telling the whole story.
Empathy comes from many different sources, but many who experience this deeper connection with other people have suffered abuse in the past, those who have lived in an environment where they have developed a need to be more aware of their surroundings than most people do. Situations such as living with a substance abuser, someone who is chronically ill, or even bipolar, can require you to be constantly on your guard. In some situations developing certain empathic traits can be a survival skill. If you can learn to sense those emotional cues ahead of time, you can be prepared for what comes next.
Life can be difficult for an empath at times, because they not only sense the emotions of others, they often feel them as if they were their own. This doesn't just happen with intimate relationships, it can happen with casual acquaintances and even total strangers. This makes it very difficult for an empath to even be around certain people, especially those whose emotions tend to run high. Those emotions tend to rub off on the empath, leaving the empath tense for no real reason.
Some people just seem naturally drawn to an empath. Deep friendships can develop rather quickly, and can be very emotionally intense. Because they can see below the surface and understand what others might not, empaths make great sounding boards and confidants. They are able and willing to see far deeper than the average person is willing to see.
However, those with a high level of secrecy or guilt in their lives have difficulty with empaths because an empath sees right through them. It is difficult to lie to an empath or hide major personality flaws, and that makes them dangerous to those who seek to hide true intentions. They sense a fraud long before others, and thus shy away from them seemingly without reason.
While an empath may seem like something from the psychic realm, they really aren't. They are just normal people who have a heightened awareness of the world outside of themselves. They cannot tell the future, though they can sometimes sense the past.
Where empathy allows you to feel for another person, being an empath allows you to feel WITH that person.
The empathic person:
Is emotionally sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
Is rarely concerned with their own achievements, a quiet leader.
Has little trouble discussing emotional issues.
Is uncomfortable around disharmonious or emotionally intense people.
Is very sensitive to violence and suffering.
Struggles to find a solution when a problem presents itself.
Often can't tolerate violent media.
Struggles to understand the causes of suffering in the world.
Has difficulty justifying harming others even in self-defense.
Is often an idealist, dreaming of ways to make the world a better place.
Can often be found as a volunteer.
Can sense places where bad things have occurred.
Sometimes shares another's physical pain, as well as emotional.
Is often expressive, musically, artistically, or verbally.
Makes an excellent counselor, therapist, or healer.
Is prone to unexplained depression.
Can sometimes sense a loved one's suffering, even at a distance.
Is considered to be "too emotional" or "too sensitive" by many.
Tends to draw others to them.
Is well liked by children and animals.
Is genuinely interested in others.
Is sensitive to what people really feel, rather what they pretend to feel.
Often has difficulty being in large crowds, is easily overwhelmed by too much input.
Is compassionate and understanding.
Is deeply interested in people as a whole.
Can "catch" moods from others.
Tends to feel what is outside more than inside of themselves.
Is non-violent, non-aggressive, and often functions as a peacemaker.
Suffers from tremendous guilt if they harm another person, even unintentionally.
Has difficulty controlling emotions, cries easily.
Finds that others often open up to them without knowing why.
Has a way of making people who have just met them feel they have known each other their whole lives.
Do you believe in Empaths?
It can be difficult being a highly sensitive person in a world that rewards those with high emotional control.
If you suspect you are an empath, then have no fear. There are many books on the subject that can help you cope with the more difficult aspects of being empathic. Being empathic is a gift, you just have to know how to accept it and use it properly.
Graphics: All but the first were created by Boshemia in photoshop using various brushes. The first is a MySpace graphic.
The Empath. The word has found its way into our consciousness accompanied by ideas of healing, sharing emotion and pain. Empaths are sensitive, caring, responsive people who have at the core of their nature an innate ability to receive energy, information and awareness from others with a depth and intensity that is beyond our customary understanding of empathy.
Did you ever know that someone was upset, even when no one else seemed to notice? Or felt that a loved one far away was in trouble, only to learn that you were right?
For some this emotional connection to others becomes so powerful that they can no longer bear it, turning to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, or avoiding people altogether.
Empaths in general are prone to depression, because feeling everything on such an acute level is overwhelming. They often aren't aware that they are empaths, and instead just learn to see the world as a very painful place to be.
Since they aren't aware they are picking up negative things from others, they tend to carry it around and allow it to build up to the point of emotional exhaustion. If an empath spends too much time around a negative person they can build up a layer of negativity themselves. If they don't find a healthy way of cleansing themselves of that negativity, depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts follow.
Sometimes an empathic person has to closely evaluate their relationships and start avoiding certain people for their own good. Learning relaxation, meditation, or even hypnosis and massage are all excellent ways to rid yourself of that negativity. Whatever you do, empath or not, you can't carry that stuff around or it poisons you. Get rid of it however you have to and you will live a much happier life.
Another difficult part of being an empath comes with being in public places, especially in large groups. I have a very hard time with grocery stores, malls, and things of the like. There are too many people, and too many emotions for me to sort out. This is common with empaths, and until they learn to shut down outside influences from strangers they can find public situations overwhelming.
Also, people who know or even suspect that you really can see through them aren't exactly going to like it, especially if they have something to hide. You know things about them they don't want the rest of the world to know. Ignore them the best you can, they can only hurt you if you allow it, so don't.
(Images courtesy http://www.free-clipart-pictures.net)
I'd like to thank...
...the following sites for their link love and kind comments.
- The Empathic Notekeeper
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- Recollections Gone Wild!!!
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- Empath Club House | Facebook
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- United Communities of Spirit
A discussion on my Empath Within Article from Origin.org
- Empathy, Highly Sensitive People and the Sociopath... - iVillage UK Community
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Boshemia -- compelling writer
- Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? The Empath Within | StumbleUpon.com
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