The term empathy is something that you hear more often today thank you might have in the past. Growing up I had never heard of this term, nor did I understand what being empathic really entailed.
Empathy means having the ability to understand, and more importantly, to feel what someone else is feeling at any given moment.
It is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing on some level what that person is going through. It is experiencing someone else’s pain, joy, or happiness right along with them.
The majority of healthy people can experience empathy directed towards another person at some point. Unlike sympathy, where you feel bad for someone, empathy is where you truly feel what it must be like to have gone through what that person is experiencing or has experienced.
There are some people that can briefly experience empathy without the emotion overcoming them. Then there are those who are true Empaths.
An empath is a person that has the ability to recognize what another person is mentally or emotionally going through. No one has to tell them how they are feeling, they just have the power to read someone’s energy and understand any struggles that that person is possibly going through.
Most Empaths also tend to be Highly-Sensitive (HS). They both involve a person having deep feelings as well as sensitivity towards the world around them.
I had never heard of the term “highly-sensitive” and did not even know that such a thing existed, but 20% of the population are categorized as highly-sensitive (HS). Any time I heard the word “sensitive” it usually had a negative connotation to it. It was always approached as a bad thing. I personally had no idea what this term really meant but I always knew I was a very sensitive person.
It was not until I read Elaine Aron’s book “The Highly Sensitive Person” that I began to understand what being highly-sensitive truly meant. The more I began diving into her book the more I felt like she wrote this book for me. It all started to come together. Reading her book allowed me to understand more about myself and more importantly how to deal with my sensitivity.
We all have some people in our lives that seem to feel more deeply than others. While having this ability is a beautiful thing, it also comes with its challenges. A highly-sensitive person must learn to protect themselves from situations and people that will drain their energy.
Oftentimes, highly-sensitive people are more in tune with the energy levels around them and are far more susceptible to negative energy because of this. Remember, the first rule when creating your own happiness and the manifestation of your desires is to keep your vibration high! Taking on someone else’s baggage and energy will only drain you mentally and emotionally.
Here are some ways to know if you are an Empath/Highly-Sensitive and, more importantly, how to begin honoring this gift and protecting yourself.
YOU ARE OFTEN LABELED “TOO SENSITIVE”
Parents or peers who don’t know about the beneficial qualities of being highly sensitive may not know how to cope with it in their relationships with children, loved ones, or partners. Parents who are unable to recognize the beauty of being highly sensitive cannot teach their children how to honor their deep range of emotion and the negative effects of over stimulation.
As a result, highly-sensitive people are often labeled as being “too sensitive” and this causes internal conflict about how they instinctively and innately feel. Without a parent or peer to teach them the value of their emotions, highly-sensitive people do not understand that they are gifted.
We all have natural gifts and each gift we display comes with pros and cons. Oftentimes, people who experience things so deeply need guidance to manage their big, and usually overwhelming, feelings throughout their live. Otherwise they will forever be misunderstood for the feelings that they cannot control.
The first way to help an Empath/Highly-Sensitive person (especially a child) is by validating their feelings. A very basic principle that most of us refuse to accept is that everyone has the right to feel how they want to feel and as a child they need validation to know that what they are feeling is ok.
Another way is to help them understand the value in feeling things so deeply. The fact of the matter is that they are sensitive, but no one is ever “too sensitive.” This person might be too sensitive for you but you are not them and therefore have no right to pass judgment on their emotional process. Allow them to embrace their natural ability to feel for other people and situations instead of downplaying that person’s experience. Being able to have empathy for another is what allows us to be HUMAN.
YOU CANNOT WATCH THE NEWS
Most Empathic/Highly-Sensitive people are not news watchers. They do not pick up the paper every Sunday to read the latest negative and horrific news stories that have been happening around the world.
It is not that an Empath or Highly-Sensitive person cannot watch the news or read the paper, it is that they become emotionally involved in the story and it brings their energy levels down because of their innate ability to FEEL what someone else is feeling.
To be consistently overrun with negative headlines just seems like a waste of time but for some people they crave the drama and fear, like it is a drug.
When you are an empath/highly-sensitive person watching the news is not something you do often. The experience of watching awful headlines and tragic stories is too much for an empathic/highly-sensitive person.
Now we cannot avoid the world we live in but we also do not need to live in a consistent state of negative and painful experiences either. The best advice I have is “shut the news off.”
YOU BECOME OVERWHELMED IN CROWDS
One of the biggest signs that you are highly sensitive is the ability to become overwhelmed in large crowds. Most highly-sensitive people can manage a show or concert as long as the energy feels good, but take them to a crowded loud mall during Christmas time and that is enough to drive a Highly-Sensitive person to the verge of overstimulation.
So how to deal; the best advice is to know what you can handle and what you cannot or do not like to handle and remove yourself when things become too much for you. Do not ever let anyone make you feel bad for just taking care of yourself. If someone has a problem with your standards that is their problem, not yours.
YOU HAVE A STRONG SENSE OF AWARENESS
For most people having awareness is something that you have to practice, but for an Empath/Highly-Sensitive person you were born with a more attuned sense of intuition and awareness than most people.
You are able to understand what a person is going through without any words at all. You are able to feel another persons’ energy levels more deeply and it is because of this that you must learn how to honor your intuition.
One of the ways to really protect yourself from people or situations that will drag you down is to listen to your intuition and follow it no matter what. It will tell you right away if a situation, or more importantly a person, is bad for you.
If you can begin listening when something feels off and not judging yourself, you will begin to feel happier and more content in life. This advice is true for anyone but specifically for an empath/highly-sensitive person because they innately take on the positive or negative energy around them. So learning to trust your intuition will keep you away from the negativity that will bring you down.
YOU ARE AN ACTIVE LISTENER
Most likely you are the person that people feel comfortable talking to. You could be in a conversation with a new friend and all of a sudden you are hearing their whole life story. That is because you have an inherent ability to give someone your undivided attention and focus solely on the other person. This is called, Active Listening.
Active Listening is a skill that most people have to learn and practice. It is being able to concentrate on just that conversation you are in and nothing else. Most likely during the conversation, as you are listening, you just instinctively know what that person is feeling, thinking, and needing.
While this can be a great skill to have, you must make sure that you also have people that can actively listen to you. Most often we are so used to being the listener that we forget to talk about ourselves with friends and loved ones because we are so busy taking on other people’s problems. Remember to focus on yourself and allow someone to be there for you.
YOU HAVE A LOW PAIN TOLERANCE
Most highly-sensitive people cannot handle pain very well. Their nervous system is naturally wired for sensitivity so undergoing any pain in the body is not something an HS person can cope with.
YOU ARE OFTEN TIRED
One of the draw backs of being an empath/highly-sensitive person is that you get tired very easily. Being overstimulated easily and having the ability to take on other people’s energy is a hard thing to manage! Even if you can manage it well, you still need your alone time. Getting enough rest is huge for an empath/highly-sensitive person.
Most highly-sensitive people actually love time to themselves. They crave the quiet to just sit in silence or read a book and this time allows them to fully recharge. Make yourself a priority and allow yourself time alone to keep yourself balanced and centered.
YOU LOVE NATURE
Being in nature is something that often brings life and positive energy to an empathy/highly-sensitive person. It refuels them in a much deeper way then another person could. It is something that they need in their daily lives.
The sound of the waves crashing at the beach, a walk on a crisp fall day, the smell of newly cut grass, flowers beginning to bloom in the spring or even a beautiful snowy morning all will bring a smile and sense of peace to any empath/highly-sensitive person.
YOU LOVE LIKE NO OTHER
When you combine all of the above you are a deep soul and have the exquisite ability to love like no other. You are faithful, loyal and a wonderful human being. You are able to see the good in everyone because of your sensitive and gentle ways. When you feel so deeply, you love deeply.
You are not the type of person to just throw in the towel on a friend or relationship. You fight for your relationships till the end and often stay way past its expiration date because you care so deeply.
The problem with having this sense of love within is that often times if you are not careful you could attract the wrong friends and partners into your life. Most people that are empathic tend to attract manipulative and emotionally abusive people. People that do not honor the true value of all the gifts you have to offer.
The way to make sure that you are able to give and receive unconditional love is to first learn how to love yourself. Self-love and learning how to self-parent yourself will allow you to see when someone has entered your life that is not healthy for you. It will help bring you closer to the things that will keep your vibration high and bring more happiness into your life.
You can protect yourself by understanding the triggers that make you feel drained, sad, depressed, anxious, etc. Honoring your gift and meeting yourself with kindness and acceptance will provide the best protection from these triggers.
By honoring yourself and your gift, you will not judge yourself when you are having these big feelings and learn to embrace them so they can pass through you in a healthy way.
Refusing to accept your feelings often leads to an inability to move past these emotions.
The ability to feel so deeply is such a beautiful thing and I want anyone who is an Empath or Highly-Sensitive to own and love this quality about themselves. It makes you the person that you are and it is a rarity to be able to feel so profoundly.
It is a remarkable gift and one that I hope our society will begin to honor and understand that without Empaths and Highly-Sensitive people we would not have artists, writers, musicians, actors, advocates, all the people that help bring more beauty and peace to the world.