Maybe you soak up other people's feelings like a dirty dish scrub. Maybe you feel like you have a deeper understanding of the world than most people you hang around. Or maybe you were just curious and didn't know what the word "empath" means and wanted to find out through this article. Before you go plugging the word "empath" into Google, I've got you covered. The results of your search would look something like this: "em·path ˈempaTH' noun (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual."
While the quote states that it is strictly a sci-fi term, the word has gained popularity in describing real life human beings who have such a developed sense of empathy that they can feel other people's joy, sadness, anger, you name it, as if it were their own.
You may be thinking "Duh, that's called empathy. Just another special snowflake label." But there is actually a difference between the empathy of a typical person and the empathy of an empath. An empath feels other's emotions and even physical states without having it articulated to them and often before the other person even feels it in themselves. An empath might wake up next to their partner with the beginnings of a migraine only to watch their partner toss back some Tylenol and complain of a bad headache. An empath might also get a deep sense of sorrow from a stranger who seems to have it all together to non-empath individuals.
With definitions and explanations out of the way, here are seven things that I, being an empath myself, experience on the daily.
- I sense what other people have gone through when I first meet them. When I first met one of my guy friends, I sensed that he was going through an addiction. When I met a woman once I sensed that she had been bulimic when she was younger. I can especially pick up if someone has been through trauma. It sounds like I'm nosy but I don't use this for drama, I use it to relate to people on a deeper level and guide me to what conversation topics I should ask about before bringing them up and potentially triggering someone.
- I feel other people's feelings, which is a double sided coin. Whether it's anger, anxiety, joy, or depression, whatever someone else is feeling, I am right there feeling it, too. This can be great, because I can know how someone is feeling and give them appropriate insights and pep talks, but it can also weigh heavy on me because I don't get a break from all of the emotional input that I am receiving. Even feeling someone being super excited and ecstatic can be draining when I'm feeling that on top of my own feelings.
- I am a sponge to my environment. If there's too much noise or a violent movie blaring in the background, I can't handle it. I have an anxiety attack or just feel generally too overwhelmed. I have learned to deal with this by ducking out to the kitchen if I'm at a friend's house and cuddling their furbaby if they have one to keep myself grounded and calm.
- I can't watch the news or even scroll through Facebook. While I try to keep relatively up-to-date with current events, there is just too much tragedy for my hyper-sensitive self to take for an hour if I tried to sit down and watch the evening news every night. Even from across the state or across the world, if I see someone else in pain, my soul is pierced right along with theirs. I do pray when I see horrible things like Manchester and the child in the UK whose parents are fighting to keep alive but I do not delve deep into researching the stories for my own mental well-being.
- My over-sensitivity can get real annoying, real fast--especially to me. Most people would be able to shimmy off a rando shouting at them when they cross the street too soon, but not me. It has me melting into a salacious puddle of tears, spiraling further and further into self-loathing. No matter how much I try to tell myself not to take it personal, nothing makes the hurt feelz any less raging. I am getting a little better and reframing things and looking at them realistically, but it is a slow process.
- I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes being too sensitive gets on my nerves, and I get sick of how emotionally exhausting it is to feel everybody's feelings along with my own, but I love the way that I can feel deeply, and therefore love deeply, and I would not trade it for the whole wide world.