I thought I’d clarify what the difference is between feeling Empathy and being an Empath before we dig deeper into what it means to be an Empath for my Empath Corner series of posts.
I found this great example on Google:
Say your friend just lost their dog of 15 years. Empathy is what allows you to understand the level of pain she’s going through, even if you’ve never lost a beloved pet. But as an empath, you take things a step further. You actually sense and feel emotions as if they’re part of your own experience.
Let’s explore a little more.
Being empathetic is a positive psychological trait that makes you feel in tune with others, but still allows you to separate your experience from theirs.
Empathy is when we reach our hearts out to others and put ourselves in their shoes.
Empathy means being in tune to other people’s feelings and life circumstances. An empathetic person may be moved by a situation in a sort of heart-tugging, emotional manner that ultimately gives rise to kind, caring, and understanding words and actions.
Empathy is something that all humans have the capacity to feel, except perhaps, sociopaths. It is innate for us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes so that we can relate to what they are going through.
BEING AN EMPATH
Being an empath is about having empathy, but on a completely deeper level – Dr Judith Orloff
On the surface, being an empath seems very similar to feeling empathy because empaths also have the ability to share someone else’s experience. However, empaths tune into another person’s experience intuitively, without relying on external cues to do so.
Empaths are people who are high on the empathic spectrum and actually feel what is happening in others in their own bodies. As a result, empaths can have incredible compassion for people but they often get exhausted from feeling “too much” unless they develop strategies to safeguard their sensitivities and develop healthy boundaries.
Empaths are often able to pick up on unspoken feelings as well, feeling other people’s energy and having strong intuition.
Below are some extracts from Judith Orloff, MD’s book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” that provides further insight into what differentiates being an empath from the more common ‘being empathetic’:
As an empath, we actually sense other people’s emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our bodies, without the usual filters that most people have.
We are supersensitive to their tone of voice and body movements. We can hear what they don’t say in words but communicate nonverbally and through silence.
Empath’s feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function.
Empath’s share some or all of the traits of what psychologist Elaine Aron calls Highly Sensitive People, or HSPs. These traits include a low threshold for stimulation, the need for alone time, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, plus an aversion to large groups/crowds. Additionally it take a HSP longer to wind down after a busy day because their system’s ability to transition from high stimulation to quiet and calm is slower. Empaths also share a HSP’s love of nature and quiet environments.
Empath’s though take the experience of HSPs further. We can sense subtle energy, which is called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions, and we absorb this energy into our own bodies. HSP’s don’t typically do that. This capacity allows us to experience the energies around us in extremely deep ways.
As you can see, in addition to experiencing their own emotions, Empath’s are absorbing other people’s emotions. This can take a toll on them, especially in situations that leave them drained (happens to me a lot). So there is a need for boundaries and strategies to help with this and I will explore these more in future posts. I’ll also look more closely at what a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ (HSP) is along with many other interesting topics.
I hope this post has helped explain the difference between having empathy with being an empath.
What does empathy mean to you? Can you recall the most recent occasion where you’ve felt empathy? Maybe you’d like to share it in the comments. I think empathy is a beautiful thing.
Empathy is the medicine the world needs ~ Judith Orloff
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Denyse Whelan’s ‘Wednesday’s Words and Pics‘