22 Apr Are You an Empath?
- Get overwhelmed or anxious easily?
- Experience strong emotions?
- Have a good sense of intuition?
- Often seem more sensitive than others?
If so, you might be classified as an empath! In this post, you’ll learn what it means to be an empath, including it’s benefits and challenges, coping mechanisms, and valuable resources.
I spent years feeling like an outsider, often experiencing emotions on a level that seemed more intense than others. It wasn’t until I worked with a therapist that I finally learned what it meant to be an “empath.” My life-long experiences and feelings quickly checked many of the “empath” boxes. As I became more familiar with this new discovery, I learned it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but something to embrace. My sensitivity was actually my superpower!
Who is an Empath?
The term “empath” originates from the word empathy. According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” An empath personality is the epitome of empathy. Fundamentally, an empath sees and experiences the world differently than others. They intuitively bear the weight of their own emotions and circumstances, as well as those of others.
Notably, empathy is not a synonym of sensitivity. While sensitivity plays a primary role in the life of an empath, empathy is a much bigger burden to bear. According to Dr. Judy Orloff, “The trademark of an empath is that they feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities.” Empathy affects every aspect of an empath’s life.
Signs You Might be an Empath
The term “empath” isn’t commonly used in today’s world, which can make it often hard to identify in yourself or someone else. However, there are some tell-tale characteristics of an empath that can help identify these tendencies. Consider the following:
- Are you quick to feel connected to others?
- Do you get absorbed into stories, fiction, movies, characters easily?
- Are you generally comfortable around animals?
- Do you experience sensory overload easily?
- Are you hyper-aware about your own bodily sensations and emotions?
- Do you feel overwhelmed by crowded, noisy places?
- Are you an introvert who needs time alone to recharge?
- Do you dread conflict?
Once I identified my empath tendencies, I understood my life experiences in a different and deeper way!. This realization helped me understand myself, while allowing those closest to me to gain better insight, too.
Benefits and Challenges of Being an Empath
As with most things in life, being an empath comes with it’s benefits and challenges. In a positive light, experiencing life as an empath allows the opportunity to truly understand who you are. Unlike most people, empaths are hyper-aware of their mind and body. They are usually quicker to identify their own struggles and successes. And in the case of physical health, empaths are typically better attuned to their own bodies. Empaths feed off the energies around them and tune into the emotions and feelings of other people. To an empath, it’s obvious when another is uncomfortable, scared, sad, joyous, or excited. Furthermore, they can share in those experiences with another!
Being an empath in a busy, loud, and chaotic world comes with it’s own set of challenges. It can be difficult to find others who relate to you on an intimate level. You might even be deemed as “too sensitive” by some. As an empath, it can be hard to set boundaries when you need time to yourself. As someone who is often listening to and guiding others, setting aside time to take care of yourself usually comes second. This is especially challenging when an empath is also an introvert (which is the case more often than not).
How Being an Empath Impacts Healing
As an empath myself, I frequently work with other empaths in my clinical practice. While most Western medical doctors don’t consider the effects of empathy on health, I believe it’s an influential part of each patient’s healing journey. This is a primary example of the importance of the mind-body connection, which is an integral principle in my work.
Since empaths are more aware of physical symptoms or feelings and carry exaggerated stress (mental, emotional, physical), healing is often greatly impacted. As an empath, it’s imperative to learn how to differentiate their own experiences and feelings from those of others without putting up walls. Until this is achieved, healing can be delayed or halted. In order to fully heal, an empath must learn how to effectively cope with their empathic traits and habits.
Methods of Coping as an Empath
While the life of an empath might sound exhausting or overwhelming, I truly believe it’s an invaluable asset in this world and a true gift. It’s important to learn how to use empathy as a superpower, instead of allowing it to feel like a burden.
There are many powerful tools to help empaths thrive. If you or someone you know is an empath, try implementing these coping tools into daily life:
- Listen to Your Body– Recognize that you have a unique ability to notice bodily sensations and symptoms. This is a gift and can help you experience life on a deeper level.
- Give Your Thoughts Attention– Pay special attention to any recurring thoughts you experience. This is often your intuition’s way of communicating with you. Don’t discount those thoughts or feelings!
- Connect with Your Mind & Body– The mind-body connection is real and powerful. Notice how the two interact and affect each other on a daily basis. Receiving bodywork, like chiropractic or massage, is a fantastic way to strengthen the connection between your mind+body.
- Draw a Border Around Your Pain– In your mind and body, feel the physical or mental symptom you’re currently experiencing. Now, draw a border around any areas of pain. Then, search your body for an area that is not experiencing pain. Usually, this pain-free area is much bigger if you pay attention to it. Shift between the two territories of pain and pain-free and learn to focus on where the pain is not.
Resources for Empaths
Luckily, there is a plethora of resources available for empaths, as well as for those who are close to someone with an empath personality. For example, personality tests are my personal favorite. Tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and The Enneagram, play a huge role in understanding empaths, as well as many other personality types. They help shed light on how empaths view and interact with the world. If you or someone you know is an empath, these testing resources are great support tools.
Have you heard the story of the canary in a coalmine? The canary was a delicate songbird that played a vital role in job safety during the coal mining years. As a hypersensitive bird, the canary would be taken down into the coal mines with the coal miners. Due to their extreme sensitivity to the environment, the canary would get ill or die if the air quality conditions and methane gas reached deadly levels. This was a signal to the coal miners that they were in imminent danger. The canary was to the coal mine what empaths are to the current world. We sense danger before others. As a fellow empath and functional medicine practitioner, I quickly learned the importance of identifying and addressing the role of empathy on overall health. As a result, I created the Club Sensitive to support and encourage my fellow empathic canaries. Think of the Club Sensitive as your emotional and spiritual support team! If you’re ready to join your flock, learn more about the Club Sensitive.
Once you’ve recognized and accepted your empath personality, life makes much more sense. Learning how to harness the power of your empathy- to listen, support, and encourage yourself and those around you- is the key to a successful, thriving life! Remember: empathy is a powerful tool. How you use it is up to you!