Empathy is often confused with being sympathetic. While the two are certainly similar to the extent that they are concerned with the emotional state of other people, they have a few notable differences.
While sympathy is used to describe the ability to commiserate with or show compassion to others, empathy is a person’s ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of those around them — the embodiment of stepping into someone else’s shoes.
Highly empathetic people — or simply “empaths” — are much more attuned to the emotional state and needs of others than the average person. Empaths are so sensitive to the emotional receptors of others, in fact, that they may have difficulties managing day-to-day life due to being overwhelmed with emotion.
Most people have some understanding of what someone else is going through. However, most people’s capacity to grasp what someone else is going through is dependent on their ability to relate it to their own life experience.
For example, you may be able to relate to a friend going through a difficult divorce only as far as you’ve been in a committed relationship and have experienced heartbreak or a messy breakup yourself.
Empaths, on the other hand, don’t rely on their life experiences to connect with other people. They feel the emotions of other people — the highs, lows, and all the in-betweens.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may be an empath, then read on to find out more about this unique gift, how to identify it, what to do with it, and how to live happily with it.
How to Tell if Someone Is an Empath
Empaths are highly sensitive people — but not in the way you imagine. People that easily take offense, tear up easily, or “can’t take a joke” are often derided for their sensitivity. Although these types of people may be empaths, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Sensitive people tend to be sensitive to their own feelings for a variety of reasons. Empaths, however, are sensitive to their own emotions, as well as other people’s. In short, empaths feel everything.
Most people that have encountered empaths in public spaces or gatherings might characterize them as aloof or introverted. However, their apparent reservedness is a natural consequence of their sensitivity to emotions. Unlike most people, empaths can never truly “switch off.” They are constantly absorbing emotions.
However, if you’ve been fortunate enough to be around an empath in a more intimate setting, then you will quickly discover how easy it is to connect with and open up to them. This is one of the most prominent characteristics of an empathic person. As a result, a natural empath tends to foster deep, life-long friendships.
In fact, an empath may instinctively take on the role of the “therapist” in your friend circle — the person everyone naturally turns to for comfort and advice. You can identify an empath by the way you feel when you’re around them. Feeling ”heard” or “seen” are common descriptors after an encounter with an empath.
Learning to Live as an Empath
A lack of empathy is one of the main reasons behind poor interpersonal skills. However, an abundance of empathy can be just as isolating when you aren’t equipped with the right tools to manage it.
On one side of the coin, feeling energy from others gives you the ability to form deep, meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life. On the flip side, however, empaths are a magnet for all sorts of energies — both positive and negative.
Think of empaths like the sun: a reliable and constant source of light and warmth. And like the sun, empaths attract different entities that orbit around them, drawing their energy and comfort from them, growing more and more dependent on their presence,
Consequently, many empaths feel so drained and overwhelmed that they withdraw from society in a bid to guard their energy. However, living as an empath doesn’t have to come at the cost of your relationships or mental wellbeing. It’s possible to live an impactful, fulfilling life as an empath and safeguard your energy.
As much as you are drawn to take care of others, it’s equally important to prioritize acts of self-care. Healing is an ongoing process, and as such, dedicating some time each day to de-stressing and disconnecting is essential in helping you maintain a healthy balance. Meditation and mindfulness exercises, for example, will help you refocus and center yourself.
Actively avoiding negative energy is one of the go-to strategies for empaths trying to cope with the chaos of modern life. For many, that means avoiding sources of negativity, like the news, media, confrontation, and conflict. However, before you choose to detach, ask yourself what else you can do with your ability as an empath.
Your ability has the potential to positively affect those around you. Finding ways to channel your positive energy into otherwise negative situations is one of the best ways you can contribute toward healing your community.
At a foundational level, helping people work through their emotions not only has a positive impact on their lives but also creates a calm, stable social environment for yourself. If you’re looking for ways to delve deeper into healing, then consider pairing your talents with energy healing techniques that will help you restore balance within yourself and others.
Connection is an integral part of the healing process, and empaths are uniquely positioned to connect with the people around them. As such, empaths are naturally suited to a career of service to their community.
Of course, your gift doesn’t exactly come with a manual. Learning how to manage from the people that share your experiences will help you embrace your talents and find the best path to living a happier life. If you’re ready to stop coping and start thriving, a Clinical Shaman mentorship will lead you in the right direction.
Clinical Shaman is helping people step into their calling as healers, overcome the stigma associated with Shamanism, and integrate Shamanistic practices into their everyday life. Learn how in their Shamanism Membership.