It sounds very strange to say someone is an empath almost like they have a superpower, well it is kind of except that it can also leave you drained and stressed if not managed well.
Wikipedia defines empathy as someone who has the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference.
Empaths often feel deeply tuned to the feelings of the people around them and are uncomfortable in crowds. People often mistake them as being overly sensitive but in truth empaths lack the filters most people have to protect themselves from excessive stimulation.
Author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, Dr Judith Orloff said they can’t help but take in surrounding emotions and energies, whether they are good, bad or something in between. She describes empaths as “emotional sponges”.
It’s a good thing to be able to understand, feel and empathise with a person but very often it can also lead to people gravitating towards you for their own selfish needs and abusing your kindness.
According to an article in USA Today, clinical psychologist and author Dr Ramani Durvasula explains that an empath is “an individual who is deeply aware and affected by the emotional state of other people.”
Durvasula said that empaths may feel as if they are absorbing other people’s energy, taking on the emotional state of another person when they themselves have not experienced the scenario or content.
An example of this would be if they were told a story about hardship or someone’s personal suffering they are more likely to react with more compassion and actually feel the other person’s pain as well as wanting to provide assistance in some way.
Similarly an empath is also able to feel tremendous joy and happiness for other people when those people are experiencing the same even though they may be going through their own challenges.
Durvasula said an empath isn’t a clinical term but a general classification in psychology.
Traits associated with empaths are agreeableness, high awareness of other people’s emotions a well as high awareness of their own emotions and how they impact other people.
Empaths on the lower end of the scale are still agreeable and care deeply about others putting themselves in someone else’s situation. However empaths on the higher end are more at risk for putting themselves in harm’s way.
“They may put themselves in financial harm. They may ignore some very clear red flags because the person told them a very painful backstory – ‘I can’t walk out on this person’ – and could even be at risk for remaining in a situation that could be emotionally or even physically abusive,” she said.
In general they could also be drained and tire easily from these heightened emotional state.
The feel so much of other people’s pain that you will see they get deeply affected and that makes you get wrung out.
“An empath is very careful in how they speak and how they conduct themselves. The true empath, if it was truly viewed as in a more clinical realm, is that person who is also very very closely self-monitored and very self-aware in how they interact with other people.”
The opposite of an empath is a narcissist, psychopath or sociopath.
“These people are very callous and view people as objects to satisfy their needs. They have no interest in people’s emotional worlds unless it’s something they can capitalize on for their own profit or pleasure,” said Durvasula.
This category of individuals have no awareness and have little regard for how they affect others. They can be entitled, exploitative and manipulative, using others to achieve their goals without care.
“What little empathy they may have is usually performative. They will pretend to be empathic to get what the need,” she explained.
Durvasula advices empaths to slow down and watch the behaviour of others.
Don’t get taken advantage of. Also it’s important to know empathy cannot change toxic people.
“At this point you’re throwing good money after bad,” she said. Also listen to people around you, those who aren’t as empathetic may be able to gauge the situation better thereby preventing harm.
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