Dear Empaths: You’ve Only Been Told Half the Story

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I’ve felt residual energy, emotion, etc. from people (and even objects) all my life. However, I never had words to describe it and didn’t even really know it was a thing, so I wasn’t fully aware that what I felt wasn’t always “me.” This was confusing and exhausting and, at times, upsetting, but I had no idea that everybody didn’t feel this way all the time. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I began to realize that sometimes I was feeling feelings that the people around me were experiencing. I started researching the concept further, and the internet finally delivered up a snappy little term to describe it: Empath.

It was such a relief to learn that there were people like me in the world, but something still nagged at me. The more research I did, the stronger the feeling got, and finally I understood: being an Empath apparently meant a whole lot of problems and not many solutions. At least, according to what info I was able to find. The general information basically seemed to boil down to a repeat of the following:

“Hello! You are here because you feel dragged around by other people’s emotions all the time. You are confused by this and want it to stop. Well, you are an Empath, which means you are sensitive and special, which is about where the comforting news stops. Your life is going to be really hard and overwhelming, and you will feel the world’s pain every day of your life. The only way to ever feel better is to vigilantly protect and shield yourself from the energy of others. Also, vampires exist and they’re trying to feed off of you all the time. So have fun with that. At least you get to be a spirit martyr and kind of have a superpower!”

I know that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point. It seems that an Empath’s lot is to dramatically experience the feelings (read: mostly the pain and sadness) of others. They can’t really escape this, and the best they can hope for is to spend a lot of mental effort resisting and trying to shield themselves. If you’re familiar with the concept that what you resist persists, you’ll understand why this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But what else are you supposed to do? The alternative is to be a sieve for all the world’s feelings and that sucks, too.

Well, all my little Sensitives out there, the good news is, that’s only half of it.

Here’s the thing nobody tells you: That emotional magnification you feel? It works both ways. So you can take that cone that’s being pointed at you, and flip it around into a megaphone. We all affect our environment with our energy/emotions/vibration/whatever you want to call it all the time. That’s just being a person. But because Empaths are already a little more sensitive to these things, they not only feel the influence of others more strongly, but they can then turn around and influence others more easily. It’s as if an invisible door is cracked open a little extra wide in front of you, and you just realized it can swing both ways.

So, if you’re in a space full of feelings that are either negative or just not what you want, change them! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caused drastic changes in others this way. I didn’t do anything different or act a new way, I just really focused on feeling the way I wanted to and my environment adjusted to match. This isn’t magic, we all do this all the time. I’m just aiming this at Empaths a little more directly because they’re often sent the message that they have more power to perceive but less power to influence or control.

I also take some issue with the term Empath in general. Why? Because Empath is a shortened form of the word “empathy,” and empathy, frankly, sucks. Now, I am not saying that compassion sucks. I am not saying you shouldn’t care about those around you and how they’re doing, nor am I saying you should bulldoze your way through life without giving a second thought to the people around you. That’s just being a jerk and nobody needs that. Empathy and compassion are often used interchangeably, but they mean two different things.

Compassion means noticing how someone else feels and caring about them, but also allows for the possibility of cheering them up or simply modeling to them that life is still going on and things will be okay. Empathy means climbing down into their misery with them and feeling it fully yourself too, but without offering any alternatives. This is not the same as caring. It’s often done with good intentions or to try and make someone feel less alone, but you suddenly being miserable because someone else is miserable isn’t going to make them feel any better. If anything, they’ll probably feel worse. I’m not saying you should always try to jostle someone out of feeling unhappy because sometimes the best thing to do is to just give them a little space to let them feel their feelings. However, the whole empathy circle just piles on more misery, so now they’re dealing with their own unhappiness and yours. Ironically, that’s the exact dilemma Sensitives often face. The fact that highly sensitive people are called Empaths only furthers the expectation that we have to feel all the world’s pain and sorrow to our core, whether we want to or not. It’s expected, largely because it’s in the freaking name! I don’t yet have a really good replacement name, but I think about it a lot and I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions.

I’ll leave you with a great exercise to help with this, taught to me by my dear friend Leslie Villelli of Happy On Purpose (check her out, she’s awesome). The exercise is called “Buddha Breath.” Basically, you breathe in whatever unpleasantness you’re feeling (self-generated or from somebody else). Then, you breathe out whatever it is you want to feel instead! This is the reversal of the new-age “breathe in good, breathe out bad” but this way you’re making your environment more the way you want it, not less. Don’t worry that you’re taking in negativity to make the world feel better, either. Humans are natural energy transformers (I can explain that more in another post) but that negative energy doesn’t stay negative. You change it, so it won’t hurt you.

I’d love to hear from you all what your experience is with emotions, energy, and changing your environment, whether you’re an Empath or not! Do you have any ideas for a term to use for HSPs besides Empath? I’ll also be happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Sound off in the comments below, and I’ll see you next time!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Dear Empaths: You’ve Only Been Told Half the Story

  1. I didn’t discover that I was an Empath until I was 20. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 12. Meds do not work on me because what I sense is not of my own mind and body.

    I have learned that there are many different types of Empaths. We each specialize in something in particular. There are Empaths who specialize with animals. Or spirits (otherwise known as mediums). Healers (can physically take pain from someone else and put it in their own body). Callers (not sure on proper spelling but other energies of spirits and people are drawn).A Manafestor (as stated, someone who manifests things, can effect karma). I’m sure there are many others, however, these are the ones I’ve encountered. Then there are some who are strong enough that can do it all. That is me.

    It wasnt until I heard about the possibility that Empaths was a real thing that everything began to make sense. Slowly I was able to distinguish what was me and other people. I have so many experiences. I spend most of my times alone because I have not been able to keep shields up for long periods of time.

    The friends I keep around are the ones who are similar to me. Ones that I can look at and say, “look. You’re lying to yourself and you’re lying to me. This is what I am sensing. Go figure it out.” Lol

    I believe that many people who struggle with depression or anxiety are actually empaths. Because this is not in the main stream media and sounds so TV, they are not getting the help or teaching they need.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more! I was 19 when I figured it out, and I just turned 21, so it’s still a relatively new part of my life. I’m also in the same boat as you in that my sensitivity is high enough that I fit multiple Empath categories. I didn’t know the names for all of them, though, so thank you for adding that!

      I too have struggled with severe anxiety in my past (especially as a kid), and I definitely think people like Empaths are diagnosed with anxiety or depression very frequently. That may be a symptom, but it’s not the central cause that they’re having to deal with, you know? I also think that Empaths are misdiagnosed with OCD a lot. I wonder how many people with OCD AREN’T Empaths? I would guess it’s a lot less than one might think. That happened to me when I was younger (though I was told I had pre-OCD stress-coping tendencies, not the full-blown disorder), but it makes sense that, if you’re being overwhelmed by residual energy “gunk” on objects you’ll have some you don’t want to touch, or you’ll try to make sense of how overwhelmed you are in any way you can. I don’t mean to say that OCD, anxiety, or depression aren’t real, serious issues that people face every day, but I fully agree that Empaths probably get diagnosed with much higher rates because all those problems tend to happen as a result of us being so sensitive and “open” but not fully understanding that or knowing how to control or manage it. Hopefully it will become more generally understood in the future!

      It’s amazing how much the simple knowledge that what you’re feeling is normal (if not widely understood) and that other people experience it too can be. Oh, and I’m sure other Empaths feel this, but we’re basically impossible to lie to, right? I can always feel right through someone. Even if they’re actually doing a good job looking and sounding convincing, I can still instantly tell, haha.

      A big reason I’ve started blogging is to share my experience with others and give advice where I can, but I also really wanted to meet other people who experience these things, so welcome and thank you so much again for your comment! 🙂

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      1. I have also found that it is genetic much like other mental illnesses are. I also have read that Empath is something every has the ability to be.

        There is so much of our brain power that we don’t use on a regular basis. I believe that we have unlocked something in ours. Genetically we come with it unlocked. We only grow stronger when we discover what we really are. As we learn, more doors unlock without meaning to at a quick rate. That I what happened to me. But when you intentionally try to focus and use your natural ability, it starts with the mind, the brain. Its about visualling then opening the body up. I haven’t read this, it is lind of a natural assumption, I did read that it was genetic and everyone possesses the ability…the articles just never said how so I filled that in myself lol.

        And yes we are good at cutting through peoples bullshit. Typically why Empaths generally end up in careers such as lawyers, doctors, social workers/therapists or veterinarians.

        I currently work with autistic kids and going to school to become a middle or high school counselor to try and help kids who struggled with this like I did.

        You will find more like you. Empaths get drawn to each other. My best friend is a medium. (Which is pretty awesome I must say)

        And what you were saying in your post about how we can change the environment. Its true. Ive done that my whole life without realizing it. But it goes deeper than just sending what you sense back. That is something to be careful of because if its consistently around the same person or people…in a way we change personalities. Some people are not ready to deal with what they give off. Be careful of doing that trick. Will have to learn the difference of who can handle it and who can’t. I have changed many peoples personalities. Some for the better and some for the worst.

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      2. It’s absolutely an ability everyone has! I believe it’s a really central part of being human. Empaths maybe just start out a little extra sensitive or something, but this is a very core human capacity.

        And I am absolutely not saying you should change people’s personalities. That’s impossible (think “mind control”), and even if it weren’t it’d be morally objectionable. I’m just saying we have, if anything, more capacity to shape our environment the way we want, not less. So if you’re intentionally sending out calm, happy, etc. energy, that’s more powerful than that angry guy on the subway. You can have tremendous influence over your environment (again, every human can), and that can make it easier for other people to be their best selves while they’re around that. Also, if you’re putting out good vibes you’ll just generally attract people who match that anyway. Hope that clarifies it. 🙂

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      3. What I was referring to is when we sense a negative feeling from someone. Negative meaning just a bad mood that someone is suppressing. We have the ability to send them their own suppressed feelings.

        Sometimes people need to suppress something because in that moment, releasing it could make situations worse (especially if they are not wanting to take emotions out on the wrong people)

        Empaths who lack control because they are learning. (It is far from easy) might not realize what they are doing when they try to block (maybe instead of a shield they put up a mirror and the negative emotion bounces back to those who suppressed it)

        That is not mind control. Its all about energies. So if that negative energy is sent back and they are not ready to express themselves…it could start a phase of events that were not suppose to go into motion yet.

        Everyone has distinctive moments in their lives that change a piece of their energy, in time changes personality. Those two things are connected. Empaths are aware of energies and can project them in many different ways without realizing it.

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