It is estimated that around 3-5% of the population are Empaths (and around 15-20% are Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s). Someone who is an Empath, according to Jason Breyer, has the ability “to read and understand other people, by resonating with their emotions. This interpersonal connection can either be activated voluntarily or subconsciously. They are usually hyper sensitive, an attribute that enables them to extend beyond themselves into the other soul and capture their inward conditions. As a result, they could see beyond the superficial into the true intents of a person who might seem like an enigma to others” as it is not everyone who can function in this capacity.
Empaths feel everything (clairsentient) and they feel it deeply. They can absorb other people’s energy (both positive and negative) into their own bodies. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if what you’re feeling belongs to you or someone else. Judith Orloff feels that Empaths are more prone to take on the emotional or physical pain from others that they haven’t yet worked out in themselves. This trait also has a benefit or positive aspect, in that it allows us to deeply know what is going on with another person and to deeply connect with them.
Having empathy means that our hearts go out to another person and what they are experiencing (happy or sad). Cognitive empathy is where one can see that another person is upset and the can put their mind there, but they don’t feel it. It is thought that the Narcissist, Sociopath and Psychopath have “empathy deficient disorder” according to Judith Orloff, which may be caused by an underactive mirror neuron system. They use cognitive empathy (empathy in their mind). They do not recognize the needs and feelings of another person, and can’t feel what is going on for them, so they do not feel responsible or truly care. It can appear like real empathy, so we have to be very aware. In Empaths, the brain’s mirror neuron system (responsible for compassion) is thought to be hyperactive. Stacy Hoch describes Egocentric Empathy as when we try to give someone what it is that we would want in the same situation. She says, this is where Codependents can get stuck.
Empaths have many unique traits and characteristics and there are many types of Empaths. In further describing the trait, Judith Orloff says:
“The empath’s body is different from other people’s. We feel everything. Our bodies are porous so we absorb the positive and negative energies (and emotions) around us into our muscles, tissues, and organs. This can affect our health in many important ways. On the positive side, we’re able to sense other people’s vitality, happiness, and love within ourselves. However, we can also feel other people’s physical discomfort, stress, and negative emotions, such as frustration, anger, and fear (even when they’re unspoken). As empaths, we can get tired and sick when we’re around toxic people, noise, violence, and rushing.”
- Very sensitive to other’s tone of voice and body movements.
- Can hear what someone doesn’t say in words but communicate nonverbally and through silence.
- Feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our society.
- Very sensitive, creative, compassionate, and idealists.
- Prone to social anxiety because they’re overwhelmed by the multiple spoken and unspoken signals people give off in groups (Judith).
- Sensitive to rejection.
- Have to be soft and delicate to absorb the vibes from other people instead of being tough and repelling all signals.
- Can get hurt easily and need to be cautious about being taken advantage of.
- Can pick up signals that emanate from other’s and are sensitive enough to break through the barriers and access their thoughts and feelings.
- Have high intuition, they often just know things.
- Absorb the emotions of others.
- Have a gentle and kind nature.
- Often give their hearts too easily to narcissists and other unavailable people.
- Loving and trusting and expect others to also be that way. This can be a very difficult lesson to learn.
- Love to give and help.
- Have BIG hearts.
- Good listeners.
- Love peace and harmony.
- Find the good in people.
- Deeply love and resonate with nature and animals.
- Being in nature is essential for them to balance and heal.
- Have sensitive senses.
- Are often Introverted and have a minimal tolerance for socializing and small talk.
- Can become exhausted and burnt out easily.
- Often have difficulty with drama, people that talk constantly, and are demanding, inauthentic, and toxic.
- Are bothered by lots of noise, crowds, anger, fighting, tension.
- Need A LOT of alone time to process things.
Susan Forward writes that people find it easy to be around Empaths because they pick up on your vibration and meet you where you are at.
How and Why Does Being an Empath Develop?
There is no membrane that separates Empaths from the world. Most other people have ‘defenses’ up. Judith Orloff explains her theory on why some people struggle to differentiate between their bodily feelings and other people’s:
“Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two different senses are paired in the brain. However, with mirror-touch synesthesia, people actually feel the emotions and sensations of others in their own bodies, as if these emotions were their own. This is a wonderful neurological explanation of an empath’s experience.”
Further, she says, “childhood neglect or abuse can also affect sensitivity levels for adults. A portion of empaths I’ve treated have experienced early trauma, such as emotional or physical abuse, or were raised by alcoholic, depressed, or narcissistic parents. This could potentially wear down the usual healthy defenses that a child with nurturing parents develops. As a result of their upbringing, these children typically don’t feel “seen” by their families, and they also feel invisible in the greater world that doesn’t value sensitivity. In all cases, however, empaths haven’t learned to defend against stress in the same way others have.”
Stacy Hoch is in agreement with this idea that ”the empath is built on or caused by poor parenting.” She says, “they have more dense energy because they have not had to hone in on staying super clear for the sake of survival. They were a child responsible for empath-ing the parent. The empathic baby or child is responding to the needs of the parent and have learned that it is literally what they have to do to survive! Someone that does not have to empathize with their parents is going to be more like oil in energy because they do not have to develop that skill to survive because the parent is going to meet their needs. The empath struggles to meet their own needs. They can be very self-destructive and self-sabotaging. It does not serve us to work out other people’s things for them.” For me, this deeply resonates as the root of Codependency.
When Judith Orloff speaks about the “usual healthy defences” being potentially broken down due to difficult situations around them as a child, I believe that she is speaking about our aura that protects each and every one of us. More info in “What is Leaky Aura Syndrome?”
Diane Kathrine, in her book “How to Heal Leaky Aura Syndrome: A Guide for Empaths” says, “distortions in the aura can appear from an early age and infant or childhood trauma and illness can result in a weakened aura. A receded aura is caused by experiencing deep hurt and rejection, feeling unloved or unworthy. It can be a knee-jerk reaction to retract the energy field, like retreating into a shell, as a way to prevent themselves from getting hurt again. When the aura shrinks it becomes destabilized and prone to damage. A strong aura protects against outside negativity, thoughts, energy and even disease. Through a healthy auric field you radiate inner power and draw in positivity. Your vibrant energy empowers others and helps raise their frequency.” Pranic Healing can greatly assist with healing and strengthening the aura and Leaky Aura Syndrome.
To thrive (and heal) as an empath, we must address this on an energetic level and learn how to stop absorbing other people’s emotions and energy and learn to decipher what is yours and what is someone else’s; as well as how to stay balanced and grounded in over stimulating environments and around toxic people and situations. Pranic Healing has helped me in an immense and invaluable way in this regard and to to decipher what is my energy; what belongs to me, and what is someone else’s. I believe that learning this “modality” would deeply benefit all Empaths in navigating this trait! I look forward to sharing its enormous healing benefits with you!
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- What is Pranic Healing?
- What is Emotional Freedom Technique?
- What is Leaky Aura Syndrome?
- What is Codependency?
- Healing and Understanding Codependency
- What is Narcissism?
- How to Understand and Identify Narcissistic Abuse
- Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
- Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
- Breyer, Jason. Empath – A Highly Sensitive Person – Develop your gift, use emotional intelligence to turn your high sensitivity into a superpower: Overcome negative mindsets and master your social skills . Kindle Edition.
- Hoch, Stacy. The Empoweress- YouTube.
- Forward, Susan. Mothers Who Can’t Love (pp. 146-147). Harper. Kindle Edition.
- Orloff, Judith. The Empath’s Survival Guide (Kindle Locations 94-100, 207-284, 155-159, 169-170, 192-101). Sounds True. Kindle Edition.
- Kathrine, Diane. How to Heal Leaky Aura Syndrome. 2017