What Is An Empath?
We have all heard the term "empathy", but have you ever heard the term "empath"? This is a phenomenon I first stumbled upon a few years ago that has brought great clarity and self-understanding for me. Considering the term "empathy" which means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, an "empath" is someone who goes a step further and can actually FEEL this. According to Stephanie Jameson in her book Happy Empaths Workbook (which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone who thinks they or their child may be an empath), "Empaths exemplify empathy, meaning that they have the ability to take on and process the emotions, sensations, and experiences of others. They can feel even the most subtle energy, often knowing what others are experiencing even when that emotion is not expressed."
Being an empath is a gift when care is taken to be energetically balanced and strong boundaries are established. However, when we don't establish boundaries and engage in lots of grounding and self-care activities, it can feel like a curse. Developing awareness of empathic gifts is the first step to developing these gifts and minimizing or eliminating the negative effects.
What Are The Different Kinds of Empaths?
There are many different forms of empaths and an empath can have all of the following gifts or may have just one. It is likely that an empath will have one gift that is stronger than the rest but has several gifts. Think of it like how there are many different learning styles but most people have one that is stronger than the rest and can use the other styles but not as efficiently. The different kinds of empaths are physical empaths, emotional empaths, intuitive empaths, telepathic empaths, nature/earth empaths, and mediums.
A physical empath can take on and feel the physical sensations of others, especially physical pain or discomfort. This is one of my strongest forms of empathic gifts- I frequently get headaches or pain when I am around someone who has a pain or has negative or low vibrational energy. This is a very common gift of those who work as physical healers such as massage therapist, chiropractors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and energy healers. I am an occupational therapist and craniosacral therapist who does a lot of body work on patients and I get guidance to know where an individual needs healing by physically feeling it in my own body. Of course, I didn't always realize that I had this gift. I often felt totally drained or hurt after working with someone and didn't realize it was because I was acting as a sponge and taking on their ailments. They would leave feeling fantastic, and I would leave feeling an energetic hangover.
After realizing my physical empathic gifts, I have learned to manage these exchanges so that I do not get the negative side effects or I am able to clear myself afterwards so that I am able to feel more balanced. This is still something I am working on even though I have come a long ways- awareness and boundary setting are key!
An emotional empath soaks up others' emotions and energy. Being in certain places can cause them to feel intense emotions, both negative and positive. An example of this would be to feel intense sadness or anger somewhere that involved intense tragedy- a specific place I have been that evoked this was a haunted jail tour in Charleston, SC. This jail was open during times of intense brutality towards the prisoners and being inside the building made me feel physically ill like I was going to vomit. God-filled churches give me the opposite effect- I feel empowered, loved, and joyful in these places.
Emotional empaths can be deeply impacted by the emotions of those around them. For example, being around someone really positive and joyful will lead the empath to feel the same. On the reverse, they may feel very irritable and angry when around someone with a bad attitude. Or we may be totally sure of a decision when we are alone, but feel doubt when we are around someone who is doubtful or fear-based. We usually aren't aware of this until we start to pay attention to how we feel around certain people or we start to notice patterns.
It is important to surround yourself with those who evoke lots of positive emotion and limit time spent with those who tend to focus on the negative (even if that someone is your mother or father). Emotional empaths often feel deeply emotional when watching television and feel the same emotions as the characters on tv and movies. This is also true of songs- they are far more likely to be deeply affected by the emotional tones of music.
This capacity to feel so intensely is truly a blessing, but I can honestly say that I have not always felt that way of myself. I recall being criticized and judged for being too emotional and being labeled as "too sensitive" that I began to put up walls to hide and suppress those emotions. This actually has caused me to go too far and sometimes look like I had no feelings. Suppressing emotions is very damaging and I'm still working hard to reverse this. Feeling deeply is not easy, but it is worth it.
Intuitive empaths "know" things that others do not. An example of this is someone who knows exactly how the plot of a movie is going to go or knows when someone in the movie has bad intentions. I frequently find myself doing this, but I always just saw it as being common sense and never understood why the people watching the movie with me didn't see it coming. Now I know it is because I am an intuitive empath.
Intuitive empaths are also usually aware when those around them are dishonest or not trustworthy, even though they have no logical or visible truth. This can make an empath feel crazy because their heart and body tell them one thing but their mind and logic says something completely different.
Intuitive empaths may also have intuitive dreams. The dreams are not always completely literal and details may be slightly off but the underlying message is true. Writing down dreams immediately after waking can be highly helpful in deciphering the messages that come through in our dreams.
Telepathic empath will get ideas that are energetically passed from someone else. An example of this is thinking about calling a friend and then they randomly call a few minutes later. Or someone that rarely crosses your mind pops into your head and then the next day they experience a highly emotional event (death, birth, marriage, etc). I've had times where an old high school friend popped into my head (even though I hadn't thought of them in months) and then heard they got married or had a baby the next day, and I didn't realize these events were planned for them.
Nature/earth empaths are very sensitive to what is happening on the planet. They are more sensitive to what is happening astrologically, as well as different weather patterns. They can often sense when a big storm is coming. They may sense this intuitively, or they may physically feel different. Nature/earth empaths may be more emotionally charged to take care of the environment and protest against things that will harm the environment. They may also be more in-tune with animals.
Amedium is someone who acts as a medium (in the middle) between lower vibrational forces (humans) and higher vibrational forces (spirits). They are able to manipulate their vibration to communicate with both frequencies to share messages from those who have passed on.
How Can I Keep Myself Balanced and Healthy As An Empath?
Being an empath is a beautiful blessing if it is harnessed and boundaries are set. Boundaries are one of the most important things for an empath because we often have poor boundaries because we want to help others. We emotionally or physically feel when someone has a lower vibration or sadness or pain, and because we feel bad for that, we will try to help the situation because it will also make us feel better as empaths. But that often leads us to overextend and deplete ourselves. Filling our cup first and setting boundaries about all energy exchanges is essential to be an empowered empath and to enjoy our empathic gifts. Making sure that you are energetically grounded is essential as an empath. Read more on ways to ground yourself here. Remember what they tell you every time you get into an airplane- you must put on your own oxygen mask FIRST before you can help anyone else.