If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve become curious about yourself or someone you love.
Maybe you– or they– seem to absorb the emotional content of others. Or, for as long as you can remember, you’ve been able to connect deeply with people. Perhaps you have a sense of compassion that is impossible to shake.
For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.
– Milan Kundera
What is an empath?
Perhaps some kind of superpower that causes equal burden as it provides benefits such as the ability to read minds, being an empath allows you to experience what others are feeling on a deep level, as if you were in their body experiencing their emotions.
But the term is not to be confused with empathy, as Dr. Judith Orloff, an expert on empaths and the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, explains:
Having empathy means our heart goes out to another person in joy or pain.
But for empaths, it goes much further. We actually feel others’ emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our own bodies, without the usual defenses that most people have.
No one quite knows how it works, what might cause it, or what the full capability of an empath is, however, the reports of “empathic” behavior are pretty compelling.
Being an empath: pros and cons
As we talked about a moment ago, it’s hard to tell at first if being an empath is a blessing or a curse. Well, it’s a bit of both.
What are the pros and cons of being an empath? Let’s talk about them:
Pro: You feel other people’s emotions
The ability to feel other people’s emotions is a pretty significant ability. If someone is feeling anxious in a business meeting or on a date, you can pick up on that more acutely than the average person, and provide support.
If someone is experiencing fear, you would be able to perceive it and potentially help them either overcome their fear or get out of a dangerous situation — it might even help you become aware of a potentially dangerous situation faster.
In addition, you have the ability to relate to others in a way that is incredibly powerful. An empath gives the saying “to know what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes” a whole different meaning.
It’s a power that needs to be properly handled. However, if you can do it, there are incredible gifts to realize as a result– both for yourself and those you love.
Con: You feel other people’s emotions
If you already know you’re an empath, you probably saw this coming.
Like most other things in life, there are both positives and negatives to having the ability to more keenly detect and directly experience the feelings of others.
Directly experiencing the emotions of those around you– without the ability to pick and choose what you feel– is potentially dangerous and can be very draining, both emotionally and psychologically, leaving you wrestling with pain and confusion.
Whether it’s anxiety, depression, fear, stress, panic, or sorrow, you’re right there experiencing it with the sufferers first-hand– without control over it. Being an empath can be very difficult under certain circumstances.
Con: Your capacity for getting overwhelmed is high
Empaths tend to be highly sensitive in general. This means they not only have no filter for pushing back the feelings of others, but they also become more easily overwhelmed by heavy noises and busy social environments.
The combination of these two things together make it common for empaths to be susceptible to panic attacks and general feelings of overwhelm in busy or loud environments.
For this same reason, watching the news can be very stressful as well– especially now. Stories of heartfelt tragedy and destruction are felt deeply and are often too much to take.
Pro: Your capability for love and compassion are magnified
As an empath, your ability to feel love and compassion for others is on a different level.
Often, one of the most difficult obstacles in a relationship is coming to a mutual understanding.
Sure, we can try to explain how we feel to the other person, but they don’t actually know how we feel. It takes quite a bit of time and great effort to really place yourself in someone else’s shoes.
As an empath, that door has been unlocked and you can’t help but feel the full force of your partner’s inner feelings.
This allows you to cultivate a level of love and compassion that is very difficult for others to ever accomplish. This can help you improve your relationships and better identify with others, even those you’d otherwise disagree with.
You understand other people feel and can find common ground, instantly cultivating great compassion that moves you to act in a more kind and peaceful way.