Empathy for Empaths

    This week I had a conversation in which I heard about a car accident which happened decades ago.

    The story was told by a woman who had been a child in the back seat. She was alone with the driver when the vehicle hit an immovable object.
    Thanks to surgeries and casts and braces and the wonders of modern medical science, they both survived.
    I am fortunate to have no direct experience of an accident like that, yet as I listened to the details, told with the objectivity of healing and the passage of time, I found myself connected to the emotions of the driver and that day.
    To see your child in an intensive care bed, after undergoing life-saving operations, must be an unspeakably difficult experience. Knowing that these injuries occurred while you were at the wheel, and in some way responsible, is unimaginable.
    Except it is not. I found myself in a state much more visceral than imagination, relating to the driver, overtaken by an agony of love and guilt and fear. I felt huge pressure under my ribs, which swelled hot and big, and subsided only when released through the tears as I began to weep.
    After writing about empathy last week, and knowing that I am an empathetic person, the timing was perfect for reminding me that I am also an empathic person.
Born This Way

    It is important to differentiate between empathic and empathetic abilities. Empathy is a skill which can be learnt, developed and practiced; being an empath, while it can be honed and attuned, is an innate ability.

    The Awakening People website says that “Empaths are energy sensitive individuals that are highly effected and influenced by their environment” which speaks to my experience more than some other definitions.
     As a word, empath came into usage in the 1950s, occurring in the science fiction of the time. Google defines empath as ”a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
    Christel Broederlow, writing on The Mind Unleashed website, suggests that “being an empath is when you are affected by other people's energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others” which is certainly my experience, with time and space imposing no limits on whether I can connect to that energy.
I know!   

    Broederlow writes of empaths “just knowing” things, and that is certainly true: as an emotional  expression, empaths know.
    Claircognizance is the intuitive sense which allows for just knowing in the physical, mental and Spiritual planes. Although the two may not always exist together, they certainly do in me.
    Empaths need to disconnect from inputs about war and cruelty and sickness and misery. Avoiding newscasts and turning away from depictions of torture or injury are simply efforts at self-preservation. It may sound silly, yet when I unwrapped a gift and discovered a copy of  Malala Yousafzai's book I am Malala I burst into tears. If I am to remain functional I must limit my exposure to energies that are so intense within my soul. 
    Judith Orloff, MD, psychiatrist, empath, and intuitive healer, is the author of The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being.
This Is My Life

    Like Christel Broederlow, Dr. Orloff has identified several traits common to empaths, and they all resonate with me.
~ As children, empaths have often been labelled (and judged) for being over emotional, or too sensitive.
~ When a friend is upset or unhappy, an empath will feel the same way.
~ Crowds are emotionally draining for an empath, and alone-time is needed to recover afterwards.
~ An empath cannot be comfortable among noise or odours, or excessive chit-chat, and will tailor the schedule and transportation to permit an escape and avoid over-stimulation.
    Even though I might leave early, or only 'make an appearance' at an event, there is in my empathy and my empathic response the ability to experience much. I can find a deep connexion to people and happenings with minimal exposure. As with my friend this week, as soon as I heard the outline of the accident, with a driver I have never met, in a place I have never been, living an experience I have never shared, I was overcome by the driver's emotional pain.
     My clients know that many tears have been shed while I am delivering readings, sometimes they have joined in! Empaths help people to process stuck emotions; to restore the flow of Cosmic energy; and to become more fully engaged in this adventure of Human Life. Have some empathy: pass the tissues.

     I have been laughing and crying with clients and supporting them through change and growth since the 1980s.
     For a consultation or other session, in person or by Skype click here