Empathy 101 - Overview on Empathy

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original: http://sphynxcatvp.nocturna.org/articles/sc-empathy101.html

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to "read" and understand people's emotional states. Empathy in and of itself is not the same as telepathy (ability to "read" and understand people's thoughts) but CAN function in similar ways to a highly skilled empath, especially when combined with the mundane skill of reading body language and facial expressions.

Is this Natural?

Absolutely - anyone can have this ability, whether they're vampiric or not! It can be naturally present at birth (creating either an interesting or frustrating childhood, depending on the mindset towards it) or it can be developed later in life either through individual practice or through training.

Does this Mean I'm a Vampire?

You've probably seen people refer to "empaths" as a type of energy vampire. Well, they're wrong. Due to some vampire's sensitivity to energy, it can be somewhat common to run across a vampire who is also an empath. However, an empath is NOT necessarily a vampire - and some non-vampiric empaths will think you're crazy for suggesting it.

What can Empaths Do?

An empath can feel another's true emotions, regardless of what is visible on the person's face or their body language. They are typically very sensitive people - if they are unprepared for it, they will commonly relate to the emotions they're sensing as if they are their own. This can cause confusion and anxiety in an empath who is unaware of what is going on or who is unskilled at filtering them out.

An empath possesses the ability to "sense" or "know" others on many different levels, and can instinctively understand other people just from a short period of contact, provided they understand what they're picking up (or are willing to accept the input their empathy is giving them). In addition, they can quickly become very proficient at reading body language and facial expressions as a result - while reading body language is not part of empathy, it is a common "side effect" of being very observant of other people.

What are Empaths Really Like?

Empaths are often very compassionate people, making great listeners and counselors (and not just as a career either). Empaths often help others, sometimes putting aside their own needs to do so. However, because they are very sensitive people, they may be quiet and withdrawn from the outside world if the empathic sensory input is too much for them to handle.

Empaths make friends, often for life, but if a friendship is abused, it will hit empaths much harder than non-empaths, as if a "link" of some sort has been broken. Over time, they become more careful about who becomes a close friend - they may have a wide circle of acquaintances, but only a few that they consider close friends.

Some Empathic Traits

Empaths are often very expressive in areas of emotional connection, and can speak quite frankly about topics that other people won't easily be able to put into words.

Empaths often find confrontations and anger distasteful, and will seek to be the peacemaker, or avoid the confrontation altogether if they can. They are likely to mirror the feelings of the person they are talking to without realizing it.

Empaths are particularly sensitive to the negative effects of violence or pain. Emotional pain can bring an empath to tears if they are unable to block it.

Empaths have a broad range of music interests to suit their temperaments - song lyrics and music can have powerful (good or bad) effects on empaths, and the effects can change from hour to hour or minute to minute.

Because empaths are often warm and compassionate people, people are often drawn to them whether they realize the person is empathic or not.

Empaths are good listeners; complete strangers can talk to them about some of the most personal things without realizing it.

Empaths can find the feelings they pick up from others overwhelming if they don't understand what is going on, as a result their moods can fluctuate with disturbing speed, almost like someone's flipping a switch.

Empathic Issues

For those born with this ability, it can sometimes prove to be too much - the weight of people's feelings coming in a non-stop onslaught - and they eventually block out the empathic input altogether, effectively leaving them in the same state as someone who would need to be trained to develop empathy. This is particular problem is actually a potential risk with ANY empath, natural or trained, however it's more common with natural empaths.

Empathy can be mistaken for sympathy - someone who is sympathetic to a situation won't truly understand it, and often says or does the "wrong thing". An empath will understand the situation as if the empath was experiencing it his or herself and will be able to gauge what to say or do much better. A non-empathic, but sympathetic person, most likely means well, they just don't understand - and it's not their fault that they don't instinctively know.

Because an empath can pick up on other people's emotional states so well, relationships can be affected - for example, if a spouse comes home from work and is cranky, the empathic spouse will quickly pick up that mood and - even though they weren't cranky before - will be cranky in return. If this is not noticed in time, it can degenerate into a an arguments or worse. Empaths need to be aware when this is happening and be able to defuse the situation.

Empaths can feel exhausted in the company of others, or have extreme anxiety in large groups of people, such as in shopping malls or other public places. This can be due to the strain of trying to keep other people's emotions from affecting them, or just from the general stress and confusion other people's emotions cause them if they don't know to block them out.

Because true empathic communication goes both ways, it is common to be able to project emotions, even unconsciously, as well as receive them.

With enough time and patience, empaths can get to a point where other people's emotions just flow through them instead of "crashing" into them and causing them stress or anxiety. They can learn to instinctively separate what other people are experiencing from their own emotions, and move on without the need to analyze the current situation.

Empathic Ethics

Empaths need to understand the effect empathic abilities have on themselves and others, and seek to understand people rather than control or "play with them." Learn to when it's necessary to detach yourself from the situation (i.e., funerals for someone you don't personally know). This detachment will be very useful in professional careers in helping others - it's possible to become "too involved" and be unable to walk away from the situation otherwise. Experience helps develop tact and the ability to know when the "time is right" to say or do something. That experience also teaches when to step back and leave the situation alone.