Not wanting to speak for everyone, but I am sure that most empaths reading the title of this piece will have the initial reaction of: “Haha, a blessing? Yeah, right!” and that is simply because not all blessings come dressed up as pretty, shining stars of beauty and warm fuzzy feelings.
Being able to have empathy and being an Empath are two very distinct things. Empathy (according to dictionary.com) is the “psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another”. Google defines an Empath as a person with the ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.
To put it more simply, empathy is the human intellectual/emotional ability to understand another person’s emotions, while being an Empath is the soul-ability to experience another person’s emotions.
As with all soul abilities, every person has latent empathic abilities and can develop this gift just as one could develop other gifts like healing and clairvoyance, but it is usually not on the top of most people’s lists to develop. On the other side of the spectrum, again as with all soul abilities, there are those who are born with an active empathic soul, i.e. this soul ability is switched on whether the person likes it or not – an Empath. As children, they are more selective about who they want to be around, they seem very emotionally mature “for their age” and can connect with all sorts of people in ways most adults find difficult. And then they grow up…
One of two things happen: they either beautifully grow in to the ability with grace and understanding, living harmoniously with it. Or it becomes suppressed, causing emotional confusion and very often depression until one day it manifests again fully with the person being totally unprepared. This could cause havoc in the empath’s life. The difference in outcome is more often than not linked to the upbringing of the empathic child and the parents’ understanding and support of the ability.
With the ability to not just understand a person’s emotional state, but being able to feel and experience what they are feeling as if it is you yourself going through that experience, comes the responsibility to know, set and respect boundaries. The best thing an Empath can do is to spend time experimenting with their ability on themselves. This way they can get to know their own emotional expanses, limitations, triggers and shadows, so that when they interact with others, they can immediately identify whether what they are feeling is their own or that of the other person.
Empaths are entrusted to do the most intimate work the soul could possibly be capable of and that is to see, feel, experience and understand another soul at its very core. Getting through all the barriers, walls of protection, lies and denial that people put up as coping mechanisms to “remain in control” and keep people at arm’s length. No matter how much a person might resist, an experienced empath will be able to cross any barrier to discover the hidden truths of the person – even those which the person themselves are not yet conscious of.
This comes with the greatest of responsibilities, because at this level they are handling the most vulnerable part of a person and therefore, if they do not have the utmost care and respect for what they are doing, an empath can hurt the person even more.
Working with this ability, empaths are able to understand the cause of emotions (or the lack of them) and help people overcome things like depression, sadness, grief and anger, by helping them navigate through these parts of their being and coming to resolution. It is not the job of an Empath to take away these emotions and experiences, neither is it their job to work through these situations on behalf of the person. The empath is there to act as a guide through the confusion of the emotional highways so that the person can find their way through the situation, fully experiencing the emotions for what they are so that they may in turn learn from them and discover hidden parts within themselves.
However, at times it may be necessary for the Empath to temporarily dim the person’s emotions in order to help the person catch their breath and regain their strength to face the issue again, after which the empath will release the full capacity of the emotion back to the person to deal with. This does take a lot of practice and experience to do and needs to be done in the right way to ensure no negative implications for either party involved.
Empaths are often associated only with the lower emotions of sadness, depression, anger etc. and we tend to not think how they are affected by the higher emotions of love, joy and excitement for example. It should be obvious that they can understand, feel and work with these emotions as well – it is not all doom and gloom. Empaths have the ability to raise our level of understanding and experience of all the emotions and so they can help a person to experience higher levels of love, joy and excitement, enabling them to live a happier and emotionally healthier life.
The intimacy of this work is one of the most beautiful experiences life can give to an Empath. Making them not only see but also feel the impact they have on people around them; making the sense of satisfaction of being of service twice as valuable. Yet unfortunately, it often comes with a void and a need to be understood as they can understand others – and not all empaths ever get to be understood on that level. So just give them a hug; a long, meaningful hug of love and compassion, it will mean the world to them!