Are You an Empath?

Are You an Empath?

Are you highly sensitive and intuitive? Do the feelings of your friends, family or just those around you affect you? Do you feel the emotions of others to the point that it emotionally and physically affects you?

You just might be an…empath.

Traits of an Empath

According to author and psychiatrist, Judith Orloff, MD, the following are the top 10 traits of an empath:

  1. Highly sensitive
  2. Introverted
  3. Highly attuned to and absorb the emotions of others
  4. Highly intuitive
  5. Require time alone to recharge
  6. Become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
  7. Targets of energy vampires
  8. Replenished by nature
  9. Highly tuned senses
  10. Overly giving

Some of the qualities that may be possessed or developed in those who are more sensitive to other people’s emotions might include the following:

  • You listen to your gut more than most people.
  • You have a highly developed intuition.
  • You feel your emotions are in sync with other people.
  • You take comfort in alone-time.
  • You experience “sensory overload” which leads to emotional exhaustion or fatigue.
  • You feel most at home in in nature.
  • You may suddenly find yourself filled with unexplained emotions when in public .
  • You may feel as if you are experiencing the violence you witness on television shows.
  • You may feel the physical illness or pain of others around you.
  • You have a calming effect on others.

If you said “OMG, Yes! That’s me!” to the above bullets, you have come to the right place at the right time.Being an empath is its own kind of special unless we learn techniques to take extra precautions, being an empath can become physically and mentally exhausting.

So, you’re an empath…what does that mean exactly?

An empath may best be described as one who fits into a particular “emotional personality.” “Empath” is a term used for those who feel the emotions of others almost as if the emotions were their own. While most of us can feel the energy of other people, whether we realize it or not, some people absorb the emotions of others –so we physically experience the anger, sadness, depression, frustration or joy as others feel them .

Emotions are the physical sensations that accompany certain feelings. For example, when fearful, one may feel unsettled in the stomach and shaky as adrenaline courses through the blood. Joy can create the release of hormones like dopamine, leading to feelings of euphoria and lightheartedness. So, if emotions are physical sensations, how can a person feel the effects of other people’s emotions?

The term “empath” may evoke skepticism or disbelief, but about 50% of our population identifies as empaths.  The reality is, that we could all be empaths, on some level. An “empath” is really just a quality of having excessive empathy for other people (or places, things, animals, other sentient beings) and their situations.  Some people are super sensitive to the emotions of others whereas some may have a dulled or numb sensitivity due to a personality disorder or as a survival mechanism.

Feeling the emotions of others is a helpful quality. It helps us gain compassion, which helps us make good decisions. (Especially when those decisions affect more than just us.) On the other hand, tuning into the emotions of others can also act as a warning sign to stay alert and keep ourselves safe. But some people go beyond simply feeling the emotions of others…some people experience the emotions of others. What the difference?

I am going to tell you, and what I’m going to tell you may surprise you, because I’m not going to just give you a bunch of fluffy woo woo chatter.  I’m actually going to provide you solid, scientific evidence can prove the reality of empaths…

The Science of Emotions

It turns out there may be a scientific explanation for the traits of an empath. But looking at the science does not negate the abilities of an empath; on the contrary, as science is constantly proving many so-called “spiritual” ideas to be correct.

For example, there is scientific evidence that our bodies truly are a type of battery and that the human physical body does emit energetic fields that can be measured.

Mirror neurons are a specialized group of brain cells that interpret and imitate the actions of others. They help us discern what others are doing, and by allowing us to feel (through imitation) what the other being is doing, we have a better ability to understand why they are doing the action. By doing so, we are better able to contemplate (or guess) what their next action will be. It is fascinating to note that those who describe themselves as empaths have stronger activations in the section of the brain that have accumulations of mirror neurons. (1)

Emotional contagion is the human characteristic of “catching” feelings from others, much like one can catch a cold or flu from another person. Many researchers agree that feeling the emotions of others is a widespread phenomenon and has to do with many areas of our brains that perform a multitude of functions simultaneously. Part of the reason this may happen includes a conscious (or more like subconscious) awareness of vocal, facial and body language expressions.

At the same time, empaths seem to pick up on neurophysiological expressions as well as autonomic behaviors at the same time, albeit this is probably on a subconscious level. In other words, an empath may have a super sensitive ability to pick up on the minute expressions of another person’s nervous system as well as the part of their bodies that react automatically such as heart rate or breathing rate.

The combination of the above traits – awareness of physical expressions, sensitivity to neurophysiological expressions and sensitive awareness of autonomic behaviors – may cause one to be overly sensitive to other people’s emotions as they “catch” the emotion on a very physical level. Perhaps this combined with mirror neurons is an explanation for the reality of an empath.

Electromagnetic waves emitted by the human body may help explain the phenomenon of empaths. Brain waves are electromagnetic radiation energy waves that can be measured with an EEG, or electroencephalography machine. Alpha waves are emitted when a person is in a relaxed state, beta waves are when one is awake and engaged in most everyday activities while gamma waves are found when one is in a state of hyperawareness. At least one study showed that alpha waves that occur during sadness are different than alpha waves emitted during a state of happiness. (2)

Like the brain, the heart ❤️ also generates an electromagnetic field, however the generated waves are about 60 times greater than the amplitude of brainwaves, and they extend well beyond the physical body. (3) According to Rollin McCraty, Director of Research at the HeartMath Institute, the heart is a sophisticated sensory organ and processing center. Their studies found that people who are in close proximity to each other are able to detect the electromagnetic heart field of each other.

It is a possibility that empaths are more sensitive to the electromagnetic waves generated by the brain and the heart, allowing them to more easily tap into the emotions of another person whether they want to or not.

Looking at the science of how our bodies work within our physical limitations, yet possessing the ability to generate energy and pick up on energy that is not within the confines of the physical body, it seems that many people may possesses some qualities of an empath, just on a lesser level.

Who, Exactly, Are Empaths?

Empaths seem to be far more sensitive to the energies and emotions of those around them, to the point where it may negatively or adversely affect them either physically or mentally. Whether the act of being affected is emotional or something more learned such as a lack of healthy boundaries (as some psychiatrists suggest) is yet to be understood. And it should not matter for it could take centuries before the intimate workings of our emotions and brains are understood.

If you believe you are an empath, what does matter is learning how to deal with it and protect yourself. Some psychologists have outlined certain traits that may apply to empaths to help people identify if they may fall into this ultra-sensitive category of people, and thus have an indication that they may need to practice extra self-care and protection.

How to Deal

The top priority to protect yourself as an empath is to learn to take charge of your emotions. This means paying attention at all times to your surroundings and your feelings, and when you feel an emotion you must discern if that emotion belongs to you or not.

Constantly paying attention to your feelings and your surroundings may seem like a daunting task, but it does get easier with practice. Unfortunately, we are not taught such things from childhood, so we easily fall into a habit of allowing our surroundings to dominate who we are. Many people succumb to the false belief that they are not in control of their environment, but it is in control of them.

While this may be true for children, things change as we get older. It is possible to take control of all areas of our health, including our mental and emotional states. In my course The Harmony Keys I provide a simple, yet insanely effective protocol and healing modality to help you master your emotions and heal generations of pain.

How to Deal with being an empath:

Practice Mindfulness: As described above, practicing mindfulness is being present and conscious of your current surroundings. If this is difficult for you, meditation is known to help.

Set Healthy Boundaries: Setting boundaries is not a new concept, but empaths may have to do this a little differently than most people. Setting boundaries for an empath would require one to either stay clear or limit communication with people who have excess drama in their lives or those who are overly critical or judgmental. If you begin to feel drained at any time, practice excusing yourself and give yourself permission to leave, if necessary. If you are at work, you can simply walk to another area of the workspace or even the bathroom, if you must.

With loved ones, it may be a little easier as you can set your boundaries by communicating with them. Explain your situation and that extreme emotions upset you. If that is uncomfortable for either you or them, then try to change the conversation if it gets too much, or politely excuse yourself.

Alone Time: Allow yourself space to be alone. If you have kids (like me) this can be hard, but its important—scratch that, vital for your self care.  Squeeze in alone time before bed or at lunch time if you can. Use the time to meditation or listen to healing music rather than sitting on instagram.  (That’s not alone time, because you are socially connecting with millions of people.)

Enjoy Nature: Nature is very healing for the soul, and even more so for those who are sensitive. Enjoy a local park, a hike in the woods or a walk on the beach; whatever is closest to you. Try to do this at least once a week, and more, if possible.

Self-Care: Empathetic people have a natural inclination to help others feel better, as it benefits their feelings, as well. But it is important you work on yourself, as well. And it is possible to take care of your feelings when you are with others and when you are alone. Begin by always acknowledging that your feelings are important; acknowledge them but then give yourself permission to let go of them if they don’t serve you. Practice self-forgiveness and remember that you are human and allowed to have weaknesses or make mistakes. Do kind things for yourself like take a lavender bath or get a massage, because you deserve simply for being alive.

Conclusion

Being an empath may seem to make life a little bit more difficult, but it doesn’t have to. Practicing the art of taking care of yourself can bring great rewards and allow you a greater capacity to help others, if you desire.

Whether you identify as an empath or not, practicing protection can help you in a number of ways. It is a form of meditation, a way to practice mindfulness, and a means to nurture your entire being. Take care of your energy and emotions along with your body and you will find more balance and harmony in all areas of your life.

If you identify as an empath, and can relate to the topics in this blog, I highly recommend my Spiritual Ninja course. This course has over 30 videos, a full double album of hypnotic and healing meditations, and every practice you need to stay centered, grounded, protected, and connected.  I made this course specifically for empaths, intuitives, healers, and highly sensitive people because I wish that someone had provided me this tool kit.  I promise you, it will change your life. 

References:

1 Acharya S, Shukla S. Mirror neurons: Enigma of the metaphysical modular brain. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2012;3(2):118–124. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.101878

2 Woaswi, Wan & Hanif, M. & Mohamed, S. & Hamzah, Noraini & Rizman, Zairi. (2016). Human Emotion Detection via Brain Waves Study by Using Electroencephalogram (EEG). International Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology. 6. 1005. 10.18517/ijaseit.6.6.1072.

3 Burleson, K. O., & Schwartz, G. E. (2005, February 26). Cardiac torsion and electromagnetic fields: The cardiac bioinformation hypothesis. Retrieved January 30, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987705000368?via=ihub