Lucie Stastkova

The Many Faces of Empathy

Image is courtesy of Lucie Stastkova
Image is courtesy of Lucie Stastkova

For the past three days I’ve wanted to review my copy editor’s suggestions and revise my novel, but something has been getting in the way.  It took me a while to identify what that was.  Then this morning I received a call from a friend, and the core of our conversation lead me to realize that I not only was empathizing with her, but also that I unconsciously had taken on her emotional distress prior to her telling me about it.  So what is the difference between being empathic and being an empath?

The Oxford Dictionaries define empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  Merriam-Webster defines empathy as ” the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another . . . without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”  In other words, empathy is the capacity to feel what another person is experiencing from their vantage point rather than exclusively from our own. 

Empathy is sometimes confused with sympathy.  Unlike sympathy, which is the ability to acknowledge another’s emotional state and then offer reassurance and comfort, empathy derives from having had the same/similar experience or the capacity to put oneself in another’s shoes.

It’s interesting to note here that, although speculative, some researchers have attributed our capacity to react to and reproduce others’ expressed emotions to the existence of mirror neurons in the brain.  Following this line of thought, unless one is sociopathic, i.e., has malfunctioning mirror neurons, we all have the capacity for empathy or to be empathic.

So what’s the difference between being empathic and being an empath?  I’m going to speak from my own experience rather than cite the “experts,” because I’ve discovered that there really is no such thing as an expert on this subject.

As stated above, most of us have the ability to be empathic, to understand and share the feelings of another.  But most of us don’t naturally absorb those feelings and become overwhelmed by them.  In my opinion, empaths are born, not made.  I feel within me a highly sensitive antenna that picks up energy from the world around me, either near or at a distance.  Some argue that an empath picks up energy/emotions from those nearer them, while a clairsentient will pick up  energy/emotions from those either near or at a distance.  Within my experience, these two terms are one and the same, and my reference to them in this post is as being an empath.

For me, being an empath is being a reflection of the world around me.  And this is often overwhelming.  I feel the joy and anguish of other beings within a heightened sense of awareness.  Add my own feelings to the mix, and I can easily become incapacitated.  My lifelong way of dealing with this has been to immediately express what I’m feeling, be it positive or negative, in order to prevent implosion.  As a child and young adult, my expressions were usually outbursts and weren’t always appropriate or tactful.

On many occasions throughout my life, I’ve found myself feeling an intense emotion without relative cause.  Over the years I’ve learned to look at those around me in order to identify the source of the energy.  If no source is apparent, then I point my antenna toward those I love and care about who live at a distance.

On other occasions I’ll pick up energy from someone who is immediately identifiable, and then get in touch with that person.  Sometimes I can read the specifics of the energy and know exactly what is going on, while other times I sense a positive or negative influence or change occurring within that person’s life.

There have been innumerable times when I’ve assumed the signs and symptoms of a friend’s physical ailment, and it has always been prior to learning of that person’s condition.  But once I learned the specifics, my symptoms disappeared within a day or so.

Being an empath is both rewarding and challenging.  The challenge has been to learn how not to be a sponge and how to quickly identify when the energy perceived and the emotions felt are not mine.  I’m still learning and am not always successful.

One thing I have learned is that empaths frequently assume an addiction as a coping mechanism for unidentified and overwhelming emotions and sensations.  I’ve fallen prey to this many times, but each time it occurs, I’m able to catch myself sooner rather than later and put an end to the addiction.

Another phenomenon that threw me for the proverbial loop when I first became aware of it was receiving messages for others.  I don’t know the source of the messages, but I know that they’re benign and benevolent.  And they often arrive with a sense of urgency attached.  In order to relay the message to the person intended, I have to get out of my own way — step aside from ego — and allow the information to flow.  I have no idea beforehand what will be spoken; I hear the message at the same time as the intended recipient.  But I always have a very strong sense that the message will benefit.  Some people refer to this phenomenon as channeling.  I prefer to think of it as translating.  I have never felt anything malevolent pass through me.  Should this ever occur, I would short-circuit the energy and run it through to the ground.

Picking up another’s energy is not something that can be done on demand.  I’ve had people ask me to tell them what they were thinking.  Perhaps clairvoyants can do this, but that’s not an ability I claim.  Nor do I want it.  Coping with the myriad challenges of being an empath is quite enough.

Now that I’ve put my thoughts to paper, so to speak, perhaps I can move on to the business of editing my novel!  As always, your comments are most welcome.

Until the next time, my friends…  Namaste

© Tina Frisco 2016

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44 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Empathy”

  1. Fabulous article Tina. Is it a coincidence you and had an instant connection? I too am an empath, and you’ve explained it quite well. I call it my inner knowing. I too have the ability to read people’s feelings and like you, sometimes know exactly what’s going on with someone in an instant, but not always, it depends on the energy given off. Like you said, it can drain us emotionally, but it’s also handy for making me a good judge of character. ❤
    PS. I'm still finding a lot of people don't know how to reblog without a reblog button. Bloggers like me who self host don't have that option. But every blog has a 'press this' tool in your 'tools' in your dashboard. It's a handy tool where you can clip a web page from anywhere and it will go to draft in your dashboard draft posts. You can read more if you go to my blog and type 'press this' in the search bar and a few posts I've written will pop up on it. 🙂 Happy to help Sista! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No coincidence, Debby. Can you imagine how handy it will be on our cruise? Margaritas all around! And thanks for the tip on ‘press this.’ I have the button on my pages but had no idea how it worked. Will check out your blog posts. Hugs, girlfriend ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol you crack me up. Glad you got the ‘press this’ going. I should share it with Mira too. I should maybe repost that article, it seems many I see are still wondering how to reblog without a button. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post, Tina. It explains a lot about you and the lovely feelings that are conveyed by your writing. I read the comments above and have to admit that your blog is a little hard to navigate. I understand why now (pages versus posts). You might try to figure out how the posts work. I believe you would see far more visitors as your posts will show up in our readers. No pressure, though! Have a lovely day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Diana. As to my website, I’ve worked on the issue all morning but the posts aren’t showing. I hope the solution is a simple one. I’ll be spending tomorrow or so viewing WP how-to videos on YouTube. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautiful post as always Tina.. i suppose I have always referred to my inner antenna as my gut instinct.. I think that it is something that women in particular developed a very long time ago as a form of survival. Especially in relation to having children with a need to be very aware of danger or emotion in others that might harm them. As a counsellor for many years I have found that at times being attuned to someone elses emotions very energy zapping but it has always been an advantage when working towards a balance for them. I have met people who have zero empathy and they are like a blank wall desperate for some colour. Our cruise when it happens is certainly going to be very interesting. With D.G. and others who have become close here. love and hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sally. Your antenna is fine-tuned. I have found that you, like myself, must pull away a little at times in order to stay clear and focused, not to mention sane. We serve no one, including ourselves, when we allow the energy of others to drain us — regardless of how much we love them. Codependence serves no useful purpose. Now all we have to do is get our minds to convince our hearts ❤ A nice relaxing, fun-filled cruise just might help foster this 🙂 Love and hugs ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In just the same way that we can all make a mark on paper but not everyone is a Leonardo, we are all capable of empathy but while some discard or ignore it, for others is it as vivid and insistent a sense as sight. I agree with Sally that it is a natural part of our being and those who lack it seem to have a diconnect between heart and mind that, while they think they are fine, leaves others looking at a puzzle with the critical pieces missing. I am not at all sure that without empathy it is even truly possible to love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Sue. Those devoid of empathy are antisocial sociopathic personality types who are incapable of loving. It is sad, because without the ability to love, one cannot ever feel happy or fulfilled. How tragic to go through life as an empty canister… ❤

      Like

    1. Thank you, Van. Empathy becomes disabling when we get stuck in it and can’t find a way out. I went through a period like this when I first became involved in the animal rights movement. My shaman teacher threw a verbal bucket of ice water on me and said that I would not be able to help in any way if I didn’t stop wallowing. She told me that the way out was the way in — that I needed to look at the “what” rather than the “why.” What was keeping me there? Once I figured that out, I was able to move on ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tina, I know exactly where you are coming from. Both myself and my wife are empaths and struggle daily with the emotional barrage from neighbours, friends and family. I have found that imagining yourself covered with a long black cloak and with your feet firmly planted in the ground with the roots going down, down, works. Other days the antenna is just too highly tuned.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s wonderful imagery, Adele. You can’t get more grounded than having your feet rooted in Mother Earth. When the bombardment gets really bad, I usually imagine myself surrounded by a pink bubble (pink being the color of love) that deflects all outside energy. But I like your technique a lot and think I’ll give it a try. Thanks so much for sharing ❤

      Like

  7. Emotions and empathy are intertwined…highly emotional people are natural empaths as their vibes are attuned to understand and resonate. I felt drawn towards this post as even these words emit a special light 🙂 I liked the description and the distinction. Loved reading it Tina.

    Liked by 1 person

Namaste, my friends ❤ Tina

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