"I don't know what being empathic exactly means, but I wonder if I am," Indie asked the other day. "I've been having shoulder problems that don't make sense and my mother is currently struggling with severe shoulder pain. My memory has been very bad lately and my father is losing his memory too. One of my good friends has depression and I was just diagnosed with it." She wondered, just maybe, if she was taking on others' physical symptoms. She questioned, "Is that being empathic?"
The quick answer is that she is probably highly empathic and so is an Empath, a term for someone with an extremely heightened level of empathy. My dictionary defines empathy as "the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties." This human trait is becoming more widely understood and the term used more frequently in popular culture. Empathetic listening skills are being hyped, for instance, on the web by management seminars, parenting workshops, mediation classes and there is even a medical software package using the word empathic in its title.
Some scientists think that empathy is soft-wired in every human's brain. Jeremy Rifkin, in his The Empathic Civilization, uses the example of when one baby in the nursery starts crying, how the rest of the babies cry also in response. Rifkin writes: "Recent discoveries in brain science and child development, however, are forcing us to rethink these long-held shibboleths about human nature. Biologists and cognitive neuroscientists are discovering mirror-neurons -- the so-called empathy neurons -- that allow human beings and other species to feel and experience another's situation as if it were one's own."
Indie's case is an example of empathetic ability operating at a highly sensitive level. This more heightened empathic ability could be considered a more psychic type, one of personally feeling another person's emotional or physical -- or both -- sensations. An Empath can often even experience what it is to be inside another person's skin so to speak, or perhaps actually see through the eyes of another. Sometimes being empathic is kinetically sensing the emotions or physical pain of someone in close proximity or intimacy. It can be done at a distance too. On a radio call once, for instance, I was sensing an overwhelming wired tension in the caller's stomach. I could feel her stomach knots in me. I had to interrupt her to ask about it and she admitted feeling anxiously knotted and achy in that area.
Are You Empathic?
Have you ever found yourself going from a good mood to a bad mood with no other cause than being around other people? Do you experience others' physical ailments? Are you compelled to help anyone who is in pain? You could be an Empath too. Check the following list of some typical indications and see if several apply to you to get a better idea.
Others' moods affect your mood
You feel others' physical pain
You tune into others' feelings from a distance
You can literally feel what it's like to be in another's skin
You take on others' physical states
You experience overwhelming feelings that don't appear to have a source
You feel compelled to help or heal people who are in physical or emotional pain
People, including strangers, are constantly pouring out their hearts to you
Horrible news stories and photos are too painful to look at or listen to
You care more about others' well being than own
You are overly sensitive to how others might feel
You blunt your feelings through self-medication vehicles such as alcohol, food or drugs.
How did you do? If you saw three or four that might apply, you might also be an Empath. The ability to understand what it is like to be in another's skin can be an advantage. Empaths can be better listeners. Their empathic sensitivity generates great compassion for others. They make considerate friends and mates. Empathic people can also be extraordinary healers. However, some Empaths are so sensitive, they sponge up others' anxieties, worries or fears and then feel these as if they were their own.
Absorbing everyone else's stuff can generate a great deal of confusion to someone who doesn't realize what's happening. The first step for someone in that case, like Indie, is to start understanding the cause. From that step, it gets easier to start doing a better job of shielding (which is a whole other topic).
Questions, comments and ideas are welcome and encouraged. Contact popular Psychic Margaret Ruth on her Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 801-575-7103. You can also get details on private readings, Margaret's classes and blog at www.margaretruth.com