The moment I knew I was an empath happened when I was really little. I was standing in the November rain, water filling up my black shoes and making my thin tights soggy. I watched as the priest lowered my father's ashes into the ground, and my mother's expression became more and more broken as she stared into the open wound within the earth.
But as I looked passed her, it was my uncle that grasped my heart. His eyes were swollen. His shoulders rattled as he tried to hide his cries inside his wet jacket. The cemetery was a mess of my closest family members, but it was my uncle - my father's best friend - who hypnotized me.
Of course at the time, I didn't know to give the experience the title empath, but it was a feeling that would never leave me. I felt like I could see my uncle's essence outside of himself, cold, jouncing and lost. I felt the ache he held in his chest. It was different than my ache.
Empaths don't always experience things this strongly, and it doesn't take the death of a loved one to erupt the empathic gene. But more and more of us are discovering that we're not just emotional or anxious individuals.
WHAT IS AN EMPATH?
The moment someone says to me, "Oh, I'm an anxious person," I'm immediately more aware of my own feelings. Am I projecting anything onto them? People who classify themselves as anxious are often thinking a mile a minute. Their subconscious is trying to interpret all the messages it is picking up, and oftentimes those messages aren't solely their own.
Or, "I'm a highly emotional person," is another familiar one. I hear that sentence as, "I cry more than I think I should." This person is a feeler.
Empaths are people who feel emotions more strongly than others, and they have the sometimes unknown ability of picking up on the emotions or sense of those around them. For an anxious or emotional person who is actually an empath, being in a public setting can be a very overwhelming experience. What's worse, the person may not even know why. This is when anxiety can particularly skyrocket and emotions can run even higher. The "what's wrong with me?" or "what's happening?" panic sets in. An empath will feel the millions of subtle emotions fluttering around in the energy fields around them, and public places are teeming with such sensations.
When an empath is placed within say, a scholastic setting, you can imagine how those energy fields might be rather intense. Or how a hospital environment could be debilitating.
When souls connect with other souls, empathic abilities can be even more heightened. Souls connect in a very special and intense way, and when our soul has bonded to another soul, an empath will attune to their energy. It will become comfortable with that person's energy; comfortable feeling their energy as his or her own. This can happen with family members, friends and even important figures like teachers or musicians. For an empath, listening to a heart-wrenching song can actually depress them.
Through bonded souls, an empath may actually be carrying the emotions of many people at once. Most times, dealing with our own emotions and experiences can be daunting. Imagine also holding the emotions of a handful of others we have bonded to? Or feeling the faint flutters of depressed strangers?
WHAT DO I DO IF I'M AN EMPATH?
Empaths aren't a lost cause. Hardly! Many empaths have learned how to desensitize themselves to the emotions of others, whether they know it or not, and this can make life easier. Intense focus, such as sports or meditation, can be a great way to quell the overwhelming sensations an empath may be bombarded with. But some haven't learned this desensitization yet, and daily life can be a trying task.
If you suspect you're an empath, or you know someone who may be, use these probing questions to come to a conclusion:
1. Am I often overwhelmed by what I'm feeling?
2. If I focus on a specific person, can I sense how they're feeling?
3. When was the last time I felt truly relaxed? Was I alone?
4. When I think about my life, are there many times where I'm overcome with emotion for no reason at all?
5. Do I often cry listening to music?
6. Can I easily bounce from different emotional extremes?
7. Am I scared of intimate relationships?
While eliminating these heightened abilities all together may not be the answer, understanding what's happening to your sensory system can help make your human experience more bearable. Because they're just that - heightened abilities. You're already operating at the next evolutionary human level, as a spiritual being. Once you teach yourself to become aware which emotions are your own, and which are the emotions of others, you can do some serious good in this world. You move from being sympathetic to those around you, to empathetic; understanding and sharing their experiences as if they happened to you.
Finding a hobby that teaches you how to focus your attention intently is a great asset for any empath. This habit will transfer directly to focusing on your empathic abilities, helping you become more and more aware of how your feeling, without letting your emotions consume you. Maybe it's running, maybe it's playing cards, maybe it's knitting or drawing, or dancing. Find something that requires attention to detail, intense focus, and is something you sincerely enjoy doing.
It's important for empaths to stay energetically clean once they're aware of their abilities, because by soaking up the energy of others, we can become depleted, exhausted, burned out, and even depressed. It's as if we're actually carrying the emotional baggage of everyone around us.
Learning how to spiritually cleanse yourself is a great practice, as is regular healing work with a trusted practitioner. Using stress alleviating crystal grids can also help to release energetic buildup that is and isn't your own. While it's OK to pick up and sense the feelings of those around you, it needs to be on your own terms, so you aren't bombarded and overwhelmed. Once you have your abilities under control, they're actually very helpful. But like any skill, empaths require maintenance and practice to keep themselves in tip top condition.