This post was taken from my comments on a Empathy Discussion post in my coven, and I decided to repost it to the forums after a nice debate I had in the chatters. I'll try to cover all the 'stereotypical' empath bases.
I've long disliked the term 'Empath' simply because everyone goes about screeching about how special they are because they are Empaths. The truth is is that everybody is an empath to a certain extent.
Neurologically empathy exists in all people to some extent, there is even a condition caused by lack(not complete absence) of empathy, Sociopathy. We need to be empathetic so we can understand how others around us feel; angry, sad or happy, though a lot of this skill is based on how well the brain can interpret facial expressions. Without empathy things would be 100 times more awkward than they already are and people would not survive past their teenage years(that was a joke). But, empathy exists on a psychic level as well, and can be considered mind reading to some extent, because the brain can pick up strong emotional signals emitting from others(neurons releasing electric signals that our brain can intercept and interpret).
Empathy can be inherited and developed, and can be developed via meditation and studying others emotions.
Empathy is a new age term that can almost be used interchangeably with sympathy except that empaths can feel others emotions to some extent, not just have the ability to feel bad, sad, or happy for others, this ability though is heightened.
'True' empaths(usually the ones that claim they are empaths), deviate from the normal emotional recognition that most people have, and develop a stronger connections to others emotions.
The traits these people exhibit include:
- Sympathy towards others, and their problems. Empaths love to help others and are very understanding, they can often place themselves 'in their shoes'. Sympathy isn't necessarily a side effect of Empathy, but because they can understand others emotion on an almost tangible level, they are especially sensitive to those who are upset, and often they need to make others feel better to make them feel better.
-Being uncomfortable around people who are overly emotional, especially people who are angry or sad(crying). Once again because they are sensitive to strong emotion, sadness and anger are very disconcerting, especially if you can do nothing about it. Empaths usually get upset around those who are sad or angry if they can't do anything. It isn't uncommon either that these same issue affect them even if it is someone on TV(Once again crying is the most disconcerting) but this is more sympathy based, since we can not interpret electrical signals from afar.
-Feeling what other people are feeling. Since you can pick up on emotion, it is also very easy(more like difficult to not)take another's emotion onto yourself. This is another reason being around an emotional person is difficult, because if you have no restraint you can often find yourself just as angry or upset as the other.
-Dislike of being in large crowds, especially if you?re at an event and people are emotionally high. This symptom is particularly nauseating and many empaths are diagnosed with social anxiety. On the other hand I have met a few empaths who get a high off of being around others, but this is more uncommon. Since being perceptive makes it easier to understand others, many empaths can end up being popular, but it goes the other way as well, and we can end up being introverted as well. Unlike what most people think, having enhanced empathy/sympathy is rather disconcerting and if uncontrolled or unprotected an empath can experience near constant nausea and headaches.
-Like of animals. Animals release the same chemicals and electric signals as we do(similar, but not the same, and depends on species as well). To some extent we can even sense the emotions of plants, and even though they don't have nervous systems like we do, they still feel, some at a higher level than we do. This is much more difficult to explain, so I?m not going to divulge this information.
-Vivid Dreamers, this one can be explained. Because empaths develop more connections(not grow, just use more) to deal with external stimuli in the same cortex's of the brain the deal with imagery(to remember facial expressions and emotion)'imagination' and recall that are incorporated in dreams. However you don?t have to be an developed empath to have vivid dreams, this information is purely speculative and is correlation not causation. I decided to include this because why not.
-Being over-emotional is different than empathy because the prefrontal cortex(the one dealing with emotions) in an emotional person is overdeveloped, and even though emotional-ness is usually triggered by other people, it's usually by external stimuli, not per say anothers actual emotions. Though empaths can be emotional if they have no control or that?s just their personality.
Basically empathy is a strong ability to sense and interpret the electrical signals and energy around you. What I described is just basic empathy, but someone can become more empathetic or increase the ease of sensing others emotions. I believe the whole ?package? of empathy is called clairsentience.
Empathy isn't is awesome and cool as a lot of people depict it to be, as slight enhancement it is rather useful for social encounters or comforting others, but anymore developed it can be a hindrance to normal life and by this definition a disorder. I highly suggest learning to control your empathy before galvanising off to make your empathy stronger. It is not a toy, but past normal levels, it is an infringement into others personal lives and should be treated and respected.
How to strengthen/ control your empathy.
+ Meditation, my go to answer. By meditating you can strengthen your senses. Focus on expanding your mind and moving the energy inside you. If there are other people in the room, focus on their energy, see if you can sense them and seem if you can feel shifts in their energy. Try turning this 'on' and 'off', or increasing and decreasing(which is more difficult). If you can control your own energy, you can begin to find a greater ease on controlling the strength of empathy. (Sorry this is vague, I'm assuming everyone knows how to meditate)
+ Go out in public. Focus on individuals, ask yourself how they are feeling, Why?, try to get a sense of their surroundings and place yourself in their shoes. The more you can shift your perspective and become 'them', the easier it gets to sense them from a distance or your own perspective. There are other methods as well, and it's best to try this and alter for what's best for you.
++ I only suggest doing the above AFTER you have learned how to control what you can already do, if you strengthen your 'empathy' without strengthening your control first, you are going to have a bad time!
+Shielding, empathy is not fun, if you have the unfortunate ability to be more advanced in this prospect then you need control. Being in a public place is absolute torture for some people and it is not ?cool? to feel like you?re being screamed at from all perspectives. Anyway you shield by meditating then visualising an barrier of light(whatever color you wish), think that nothing can penetrate it, or imagine it like a filter. Make sure to erect this barrier every morning and try adding layers or making more dense, and make sure to repair ?holes? that will appear over time. Focus especially on what the barriers purpose is and what you hope it to prevent. There are several methods and if you look around in the forums a bit there is an excellent article Lark contributed to.
Questions and comments are certainly welcome!