Q: I got a reading from a lady who told me I was an empath because I always try to help out people and sometimes get sucked in by people who take advantage of me because I feel sorry for them even when I should know better. She said I have cords tied to them because of being so empathetic and that I forgive too easy and can’t let go. This doesn’t sound like what I’ve heard an empath is, but she told two of my other friends they were empaths too but for different reasons. Does this make sense? Am I an empath and could that be why I’ve had such a bad time with relationships and friendships?
A: I’m going to split hairs here for a moment and quite possibly upset some people. Some of this is semantics and should be taken in context, but I think it’s an important distinction to make.
Others may have their own definitions. I, myself, define “empathic” and “empathetic” differently based on my own personal experiences. Empathic, i.e. the state of being an empath, is, by definition, feeling another’s emotions and emotional energy AS IF IT WERE YOUR OWN. Not simply feeling or sensing that someone is angry, sad, etc., but feeling the emotion as if it were you yourself feeling that way. You may not always even know where the emotion is coming from and it takes practice and work to learn to step back, identify the feeling, determine whether it’s actually yours or not and if it’s not then let it go. Empathetic is a personality trait or state that is feeling for or deeply understanding how another is feeling. You don’t actually FEEL their emotions, but you do feel for them. It might move you, and pull you to want to help them, but it is NOT actually feeling/manifesting their emotions as if they were your own. It’s like sympathy but on a much deeper level.
One doesn’t necessarily equate to the other. Being an empath doesn’t automatically make you empathetic or sympathetic to someone or their feelings. In fact, skilled empaths are not always the supposed “bleeding-heart sympathetic” people that some “experts” and social media memes claim because there is a level of self-preservation and even sometimes resentment that comes with being an empath. You can’t always feel sorry for or get too involved in someone’s situation because the feelings can be overwhelming. Empaths may pull back, keep distant, and can’t always tell where their feelings end and another’s begin so they may come across as cold or aloof. They may put up walls to try and protect themselves. They may feel their gift is more of a curse, and avoid people. Or they might delight in it and use it to help others. On the darker side of the coin, they may use their gifts to pry into other people or take advantage of them. Being or not being an empath is never an excuse for poor behavior–everyone must take responsibility for their own actions. Being empathetic and sympathetic does not necessarily make one an empath, either. There may be a fine line sometimes, but the defining key is that you not only can sense the emotion of another person but are actually manifesting said state within your own self.
As to whether you are an empath or not, that’s not something another person can just decide or determine for you. Especially not after just one reading, and unfortunately there isn’t really anything in your letter that could tell me either way. It requires quite a bit of self-analyzing and soul-searching. The definitions I’ve explained should help get you started in figuring that out. Could it be the reason you’ve had a questionable relationship and friendship history? It may possibly be a factor, sure. However, I wouldn’t blame it all on that. As I said, we all have to take responsibility for our actions and choices in life, empath or not.
If you end up determining that you do have empathic abilities, I would recommend working on those skills to grow your gift. You may not always be able to control it, but it will help you with identifying and processing what you pick up from others. You can also work on turning it down inside (like lowering the volume), focusing or anchoring to someone else (like when in a crowd), or ignoring it like you would ignore a child’s tantrum (it’s still there but you choose not to act on it). I don’t believe you can truly block it, but I think people can convince themselves that they are, or that they “control” it. But that tends to make it worse and burns people out or eats them alive. Think of being an empath as a sponge: a sponge doesn’t control or decide what it will or won’t absorb. It simply does. Same with empaths. The trick that takes work is not becoming saturated. You have to learn to identify and then “wring yourself out” to release and not hold on to others’ emotions and not let them take influence in your own life and actions. So working at it would be the best route, in my opinion.
“Empath” has become somewhat of a buzzword term that seems to be tossed around more and more, but it is NOT as common as many would make it out to be. Another thing to consider is that empaths are not always at the same “level” with everyone around them. Some people you may have a deep connection to and will tap into their emotional state even miles and miles away; others you may only develop a surface-level connection to or only pick up on emotional extremes. Some people may even feel like you’ve hit an empathic wall. None of these scenarios are a reflection of your skills as an empath or lack thereof. It is simply living on a planet with other sentient, autonomous beings, and the variables that come with that. Beware of any anyone who claims to be 100% connected to everyone at all times or who decides that a bunch of strangers are “empaths” after one meeting or reading.