Empathy and empathic ability are sometimes horrifying similar. There are, however, some key differences to be aware of. Without drawing the often fine line between the two, it can be very difficult to separate external psychic energies from our own.
Who says empathy and empathic ability has to be separate things? Well, to be clear, if we look at claims about the original definition of empathy~ it's not different. Empathy originally was a term to communicate projecting emotions onto something or someone, which is pretty much the opposite of how we use it today. However, following the 'living language' principle (the evolution of definitions within a culture over time), let's accept the original concept split into these two similar words: empathy and empath.
What Is Empathy?
The word is used pretty widely today, in politics, business, psychology, and everyday life. The world seems obsessed with empathy, and rightly so- it's an important element of society to empathize or to be empathetic. Humanity is connected directly through the threads of empathy in very measurable ways.
As Judith Orloff, M.D. explains on Psychology Today, there is a science behind the phenomenon of empathy we can observe and analyze in very real terms. But what is empathy exactly? Without all the scientific jargon, what does it mean to be empathetic?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to emotionally understand the feelings of another. This is often difficult without a direct personal experience that seems similar to pull from, and can take great skill to develop. However, most people are capable of cultivating the empathetic skill to some degree.
What Is An Empath?
This is where the terms get confusing. Many people associate an empath with one that has highly developed empathy. And that's not necessarily wrong, but an incomplete understanding of what it means to be empathic.
If you are empathic, you likely didn't develop this skill on purpose. For whatever reason, an empath, or having empathic abilities, actually accepts the psychic emotions of others as their own. This distinction is confusing, because in many respects it seems exactly the same.
To be empathetic is to reach inside yourself for a feeling that mirrors feelings another is expressing. With typical empathy, there is still a line between you and the person you are empathizing. You know the feelings are shared, and can disconnect from them knowing they were inspired by another.
To be empathic is to often confuse your feelings with those of others, not simply understanding and sharing them. The other person may not be directly expressing these feelings at all, but have unknowingly projected them psychically. Their emotions are so strong, they are emitted into the air, or in their aura, and are absorbed by the empath. In many cases, the empath doesn't even realize the feelings they have don't truly belong to them.
Developing empathy is a necessary skill, and is a courageous choice one can make to better connect with fellow humans around the world. Make no mistake, empathy is not inferior to empathic ability at all. In fact, one could say it is better- since it is a still that can be turned on and off when needed.
Life for an empath can be incredibly chaotic, bombarded by stray emotions lingering around them. It's common for them to suffer from social anxiety, or anxiety in general, from exposure to the unchecked emotions of others. Learning to limit exposure, or how to "turn off" this emotional sponge-like ability can be a lifelong battle.
Take care in learning empathy, too, as that skill can sometimes unlock empathic tendencies that were dormant. It's rare for empaths to develop a coping technique at all, but when they do it usually involves complete shutdown of empathy. Re-opening those pathways can remove the dam and cause a flood of unwanted emotions to suddenly overwhelm them.
Meditating can be a useful tactic for both developing empathy and sorting through the ocean of emotion to separate yours from those you've accidentally absorbed. Creating a habit of meditating for a few minutes every day during calm moments can help everyone center and organize their emotions. This makes them more accessible to use when empathy is needed or when empathic anxiety strikes hard.
Take some time today to check your inner mind and de-clutter your psychic space, whether you're empathic or empathetic. Feel free to share any insights below!
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