The ‘highly sensitive’ is an actual category of human being. I know – I’m one of them.
Elaine S. Aron wrote a book about this type called, not shockingly, The Highly Sensitive Person. Certain highly sensitive people are also considered empaths. And no, for you non-believers, I am not mistakenly using the word empath for empahy (I get asked that a lot). The words are similar but not identical in meaning.
Dictionary.com defines empathy as: the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
But when you use your keyboard to type the word empath into Dictionary.com’s little blue box, it asks, beneath the blue box (almost in a scolding manner or at the very least as though you’ve made a mistake) –
Did you mean empathy?
Uh, no – I meant what I wrote – EMPATH.
On the other hand, if you type the word empath into Google’s search bar, you have options populating straight down the page.
The first one listed states:
‘Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions.’
Sounds terrible, right?
In an article in – elephant journal, it’s about the mindful life – titled: Traits of an Empath, Alex Myles writes:
‘The most striking thing for me about being an empath is the way I feel the physical, mental and emotional pain of others as though it were my own. This can be and has been emotionally and physically crippling and it has caused me to suffer tremendously. It is often described as being similar to a sponge, absorbing every emotion and piece of energy around me, and then becoming weighted down by it.
Learning about the empath personality type helped me greatly, as not only do I now understand myself better, I have also learned how to protect myself and not allow outside toxic energies, emotions or behaviors to affect me negatively.’
Bing! A way to protect ourselves in whatever situations we find ourselves sensitive in and reactive to. Good self-care advice for many.
I have been told, more than once and on good authority, that I react like an empath. In fact, one of the people who told me this, is listed fourth on that very same Google search mentioned above. Being an empath, if we take on faith that I am one, is remarkable and confusing, a bit like the rises and troughs of roller coaster riding. People laugh and scream, wave their hands wildly in the wind and white knuckle the safety bar that keeps them living. The ride is unpredictable and out of their control.
The question for empaths is – since this ability (skill, trait?) is not cognitive or instinctive – how does one involve oneself with the people of the world and stay protected from them at the same time? With no steps to retrace and no thoughts to reconcile, it becomes a tough nut to crack. But life is meant to be lived, sometimes with a gingerly tip-toe, sometimes with great bounding leaps. No matter the path, it remains ours to traverse, with its warts, consequences and mistakes, and its blossoms, bonuses and successes. Life continually manages to find a way to surprise us.