Wednesday, November 29, 2017

[Guest Article] Laura: What is an Empath?

A note from Witchy Words:  At the beginning of the year, I asked the circle I coordinate, Circle of Fountains, if they'd each like to do a guest article based on a topic that I might not be able to cover.  This is a great effort by my amazing circle to give you information that you might not otherwise encounter here at Witchy Words.  The following article is written not by me but another member of Circle of Fountains, with credit and notes about its author below.  Enjoy!


The world is full of energy, from the ground we walk on to the air we breathe. Individuals add energy to our world through emotions. This energy can send off signals and some people can receive them. Individuals may feel these energies stronger than others do to the point that it can affect and interfere with their daily lives. We call these individuals empaths.

In the dictionary, empath is defined as a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual. Paranormal?  Maybe.  But the ability to sense and be heavily affected by others' emotions is very real.  Unfortunately, the dictionary definition doesn't go far enough.  Being an Empath is not that same from one individual to the next, so it makes quantifying the definition understandably difficult.  

First, I would like to talk about my personal experiences.

I was diagnosed with ADHD since I was 3 years old. While having the energy of a 12 year old can be useful at my age, it affects my ability to comprehend material as well. I prefer to be in small group activities because I can focus better than in larger groups. I still go to concerts, grocery stores in the middle of the day, school assemblies, etc. I may not like them but I do participate in them from time to time.  

While ADHD explained some of my difficulties, it definitely didn't explain all of them.  I found out that I was an empath in college and the pieces of the puzzle that is my life suddenly made sense. I often had unexplained feelings and sometimes over-exaggerated my behavior when relating to others. The empathic experience is different from one empath to the next.  Some people see colors of other emotions while others hear the words of others emotions. I do not personally experience either. I have feelings of others emotions. In close proximity, I can manifest those feelings as my own feelings. 

My ADHD and my status as an empath go hand-in-hand.  Sometimes, I have difficulty separating others' emotions from my own.  I begin to believe they're really my own feelings. Best way to describe it is a freeway. As someone gets on to my highway, the speed is constant and fast. They may stay there for a long period of time or they may leave as quickly as they came. Then the feeling can linger on my highway and mask it as my own emotion. Because I have a hard time comprehending what goes through my brain, the more unfamiliar individuals I have on my emotional highway, the more chaotic emotions I experience and the more I act out in ways that have nothing to do with my true emotional state.

I live in state most of the time. My medication sometimes helps to stop the lingering individual's emotions. The best way for me to shut off the highway and close it off from other individuals is preparation.  One way is preparing a "second highway" through meditation. Often, when I channel someone else's emotions as my own, that emotion has attached itself to an old memory.  By creating a second highway that isn't linked to my emotions or memories, it can keep other individual's emotions from "sticking" to those memories.  Other than that, I try to surround myself with people that I am comfortable with. These people help stop the emotions from entering into my brain at all. It is a road block that we build together to keep my head clear.

While it seems negative and difficult, being an empath is also a positive and rewarding experience. When I do tarot readings or oracle readings for others, I can read their energy along with the cards. Even if it steers away from the question at hand, I often give accurate and in-depth readings. I connect with individuals on a level that others often wish to connect, even if I don't know them very well.  As a paraprofessional, my emotional connection helps children open up to me. Being an empath helps me with my job to my personal life. I would not want to be any other way.

Now that you understand how being an empath affects my life, here are some statements from others in my circle who are also empaths:

"I hear emotions as sounds.  It primarily manifests as music, but sometimes it also comes across as noises. Happiness is light flute like music with a jaunty beat. Discord sounds...well, like discord, a cacophony. Each individual has their own sounds as well. I can recognize my friends and loved ones by their noises. Crowds often feel like I have walked in on a band or orchestra trying to tune their instruments before a performance.  Some strains of wonderful music and the rest is screeches and clangs.  The problem with processing others' emotions is the same no matter how you perceive them. You have to learn how to filter out what is coming from outside."

"My empathic tendencies are relatively minor but what I do have tends to be tactile. I have to touch you to know stuff. It was pretty useful as a message therapist. I'd be working on a client when suddenly, say, my neck would pop, and I could make a mental note to allot a little extra time for their neck."

"It took me a long time to identify as an empath because I feel like the majority of the pagan community identifies (or wants to identify) as one.  I also struggled with the identity because empaths were supposed to be all love and concern and caring.  Simply put, I'm not.  As an empath, I'm much more like Laura.  I pick up other's emotions and personality traits and mistakenly claim them as my own.  I'll start unintentionally mimicking someone's habits or start thinking more like a person I'm around, even if I don't know them very well.  In the past, I've had a hard time separating my own personality from others, a problem which made me particularly susceptible to abuse and gaslighting.  As a more mature adult, I have been able to shield myself more from these difficulties, though it also makes it much more difficult to get past my walls.  If I let you in, I'm taking a big risk that goes far beyond trust.  And this is why some empaths can seem cold and off-putting."

As you can see, being empathic can vary greatly from one person to the next.  In the comments below, let me know how being an empath affects your life!


Laura follows the Northern Traditionalist Pagan path and is one of the primary members of Circle of Fountains. As the archivist, she maintains a ritual book for all CF esbats and sabbats. During the day, she works as an Activity Director for an assisted living facility. She also cosplays, works at the KC Renaissance Festival and loves children.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Years ago, I would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night thinking of a friend. Within minutes she would call. Stressed by dome thing in her rocky relationship. After she started dating her now husband she called one day and I immediately knew she was pregnant. Funny thing, now that she is happily married to him it no longer happens!