June 26, 2013

Sensitive versus Empathic

All empaths are highly sensitive, but not all highly sensitive people are empathic.  This is a topic that came up during the Quantum Sphere Healing class that I taught in Los Alamos a few weeks ago.  According to Elaine Aron, author of “The Highly Sensitive Person”, about 15 to 20% of people fall into the highly sensitive category.  If you would like to find out if you are highly sensitive, you can take an on line quiz at http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm.  If you do fall into this category, it would be worth your while to get her book. 

I didn’t realize that I was highly sensitive until I ran across this information shortly before I got divorced in 2000.  I was so relieved to find out why life had been such a struggle for me.  It seemed like I was constantly fighting to keep my head above water emotionally and energetically.  Looking back, I would describe my childhood as being very stressful and repressed.  There was always lots of drama in the house hold between my parents.  My mother was also  determined to mold me into her idea of the ideal child, so the pressure was always on in that regard.

A highly sensitive person is much more tuned in to their surroundings than a non sensitive would be.  This includes seeing more details, noticing nuances of events, feeling emotional currents, observing people’s reactions or even appreciating the finer points of art and music.  I find that this is why I am good at bird watching and botany.  I also pick up much more information on a client during a healing session than most other healers would. 

The down side is that we trend to get over stimulated and overwhelmed by externals such as loud music, crowds, emotional drama, and group events such as parties or meetings.  It wasn’t until I was a single adult that I learned to give myself permission to skip events that I knew would be too much for me, or, if I did go, I would quite often leave early.  This was not something that was possible in childhood or while attending an activity with my husband. 

I have worked with several clients in my practice who consider themselves to be empathic.  This seems to be an inherited trait.  Empathic individuals are always highly sensitive, as they notice and feel almost everything that is happening around them.  The big difference is that instead of just noticing what is going on, they also take in or “taste” the energy of the person or situation.  Unfortunately, at least for the people I have worked with, they are then stuck with the energy that they have merged with.  If that energy feels bad, heavy or scary, the empath reacts by blaming the other, projecting and pointing the finger.  The “other” is labeled as dark, destructive or harmful to the empath.  The end result can be big issues around socialization and intimate relationships.  Their health can suffer, and many start to live a hermit like life style as a way of protecting themselves. 
If anything, the highly sensitive person tends to fall into self blame when life doesn’t go well because of the reaction to over stimulation. They can also force themselves into situations that do not support their sensitivities because of job, social, family and relationship pressures. 

The tendency for the empath to ingest energy to know it never goes away.  The key is for that person to firm up their boundaries, stay grounded so that they can dump any energy that they have taken in that is not theirs, and know themselves well enough to be able to tell what is theirs and what is the other’s. Being proactive about the energies that they engage with is helpful, too. 

In both cases of the empath and the highly sensitive, knowing themselves intimately is the key.  For the highly sensitive, know your limits and have enough inner self support to stick with a plan that is the best for your sensitive nature.  For the empaths, know that you have a tendency to merge with the energy of another and know yourself well enough to be able to determine what energy is yours and what is theirs.   

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