The term “empath” is one of those buzzwords casually tossed around to describe someone with a higher-than-normal amount of empathy. In fact, an empath is generally used to describe a person that seemingly doesn’t have the filters most people do; those that absorb others’ stress and feelings into their bodies, like a metaphorical emotional sponge.
However, in my time as both an experienced registered nurse and holistic healing professional, I can assure you that there’s actually no such thing as an empath.
While we are all empathic to some degree, empath is more of a ready-made label that some people use to convince others into thinking they are psychically gifted more than others, wiser than they really are, that their opinions are more accurate, or that they should be entitled to special treatment so as not to bruise their hypersensitive views.
According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
In truth, our emotions are the result of a fully developed emotional body, one of which is emphatic abilities. In a nutshell, it’s the ability to feel the emotions of others. It’s also the awareness that our emotions impact other people’s feelings. As humans, we have a responsibility to manage our emotions effectively and to learn which emotions we feel belong to us and which ones belong to others.
We also need to know how to respond appropriately in certain scenarios, without taking in other people’s emotional baggage (or allowing them to project their baggage) onto us. Even more importantly, not to project our baggage onto others. After all, emotions can be incredibly overwhelming and draining.
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How the Subtle Bodies Relate to Empathy
Western medicine is now coming to embrace what Eastern medicine has known about and worked with for thousands of years: the part of us commonly referred to as energy. Some of our “energetic” aspects are known as the subtle bodies, aura, meridians, and chakras. Life energy continuously flows through the framework of these channels and structures to nourish and maintain all facets of our being.
The subtle bodies manifest the layers of the aura, which vibrate at different frequencies and serve different functions. The layers of the aura can’t be seen with the physical eyes but can be felt and seen with guided practice. These layers expand and contract and are comprised of a dynamic system that is ever-changing in response to your life’s circumstances.
Like our physical bodies, if our subtle bodies become injured and damaged, it manifests in our lives as injury, illness, disease and life issues. All of our nonphysical components are as vital to our existence as our heart, lungs and blood supply. Together, these components with our physical body and our spiritual consciousness, make up our multi-dimensional human form. Health, wellness, and happiness come when all of our subtle bodies are functioning at their highest capacity in harmony with our spirit.
During everyday challenges, any one (or more) of these systems can become blocked or depleted. The traumas to our energy bodies affect our physical body, and these injuries can manifest themselves as symptoms like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain or illness.
Our subtle bodies are composed of energy that integrates and layer around us, and each of our bodies has an intelligence of its own. The outermost subtle body is known as the emotional body. As real and as vital as our physical anatomy, this part of our being is where every emotion is created, experienced, expressed or suppressed. Maintenance and nourishment of this body are critical to our emotional development and stamina. An emotional body with structural integrity and proper nourishment provide us with the ability to sort through our feelings, make clearer decisions and better manage our relationships.
One sign of a healthy, well-developed emotional body is the ability to feel the emotions of others, including empathy.
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In Truth, We Are All Empathic
The majority of us all have some degree of empathy–some more than others.
It’s important to realize that to be empathic is not necessarily sharing in someone else’s feelings; instead, it is more about generating matching feelings in yourself. In other words, it’s an exclusively subjective experience, both generated and contained within yourself.
Unless the other person has crossed the boundary of projecting their emotions onto us. When this happens, we’ve energetically accepted these emotions as our own which can become highly troublesome. Energetically speaking, we’ve taken on their emotional issues which not only upsets us but is also one cause of creating unnecessary karma.
The stronger the emotion, the more damaging it can be. Highly charged emotions such as anger, rage, jealousy or grief actually burn our emotional body. These burns create karma, injuries, illnesses, and troublesome life issues.
I believe that having and using our empathic abilities is an essential part of the human experience–and we have a responsibility to develop and use these abilities with integrity.
Here are some signs that you may already have empathetic abilities (and may not even realize it):
- You feel what others are feeling around you.
- During a time of grief, such as a death, you feel the grief others are experiencing.
- In the workplace, you feel your boss is angry or disappointed.
- If you are a parent, you feel the pain your child may be experiencing.
- If your partner comes home from work after a hard day, you feel the anxiety, depression or frustration they feel.
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Taking a Look at the Big Picture
With all that is going on around us, it can be very overwhelming and difficult to distinguish which emotions belong to us and which do not. Dealing with powerful emotions, whether they belong to us or others, can be beyond draining, and even worse, lead to significant burnout, anxiety, depression and other emotional and physical ailments.
The good news is that we are living in a transformative time in human history; one where we have an incredible opportunity to rise in consciousness. Each one of us is experiencing a rise in consciousness, and with this increase comes higher sensitivity. As such, I believe that our ability to feel what others are feeling will continue to rise.
Ultimately, our health and well-being depend on our ability to keep our energy field clear and learn to work with our emotions in everyday life. A clean, clear and mature emotional body provides what we need to handle whatever obstacle we may face in life.
Are you interested in learning more about empathy, the subtle bodies and how they work?
For starters, I suggest working with an energy medicine practitioner skilled at clearing the emotions of others from your aura, chakras, and energy field. I also encourage you to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to learn more about a comprehensive energy clearing.