a unique looking woman, bald and naked with a cloth thrown over her shoulder hugging a large face sculpture referencing empathyI seem to be hearing the word empathy a lot these days, usually like this; “I’m very empathic so being with people is very hard for me.” “I can’t be around sick people.” Dare I say, it’s almost on trend? So, I am here to tell you that empathy is a gift, not a curse. For starters, let’s note the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy: I’m so sorry you are hurting

Empathy: I feel your pain! (literally)

Empathy is a wonderful quality to have. It is an ever-present reminder that we are all connected. It gives us amazing insight into another’s experience and gives us optimum circumstances to help somebody else.

Empathy, Understanding Your Gift

It may seem like a curse because we didn’t ask for this gift, we don’t want it and we have to WORK, (ick!) if we want to be happy with it. Why can’t we just be normal, like everyone else? Well, sweetheart, that is just an illusion. Where did we ever get the idea that there was a place called normal? There isn’t, though many cling to the fantasy.

So really, to say you can’t be around certain people because you are empathic is a lot like saying you can’t be around poor people because you’re rich! But I know, I know; what to do? If you’ve never been given any direction with this, you can feel very much like a leaf on the wind, being tossed thither and yon. It can be really awful.

May I suggest the very first step in being at peace with your empathic nature is to be thankful for it? Laugh in the face of confusion and say, Oh that’s my gift! Go out and play with it. Take mental notes. Get to know how to read what your gift is telling you. And on days when it really isn’t fun, (in fact is an overwhelming drag), learn how to protect yourself. Whenever you feel under the weight of your perceptions (that’s what it is), envision warm, white light creating a shield, right over your solar plexus. Nothing can penetrate that shield. Relax in the knowledge of that protection and focus on everything that is right and good in your world. You see, the more you attune yourself to that, the less room there is for the more uncomfortable pieces to land.

It’s just a little tip for those of you who are at loose ends with this thing called Empathy, a tip from one who was once crushed by the weight of her own perceptions and came out on top. Happy to help!


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  1. Enlightening post… I never considered that some might feel empathy to be a “burden”. That shield ‘tho, is a necessity.

  2. Empathy, now there is a deep subject. Seriously complex and you nailed it Nancy, a blessing and also a great challenge to master. I once saw an ad for a course that offered to teach me to be more empathic for $500.00. I thought to myself, I will give you $500.00 to teach me to be less empathic. It is true, I conduct my life taking on people and projects that I can handle. For me this means I avoid anything medical if at all possible. I am good at emotional pain and psycho/social issues. The way I handle empathy is to play to my strengths. I find that I can use attunement in any circumstance and all is well. Attunement training along with clinical detachment (learned in counseling classes) is very helpful to mitigate my own reactions. I will try using your heart shield technique, especially in those circumstances where we are blindsided. Thanks for this Nancy, what a timely topic.

  3. I have been empathic forever. It has taken some time to realize that some things I was experiencing were not my own but I was ‘picking up’ on some else’s pain or sometimes even their happiness. Staying centered and handling these perceptions gracefully, has been and still is a learning process of being aware. Protecting myself is also an essential piece. Thank you for sharing the insights in this article. Much love, Nadeja

  4. This is an important topic. For me , it brings up the practice of self-care. When we become aware of our perceptiveness; we become aware of the blessings it provides, as well as the liabilities. Finding ways to keep ourselves from” leaning in” too much and catching ourselves when we do. I try find a balance of physical and spiritual practices which helps to ease constriction, so I can stay grounded and centered. It is a fine dance. Thank you for bring this up.

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