A piece of news came to my attention a few days back, about how a small fruit vendor in Delhi was looted of around 30,000 Rupees worth of mangos. While he was trying to solve a conflict with some people, his cart was left unattended. Seeing this, customers took the opportunity of stealing the mangos by hiding them in their helmets and what not. When we see people that are well off stealing from the poor, especially in a time where savings are depleting and small farmers/vendors such as this man are struggling to make ends meet, one question stands out- Where is the humanity?
One of the elements that form the base for humanity is empathy. Generally, there is always a huge confusion between empathy and sympathy. You see, empathy is when you’re able to feel and understand the emotions of an individual as if they were your own. Sympathy, on the other hand, is more like feeling sorry (sympathetic) for the person that is going through a bad situation. For example, when you say you feel sorry for their loss, that is sympathy, not empathy.
Spot the Empath!
- An empath is highly sensitive. The sensitivity extends to himself/herself, as well as others. They are really good at picking up emotions of their own and others even through non-verbal cues.
- An empath makes others’ emotions their own. Since they are highly attuned to the emotions around them, they tend to fully immerse themselves into them. So, if you’re extremely happy, their happiness will match yours. But this holds the same for negative emotions as all, which can get extremely overwhelming.
- An empath needs alone time. Going back to the point of being overwhelmed, empaths prefer one to one contact and small groups many times. More the people, more the emotions. But this doesn’t mean that all empaths are introverted. Those that are extroverted, may choose to set a limit on how much they interact with others. They make sure to indulge in time alone, so that they can recharge their batteries.
- Empaths are a target for ‘energy vampires’. An ‘energy vampire’ is an individual that lies on the narcissistic end of the spectrum. A person who lacks empathy for others and is self-absorbed. Such people can drain the energy of the empath through toxic behaviour. Instead of give and take in the relationship, all there is, is take.
How can you stay balanced as an Empath?
As an empath, I understand how tough it is feeling everything all at once. It can be very overwhelming to say the very least. So much so that you may end up feeling paralysed. Here are a few ways you can keep your mental health intact!
- Set boundaries: Setting emotional and physical boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean cutting others off. Of course, if the individual is injecting you with toxicity, then it’s a good idea to distance yourself and surround yourself with people that uplift you instead. It’s okay to tell people that you’ll talk to them in a bit if you already feel over stimulated. You can always call them back once you’re recharged and stable. Also, you aren’t required to give your all to every single person, every single minute. You are allowed to use the word ‘no’ when needed.
- Schedule time for yourself: It doesn’t matter how busy your day is. You can take 5-10 minutes AT LEAST, to pause for a moment and be with yourself. Write or doodle in a journal (read our article on journaling to learn how to get started). Sit in your garden or lie down in a quiet space with your eyes closed, and BREATH. Recollect, and then press play.
- Strength, not weakness: Acknowledge that being an empath is a sign of strength. You are a strong human being for being able to deal with different kinds of emotions and feel so strongly about things. Think of it as your own personal super power. What do super heroes do? They save the world.
We live in a cruel, harsh world. If more people identified as empaths, imagine the progress humanity could make.
Until next time,
(M.A Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)