Most of us know what it is like to be sensitive to the emotions of those around us. We see someone being happy or sad, know what those emotions feel like, and this might evoke similar feelings within us. This is empathy, and often, it can drive us to reach out to that person and interact with them, whether to share in their happiness or to comfort them in their sorrow.
Some persons, however, display a much higher than normal sensitivity to the emotions of others. These persons are often referred to as intuitive empaths, and the gift of their ability to connect deeply with others is explored in this article. First is an overview of the theory behind empathy in humans and a look at the different ways in which we manifest an increased ability to empathize.
Lexico.com defines empathy as“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”Greater Good Magazine from the University of California, Berkley offers this definition of empathy: “The ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”
These definitions help pinpoint why empathy is regarded as a crucial factor in the evolution of humans as social beings. It is one of the basic elements of emotional intelligence – the awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others and how this awareness guides our social interactions.
Empathy allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and attempt to understand their perspective. It also helps to promote feelings of sympathy and acts of compassion towards others. As you will see, both sympathy and compassion are important ingredients in the makeup of the intuitive empath.
Psychologists have determined that there are different types of empathy. The most often highlighted ones are:
Explaining Empathy – The Theory Of Mirror Neurons
The development of empathy in humans can be seen in infants as young as four months old, with definite signs of the ability to empathize is evident by the time the child is eight months old. But where does the ability to empathize come from? Neuroscientists have found the answer to this question in specific cells in our brains called mirror neurons.
Simply put, mirror neurons are brain cells that are activated in the same way when we perform an action and when we see someone else perform the same action. They help us to not only identify what someone is doing but also to perceive the intention or purpose of the action.
The psychologist has also found the theory to be important when trying to understand conditions in which a person displays a deficit in empathizing (as in autism) and how extremely poor social interactions are a factor (as in antisocial personality disorder). The discovery of mirror neurons has also helped shed light on how we learn and develop speech.
Interestingly, empathy is not a uniquely human trait. It is present among many animal species, including other primates. In fact, mirror neurons were first discovered by neurophysiologists working with macaque monkeys. Other species in which displays of empathic behavior have been identified include dolphins, rats, cats, and dogs (as many pet owners will attest to). Also, just like humans, some animals can empathize with animals of different species.
Who Are Empaths?
Almost everyone possesses the ability to empathize at some level. However, it is estimated that between 15% and 20% of the population comprises highly sensitive persons (HSPs). They have an increased capacity for empathy, especially affective empathy. The traits associated with HSPs have been widely studied and repeatedly validated. Psychologist Elaine Aron, the author of The Highly Sensitive Person, points out that being an HSP is”normal” and that the high percentage of HSPs means the condition cannot be regarded as a disorder.
Empaths are a rare subgroup of HSPs. Some sources put the number of empaths at just 1% of the population. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff describes empaths (including herself) as “sponges,” with the ability to “absorb” both positive and negative emotions of those around them. The ability of the empath to perceive what others are feeling and connect with them often seems to defy logic. Words such as psychic, clairvoyant, paranormal, and spiritualistic are sometimes used to describe what the empath can do.
Many empaths naturally gravitate toward professions that involve nurturing, caring, and healing. They can be found in abundance in areas such as teaching, nursing, psychiatry, and psychology. There is also an increasing focus on helping all persons within these professions to learn and practice greater empathy.
It is worth noting that some studies suggest that women have evolved to be (typically) more empathic than males. This can help to explain why it appears there are more women than men who identify as empaths.
Types Of Empaths
All empaths do not possess the same abilities. That is, their hyper-sensitivity presents itself in different ways. Here are a few of the many different types of empaths.
The Emotional Empath
Emotional empaths are particularly sensitive to the emotions of those around them. They sense how others are feeling, and these feelings become their own. The emotional empath can detect emotions without the other person opening up to them or giving off any readily identifiable clues as to how they are feeling.
The Physical Or Medical Empath
Physical empaths go beyond sensing the ailments within others. They feel someone else’s pain as their own and may even take on the symptoms of another person’s illness within their own body. This can, understandably, pose a danger to physical empaths whose own medical condition may be exacerbated by the symptoms they detect in someone else.
The Geomantic Or Place Empath
Geomantic empaths feel deeply drawn to and connected with certain places or objects. They can feel the history a location holds, be it a landscape, graveyard, church, etc. It is not unusual for the geomantic empath to become overwhelmed by unexplained emotions when visiting some places. The emotions they experience within a particular environment tend to reflect important events that occurred there.
Fauna Or Animal Empath
Fauna empaths are uniquely attuned to the needs of animals. They enjoy being around and taking care of animals. Many fauna empaths prefer the company of animals to that of other humans. Similar to the fauna empaths, there are also flora or plant empaths who have a deep connection to plants. Both fauna and flora empaths can be described as the ultimate nature lovers. They thrive when surrounded by nature as if recharged by it.
The Intuitive Or Claircognizant Empath
While being intuitive is a trait all empaths share, the claircognizant empath is especially so. They are insightful and possess the instinctive ability to understand what another person is feeling or is going through. In connection with the intuitive empath, terms often used include mind-reader, telepathic, and clairsentience (perceiving what is not normally perceptible).
7 Traits Of The Intuitive Empath
1. They Are Great Listeners
The intuitive empath listens with understanding as someone shares their feelings or experiences with them. The other person tends to feel that the intuitive empath really “gets them” even when they have difficulty putting their emotions into words. This trait also allows the intuitive empath to offer good advice to those who reach out to them.
2. They Tend To Avoid Crowds
Empaths who are intuitive are frequently labeled as introverts because they often prefer to be by themselves. Distancing themselves at times helps empaths who are intuitive to avoid the sensory overload that can come from sensing other people’s emotions deeply.
3. They Can Easily Tell When Someone Is Lying
Empaths who are intuitive have an intense dislike for deception, and they can spot a liar even when they fool everyone else. This trait also helps them to reach out to someone who says they are fine but is secretly experiencing emotional turmoil on the inside.
4. They Have A Physical Reaction To Negative Emotions
It is not unusual for an intuitive empath to experience adverse physical symptoms after being exposed to intensely emotional situations. Bouts of headaches or fatigue are not uncommon for empaths who are intuitive after having absorbed the negative emotions of others.
5. They Seek Out The Truth And Positivity
The empaths intuitively understand that they can counter the undesirable effects of negativity by surrounding themselves with positive people and things. Their natural, forceful reaction to deception and negative emotions also makes them avid seekers of the truth.
6. They Help Promote Harmony
Helping others to get along is one of the intuitive empath’s special skills. Empaths who are intuitive will go out of their way to try to diffuse hostilities between other people. They help people disagree to see the other person’s side of the story and empathize with them.
7. They Experience Intense Sympathy And Compassion
Empaths who are intuitive display a high level of sympathy for the misfortunes other people face. Coupled with this is the almost undeniable urge to reach out and offer some assistance or support.
Challenges Associated With Being An Intuitive Empath
Because they make such a deep connection with others, empaths who are intuitive can feel anxious and drained by all the emotions they experience. This can lead to illicit drug use to recover from feelings of stress and being burnt out. Other coping strategies the intuitive empath might turn to include binge eating, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Another of the challenges faced by intuitive empaths is that they are as affected by virtual situations (such as movies and novels) as they are by real-world ones. This can make it difficult for empaths who are intuitive to watch television or even listen to the radio. News programs can also be particularly disturbing for empaths who are intuitive.
Empaths who are intuitive also have to endure being labeled as moody when, in fact, their mood swings are simply in reaction to the emotions of those around them. Being so perceptive makes it a challenge for the intuitive empath to be in public spaces. Over time, they can learn to control this and can function normally in crowded spaces.
Rewards Of Being An Intuitive Empath
Despite the challenges they face, empaths who are intuitive can come to appreciate the gift of their exceptional abilities. One clear advantage for many intuitive empaths is that they are naturally drawn to meaningful careers to put their unique skills to use in helping others. They get what many other persons search for their entire professional lives- true joy and fulfillment in their chosen career path.
Here are some other benefits of being an intuitive empath.
The intuitive empath doesn’t mind being alone with their thoughts. They relish it at times. When they disconnect from everything around them, this downtime revitalizes the intuitive empath and can help prevent emotional fatigue.
Knowing that they are making a positive impact on the lives of others helps empaths who are intuitive to welcome each new day. They tend to throw themselves wholeheartedly into whatever they are doing and enjoy doing good for others thoroughly.
Empaths who are intuitive are often seen as trustworthy even by persons who have just met them. This makes it easy for others to open up to them and elicit the truth from others.
Empaths who are intuitive are great team leaders and team builders. People around intuitive empaths tend to trust their judgment and sense fairness about them. As a result, they are more willing to accept suggestions and decisions by the intuitive empath.
Because they are driven to help others, intuitive empaths develop the knack of finding a way to do it regardless of the obstacles. This is strengthened by their natural positivity and enthusiasm for life.
The heightened sensitivity that comes with being an empath can be overwhelming for many people. More so, those unaware that what they are experiencing are an actual, recognized condition and a wonderful gift. If you need help exploring your empathic abilities, you can visit https://www.regain.us/start/ and connect with a trained professional to guide you. Even if you feel you are not an empath, there is still much to be gained by learning how to improve your ability to empathize with others.
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“Sarah has been comforting to me through a very difficult transition . She has helped me to regain confidence and listen to my intuition. She is a great listener and has encouraged me to rediscover and use my voice.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you know if you are an intuitive empath?
An intuitive empath will embody specific traits that seem natural to them but are less common to other people.
Though empaths don’t always feel intuitive, the traits of an intuitive person combined with the traits of an empathetic person can be highly desirable. Empathy and intuition combined will make for a person who is very aware of the emotional state of those around them and a sense of how to handle the situation.
If you think you possess a combination of these traits (i.e., you are aware of others around you, how they feel, and how their emotions may be influencing their speech/behavior), you may be an intuitive empath. If you feel called to helping others, especially with emotional topics, you may be an empath (someone highly sensitive to the needs of others).
Because intuitive people will have a keen understanding of what to do, intuitive empathy explains the ability to help guide others in a considerate way. If people frequently come to you for advice, vent, or ask for help, it might be another sign that you’re an intuitive empath.
There are different types of empaths and ways in which empaths love or harness their abilities. For example, some medical professionals, teachers, counselors, and coaches can often embody traits of empathy and intuition. If you resonate with these characteristics, you might be an intuitive empath.
Is being an intuitive empath genetic?
Recent studies have found that “10% of the variation in empathy between people is due to genes”. While genetics do not account for all traces of empathy and are unnecessary for a person to be considered empathetic, some degree of this behavioral tendency may be bone-deep.
Empath traits can be passed down just like any other trait, whether by nature or nurture. Empathy and intuition, while often innate, can also be taught (if the person is willing to learn).
Though being highly intuitive is more challenging to learn and maybe more difficult to feel, any person can potentially learn what sort of questions to ask, what kind of behavior to display, and what type of reactions to questioning when getting more in touch with their intuition.
If you want to be highly intuitive, practicing the traits of an intuitive person might help you get one step closer to being like intuitive people. Similarly, practicing the traits of an empath can get you one step closer to intuitive empathy.
Are empaths born or made?
Whether or not empaths are born, made, or combining the two isn’t totally clear, but various factors likely play into shaping someone into an empath.
There may be a difference between empaths based upon how organic their feelings of empathy are. Empathetic behaviors can certainly be learned over time. Whether you’re the type of empath who is born an empath or not, understanding your feelings is step one of an empath’s survival guide life.
Natural empaths often struggle to take on other people’s problems over their own and get caught up in people-pleasing or overloading their emotional quota. An intuitive empath will do the same, but with the additional desire to problem solve.
Empaths don’t often like to turn away from others who are going through tough times. Empaths experience these feelings frequently, which can often be overwhelming.
The type of empath who learns empathy will likely need more assistance with practicing patience and understanding to possess the traits of empathy and intuition. Though some can be born with the strappings of an intuitive empath, nurturing those skillsets is essential.
Are empath's brains different?
Empaths love in different ways. Empaths feel similar things but might express their empath traits differently.
For example, one empath might show they care with the love language of quality time. Another empath might display their affection with the love language of acts of service.
Intuitive people will usually consider the thoughts and feelings of another person, and a person with both empathy and intuition will then think of ways to make it better based on what the other person needs. We even see this scientifically.
Empaths often feel the person they are speaking to, watching, listening to, or interacting with. Empaths experience the sensation of the other person’s feelings as though they were their own.
That’s why an empath, highly sensitive or otherwise, can sometimes feel drained or exhausted from caring too much. For that reason, an intuitive empath, or a person who resonates with empathy and intuition, might benefit from understanding that they actually do process information and feel differently from others. Empaths don’t always notice the difference, making it difficult to understand why others don’t care enough.
How do I protect myself as an empath?
As an intuitive empath, you might be wondering how to protect yourself. Any empath’s survival guide life hacks will likely suggest that you distance yourself from others when necessary.
While empathy and intuition are wonderful traits to possess, empaths often feel the need to help their neighbor before helping themselves. Depending on the type of empath you are, you might struggle more with anxiety or the desire to be introverted when managing your empath traits.
Intuitive people often know when they need to take a break from others, but empathetic people might struggle to pull away. Therefore, an intuitive empath will need to decide how to manage their alone time to feel like their personal needs are met before trying to aid others.
A highly intuitive person might assume that they do not need help from a professional counselor. Still, sometimes, intuitive people need to assess the situation from another perspective for self-assurance.
If you consider yourself an intuitive empath and need help setting boundaries with others for your own mental health, consider speaking with a professional counselor - no one deserves to fight alone.