Karen Casey Coaching

The Empath Advantage

Who and what is an empath?

A word heard more frequently in conversations is empath. So, what does it mean? An empath is an individual who feels more empathy than an average human. They are adults and children who are exceptionally sensitive to the emotions and frame of mind of nearby individuals. Psychologists have categories for different types of empaths, but overall, it is an individual who feels deeply and one who seems to have a keen ability to sense what people around them are thinking and feeling.

I am an empath. When I read about empaths, many things flood my mind as we tend to be the ones who love hard and experience deep feelings of connection. I remember “taking the temperature” of a room when I was a child. I was keenly aware if my dad was upset or my mom felt discouraged. I remember observing adults and could feel if the setting was friendly and warm or tense. I had no language for it as a child. I now know that I was born with strong empathetic feelings and sometimes it led me into making myself “the fixer”. That is for another story.

When I was in the 3rd grade, there was a girl who was called to the office and when she returned to class, she was sobbing. No one said anything as she gathered her things to go home. I remember being distracted for days wondering what had happened. When she returned, she told us that her grandmother had died, and I felt her sadness. Really felt her sadness almost as though I had been the one who experienced the death! An older friend in my church family once called me “an old soul” when I was in middle school. I did not know what she meant by it. I better understand that now.

An advantage (or disadvantage?)

There are many positive traits of being an empath. They tend to be highly intuitive and emotionally intelligent. As a result of those emotional gifts, they can read the room, be very aware of their own emotions, and pick up on the energy or vibe of others. Most empaths have a huge, I mean a HUGE heart for people and love to be of service. Empathy allows us to connect with others by sharing their emotions and feeling. Sensing when someone needs help has its advantages. The underside to that is one may struggle with healthy boundaries, become a worrier, and take on emotional burdens that are not theirs to carry. Dr. Judith Orloff is a pioneer in the field of studying empaths. In her book, “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People”, she describes empaths as those who absorb the world’s joys and stresses like “emotional sponges.” She suggests that empaths can lack filters that protect themselves from excessive stimulation, and be extra sensitive to sounds and other stimuli.

Parenting an empathic child

While sometimes it is a case where “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, many times parents of an empath are confused (sometimes annoyed) by the sensitivity of their child as they do not experience the world in the same way. Learning how to engage with your empathic child means paying attention to what works with their personality. Modeling good listening skills by taking the time to talk with your child is an investment with big returns. We all know that being an effective listener does not come naturally to most of us. Our hurry-up lives and schedules many times drive our parenting and much of what we want to do doesn’t happen. Listening to all of our children will have to be an intentional habit to work on.

“You’re too sensitive”, “Don’t be mad”, and “You are so dramatic” are words that plant the seed in an empath that something is wrong with them. Making these statements are more about the discomfort of the parent. Telling a child not to feel the way they do does not help them. It only serves to compound the anger, hurt, or other emotion and ultimately your child is alone in their thoughts. Using “I” statements such as “You are hurt. I get it. I would feel hurt too if I had experienced (fill in the blank).” Feeling understood empowers all of us. The habit of telling a child how to feel creates mistrust in the child of themselves and leads to anxiety and second-guessing their intuition. Work hard to break the habit of telling your child how they “should” feel or how you interpret their feelings. It will add to the willingness that your tween or teenager will have to share their lives with you.

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