Empaths, Healing and Mindfulness


Are Some People Really Healers?

By: John D. Moore, PhD

Recently, the topic of empaths came up in the context of mindfulness with several colleagues of mine. The discussion all started when a fellow counselor shared she had started to take meditation classes as a way of working through personal stress.

During our light conversation, she shared that at times she needs to be alone and away from other people, which causes her to close herself off from the world and essentially “chill”. I can certainly understand this as most folks in the helping professions experience a good deal of cumulative stress as part of the work they do.

In truth, most counselors, teachers, police officers and nurses who are involved in the business of assisting, protecting and healing others can become profoundly drained, burned out and even depressed, which is often linked to the concept of vicarious trauma.

Empaths and healing

At some point during our chat, my friend shared that she commonly feels overwhelmed when she is around other people in public places because she can “pick up” their emotions and even feel their pain. She also went on to share that for whatever reason, she is unusually drawn to people who are in emotional and psychological distress. She even said that her empathic abilities allow her to sense the feelings of animals, such as dogs and cats. When I asked her how long these things have been going on, she shared they have been happening for as long as she can remember.

As are conversation continued, she shared that many people who are empaths gravitate towards certain professions, such as counseling, nursing, holistic medicine and even Rikki. All of this was quite fascinating to me.

Empaths among us

I started to do a little research on the topic of empaths and counseling and learned many different things. Perhaps the most important of the items I discovered is that empaths do seem to exist. No, perhaps not in the way we see them on television shows like True Blood or Supernatural. Instead, their gifts are much less pronounced.

An example might be found in a blind person who has learned to strengthen other senses as a way of compensating for their loss of vision. If you have ever been around someone who is totally blind, you quickly realize that the person is able to “sense” things going on around their proximity, including the person they are spending time with.

I personally have been asked by several blind people I know questions that relate to things they have no earthly way of knowing about. Was it a lucky guess or are they empaths?

Empath Self-Assessment

For chips and giggles, I am going to pass along an empath quiz that is designed to let you gauge your empathic abilities. Keep in mind that being empathic and being empathetic are two entirely different constructs. Empathic people sense the emotions of others. Empathetic folks are ones who can understand another person’s feelings and even step into those feelings. While similar, they are not exactly the same.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you think some people are empaths? Do you consider yourself to be an empath? What role does mindfulness play, if any, with strengthening empathic skills?

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  1. I first read about the empath in 2011 and I cried because I had never known that what I ‘suffered’ from had a name. Particularly when I read that most empaths smell and taste stronger than average. I am a supertaster, and my mom used to say that I was always the first one in the family to smell it when the gas had blown out! (She cooked on gas.)

    For a few decades I’d been saying that I was sensitive to people’s energy, particularly when it was low, but actually I was a bit like a chameleon. For two decades I lived in a huge cosmopolitan city with many entrepreneurs. Before I knew it, I was one too. It suited me and I had a very long career as a software trainer, because empaths do rather like to help people get ahead!

    After the big city I ended up in a different country in a region that affected me badly, while living with a man whose energy affected me badly too, but… it was 2002 and I did not know yet that I could protect myself!!! This is probably the BIGGEST advantage of knowing that I am an empath. Protect oneself, by daily grounding exercises, which only last a few minutes, and you can even do them when you are in a space where you suddenly feel the need. You become aware of energy vampires and the need to protect yourself. The man I lived with had a very downpulling energy, which affected me terribly because I was always pulling him up, knowing that if would not, I would be pulled down with him. It probably took me four years (after 12 with him) to shed (most of) the effects.

    Yeah, I’ve communicated with animals (cats in particular) and I have been astounded at what a few of them responded to or what they ‘told’ me if I asked them questions. I don’t understand it myself how that works.

    Because I discovered so late that I’m an empath, I find it an affliction. (am 56 now) The minute I knew I was one, I stopped being overly sympathetic to people who told me about their illnesses. I could tell after a while how much this irritated them (people I did not even know before). They found an empath who wouldn’t FEEL for them? 😉 I used to call myself a loner who likes people when it suits her, and now I know why. When I was still sharing my life with a guy I could never sleep closely to them. It’s actually better for an empath to not sleep in the same bed, or on a king size and then far on the other side! I had that need all along, but did not know why. Fortunately nowadays it’s much more recognised, also as HSP. These days I consciously avoid befriending people who are in a depression as I was severely emotionally traumatised myself. I’m getting better and better at not wanting to help people. People hardly accept help from professionals, let alone for free from an acquaintance or even a friend. I need my energy for me, especially to get better.

    I’ve just completed a 30-hour Mindfulness training course with an experienced teacher (apparently Jon Kabat-Zinn developed it). Perhaps if that would be one’s focus, you could strengthen your empathic skills with it, but that was not my aim. I needed to come out of my head, where all my life was taking place. That is quite a shift. As I was emotionally traumatised, I could describe what was going on intellectually, but not really feel or work through my painful emotions. So Mindfulness is helping me with that. It’s quite a journey…

    I’ve chosen to meditate for 20 minutes and do a body scan for another 20, every day. In between I often use 3 minute breathers when difficult emotions hit me. Those are very powerful as you can do them anywhere. I feel it’s something I will need to continue to do for life or else I’ll go completely down the drain again. And of course ground myself daily. Over 25 years ago I already started cooking and baking all my food and I don’t take any meds. Artificial additives are very bad for empaths and medicine dosage may need to be adjusted.

    Hope this is useful.


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