4 Key Ways To Tell If You’re An Empath, or Just Empathic

There are key differences between being an empathic person and identifying as an ‘empath’. Psychotherapist and author Lucy Fry explains how to tell these traits apart. I used to think I was weird, even unwell, because I could ‘catch’ the emotions of others.

It happened mostly with sadness, but also anger. For a long time, it seemed like a curse, until I stumbled across psychiatrist Dr Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide.

Dr Orloff defines empaths as “highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions”. Reading those words something clicked. I identified with many of the characteristics and learnt that being empathic – a wonderful trait that most people can learn – is very different to being an empath, which according to Orloff, is much rarer and requires careful handling if it’s to be used to positive affect.

Here are four ways to recognise if you’re an empath, or just empathic.

Empaths easily lose themselves in feelings

For most people expressing empathy means making a concerted effort to see the world through someone else’s lens in a kind way.

For an empath, however, it can get confusing. These types of people absorb others’ emotions so quickly and easily they’re sometimes unsure which lens is whose. The boundaries between the self and others can be thin, which means they are super sensitive to other people’s needs but can also entirely lose track of their own.

This is why it’s so important for empaths to learn how to take care of themselves (and their gift), so they can find ways to protect themselves from drowning in feelings that don’t belong to them.

Empaths feel what others won’t

In my experience, one of the main situations in which an empath will absorb someone else’s emotion is when another person is suppressing or denying their feelings. That’s because being an empath is a bit like being telepathic; they often know things about someone else before they even know it (or want to admit it) themselves.

Before I understood this, I found it painful to be around people who were unhappy or melancholic, or even exhausted and just annoyed. I found it particularly mind-bending to be around anyone who said they were fine but seemed to me to be clearly not. After a few minutes in their company, I could feel my own joy or peace drain away, only to be replaced by their negative feelings. This was not their fault, but a marker of my own flimsy boundaries – my empath’s gift that was not yet honed.

Empaths are easily overwhelmed (by noise, light, activity, emotion)

Another key difference between empathic people and those who identify as empaths are that empaths, by their very nature, have a particularly sensitive nervous system. This means they are easily knocked off centre by shocks that for a non-empath might be only momentarily.

For example, if someone loses their temper and starts shouting, this might upset or anger a non-empath but could floor an empath for hours or days after. They are generally more sensitive to things like light and sound and appreciate small details and changes in a room or atmosphere.

This can make empaths very sensitive to music, smell and touch. I need blackout blinds to sleep, for example, and have to wear noise-cancelling headphones on the Tube as the screeching on certain lines physically wrecks me, whereas many other people hardly notice it at all.

Being an empath is developmental, whereas empathy can be learnt

Empathy involves stepping away from offering solutions or giving advice, and instead imagining what it is like to walk in another’s shoes and understanding why someone might feel the way they do. To some extent, it’s something most people can learn to do.

Being an empath is different. It is usually developed during childhood from growing up in an environment where it was necessary (for survival, physical or emotional) to develop a psycho-emotional antenna to let you know what was going on around you, so you could adapt accordingly.

Since it has this developmental aspect to it, being an empath is not a choice in the way expressing empathy is. It’s innate and needs accepting and respecting. If you’re an empath, learning how to take care of yourself in a tough, brash world (particularly in a city) is very important.

By : Lucy Fry

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Do Humans Really Have More Empathy For Animals Than They Do For Other People?

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Who are people more likely to empathize with, an innocent animal or another human being? Although you might think people tend to gravitate towards lovable animals, researchers from Penn State say context matters when multiple things are pulling at our heartstrings.

One experiment found that when people have to choose between empathizing with a stranger or an animal (a koala bear), they’re actually more likely to empathize with the human. However, a second experiment asked people to participate in two separate tasks.

During the first task, participants could choose whether or not to empathize with a person, while the second task asked them if they wanted to empathize with an animal. This time around, people were much more likely to show empathy towards animals over other humans.

Led by Daryl Cameron, associate professor of psychology and senior research associate at Rock Ethics Institute, this research likely holds major implications regarding how to best shape messaging to the public about various issues like new environmental policies.Context matters

So, what does all this mean? Prof. Cameron explains that when someone is deciding whether to show empathy or not, context plays a major role.

“It’s possible that if people are seeing humans and animals in competition, it might lead to them preferring to empathize with other humans,” Prof. Cameron says in a university release. “But if you don’t see that competition, and the situation is just deciding whether to empathize with an animal one day and a human the other, it seems that people don’t want to engage in human empathy but they’re a little bit more interested in animals.”

The research team defines empathy as “the process of thinking about another living thing’s suffering and experiences as if they were their own.” Importantly, this is different from compassion. Feeling bad for a friend after a tough day isn’t empathy unless you actually imagine and share what that person is feeling.

There are endless examples of people empathizing with animals, but Prof. Cameron adds that the research suggests many people find truly empathizing with animals difficult because our minds are so different than theirs.

The first experiment, featuring 193 participants, asked participants to choose between empathizing with an animal or a human before the group actually saw their faces (either “a college-aged adult” or a koala bear). Participants tended to choose the human, and Prof. Cameron theorizes they may have thought it would be easier to empathize with a fellow person.

“Participants indicated that empathizing with animals felt more challenging, and that belief of empathy being more difficult drove them to choose animal empathy less,” the researcher says. “It’s possible that people felt empathizing with a mind that’s unlike our own was more challenging than imagining the experience of another human.”

Once the second experiment stopped asking participants to directly choose between humans and animals, the results changed.

“Once humans and animals were no longer in competition, the story changed,” Prof. Cameron explains. “When people had the chance to either empathize with or remain detached from a human stranger, people avoided empathy, which replicates the previous studies we’ve done. For animals, though, they didn’t show that avoidance pattern. And actually, when we decoupled humans from animals, people actually were more likely to choose to empathize with an animal than a human.”

While further research is necessary, study authors say this work may hold major implications. For example, if they can confirm that people tend to choose humans over animals if forced to pick, that may very well influence how people feel about environmental policies.

“If people perceive choices about empathy in a way that makes it seem like we need to choose between humans or animals with no compromise — for example, choosing between using a parcel of land or conserving it for animals — they may be more likely to side with humans,” Cameron concludes. “But there may be ways in which those conversations could be tweaked to shape how people are thinking about managing their empathy.”

Critics:

Although there is a substantial body of research on inter-human empathy and inter-animal empathy, there is a dearth of research comparing humans’ empathic reactions to humans and animals. To address this issue, three experiments were conducted in which participants read a scenario about a human or animal abuse victim in need of medical attention, and indicated the degree of empathy they had on an emotional response scale.

In Experiment 1, women had significantly more empathy for animals than for humans, whereas men tended to express more empathy for humans than for animals. In Experiment 2, adult women expressed the same degree of empathy for a child as for a puppy. Similarly, in Experiment 3, adult men and women expressed the same degree of empathy for a baby as for a puppy.

Overall, results indicated that people feel at least as much empathy for animals as for humans. We suggest that an animal target elicits a great deal of empathy partly because it is perceived as not being responsible for having caused the need situation. Future research will show whether empathy for animals translates to prosocial behavior toward them as well.

By:

Source: Do humans really have more empathy for animals than they do for other people? – Study Finds

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An Excess of Empathy Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health

Empathy is an ability to sync emotionally and cognitively with another person; it is a capacity to perceive a world from their perspective or share their emotional experiences. It is essential for building and maintaining relationships, as it helps us connect with others at a deeper level. It is also associated with higher self-esteem and life purpose.

There are broadly two types of empathy: cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Emotional empathy is about sharing feelings with others to the extent that you may experience pain when watching someone in pain, or experience distress when watching someone in distress. This is what happens to many people when they watch upsetting news on TV, especially when they relate to specific people and their lives.

But emotional empathy isn’t just about experiencing negative emotions. Empathetic people may experience an abundance of positivity when watching other people’s joy, happiness, excitement, or serenity and can get more out of music and other daily pleasures.While this emotional contagion is suitable for positive states, having too much empathy when watching people suffer can be very upsetting and even lead to mental health problems.

Too much empathy towards others, especially when we prioritise other people’s emotions over our own, may result in experiences of anxiety and depression, which explains why so many of us feel bad when watching the news about the war in Ukraine.

The other type of empathy – cognitive empathy – refers to seeing the world through other people’s eyes, seeing it from their perspective, putting ourselves into their shoes without necessarily experiencing the associated emotions and, for example, watching the news and understanding at a cognitive level why people feel despair, distress or anger. This process may lead to emotional empathy or even somatic empathy, where empathy has a physiological effect (somatic being from the ancient Greek word “soma” meaning body).

The effect of empathy on the body has been well documented. For example, parents experiencing high levels of empathy towards their children tend to have chronic low-grade inflammation, leading to lower immunity. Also, our heart beats to the same rhythm when we empathise with others. So the impact of empathy when watching the news is both psychological and physiological. In some circumstances, it may result in what some refer to as “compassion fatigue”.

Misnomer

The burnout experienced by excessive empathy has traditionally been termed compassion fatigue. But more recently, using MRI studies, neuroscientists have argued that this is a misnomer, and that compassion does not cause fatigue. The distinction is important because it turns out that compassion is the antidote to the distress we feel when we empathise with people who are suffering. We need less empathy and more compassion.

Empathy and compassion are distinct events in the brain. Empathy for another person’s pain activates areas in the brain associated with negative emotions. Because we feel the other person’s pain, the boundary between the self and others can become blurred if we do not have good boundaries or self-regulation skills and we experience “emotional contagion”.

We get entangled in the distress and find it hard to soothe our emotions. We want to depersonalise, become numb, and look away. In contrast, compassion is associated with activity in areas of the brain associated with positive emotions and action.

Compassion can be defined simply as empathy plus action to alleviate another person’s pain. The action part of compassion helps us decouple our emotional system from others and see that we are separate individuals. We do not have to feel their pain when we witness it. Instead, we have the feeling of wanting to help. And we have a rewarding, positive emotional experience when we feel compassion towards another.

Here are three ways to practice compassion while watching the news.

1. Practice loving-kindness meditation

When you are overwhelmed by the news, practice loving-kindness mediation, where you focus on sending love to yourself, people you know, and those you don’t know who are suffering.

If we can create a buffer of positive emotions with compassion, we can think about how to practically help and act in overwhelming situations. Training your “compassion muscles” provides a buffer against the negative emotions so that you can be better motivated to help and not get overwhelmed by the distressing emotions.

Loving-kindness meditation does not reduce negative emotions. Instead, it increases activation in areas of the brain associated with positive emotions like love, hope, connection and reward.

2. Practice self-compassion

Are you beating yourself up for not being able to help? Or feeling guilty about your life while other people suffer? Try being kind to yourself. Remember that while our suffering is always specific to us, it is not uncommon. We share a common humanity of all experiencing some kind of suffering. While being mindful of your suffering, also try to not over-identify with it. These acts of self-compassion help reduce the distress experienced in empathic burnout and improves feelings of wellbeing

3. Take action

Empathic distress evokes negative feelings, such as stress, and prompts us to withdraw and be unsociable. In contrast, compassion produces positive feelings of love for another. It prompts us to take action. Most specifically compassion helps motivate sociability. One way to [counter empathic distress] is to get involved: donate, volunteer, organise.

4. Stop doomscrolling

Understandably, we look for information in times of crisis. It helps us be prepared. However, doomscrolling – continually scrolling through and reading depressing or worrying content on a social media or news site, especially on a phone – is not helpful.

Research on social media engagement during the pandemic showed that we need to be mindful of our news consumption to avoid increases in stress and negative emotions. To avoid the news altogether is unrealistic, but limiting our consumption is helpful. Another suggestion is to balance our media consumption by seeking out stories of acts of kindness (kindscrolling?), which can lift our mood.

Source: An excess of empathy can be bad for your mental health

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What Are Dark Empaths: The People With High Empathy But Dark Traits

Many psychologists have dedicated their careers to studying the so-called “dark triad”, a mix of maladaptive personality traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The textbook description of a dark triad individual is manipulative, exploitative, often charming, and constantly seeking admiration, validation, and special favors from others.

Most defining of their personality is that they do so in a callous way with little consideration for others, lacking remorse. But then there are also dark empaths. According to a new study, these people display the dark triad traits to a degree except they actually have the capacity for empathy — and that may make them much more dangerous.

Psychologists Paul Ekman and Daniel Goleman, the foremost emotional intelligence ‘gurus’, have outlined three distinct types of empathy. Cognitive empathy is the ability to recognize someone’s perspective and thoughts without being actively emotionally involved. It’s an intellectual acknowledgment of the other person’s emotional state; you know what they think and why they might feel the way they do.

Emotional empathy, or affective empathy, refers to going through the same emotions someone else is feeling as though you were the one going through their experiences. If you feel sad and then my state changes and I feel sad too, that’s affective empathy at play. And then there’s compassionate empathy, which is a combination of the former two.

Some people lack any of these, a hallmark of clinical psychopathy. This explains why psychopaths often engage in violent behavior, sometimes physical violence. But there are also dark triad people with average or even above average empathy, which allows them to be even more capable manipulators. If you want to manipulate someone, it helps to understand them at an emotional level and then use that against them.

In their new study, psychologists Nadja Heym and Alexander Sumich from Nottingham Trent University asked almost 1,000 people to complete a series of questionnaires that measured dark triad traits and empathy. The researchers found patterns in the replies that separated the participants into four groups.

The traditional dark triad group with low empathy scores comprised about 13% of the sample, which was expected. People with lower to average levels of all traits (empathy but also narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) comprised 34% of the participants — these were the “typicals”. About 33% of the sample had low dark triad traits and high empathy, the “empaths”.

But much to the researchers’ surprise, about 20% of the participants scored high on both dark triad traits and empathy. In fact, this latter group scored higher on both cognitive and affective empathy than the typicals.

The dark empaths were not as aggressive as the traditional dark triad group. That makes sense since they’re less likely to hurt other people if they feel guilty doing so. However, the dark empaths nevertheless were more aggressive than typicals and empaths, in the sense that they were more inclined to inflict emotional harm or manipulate people through social exclusion, malicious humor, and guilt-induction.

Dark empaths display a form of soft aggression, one that can still be dangerous in combination with their other traits.For instance, dark empaths were the most extroverted out of all groups. Their heightened empathy likely helps them to connect with others and be social. But the researchers add that they may be secretly motivated by a desire to dominate others.

“Though the aggression reported by the dark empaths was not as high as the traditional dark triad group, the danger of this personality profile is that their empathy, and likely resulting social skills, make their darkness harder to spot,” Heym and Sumich wrote in an article for The Conversation.

“We believe that dark empaths have the capacity to be callous and ruthless, but are able to limit such aggression.”

The findings appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Tibi Puiu

By: Tibi Puiu

Source: What are dark empaths: the people with high empathy but dark traits

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Critics:

One of the most common characteristic trait out of all dark empath traits is an open behaviour. They are usually extroverts who have an abundance of social skills and hence, never tend to shy away from expressing their thoughts, views or even their perspective of Someone

They are not the type of people who can easily be pushed over instead, the presence of dark traits can make it the other way around. It is also noticed that instead of normal empathy as we have come to know of it, these people experience what is called cognitive empathy.

In simple terms, they are able to understand someone’s emotional state very well but instead of connecting with them like normal empaths they generally tend to exploit it. Now given the fact this is a pretty basic characteristic Trait which means it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person who is an extrovert must be a dark empath too. A person must at least have 3 or 4 traits from this list to qualify as a dark empath.

Most people enjoy and want power, what’s different here? Sure. But at the same time hunger for power (went a little more dramatic than required) is something that majorly dominates the key characteristic Traits of traditional dark triads.

They have a need for power and usually have a huge liking towards being the leader all the time. What sets dark empath from the classic dark triads is the fact that even though dark empaths wants power, he/she enjoy a rather participatory leadership.

As Interesting as it may sound, not everything is negative about this personality type. On the very contrary these people are found to have remarkable talents in certain aspects of life. They don’t give up on their goal, and have the ability to make quick decisions hence they are proven to be great leaders, they understand people well and therefore don’t have difficulties in connecting with them.

This does not in any ways mean they are perfect because talent and perfection certainly are two different things.

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More contents:

The Dark Cube: dark character profiles and OCEAN

Relationship between the Dark Triad and depressive symptoms

Predicting career success: is the dark side of personality worth considering?

Socioeconomic Disadvantage Ups Death Risk in the Cancer Population

How to Engage, Connect, & Captivate: Become the Social Presence You’ve Always Wanted To Be

Are You an Omnivert? 10 Signs Show Your True Nature

Will I Ever Find Love : 9 Things to Keep in Mind

How to Play Hard to Get? A 8 Step Easy Guide

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The Difference Between Empathy and People Pleasing

At some point or another, you’ve likely acted with another person’s thoughts or feelings in mind, rather than making your own the first priority. That’s not inherently bad or negative, either; compassion is part of being a good human.

But sometimes it’s hard to parse whether you’re acting out of empathy or more so the desire to placate. Ultimately, the difference between empathy and people-pleasing comes down to that guiding intention, along with the way your behavior makes you feel in the moment and beyond.

While empathy and people-pleasing are certainly related, in that both can involve taking on actions that prioritize someone else over yourself, they’re more like cousins than siblings, says clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, author of How To Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.

“Fundamentally, empathy is an ability. It allows us to feel what others are feeling or to really understand what they’re thinking,” she says. “By contrast, people-pleasing is a behavior. It typically happens in response to an internal fear of being criticized or rejected by the other person.”

In other words, if you’re an empath or empathetic person, you’re likely to embody that trait with most everyone, but a people-pleasing behavior can flip on or off depending on the situation. Even so, spotting the difference between empathy and people-pleasing in action can be tough, as both can involve a good deal of feelings. Below, experts share the key differences between empathy and people-pleasing in practice, and why it’s important to stop the latter in its tracks.

How to distinguish between empathy and people-pleasing, according to psychologists

Both people-pleasers and empathizers tend to look kind and compassionate in action. But the main difference between the two springs from the initial motivation. “Healthy empathy is driven by tuning in to the experiences of others and responding in connective ways, whereas people-pleasing comes from endeavoring to gratify others, often at the expense of your own best interests,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear

“Empathy is driven by tuning in to the experiences of others and responding in connective ways, whereas people-pleasing comes from endeavoring to gratify others.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD

Typically, that attempt to placate another person is not coming from genuine concern or understanding for how that person feels (as is the case with empathy) but instead, from an internal desire for validation or conflict avoidance. “As a result, a people-pleaser will often chronically override their needs in order to meet others’ demands by either sacrificing personal time, being the go-to person for favors, or tolerating toxic behaviors,” says Dr. Manly.

Over time, key differences between empathy and people-pleasing will turn up in the end result of interactions, too. With empathy, the connection to others generally feels good. “You might lend a sympathetic ear to a friend, feel solidarity with a cause, or be the social explainer in a situation because you ‘get’ or can sense what’s going on,” says Dr. Henriksen. “Empaths and empathetic people thrive on this connection—which is satisfying and fulfilling.” By contrast, people-pleasing tends to leave you feeling drained or resentful, says Dr. Henriksen, as you seek out some return in exchange for all the placating.

To check in with yourself in the moment, then, it’s helpful to scout for these emotions: Are your behaviors to support someone else leaving you feeling connected and whole, or are they draining your resources? Do your acts of compassion leave you satisfied, or are you looking for a tit-for-tat dose of validation?

If it’s the latter, in either case, you’ve likely fallen into the people-pleasing trap, which Dr. Manly says is more common in folks who lack self-esteem, or who grew up with caregivers who modeled similar people-pleasing tendencies. As a result, your best mode of action in that case is to refocus your attention toward you by working to build emotional intelligence and uphold healthy boundaries, says Dr. Manly.

But, at the same time, go easy on yourself. “Wanting to be helpful and make others feel good still isn’t a fundamentally bad thing,” says Dr. Henriksen of people-pleasing. Avoiding the potential negative effects simply requires that you do the above without the intention of personal reward—and with enough self-awareness to know and respect your own needs, too.

By:

Erica Sloan is the associate lifestyle editor at Well+Good, where she covers topics like sleep, sex, astrology, travel, career, money, and other elements of daily life that cross paths with wellness. Before joining W+G in 2021, she was a staffer on the print teams at Martha Stewart Living & Weddings and Prevention, where she cut her generalist teeth, dabbling in beauty, home, and health content. When she’s not writing, you can find her traipsing around Brooklyn and overthinking everything in classic Aquarian fashion.

Source: The Difference Between Empathy and People-Pleasing | Well+Good

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