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Who is an Empath? The Ultimate Guide to Empath Psychology

Empath Psychology Summary:

  • Who is an Empath? An empath is a highly empathic person. 
  • What does being an empath mean? An Empath is someone who is extremely sensitive to the emotions and energy of people, animals, and elements in the environment.
  • They are acutely aware of feeling tones, nuance, subtexts, and energy in their surroundings.
  • Their senses are so acute that they feel as though they ‘absorb’ others’ emotions beyond their conscious control. In its extremity, this ability can even seem mystical. 
  • Empath psychology can include neurological and sociological theories.


The term ‘Empath’ has become popular recently, often used to describe someone with a higher-than-normal degree of empathy. Empaths absorb others’ energy to the point of feeling like an ‘emotional sponge’. They do not have the filters most people do, and they seem to feel other people’s stress and feelings in their own bodies. 

However, despite mounting attention to the concept, the existing definition of “Empath’ tends to be inconclusive, fuzzy, and often not very useful. Empath psychology in itself is not an established field.

What does being an empath mean? Intuition and perceptiveness are some of the core dimensions of being intense. When you are an empath, you are also endowed with a high level of empathy, and when this is combined with emotional strength and velocity, it can seem as though every day you are feeling not just your own but also other people’s and even the entire world’s feelings.

In this guide to empath psychology, we explore who an empath is, what it means when empaths absorb others’ energy’, take in, or feel other people’s emotions, how it happens, and why some of us seem to do it more frequently and intensely than others. We will draw on research and ideas from the field of psychology to the more esoteric realm, some of which are more controversial than others.

The theories concerning empath psychology are not mutually exclusive. Just like the answer to the perennial question of nature versus nurture, it is probably somewhere in between. The categorization is arbitrary and simply a way to help us organize information. Please use your discernment to remove what is useful and leave the rest behind.


Empath Therapy Coaching

“The most spiritual human beings, assuming they are the most courageous, also experience by far the most painful tragedies: but it is precisely for this reason that they honor life, because it brings against them its most formidable weapons.”
Friedich Nietzsche

Who is an Empath? Are you an Empath?

  • When you are among a group, you feel you ‘absorb’ the energy in a room.

  • You have a strong sense of ‘knowing’ that there is more to a story than what meets the eye, even when the reason is not apparent.

  • When a friend is upset, you feel it too; You feel others’ emotions in your body and mind as though they belong to you.

  • You can read between the lines, beyond the obvious, and under the surface of what is happening in a social situation.

  • Sometimes, you are emotionally drained by crowds and require time alone to rejuvenate after being in a group.

  • Your nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talking- especially when what is going on is not engaging for you.

  • You see through hypocrisy and lies; incongruence affects you so much that you feel compelled to point out the truths or take action.

  • You easily or automatically take on the mannerisms, accents, and body language of others without consciously doing so.

  • At work or in relationships, you must learn to say no without feeling guilty or set more explicit boundaries to preserve your inner resources.

  • As you tend to take on so much, sometimes you are afraid of becoming swamped by the needs of others or feeling engulfed by friendships or intimate relationships.

Empath Psychology: Emotional Contagion

It is often said that Empaths absorb others’ energy and emotions. This may be a rather recent discussion, but the idea that people can ‘catch’ others’ feelings is not new. As Carl Jung observed decades ago:  “Emotions are contagious”. In psychology, this phenomenon is known as precisely that: ’emotional contagion’. The term describes our innate tendency to take on other people’s sensory, physiological, and affective states. This sums up what is happening to empaths in psychological terms.  Studies have found that as social beings, we unconsciously mimic the emotional expressions of others to the point of actually feeling the same thing. In doing so, two or more people  ‘converge emotionally’ (Hatfield, Cacioppo, and Rapson 1994, p.5). When someone says empaths absorb others’ energy, this may be what they mean.

In empath psychology, emotional contagion does not equate to empathy or empath ability. Emotional contagion is fast, unconscious and automatic and relies mostly on non-verbal communication that bypasses our conscious mind. Empathy— what some psychologists call ‘mentalizing’ or ‘perspective taking’—  involves a more sophisticated cognitive process (Decety and Svetlova, 2012).  It requires you to stand in one’s perspective while at the same time, putting yourself in another person’s shoes and understanding their emotions.  Emotional contagion is primitive, automatic, implicit, and uncontrollable, while empathy takes more work (Decety and Lamm, 2006; Preston and de Waal, 2002; Prochazkova and Kret, 2017). Some scholars define emotion contagion as a more ‘primitive’ form of empathy, but it is also what separates most people from psychopaths. Psychopaths are capable of the ‘cognitive’ element of empathy- such as perspective-taking, but the element of being immediately impacted by another’s feelings on an emotional level is missing.

Although emotional contagion is a universal phenomenon, there are individual differences in our susceptibility to it (Hatfield et al., 1994).  This differentiation is a key facet of empath psychology. In each interaction, there is an energy dynamic that determines which person’s brain will more forcefully draw the others into its emotional orbit: The ‘senders’ among us can infect others more powerfully with their emotions, while the ‘catchers’ are more likely to be infected with the emotions.  Studies found that senders tend to be “more charismatic, expressive, entertaining, and scoring high on dominance (Hatfield et al., 1994)”, and the catchers are more prone to being attentive to the emotional details in their surroundings. This explains why some people are categorized as empaths while others are not.

Besides our natural temperaments, other factors such as the setting, mood, and attention also determine how much empaths are affected by emotional contagion and, hence, how empaths absorb others’ energy and emotions. For instance, when there are power differences in a group, such as in a work situation, it is usually the most influential person that sends emotions, setting the emotional tone for everyone else. When the team leader is in a positive mood, the group picks up on that feeling, and their performance is enhanced. If the leader is in a negative mood, the group catches it, and their performance suffers. (Goleman, 1995)

Emotional contagion may be a part of empathy (Maclaren, 2013), but catching others’ feelings does not automatically translate into healthy and functional empathy. If an empath only has unregulated emotion contagion, and all they do is sponge up others’ feelings, they can quickly get overwhelmed and burn out. In the long run, they may even shut down, numb themselves, and dissociate from other people altogether. For a natural empath to be effectively and healthily empathic, they ought to develop skills such as context observation and emotional regulation to move beyond emotional contagion.

(Do you catch and absorb other people’s feelings, even just online? Is too much scrolling depressing you? Here are some tips to ground and shield yourself )

Empath Psychology and Neurology: Why Do Empaths ‘Absorb Energy’?

An empath is someone who has a heightened ability to sense and absorb the emotions of others. Scientifically, this phenomenon is linked to the mirror neuron system in the brain. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that activates both when we experience an emotion and when we observe someone else experiencing the same emotion. In empaths, this system appears to be more sensitive, leading to an increased capacity to understand and share the feelings of those around them.

 Mirror neurons allow us to feel into other people not through conceptual reasoning but through direct neurological activities. These cells create a neuro-physical link between us and other people, so when we observe someone else doing something, the same regions in our brain that would’ve been involved become activated.  Empathy happens when this applies to our feelings: just seeing another person’s emotions would automatically activate the same somatic responses in us (Anders et al., 2011; Gallese and Goldman, 1998; Goldman and Sripada, 2005; Keysers and Gazzola, 2010).

Scientists also refer to this phenomenon as ‘neural resonance’ or ‘brain-to-brain coupling’  (Anders et al., 2011; Jackson et al., 2005; Jackson et al., 2006b; Keysers and Gazzola, 2009; Lloyd et al., 2004; Prehn-Kristensen et al., 2009).  Mirror neurons are present in us from birth; we know this when we see one crying infant setting off a wave of crying in a hospital ward.

Neuropsychological research, particularly studies like those conducted by Vignemont and Singer in 2006, has provided insights into the varying degrees of empathy observed among individuals. Empaths, in particular, are thought to exhibit a heightened activity in the mirror-neuron system compared to the general population.

For empaths, this heightened mirror-neuron activity suggests a more robust and responsive capacity to understand and resonate with the emotional experiences of others. The result is an increased likelihood of absorbing the energy and emotions of those around them, often occurring at a subconscious level.

This academic perspective delves into the neuroscientific foundation of empathy, shedding light on why empaths may navigate the emotional landscape with a heightened sensitivity that goes beyond conscious awareness.

The mirror neuron system can be over or under-active, depending on many factors (Mbemba, Marte & Christian, 2007).   One extreme example of having an overactive mirror system is a condition known as ‘mirror-touch synesthesia’. Synesthesia is where sensations that normally are experienced separately get blended. In mirror-touch synesthesia, the synesthete feels a touch on their body when another person gets touched. 

On the other end of the spectrum, it has been suggested that the under-activity of the mirror neuron system is linked to autism.

Despite the recent excitement surrounding empath psychology and the remarkable role of mirror neurons, it’s vital to acknowledge that research in this area is still in its infancy. Theories concerning the precise function and significance of mirror neurons remain a subject of debate and exploration.  If you are interested, a book entitled, “The Myth of Mirror Neurons” captures many of these discoveries.

For more on empath psychology, here is an interview with Empathy expert Karla MacLaren.

In a follow-up interview with Karla, we also discussed what being an empath means and the fears and anxieties felt by empaths.  We covered the differences between fear, anxiety, and panic and why understanding them helps us deal with them.  Most importantly, you will hear some helpful, practical strategies we can start using. Here is a link to the full show and show notes.


Empath Psychology The Developmental Perspective

Chaotic Childhood Environment

In psychoanalysis, the term ‘ego boundary’ is used to describe our emotional and identity distinction between self and others.  The boundaries of a young psyche are extremely permeable. From birth, most of us read the world around us to figure out how we need to be and what we need to do. Through infant studies, we know that we start to mirror our parents’ faces and emulate their emotions from as early as six weeks.

Who is or has become an empath? Individuals who have grown up in a chaotic childhood environment might have developed a hyper-empathic ability as a way to survive.  In environments that are unpredictable, our brains will adapt by extracting patterns from information (Adolphs, 2001). Children at risk are extremely attuned to the micro changes in others’ energy levels, facial expressions, and tone of voice for self-protection because they have trained themselves to pick up on the earliest, most subtle signals of their caregivers’ outrage or the bullies’ attack. Other-directedness, to an extreme degree, is what creates the empath’s psychology.

Empathic intuition can be developed out of a precarious environment and is often coupled with sensory high alert and anxiety. This state, known as hyper-vigilance, is a result of the neuro-pathways that have been formed in the brain. The traumatized empath is wired to constantly scan the environment for anything or anyone that could be a potential threat.  Even as a grown-up who is no longer facing any danger, whenever there are changes in the atmosphere of a room or the emotional tone of other people, they still have an automatic and visceral fight-or-flight reaction, such as tightening of the chest, increased heartbeat, and a feeling that ‘something ought to be done’. In the long run, such physiological stress could lead to symptoms such as adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, and depression.

Individuals who have grown up with intact boundaries tend to have an internalized sense of safety and a capacity to set appropriate limits with the world. The empath whose life was repeatedly violated by chaos, however, has not developed the ability to filter external stimuli. With a blurred line between their inner and outer experiences, they are able to attune to others and the environment rapidly, but at the same time, they feel swamped or invaded by other people’s energies and emotions. 


As a part of healthy childhood development, children ought to grow out of the initial symbiotic state with their parents and forge a path toward independence. However, due to traumas in the family or limitations in their emotional resources, some parents cannot let go and would— overtly or subtly- limit their child’s need to separate from them.  Some parents may have a fear of not being needed or being abandoned by their children; they may — subtly, through their outpouring emotions and behaviors— pass on these messages: “Don’t go”, “I cannot survive with you”, or “Don’t ever leave me”.

The result of this dynamic is enmeshment- a relationship in which two or more people are overly involved with and reactive to one another, a relational element commonly found in empath psychology.  In an enmeshed family, the boundaries between family members are blurred or too permeable. A ‘spill-over’ happens from one person to another, where an emotional change in one person would quickly reverberate and escalate throughout the entire household. The parent may not be consciously aware of what they are doing but merely repeating the cycle that had played out in their childhood.

A child growing up in an enmeshed household never really has the opportunity to develop intact boundaries or to draw the line between themselves and others. They are used to being intensely affected by or even feel responsible for other people’s feelings. As adults, they struggle to tell the difference between their feelings and those of people they care about, or they may feel the compulsion to rescue someone from their negative feelings.

Empath Psychology and Projective Identification

Over the internet, we often hear empaths sharing how they attract ‘emotional vampires’, or ‘energy suckers’ into their lives. While this is not a language used by the scientific community, it is not unlikely that a natural empath can draw in others to use their gift for a kind of psychological discharge or healing.

A concept in psychoanalytic psychology known as ‘projective identification’ can help us understand empath psychology to a large part. Projective identification is an unconscious mental strategy in which a person discharges feelings and qualities that they reject in themselves onto (and into) others. You know you have been the recipient of projective identification when you suddenly feel seized by an intense feeling that comes from someone else (Ogden, 1979).

To understand this process, we can delineate it into a few phases. In reality, these phases can all happen in an instant or unfold over a period, such as in a friendship or an ongoing partnership.

In the first phase, the person who wishes to project outward is wrestling with a part of himself that frightens or repels him. As he is unwilling to accept this part of himself, he tries to avoid seeing, feeling, or owning it.

Then, to be rid of this part of himself, the projector ‘dumps’ it onto someone else. He exerts pressure on the recipient to experience his projection as a reality. It is an unconscious ‘if it was you, then it wasn’t me’ maneuver, springing out of their shame and self-rejection. For example, if someone feels guilty over their impulsive behaviors, they may split impulsivity off from themselves and instead criticize their partner for being impulsive. Although the mental process was unconscious, the exerted pressure is not imagined but played out in the relationship as interactions. Projective identification can take many forms many of which may not be explicit or verbal; they can range from changes in the tone of voice to passive-aggressive silence, bodily movement, being late, or just disappearing.

Then, finally, the recipient experiences themselves as what was being projected ‘into’ them.  The difference between mere projection and projective identification is that the recipient would ‘receive’ and internalize whatever is being projected. With the above example, the partner of the impulsive person might begin to experience themselves as an impulsive, wasteful, and sinful person. Under the pressure of constant criticism, they may manifest even more impulsive behaviors and in a way, become more of what was projected.



Projective identification is insidious and seeps in slowly, and it can be incredibly difficult to distinguish between what is yours and what is the result of others’ ‘dumping’ (Curtis, 2015). Being the ‘recipient’ of projective identification is highly unpleasant, confusing, and difficult to bear. Analyst Bion (1977) characterizes it as ‘having a thought that is not one’s own’. It is an infiltration of the mind and body of the recipient- you can even feel it physically.

It is worth pointing out that the person who projects outward is likely acting out from the less developed parts of themselves, so their rational self is not aware of their destructive behavior.  The fantasy of putting a piece of oneself into another person reflects a developmental level wherein there is a blurring of boundaries between self and others; this mechanism is unconscious, and they might even have been a victim of manipulation as a child.   However, this does not take away the aggressiveness of the behavior. Ultimately, projective identification is the use of power and coercion as a means to control one’s undesirable and unbearable impulses. As they compel another person to ‘carry’ an unwanted portion of themselves, they are instigating an emotional and energetic boundary violation.

Therapy and Coaching for the Empath: Navigating the Depths of Sensitivity

Empaths, by nature, experience the emotions of others as if they were their own. This heightened sensitivity can lead to a range of challenges, including emotional exhaustion, difficulty setting boundaries, and a tendency to absorb the energy of those they meet. In a world that can be overwhelming for those attuned to the feelings of those around them, therapy and coaching emerge as valuable tools to help empaths understand, manage, and harness their unique gift. Here are some topics that often emerges in empath therapy or coaching:


Empaths  often find it challenging to set healthy boundaries. This difficulty is often linked to their early family roles and relationships. In empath therapy and coaching, there is a special space to figure out why boundaries are tough and find ways to make boundaries that support their well-being. By understanding how family roles influenced them, empaths can see patterns that make it hard to set boundaries. Empath therapy and coaching help break these patterns, making empaths more aware and giving them tools to set healthy limits.  The goal is to show them that taking care of themselves is essential and learn practical ways to handle relationships and protect their well-being.

Emotional Regulation:

For empaths, handling the intense emotions absorbed from others can be overwhelming. Empath therapy and coaching may provide essential tools like mindfulness and emotion regulation techniques to help them navigate their emotional landscape effectively. Furthermore, by exploring things that trigger them, empaths gain insights into why they absorb emotions so deeply.

Effective empath therapy and coaching will emphasize teaching empaths to stay present and aware of their emotions without being overwhelmed. They can learn to observe their feelings without absorbing them entirely, fostering a healthier emotional balance.


During therapy and coaching sessions, empaths embark on a journey of self-exploration. The emphasis is on peeling back the layers influenced by external emotions, societal expectations, and family dynamics to reclaim their unique traits and qualities. By delving into their authentic selves, empaths develop a stronger sense of identity.  This deeper understanding of oneself acts as a foundation for navigating challenges in life with authenticity and purpose.

Goal Setting and Achievement:

Many empaths have diverse talents and aspirations,  and may benefit from a structured approach to goal setting that facilitates the alignment of their energy with values.  Coaching sessions offer a dedicated space for empaths to articulate their aspirations and delineate realistic yet challenging goals.   The empath coaching process will empower empaths to channel their energy strategically, transforming aspirations into actionable steps. By setting and achieving goals that align with their authentic selves, empaths not only experience personal fulfillment but also thrive in their professional endeavors. The empathic coaching journey becomes a catalyst for unlocking the full potential of empathic individuals as they navigate a path of purpose and accomplishment.

Navigating Relationships:

For empaths, the complexity of relationships can pose unique challenges, given how much they crave emotional connection with others but may not always get it.

Therapy and coaching sessions can provide a safe space for empaths to explore and understand their emotional dynamics within relationships. Furthermore, empath therapists and coaches can collaborate with them to enhance their communication skills, empowering them to express their needs and boundaries effectively. The focus extends to recognizing and cultivating connections that align with their well-being, ensuring a balance between giving and receiving, without falling into co-dependency. 

In a nutshell, working with an empath therapist or coach serves as invaluable resources for empaths seeking to embrace and navigate their unique gifts. Through a combination of therapeutic exploration and coaching guidance, empaths can develop strategies to thrive in a world that may not always understand the depth of their sensitivity. By prioritizing self-discovery, setting boundaries, and leveraging their empathic abilities, individuals can transform the challenges of being an empath into a journey of personal growth, resilience, and fulfillment.


Protective Strategies for Empaths Who Absorb Others’ Energies

  • As much as possible, become acutely aware of your emotions and what is happening in your inner world. This can be achieved by having a journaling practice, daily mindfulness practice or meditation, or other forms of ‘check-ins’.
  • Learn about empath psychology and reflect on whether or not you are in codependent relationship. If so, find out the energetic root of codependency and work on healthily separating your needs and feelings from others.
  • When you feel a sudden change in mood state or feelings, you might be absorbing others’ energy or emotions rather than feeling your own (though the distinction is often not clear-cut). pay attention to what is going on around you and be mindful of factors that might have caused emotional contagions, projective identification, or mirror neuron activation to take place.
  • At the same time, you do not have to be too anxious about picking up people’s emotions sometimes. It is natural and human to do so. For example, when you witness someone in pain, the natural reaction is to cringe. As long as you are aware of it and do not reject your feelings, it does not have to impact you negatively.
  • Try not to judge emotions as good or bad, right or wrong. As Karla explained in our interview, we can learn the ‘language of emotions’  and receive valuable information from them. Often, emotions are not here to harm us but to inform us.
  • If we pick up on others’ distress, we can use this information to harness compassion for others. If we pick up on aggression or toxic envy, we can use this information to protect ourselves appropriately.
  • When it feels overwhelming, don’t try to do too much. Simply take deep breaths and attune to what is happening in your physical body. The priority in times of heightened stress is simply to bring down our bodies’ hyper-arousal state/ fight-or-flight mode.
  • Do know that you have the right to say no. Guilt and feelings of over-responsibilities are common amongst Empaths, many of whom were once parentified children. Despite how you feel, however, it is not your job to make sure everyone is happy, everyone’s needs are met, or that conflicts never happen. You can be kind and generous, but not to the point of burning yourself out, trying to make sure things are ‘okay’ for everyone.
  • Evaluate if you are an overfunctioning person in your intimate relationship, work, and family. If so, learn to let go of some of the responsibilities, delegate, and be okay with things not being done perfectly.
  • If crowds and parties overwhelm you, you do not have to force yourself to be in situations that burn you out. Learn to express your needs to important people in your life, and allow them to help you.
  • Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Routinely engage in play, relaxing activities, and things that fill you with joy. The lower your baseline stress level is, the less likely you will burn out from absorbing others’ emotions and needs.
  • Align your unique strengths with what you do. For example, your sensitivity and empathy could be harnessed at work. Your ability to accurately pick up on others’ needs can help you in the relationship with your manager, clients, customers and colleagues. 


Thriving as an Empath

While it does not lay an easy life path, being an empath in today’s times means something beyond an individual level. When empaths absorb others’ energy, they are often frustrated, but they may not see that there is an upside to their hyper-empathy. Once you learn more about empath psychology, you may become more empowered and even proud of your strengths.

More and more people are becoming aware that humanity has reached a critical stage in its evolution.  What we see now in our environmental, economic, and political spheres reveals a pattern of civilization collapse (Wheatley, 2017). Instinctively, we know that our materialistic and self-serving worldview has reached its limit. Our highly fragmented, superficial culture has little to help us feed our soul’s cries, and the answers we desperately need lie in our interconnectedness as humans.

The ability to take in more substantial amounts of sensory data might be an evolutionary leap for the human species, and having a group of people – empaths- those who are hyper-empathic is a sign of progression in our collective consciousness. While at first glance this seems radical, the idea that empathy plays a critical role in our evolution is not novel.

Biologists have long suggested that our ‘other-regarding instinct’ is what separates us from other animals.  Under the catchphrase ‘The survival of the fittest’, a competitive, ruthless and selfish view of human nature has been mistakenly attributed to the Darwinian perspective.  A deeper look at Charles Darwin’s work, however, reveals a very different picture (Ekman, 2010): He proposed that natural selection favored those who have the ability to be affected by the feelings of others, and the most successful societies had succeeded because of their sympathetic instincts: “for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best.”  In fact, Darwin hoped that the apex of our human nature— the refinement of our empathy—  would eventually herald the end of the struggle for existence (Boddice, 2017). Ultimately, he envisioned a human triumph over the state of nature in which only the fittest survived, and the life of the majority was defined by pain and suffering.

Likewise, philosophers, including Adam Smith, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, proposed that the ability to perceive other people’s suffering is a key determinant of how society hangs together and falls apart. For Smith, the capacity for individuals to mutually enter into one another’s emotional experiences was the foundation for moral behaviour and social action. This ability helps us build the social bond that distinguishes civilized societies from more primitive cultures (Boddice, 2017).  Smith suggested that a system based entirely on competitive principles would collapse, and his foresight seems to be coming true in our world today.

Although our level of scientific and technological development is unprecedented and has brought many material benefits, people are feeling increasingly isolated, anxious, and depressed, lacking a sense of meaning and purpose.  According to the theory of civilisation’s chaos cycle (Wheatley,2017), systems that are failing now will continue to deteriorate; Uncertainty, confusion and fear will continue to predominate our psyche. People in fear will be preoccupied with self-protection and strike out at those different from themselves.  Corrupt leaders will intensify their false promises, and our collective numbness will perpetuate our silent subjugation.

The ‘psychic numbing’ concept describes our societal reaction to impending doom and chaos.  With the constant barrage of our 24-hour news cycle, it is easy to become desensitized to our collective sufferings. In ‘Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity’, psychologist Paul Slovic theories that as the number of endangered lives increases on our planet, our reactions are dulled just as they would with brightness and loudness: “We can detect a small increase in a dim light’s brightness,” he says, but moving from bright to brighter is another matter: ”The energy level must change more drastically for us to notice.”  For humanitarian crises, war, and terrorism, this dilution comes in the form of a lack of empathy.

Psychic numbing, however, does not come naturally to empaths. What is an Empath? You know it when even you try to dull your senses, a niggling feeling remains. Empaths absorb others’ energy and emotions even if they don’t mean to. In the same way empaths are hypersensitive to the changes in noise and sounds, they are not able to fully filter out others’ cries for help or the manifestation of the world’s pains. Empaths are the canaries in the coal mine. In the old days, miners sent canaries into unknown pits. If the canaries stopped singing, they knew the mine was toxic, and they would stay away.  Without realizing it, they are feeling and carrying the world’s sadness, anxiety, and rage. They cannot ‘unsee’ hypocrisies and injustice. Not only are empaths viscerally unable to separate themselves, but they also are the ones who struggle to stay passive and silent. Being aware, outspoken, or taking conscious action is natural to them, even when it gets them into trouble.

The hopeful ones amongst us believe that this chaotic time is filled with potential, that we were born into this time to ‘blow up’ the current system and build a new one.   The split between the hearts and the minds, and between the talk and the walk, can be bridged by the empaths amongst us.

Our world is calling for a new kind of leadership— one that is driven not by tyranny or coercion but based on compassion. The empaths as leaders can help humanity as a collective whole to narrow the split between theoretical understanding, knowledge, and emotional commitments.

In many ways, the empathically gifted have no choice but to respond to the summon to be the game-changers of the world. When empaths absorb others’ energy and emotions, they also know they ought to make use of the information they receive. Empaths are endowed with the sensibility to feel into the world,  to see things penetratively, and the compulsion to take action; they must channel this energy outward. If these abilities or qualities are stifled or suppressed, empaths may experience a physical and psychological internal collapse, manifesting self as physical pain and sadness, existential guilt, depression, and chronic emptiness.

Thriving as an empath is by no means an easy task. It requires learning about empath psychology, cultivating resilience, courage, and the ability to stand up to one’s truths. Their first step is a paradigm shift- instead of thinking of themselves as fragile, lonesome beings that need to protect themselves against the world, they become in touch with their interconnectedness with all things in nature. Rather than defend, they embrace. Instead of closing down, they open. They need first to root and then rise.

Once an empath has owned their unique life path and qualities, they will realize the gifts of living a congruent life: It is through our meetings with each other that we learn to be tender with sadness, be compassionate with the dark, be tolerant in the face of uncertainty and be humble with glory.  By aligning themselves with a bigger purpose, they will also find the strengths and peace that carry them through.


Empaths:  The Fork in The Road

Dear Empathic Soul

It is terribly challenging

to live with little or no filter;

To hear every drop of tears from near and far away;

To see human and non-human expressions of sorrow;

To every day have the world’s pain piercing through you;

To sensing the lies and hypocrisies when others don’t;

To feel trapped in your heightened sensitivity and perception.

At some point, you reached a fork in the road

where you had to decide:

Either to stay here with us, in this imperfect world, or you float up, dissociate, and leave.

I bet you have tried them all:

The spiritual bypassing, the closing down, the tuning out, the numbing using addictions, or dulling through drugs.

The desert offered transient tranquillity, but eventually led you down a path of emptiness, deep aloneness, meaninglessness and eventually,


Boredom is a result of fear—

It was all too edgy to sit with, so you left.

As you withdraw from the heartache, you also leave behind your hope and love.

At some point, you will reach another fork in the road

where you have to decide:

To stay, or to leave.

A yes or a no to the marriage with life.

The key to moving forward is ‘commitment’;

You either commit to being a part of humanity, or you divorce yourself from it all.

You might have thought that you were too weak, too porous, too soft

for such a commitment.

Yet something magical happens when you say ‘I do.’

The words clear your path, the intention gives you strengths.

How does this work?

By committing to staying with the world, you must also live with other people’s limitations and dysfunctions.

Then, you come face to face with your shadows and your own dysfunctional parts.

Your heart softens, and you learn the art of unconditional love and acceptance of yourself and others.

By committing to cohabiting a space with others, you deal with the daily irritants, inconvenience, and transgressions.

In doing so, you come to embrace life for what it is, rather than constantly trying to change it to the way you want it.

Eventually, you become strong.

With all the terrors comes glory.

As your commitment to the world ripens, it rewards you with richness, joy and strength.

So you were born an empath.

Where do you go from here?

Do you rise to the occasion, yield to the path that you were given,

let it shape you, and allow Life to use you as a vessel,

Or do you hide, shrink, and leave?

Ultimately, you root to rise

not because it is moral, or even particularly honourable,

But because it is the only way to go.

Consultant and Author at Eggshell Therapy and Coaching | Website

Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive experience in mental health and psychotherapy across diverse international settings. She specializes in working with highly sensitive, intense and gifted adults. Her books, 'Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity' and 'The Gift of Intensity,' are internationally acclaimed and available in multiple languages. She integrates psychological understanding with both Eastern and Western philosophies, such as Buddhism and Stoicism.