7 Key Ways That Sensitive Empaths Feel Things A Little Differently
Are you strongly affected by the energy of spaces, groups of people, and individuals? When you're around someone who is experiencing intense emotions like elation or anxiety, do you feel their emotions in your own system and body? If you don't get enough time to retreat and recharge, can you feel scattered, overwhelmed, or drained? Is it easy for you to understand someone else's perspective or emotional experience, even when they don't communicate it? Do you feel emotions deeply, and are you deeply moved by music, stories in books or movies, or inspiring things you witness in the world?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, you're probably an empath, someone who is wired to feel not only your own energy and emotions but also the energies and emotions of those around you. Perhaps you were a sensitive child, or you might have awakened to this sensitivity later in life. Below we'll explore the root of your sensitivity and how being an empath makes you a little different from friends, family, and colleagues who are not as sensitive:
Your energetic and emotional systems are hyper-perceptive.
You might have a good friend who can go from big meeting to big meeting, or party to party, and never feel drained. Yet you need more space to retreat in between events. That's because your hyper-perceptive system is picking up on more—what other people are saying but also what they are feeling as well as the collective energy of the room.
You simply have more to process at the end than your less sensitive friend. It can often take sensitive people longer to let their systems idle back into neutral after the stimulation of big events or any interaction where the emotions and energies were high or intense. If you had an action-packed day interacting with lots of people—in person, over Zoom, or over email—indulge in some low-stimulation activities at night like putting together a puzzle with the kids or reading quietly before bed.
Your physical body might be more sensitive too.
For some empaths, their energetic and emotional sensitivity extends to their physical bodies. You might feel the effects of substances like alcohol or caffeine more strongly than your friends, for instance. Or you might be more sensitive than others in your office to temperature changes in the room or loud noises outside.
Every empath is unique and will have a different threshold for physical stimuli. Your threshold might change throughout your life, depending on your circumstances. You might find a loud and busy hospital overwhelming at first, but six months into the job develop a tolerance to it. Or you might be temporarily unnerved by stimuli—like fast, aggressive music—you used to enjoy because your system is temporarily overwhelmed because your sensitivity is experiencing a growth spurt.
Physical spaces, and how they are maintained, have a huge effect on your energy.
Many empaths prefer clean, tidy spaces. Soft sounds, beautiful surroundings, and comfortable furniture can make an empath's sensitive system purr happily! Empaths may be able to walk into a space and feel some of the unseen and silent vibe too—like if someone who lives or works in the space has been depressed or content. If you are known as being "picky" about physical spaces, blame it on your empath sensitivity!
Let roommates, partners, and family members know that physical spaces, and how they are maintained, is important to you. After physical cleanings, perform an energy clearing of your space with a bell, aromatherapy spray, or sage smoke, and see if this helps the vibes. Keep in mind that digital spaces—like certain websites and social media feeds—also affect you.
Learning how to mindfully tune out of others is a skill you have to acquire and hone.
The cardinal trait of an empath is being naturally wired to feel the energies and emotions of others as the empath's own. If you were a machine, it would be your default setting to tune in to others this way. It's a lovely ability that allows empaths to connect profoundly with the world around them. Yet it can also be very overstimulating if empaths don't learn tools to engage witnessing energy so they can observe others from a more detached, neutral place. In my book Self-Care for Empaths, I give empaths the knowledge and techniques to more mindfully tune in or out of others.
Being caring and compassionate might come naturally to you because you feel with people.
When you can feel someone else's joy or pain in your own system, as if it were your own experience, it can lead you to be quite tenderhearted. Empaths can feel so much, that it's important they learn how to connect with and support themselves so they don't enter burnout. When you are too much in another's emotional experience or all your energy is going out to others, it could eventually make you quite bitter, cranky, and not very compassionate at all! The most compassionate thing an empath can do is to put themselves first—then they'll have more reserves and stamina to be a force of compassion for others. Remember that just because you can feel other people’s emotions does not make you responsible for their emotions, so avoid rescuing, codependency, and people-pleasing. Develop methods for processing your own emotions to stay centered and grounded, so you know what's yours and what is someone else's in emotional territory.
You're strong in the clairsentient psychic pathway, but you may be strong in others as well.
An empath's sensitivity makes them very intuitive. Clairsentience is the psychic pathway of feeling intuitive information—feeling emotions, energies, or even physical sensations—and an empath's go-to, but it's only one of four main psychic pathways. You might also be able to hear intuitive guidance as a gentle voice in your mind (clairaudience), see intuitive guidance as an image in your mind (clairvoyance), or know intuitive guidance as a breakthrough thought or mental download (claircognizance). Know that with practice and understanding, your particular type of intuition can increase dramatically over time.
You are sensitive to collective energy.
This could be the collective energy of a grocery store, a city, or a culture. Empaths are also sensitive to changes with the earth as well as the astrological weather (like the sun entering a new zodiac sign or a planet going retrograde). You might be exposed to collective energy directly (like shopping at that bustling grocery store) or indirectly (like waking up feeling off or down and then reading in the news about an event that happened far away).
Develop daily, weekly, and monthly grounding routines that keep you centered in your own energy—like meditating each morning, listening to the same upbeat podcast every week, or meeting a friend for dinner once a month—to feel stable no matter what the collective energy is doing. You can use your sensitivity to collective energy to your advantage to court energy you'd like to experience, like visiting a spiritual center or quiet bookstore when you want to calm down, or sitting at an outdoor beer garden or visiting a dog park when you want to feel more enlivened. Your sensitivity to collective energy could inspire you to become an activist for important causes.
Tanya Carroll Richardson is a professional intuitive, giving readings to clients all over the world. She’s also the author of seven nonfiction books including Angel Intuition, Are You an Earth Angel?, Self-Care for Empaths, Zen Teen, and Forever In My Heart: A Grief Journal.