My entire life, my family has known me as a sensitive person.
Not just that I cry at the drop of a hat, although sometimes I do. But more so that I am a deeply feeling person. Much like a sponge, I’ve always absorbed the moods of the people around me. Happy or sad, other people’s energy affects me. And all of this started at a fairly young age.
When I was in kindergarten, my friend, Jessi, fell on the playground and scraped her knee. There was blood, and that terrified her, so she cried. I remember trying to comfort her and panicking when I couldn’t take her pain away. I was overwhelmed by the fear in her eyes and my inability to help calm her down. Hugs didn’t help, words didn’t help, and my breath was quickening. I felt out of control.
I took my friend’s hand, lay down beside her on the playground, and started crying as well. When the teachers arrived, they assumed we had collided and took both of us to the school nurse to get Band-Aids and care. At the end of the day, the nurse informed my mother that there had been an “incident” on the playground. That I had seemed very upset, but didn’t have any visible injury.
My mom nodded her head and smiled. None of this surprised her. She thanked the nurse for her attention, and on the way home, stopped by McDonald’s for a little ice cream. She asked me how I felt when Jessi fell down and if I was feeling any better yet. She treated me as if the injury was my own because she knew that, in many ways, I felt like it was.
Whether or not she knew the terminology, my mother recognized that I was more than a highly sensitive person (or HSP). She knew that I was an empath.
And yes, there is a difference.
According to Judith Orloff, MD, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, it helps to think of human sensitivity as existing on a spectrum. On the far right end, you will find the empaths. Closer to center would be highly sensitive and empathetic people. Then, on the far left end of the spectrum, are the narcissists, sociopaths, and other people who have “empath-deficient disorders.”
In short, empaths are the most sensitive people on earth.
When I was a little girl on the playground, I didn’t understand why I felt so perturbed by my friend’s booboo. But now I know. Empaths have a capacity to absorb the energy around us, and this includes emotional and physical pain.
Oh, yep. We’re gonna talk about energy now.