Is This What an Empath Is?

I don’t have mystical or psychic abilities but I possess qualities that would identify me as an empath.

At church, when I greeted people, I surveyed their faces. Was there sadness or fatigue in the eyes? Were there worried lines behind the smiles? Or were they masking everything over? When I shook their hands, I noted the strength in the grip, the temperature, and whether they had a wedding band. If I hugged someone I gauged their vitality and shared some of mine with them.   I listened to the tone of voice and I paid attention to the nuance of their words. I did a quick survey from head to foot. I saw tattoos, jewelry, and state of dress. It’s not that I cared how well they dressed–I was looking for signs as to how they were.

I did this outside of church, too, at restaurants and the grocery store.  There were often many encounters within a short amount of time.  Once, someone accompanied me to the Walmart and commented later, “Within fifteen minutes you met with eight people, all of whom told you significant things about themselves.” That was normal for me.

I absorb people’s feelings. I feel their sadness and pain. I enjoy their happiness, too, but mostly I feel the angst.  When I visited the hospitals, I often felt their symptoms while I was with patients.

Sometimes, especially at funerals, I’d get overwhelmed when I stood in front of a crowd and felt their collective vulnerabilities and it would all slam into me as I gathered my thoughts.

I’ve done this all my life and it helped me be a good minister.  Nobody forced this on me. It’s who I am and what I do. But there were periods when it all bore down on me like a great weight, and it would feel like any minute my knees would give out and I’d crumble to the floor. I don’t think people noticed except maybe other empaths. I could hide it because I was cheerful and talkative, but inside I was wearing out.

During this last year, I’ve rested and reevaluated, and I’m learning to develop the ability to protect myself so I can continue to function. Additionally, I’m finding things that replenish me.

4 thoughts on “Is This What an Empath Is?

  1. A nice, almost clinical description of the way some of us deal with the world. Learning to “protect” oneself is essential and involves a certain amount of standing aside from one's feelings and learning to value oneself as much as the other. A difficult balancing act.


  2. I sensed this about you… And feel for and with you. I'm not always good at it but it is very important to be aware of our need to carry the burdens of others. Blessings from a fellow empath.


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