Are you a highly sensitive person or an empath?

boredomHave you ever been called too sensitive? Have you ever been accused of over-analyzing a situation or of taking things too seriously? Do you feel overwhelmed by large crowds? Are you affected by the moods of those who are around you? If you answered ‘yes’ to more than one of these questions, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP).

Dr. Elaine Aron is a psychologist who has done a tremendous amount of research on HSPs. Often wrongly labeled ‘shy’ or having ‘social anxiety,’ HSPs are literally biologically hardwired differently than other people. HSPs have more sensitive nervous systems and tend to be overstimulated by things that other people may not even notice. For example, a non-HSP may go to a parade or another event with a large crowd and feel excitement and enjoy the experience. An HSP, on the other hand, will likely feel overwhelmed by all of the people, and may pick up on all of the emotions of those who are in the crowd. If you’re an HSP, you’ll likely benefit from reading some of Aron’s work, such as The Highly Sensitive Person.

Psychic ability in HSPs

One trait that many HSPs have is the ability to sense the emotions of others. If you’re an HSP, chances are you know how those around you are feeling even if they don’t explicitly tell you. You may see the person smiling in front of you and know that the smile is a mask for deep sadness, jealousy or some other hidden emotion. Some HSPs become so overwhelmed by the emotions of others that they have a difficult time telling which emotions belong to them and which emotions belong to others. For example, an HSP may suddenly start to feel sad for no apparent reason because he or she is picking up on the sadness of a co-worker or a family member.

Some HSPs have such a strong ability to perceive the emotions of others that they are empaths. Empaths are those who literally feel what those around them are feeling. Empathy is a type of psychic ability and in many ways, it can be a great thing because you’re great at reading people and anticipating their needs even if they are unable to express them. Some people are so out of touch with their feelings that an empath can know more about what’s going on inside of them than they do.

On the flip side, empaths can have a hard way to go because they literally can soak up the emotions of others like a mop or a wet sponge. If you don’t understand your gift of empathy, it can be particularly burdensome if you feel yourself constantly being impacted by the moods and emotions of others. You can feel out of control — which in fact, you actually are if you don’t have a good understanding of how your empathy works.

A resource for empaths

One resource that could help you to better understand your gift of empathy is  Finely Tuned: How To Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person or Empath, a book that offers suggestions on embracing your empathy. If you’re an empath, you’ve likely heard someone tell you to “lighten up,” or accuse you of being “too serious.” The book helps you to come to grips with your strengths as an empath and learn how to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the moods and whims of those who are around you. By learning how to manage your energy:

—You can stop being drained whenever you enter a crowded room.

—You can learn how to feel better when you’re in stressful situations such as the office.

—You can learn how to use your empathy to your advantage by reading people and determining what’s truly going on with them beneath the surface.

While society may celebrate the logical, extroverted person who plays down the importance of feelings, empathy is truly a gift that can give you an edge in all aspects of your life. By embracing your status as an HSP or empath and learning how to utilize the gift, you can not only survive your sensitivity, but you can thrive.

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