Are you an adult empath?
An empath is, first and foremost, an emotional healer. Like physical doctors heal physical wounds, and psychologists heal psychological wounds, empaths help heal people’s emotional side.
In order to be effective emotional healers, empaths are extremely sensitive human beings. Empaths are sensitive to human thoughts and emotions as children, but when fully activated they can absorb and process others emotions as their own. This ability to understand and process the emotions of others helps make them powerful and sophisticated healers.
People who aren’t empaths sometimes think being an empath is cool, like the Deanna Troi character on Star Trek who feels and senses what others think and feel, and then uses that insight to help them with their emotional and psychological problems. And it can be. In a relatively healthy and progressive society, like the one portrayed in Star Trek: The Next Generation (STNG), being an empath is a great thing. You get to be the emotional center of attention. You get to help others. It’s great.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is nothing like the world portrayed in STNG. If you want to know the truth, the world we live in is more like the laboratory depicted in The Empath episode from the original Star Trek (ST). In that episode, Kirk and the boys beam down and find an empath captive in a dark, toxic laboratory. In the lab, a bunch of fat-head scientists callously experiment on the empath, observing her skills and testing her limits. I think she dies in the end (can’t remember), overwhelmed by the injuries of a single person, Dr. McCoy.
Understand, I’m not saying that governments on this planet are currently experimenting on empaths. What I am saying is that the environment on this planet is dark and toxic to empaths, like the toxic lab in Star Wars. On this planet, we all experience what we call a Toxic Socialization process, characterized by chronic emotional, psychological, and even physical assault. The chronic yelling, hitting, name-calling, emotional and psychological assaults at the hands of parents, teachers, older school kids, and our so-called friends, damages us emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes physically. On this planet, everybody experiences this process to one degree or another, and everybody is hurt as a result. As a consequence, everybody, including empaths, is walking around damaged and in pain. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody. Not a single person escapes damage. Everybody is hurting and needs help.
Imagine being an empath like Deanna Troi standing in the middle of a round room full of hurting humans, desperate, hopeless, and in pain. Imagine they all know, or can intuit, that Deanna is an empath, and they are all desperate for her help. Imagine they swarm her, reaching out, touching her, and clawing at her emotional being with their dark, painful, hurts. They want to touch her, “be” with her, be healed by her. They want to take their emotional pain and place it with her so she can help them and heal them of their horrible pain. Imagine what that would be like and you will understand what it’s like for an adult empath to live at this time on this planet. It is not a Goldenrod sunny day. It is a nightmarish walk through emotional and psychological hell.
The ability to feel others emotions and emotional pain is empath’s greatest strength, and it is what makes them great psychologists, massage therapists, etc. Empaths can feel the trauma of childhood violence, feel the anxiety and fear of marital breakdown, and feel the anguish and pain of neglect and parentification. This special talent allows them to connect to people, understand their trauma, and work to heal them. When properly trained, an empath can work emotional miracles.
Unfortunately, the ability to feel others emotional pain is the empath’s greatest weakness, and they can be easily overwhelmed if they try to do too much, or if too many people claw at their being. Equally as important, they can be easily manipulated, especially when unaware of who they are. Empaths are born healers. They are connected, compassionate, and have a powerful drive to help others. Manipulators and predators can use the empath’s compassionate drive to manipulate and control and their behavior.
Being overwhelmed by the emotions of others is a danger for empaths in times of personal or collective crises, especially if they do not have strict boundaries (see below), especially if they allow people to “connect” without permission, and especially if they use substances like alcohol. Alcohol is an empathogen, meaning it enhances the empath’s already powerful emotional apparatus. Alcohol also, unfortunately, deregulates emotional controls. Enhancing and deregulating emotions in toxic environments is a particular danger for empaths, especially those who have been suffering for some time. Obviously, empaths should avoid alcohol.
Are you an empath?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be an empath. If you answer yes to three or more, you are definitely an empath.
- Do you love animals and feel pain when they are hurt and harmed?
- Do you hate human conflict, especially when it’s around you?
- Can you not bear to watch human suffering?
- Are you drawn to the poor, weak, oppressed, outcast, underdogs of society?
- Are others inexplicably attracted to you? Do total strangers often strike up conversations to you?
- Do people you meet immediately want to “attach” themselves to you?
- Do people “plug themselves in” without even asking, and drain their toxic shit into you?
Functioning as an empath on this Earth
If you feel that, after reading through this article to these words, you are an empath, then my apologies. You find yourself alive on this planet in a decidedly difficult time and space. You can get through this, however. You have the ability and the strength and with a few adjustments here and there, you can point yourself in the right direction, improve your situation sufficiently so that you’ll a) feel confident stepping into your wonderful superpower, and b) finally do what you came here to do. Here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.
First off, recognize who you are. You are a healer. You are an empath. You can deny that if you want and pretend it is not so, but that’s like closing your eyes on an ocean beach in a hurricane storm. You just know that’s going to end badly.
Secondly, accept who you are. You are a healer and empath. You can deny that if you want and count beans in an office, but you’ll never be happy if you do. To be happy, be who you are.
Third, honour who you are. You are a healer and an empath. Don’t be ashamed and don’t feel bad about it. Instead, organize your world according to your needs. Consider…
- We live in a toxic world. The negativity and assault are so prevalent that, as we point out in the working paper Toxic Socialization, the damage is pervasive and profound. We’re all hurt in some way and we’re all looking for healing that’s the reality that, as an empath, you face. You can deny that if you want, but your world won’t make any sense if you do. What’s worse, like closing our eyes on a stormy beach, you’ll incur additional damage as a result.
- As an empath, you are a magnet for all the sick people damaged by the toxic world. If you let them, they will make you a data dump for their toxic shit. So, don’t let them. Build boundaries and keep people away. Heal others for sure, but only after you get some training, only when you specifically agree, and only in controlled and therapeutic settings. Be aware, desperation can progress to aggression and even empathic rape.
- As an empath, you are hypersensitive to pain, suffering, and assault. Even a negative glance can cut you to the bone, especially when, and the more deeply you are, attached. Therefore, you need to limit attachments to only those you trust with your life. Don’t feel like you need a lot, or any, friends. Don’t feel like you owe anybody anything. Limit your attachments to only those you can completely trust, which on this world, as it currently is, is if you’re lucky, usually a single life partner. Of course, this goes against common psychological advice which is to have lots of friends and a large support network but remember Deanne of Troi. Having lots of friends and a support network is fine if you can find healthy friends, but on a planet of desperate and damaged hurt people, good luck with that.
- As an empath, you are a natural introvert. Honor the introversion and expect others to honor it as well. Create your private, quiet, safe, non-violent, toxic-free homes and places, and exist in those as often as you can. Keep strict boundaries. Don’t let anybody into those spaces that you don’t absolutely trust. Don’t let violence and chaos take root.
Finally, be who you are. You are an empath and you are on this earth to heal, so find a way to do that. Get some training, read some books, figure it out. Find an occupation where you can function as an empathic healer (e.g., doctor, nurse, psychologist, massage therapist, etc.), or make an occupation that fits with your highest drive and nature as a healer. If you don’t want to be a professional about it, get some training anyway. Take a psychology class. Read some recommended books and resources. Learn, grow, and strengthen. Don’t feel bad about who are what you are, and don’t be passive. Recognize, accept, honor, and be who you are. Then, get out there do what you came here to do, which is to heal the world, or some small part of it, and make it a better place. You cannot do it alone of course, and you may need help even in your own life, especially if you are dealing with toxic families, toxic marriage, toxic friends, and toxic workplaces, but you do have a role to play. You are here to help heal. Fix your home, fix your relations, assert boundaries, limit attachments, create safe places for yourself and your primary attachments, and find a way to do what you came here to do so you can be who you came here to be.
 By “we” I mean my partner and I.
 If you are an empath, I recommend you read all my books and resources. Most are not specifically aimed at empaths, but they all contain relevant information. I’m making all my writings available for free as PDFs, as I complete them. Visit https://www.michaelsharp.org/my-books/ . You may also want to check out our Lightning Path site at https://www.lightningpath.org/. We’re still building it, but we’ll eventually have content and courses aimed specifically at empathic healers.