Does your emotional state depend on how the people around you feel? Or maybe you just understand other people’s feelings better than most.
If you resonate with this, there’s a good chance you’re an empathetic person.
But what exactly does that mean?
We’ll take a look at the life of empaths and see what it takes for them to reach their full potential.
What Does Empathetic Mean?
We, humans, are hardwired to be social creatures. Empathy is the main quality that lets us meet the innate need for meaningful relationships. It’s the glue that ties people together and lets us connect on a higher level.
People who express themselves empathetically are pretty easy to recognize. When you talk to them, you’ll feel how mindful they are about everything you’re telling them. You feel fully understood, even if your story is nothing like theirs.
What’s the best synonym for empathy?
There’s one word that fully captures the essence of empathy: understanding.
Even though there are many layers to empathy, this is the word that’s most commonly associated with empaths.
On an intrinsic level, empaths understand not only what you’re thinking but what you’re feeling. They’re able to take on your joy and pain as their own.
What’s the opposite of empathy?
By definition, apathy is the opposite of empathy.
Apathetic people lack the ability to recognize and respond to the feelings of those around them. They don’t care about how their actions will affect the people around them.
What does a lack of empathy look like?
People who feel a lack of empathy lack the ability to feel compassion. They are unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes, either from a lack of understanding or a lack of interest.
This is known as empathy disorder, or EDD (Empathy Deficit Disorder).
Even though empathy can be cultivated, people who suffer from this disorder have an incredibly hard time tapping into their own empathetic response. This often puts a strain on their relationships and keeps from them connecting with others.
Those who lack empathy tend to suffer from isolation and loneliness in their personal lives.
But the opposite extreme can be just as harmful.
Is there such a thing as too much empathy?
There’s a fine line between constructive and destructive empathy. Empathic people might find this trait to be a blessing one day and a curse the next.
There is such a thing as having too much empathy. Those who have too much empathy may have the hyper-empathy syndrome. Each emotional connection becomes overwhelming and exhausting.
Instead of simply understanding other people’s emotions, people who are too empathetic actually feel them. This can cause feelings of anxiety and depression and a very volatile mental state. They jump from feeling happy to dreadful in a matter of minutes, which exhausts both the body and mind.
Luckily, in many cases, this can be changed, at least to some extent. Empaths can learn how to tame this trait and have a less reactive approach toward other people’s emotions.
Unlocking the Empath Definition
Emotions are body wisdom.—Jon Butcher, trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Quest
The empath definition constitutes a person who has an extraordinary ability to understand the mental and emotional state of others. Aside from this, they can scale their empathy to an extent that truly makes a difference in other people’s lives.
If you know an introvert who understands you better than anyone else, they’re very likely to be an empath.
What is an empathetic person called?
It’s possible to define an empath based on the specific type of empathy they express:
- Physical empath – A person who feels others’ physical symptoms.
- Intellectual empath – Someone who completely changes the way they communicate based on those around them.
- Intuitive empath – A person who has a strong instinct about others and sees through them with ease.
- Emotional empath – Senses and fully absorbs the feelings of others.
As mentioned, there are many layers to empathy. Think of it as a full spectrum of empathy.
Let’s take a look at the three main types of empaths that exist.
What Are the 3 Types of Empathy?
The three main types of empathy are:
1. Cognitive empathy
The ability to know what others might be thinking and fully understand how they feel. This type of empathy creates great communicators full of charisma and compassion.
2. Emotional (affective) empathy
The ability to actually share the feelings of others. It helps people build and maintain meaningful relationships with ease.
3. Compassionate empathy
The highest level of empathy goes far beyond understanding and sharing others’ emotions. It initiates people to react by taking immediate action without regard to the cost.
To find out which form of empathy is your most prevalent, take an empathy quiz. You may discover something new about your ability to relate to others!
Is empathy a cognitive skill?
It can be. Even if you weren’t born an empath, you can teach yourself to become one. The easiest way to do this is to be as mindful and non-judgmental as you can while interacting with others.
This can be an extremely useful trait that can help you build high-quality, lasting relationships.
What is the difference between cognitive and affective empathy?
Cognitive empathy is about understanding how others feel without letting it affect your own emotional state. It’s the most constructive kind of empathy, as it lets you become a great communicator without affecting your well-being.
Affective empathy, on the other hand, is much more of a double-edged sword. As much as people will appreciate you for sharing their feelings, this might come at a cost to you, as it affects your mental state depending on how others around you feel.
The final thought
Empathic people often can truly make a difference in the world.
Their ability to understand and share the feelings of those around them makes them incredible friends and partners.
As long as they don’t let empathy spiral out of control, an empath’s life can be full of meaningful and genuine relationships.