I have been trying to hash out a definition of “Empath” that serves this blog and its’ readership of people who unfortunately got involved with a narcissist or two or twenty. It seems to me that the difference between an empath and any average person is:
- Willingness to submit to the gift.
Here is an example of how being an empath works in everyday life, my life:
I was in the store where I work and I saw a woman approaching. She had her young daughter in a shopping cart. I am going to guess that the girl was 3 or 4 years old because she was not old enough to be in school. I noticed that the child was clutching a crayon drawing in a way that told me that it was important to her. Therefore, I randomly went up to them and started speaking to them. (Please note: An adult should simply never speak to a child who is alone because it sets a bad precedent that could encourage the child to talk to strangers and, God forbid, get abducted – but she was with her mother, under her mother’s watchful eye, so I spoke to her.) First, I made eye contact with the mom, and then I addressed the child.
That’s a beautiful drawing. Did you make that?
That child gushed her words out at me. She could not wait to speak what she wanted to say. It was intense. Twice she said it. Twice.
I made it for Daddy. I made it for Daddy.
…and there was her mom, totally oblivious to the desperate need of this child to talk about her daddy, and the mom seemed to me to be a bit irritated. I can imagine all sorts of difficult situations in their home, but I don’t know what the truth is.
Yet, I facilitated an opportunity for that child to talk about her daddy and to release the desperate pressure that she was holding in. We start out so young, holding it in…
- It could have been 100% body language.
- I could be projecting significance where there was none.
Let’s return to the initial points of the working definition of “Empath”.
It seems to me that the difference between an empath and any average person is:
- Willingness to submit to the gift.
Skill: Let’s say that I read the child’s body language, processed it, and decided to speak to her because of her body language. Can you do that in a nanosecond? If you can, then you are an empath, in my opinion. It is not a normal skillset.
Effort: I am observant all the time of everyone within my line of sight. I am focused on seeing, hearing, and smelling the clues that other people cannot take in even when I point them out to them. “Do you smell John’s cologne? He only wears that when he has a hot date lined up for tonight and he feels macho.” To which, the average person will answer “Really? I never noticed.” Which is very frustrating for us Empaths who are tuned in and turned on all the time. In fact, in 1986, I was dating a young man who was legally blind. He could only see to about ten feet and would never be allowed to drive a car. It was quite a contrast to literally see that his world of stimuli was physically smaller than mine. If I wanted to avoid him, I could see him coming way before he could see me, and I could just run away. The point being that we all have a sphere of receptivity and that sphere is smaller or larger depending on our individual skills. His sphere was smaller because of his blindness and my sphere is larger because of my ability to understand body gestures.
Willingness to submit to the gift: This is what separates the boys from the men, so to speak. Do you have the raw courage to speak to a stranger about something intimate that you have no observable way of knowing? Can you put yourself out there and look like a freak to the outside world? Are you willing to act on the signals you receive? Are you brave?
If you are not brave, the gift will disappear. Or worse… you will start to make mistakes and to interpret incorrectly. You have to be willing to submit to the gift. Empaths are open all the time.
Here’s a freaky story. One year, during the ten days before Yom Kippur, I was sitting on a small table that somebody had placed on the curb for garbage pick-up and I was sobbing my eyes out. Seriously sobbing. I was praying for help from Hashem (God) and I didn’t give a darn where I was or who would see. I needed my Abba to be with me right then. Many people walked by me and did not make eye contact, but eventually, one young woman came up and asked me if everything was okay. I was bolted out of my concentration and I blurted out that it was Yom Kippur. My comment made her so happy. Apparently she was Jewish and understood why I would be crying with abandon on a street corner in downtown Toronto. Here’s the thing. If that story were reversed, I would sense that someone was crying and zone in on them like the Bionic Woman. Beep beep beep beep. Someone is sad nearby. Where are they? And then I could not live with myself if I ignored someone sobbing in public. It’s just not right. People assume the crying person might want privacy. Really? Then why aren’t they sobbing behind closed doors? Empathy requires bravery because intense emotions make average people uncomfortable.
Wow, this post has become much longer than I meant for it to be. So I still need to hash out a working definition of “Empath” for this blog and its’ survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here is my first effort, and please feel free to comment and discuss.
Empath: One who is skilled at identifying the emotions and the emotional needs of another person and who does so without any observable outside information. One who is open to the emotions and emotional needs of others. One who is brave.
“Working Definition of Empath.” is copyright © 2015 by Poorkitteh. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.