Are you an Empath?

15 Mar 2017
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How to survive if you are…

One of the common problems I see in my clinic stems from ‘over-sensitivity’. This is often exacerbated by a reliance on social media for validation.

So if you do over-worry about what other people think about you, or find yourself replaying conversations and over-analysing them, could you be an Empath?
Empaths are people who are highly sensitive to other people. Being an Empath can be extremely uplifting as your connection with others is often on a deeper level, especially if you are living or working in a caring role as you can build amazing rapport. However for your own self-preservation it is worthwhile understanding yourself and having strategies at hand when you might need them.
As we evolved into modern day humans we developed the neocortex, the part of our brain that we use for our rational thinking, our conscious part. However we still have the original primitive brain which was instrumental in keeping our caveman ancestors alive, and the reason we are here today. This part of the brain looks out for our safety: our freeze/flight/fight response. It’s that sixth sense we get sometimes when we feel something is wrong, and it can take over if we feel our lives are in some kind of crisis or under threat.
And because we survive better in a group, it also constantly compares us to our social peers: Are we doing better or worse than our neighbours? Should I spend time with this person or that one, which alignment will ensure my survival? And we do this subconsciously, but we might all recognise that feeling of guilty pleasure when we measure up better, or see someone take a fall (metaphorically and physically) – this is not an intrinsic nastiness but a survival position. And although we no longer need to include ourselves in social groups for our survival, in our modern lives we still have this primitive mechanism – and after all, being part of a social group is entwined in our makeup and uplifts us.
So, back to Empaths… 
Empaths have an over-developed sensitivity to others which means they tend to take on board too much from people surrounding them whether it’s their sadness, pain, joy or anger. They ruminate on conversations (“What did she mean when she said xxx?”) looking for hidden messages and agendas. They worry about how they measure up against others, and here social media can over-emphasise what everyone else is doing – that amazing holiday, meal out, perfect kids, partner, etc – but no one advertises the arguments, day-to-day drudgery, problems at work or home. It’s all about highlighting how successful we are and to an Empath this can seem like an unattainable dream, and can lead to social anxiety or depression.
So being able to step back a little, put some perspective in place is crucial for our mental health – this doesn’t mean over-riding your natural ability to bond and empathise with your fellow humans, after all this is what makes you ‘you’ and what attracts many of your circle towards you. But do remember that not everyone thinks or feels the same way, we all know people who say things we wouldn’t dream of saying for fear of offending or hurting but don’t waste your time seeking any hidden meanings, sometimes a throw away comment is just that!

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