May 22, 2019

What is an Empath?

Empaths pick up on emotions even when people don't express them

Happy Wednesday, dark passengers. It’s occurred to me that I throw around the term “empath” quite a bit as though I’m talking about something common in the world, like grass or clouds. The reality is that most people out there don’t know what an empath is…even people who might be drawn to a paranormal blog.

It’s time I fixed that assumption by going back to the basics to define it.

Of course, I use the word “basics” loosely. I realize that basic to me may not be basic to someone else, just like the things that fly right over my head are easy peasy for some of you. And – if I’m honest – I’ve only known empaths existed for the last two or three years.


Defining the Empath

Simply put, an empath is someone who experiences the emotions of another person as though they were their own. This is not to be confused with empathy – that’s when you have the capacity to feel another person’s emotions by choice. With the exception of sociopaths, everyone can have empathy.

Not everyone can be an empath.

Frankly, I’m not sure that everyone would want to be an empath…

The Issue With Being an Empath

Being an empath is a double-edged sword. One minute you’re happy and the next you’re gripped by some kind of a depression or anger or sadness. You see, true empaths get to experience the emotions of those around them whether they want to or not.

Experiencing someone else’s joy is one thing; experiencing their more negative emotions is no fun. At all. Trust me.

Although it’s possible for empaths to shield against the feelings and emotional garbage of others, it’s not a perfect science. In order for the shield to work, an empath must:

  • Understand what’s going on
  • Actively try to block out the negative emotions from others
  • Remain grounded enough to shield
  • Be stronger at shielding than the other person is at projecting their emotions.

In addition to all that, if you’re extremely close to a particular person, you may not be able to block them out, no matter how strong your shielding techniques are. For example, I have difficulty blocking out my husband’s emotions sometimes. There are even times when we’ll be in the car and I’ll have to ask him if he has a specific kind of ache, just so I’ll know if it’s my own physical ailment or if I’m picking up on his.

Types of Empaths

As with any kind of psychic abilities, each group has a variety of subsets. Depending on who you talk to, you’ll find there are more or less groups than are on this list. The some types of empaths are:

  • Animal Empaths
  • Healing Empaths
  • Nature Empaths.

As I said, there are more types of empaths, but these seem to be the ones that get the most attention. In essence, an animal empath can pick up on the emotions of animals; healing empaths can sense and heal illness; nature empaths can attune their empathy with nature.

Advantages to Being an Empath

In order to call empathic abilities a gift rather than a curse, there must be some upside to the ability. While the advantages can vary from empath to empath, I can share the specific advantages I’ve experienced with the gift through the years – even before I knew I was an empath.

Knowing how someone else feels can make you a better friend or counselor because in a very real way you do understand what they’re going through. On the flipside, it can protect you from potentially dangerous situations by steering you away from someone with malevolent intentions. For me, my empathic abilities have also acted as a kind of lie detector. Until recently – when all my gifts went haywire on my – I was able to place 100% trust in my initial feelings about a person and their intentions.

And you have NO idea how much I miss that…

Your Turn

How do your empathic abilities affect your life? If you aren’t an empath, have you had any experiences with empaths that have stuck with you?

Uh-oh…did I miss something? Don’t forget to share the empath traits I didn’t include.


“Let your dark passenger come out to play…Be your own nemesis!”

Photo Credit: Ekai via Flickr, Creative Commons

© 2011, Jen Whitten. All rights reserved. Remember, using content from this site without prior written permission will either land you on Dexter’s table or set off the zombie apocalypse. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.


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About Jen Whitten

Jen Whitten is a paranormal researcher and writer, specializing in psychic development, Empaths, modern day vampirism and dealing with entities. She regularly discusses the paranormal realm, as well as the dark inner workings of the mind.


  1. Cherrie says:

    I’m not a very good shielder yet. Still working on that…and grounding. So I practice careful avoidance and selective participation.

    I shop early in the morning for groceries when very few people are out. If I have to go to a busy area or crowded area, I try to take my husband as an energetic buffer. He’s a good sport. He doesn’t get it, but I just tell him to wrap an attitude around me like he would if the room were full of lecherous men who were moving in on me…he seems to understand that :-)

    I just say no to places with crowds unless it is simply something I really want to do. I no longer do it cuz someone else thinks I should or am weird that I don’t.

    My son is VERY intense and always in chaos…I finally learned that he calls me from afar (without realizing it) to refuel from my energy tank. He hangs up feeling better, I feel either sick or angry…for a while. I’ve learned to screen all phone calls. If I don’t recognize who it is, they can leave a msg. If it’s my son, I wait to hear the tone in his voice and the reason for the call…if it is upbeat, I pick up, if not, I pass…he’ll work out the trauma on his own and needs to learn not to use me as his mood stabelizing drug anymore.

    It’s better for me now that I am more aware, but I still have a lot of learning to do. Sort of like waking up to find you’re a brittle diabetic….a big learning curve! I get migraines, and severe fatigue from over exposure, or from energetic flying junk from others. They are attracted to me in public like vampires…for an energetic drink…but I don’t always know it, and they certainly mean me no harm…stuff just happens. One step at a time, one day at a time, it gets better. SOOO much better just not thinking I have a brain tumor!

    I’ve also had to teach myself (and it doesn’t always work), to be less interested in others. I used to be such a people watcher. I’ve learned I can’t do that. Mostly, I have to sort of put blinders on and do my public errands. I can deal with the energy demands of others one on one for healing work but found I was not good at group facilitation. I even tend to avoid big family dinners (and by big, I mean…4-6 people) and opt instead for one on one coffee dates with visiting family members. I just feel my way and try to listen to what I need rather than the ridicule of people who think I’m weird for taking care of myself however I feel I need to while I learn more.

    • Jen Whitten says:

      I think that if we don’t do what we need to to take care of ourselves first, we end up useless to everyone anyway. I’d rather just let people think I’m antisocial than go to an event I didn’t want to and end up feeling sick for days because of it. Just not worth it to me anymore.

      Never thought of using my husband as an energy buffer though. I wonder if that would even work since he’s also an empath. (Might be kind of mean, actually…)

  2. Cherrie says:

    my husband is not an empath so he’s cool with it and seems to have no problems. Probably wouldn’t work if he was one also. He’s held my hair back for days of vomiting and petted my head from giant migraines, so he’s willing to do whatever it takes if it helps. If we must go to an event, I always tell him to never leave me alone…unless he’s got to go to the bathroom. I agree…we’re the ones who have to live with the “after-glow” so what somebody else thinks just gets less and less important.

  3. Sara says:

    Brian is an empath. Until I read your article Jen I really didn’t realize how devastating my thoughts and feelings have been. To the point of causing the relationship to fall apart. He told me about the feelings from the beginning.

    It felt like a radio station with a little bit of static. And often he’d randomly ask me what I was thinking / feeling because he couldn’t explain why he was feeling a certain way. This worked positively and negatively.

    In the end, it ultimately ended us. I’m not sure if he shielded against the feelings or if he wrapped them around himself and drowned in the misery. Either way, he felt nothing in the end.

    Sometimes he would sense other people, a constant hum of static. But with us, especially early on, I think he could nearly read my mind sometimes because the connection was so powerful.

    Thanks for sharing Jen. My eyes have been opened and yeah… consequences realized is not always and easy pill to swallow or accept.

    • Jen Whitten says:

      I’m guessing he didn’t realize he was an empath and didn’t know how to shield. Science – of course – doesn’t recognize empaths, so they often get labeled as being too sensitive, having a thin skin, taking on the weight of the world like martyrs for no reason or being mentally unstable. (If you look at Cherrie’s first comment above then you’ll see it also causes some nasty medical symptoms as well.) :(

      And since science doesn’t recognize it, most of us just assume we’re nuts and don’t understand why we can’t get a tiny bit of quiet in our own heads. Personally, I don’t think you should feel too bad about that situation. I doubt he came to you and said, “I’m an empath, so your negative emotions are actually causing me physical and emotional harm.” Let’s face it, people tells us that our moods affect them all the time and we blow it off because most people tend to say that to blackmail us into putting on a happy face and whitewashing over problems. I don’t think there was any real way for you to know what it was actually doing to him. In fact, Hubby and I used to just feed off each other’s negativity in an un-awesome cycle of crap…which I won’t really say anything about here, but you probably remember how that was going when you first met me. It took me researching far and wide to figure out what I was to finally break the cycle. (And yes…he looked at me like I was looney tunes for quite a while after I told him.)

  4. Cherrie says:

    Sara, is it ever too late to share your knew understanding with him? It doesn’t need to be for any other purpose than to say you get it now and wish you had then. You could share this article and these comments and maybe it will help him. Some lessons are hard-won, but ultimately of deep and lasting value.

    One of the times I got nailed and knocked to my knees by the energy of a stranger…my mom, of all people who didn’t want to see me suffer so, called my sister, who sensed it was bigger than she could assist me with, and she called a physical therapist/healer who was willing to make a house call. When he stood in the doorway to the room I was in, his first words were “WOW. I usually try to match the energy vibration to assist and bring it up, but yours is as close to dead as I’ve ever seen.” Whatever he did with his healing energy, it was determined that in passing, someone took what he termed my “vitality”…and I had sort of allowed it through my ignorance and empathy. I pretty quickly recovered, but it was such an awful experience that for a long while, and even a bit still, I walked around with the equivalent of fingers in my hears, eyes closed, humming….”la la la, can’t hear you, la la la can’t see you….la la la not gonna feel you…” Since I didn’t know what to do with it, when it would impact me (it’s sort of random), I decided, at least for a time…”nothing gets in”. I know how to shut down and leave my body, or be fully open to everything…still working on finding middle ground. It’s a survival tool…and it works…there are consequences to that approach, but when all you want to do is just survive and avoid the pain, it works. It just isn’t the final place…you have to find balance and learn sheilding. Which I’m still learning.

    I have found that truly, I am of a hermit nature and have tried to be “out there” to do/be/behave like everyone thinks I should. But even in the hermit life, I have relationships that are valuable to me, and places I must go and places I WANT to go…so for those things that matter, I have to find a way. It’s a process. In some ways, for me, right now, it’s like a tide…I venture further up the beach…and retreat….flow out…pull in. Eventually I think it will be much better even than that.

  5. tim says:

    thanks for being there you lot I am in bed after what has been a tough week – the sudden onset of the physiological symptoms – tiredness and dizziness were a shock this time and I am not sure what fired it off or caused it.

    It took me a number of visits to Disney land which ended up with me asleep under a tree while the family did their thing to realise how open and undefended I was to the stuff of others.

    My work has been helping stuff individuals and companies with me often committed more to their goals than they were. Picking up the cause and the angst knowing better than them the implications

    Just recently I have made some big decisions – stopped work and stopped going the extra mile for others stopping myself absorbing and or acting on their stuff – started looking after me for a while

    I am wondering if this is now like a caffeine withdrawal detox effect?

    There are two other things I am contemplating doing that go against what I believed my true self was all about (morally) partly doing it to test my own rules and partly to see what i really think I don’t think this is the cause but I am not sure

    would appreciate your comments as your posts suggest we have lots in common


  6. Ronni says:

    Cool blog. I found you because you are also on the Sylvia Browne book tour. Like the comment “be stronger at shielding then the other person is at projecting their emotions.” Very true. I do have the hardest time doing that with my husband. For years, I’d feel what he didn’t outwardly feel. It’s been a road of him feeling again, expressing it, and me backing off. I still feel him from far away..we are very connected. Learning all of this especially protecting from others who are throw it at me from far away who aren’t helpful. :)


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