Authors note: The myths and truths shared here are based on my research, studies, and connections with empaths. They are my perceptions, not universal truths.
I read and hear so many things about empaths that are entirely the opposite of my own understanding, beliefs, and perceptions about empaths.
Therefore, in order to try to clear a few things up, I have put together a list of the general myths and truths that are regularly thrown around in relation to what an empath is or isn’t.
Truth: The first and most important truth is that there is such a thing as an empath!
When people deny that there is such a thing, it is simply because they are not an empath, therefore they cannot perceive how it is possible to experience the world in the way an empath does—it is that simple.
There is no need for empaths to take it personally when people attempt to discredit or reject the term “empath.” It is just that sometimes, to other people, an empath’s abilities often seem incomprehensible and almost magical—that doesn’t mean that empaths don’t exist!
Empaths have an inherent ability to sense and read the emotions and energy of everything around them. They are extremely, highly sensitive to stimuli, they feel energy deeply within, and they clearly see many things that others cannot.
It is also likely that people who diminish or ridicule the term empath will not believe in the “magic” that energy is capable of creating, though that is merely because they have either not fully studied it or have not experienced it themselves. To experience things that seem impossible or magical, one must first have an open mind and also be willing to seek out knowledge, to understand how energy works, and ultimately to believe in possibility.
People often fear things they do not understand, and this limits the mind’s ability to accept that there is far more to everything than many are currently able to see.
Truth: Empaths may easily become drained due to spending time with other people.
This is one that can take time for many empaths, and those around them, to fully understand. Empaths are similar to sponges as they absorb the energy of everything they come into contact with. Even if they use every protective concept available to try to guard their own energy, they will still naturally soak up the energy from people, animals, and even objects around them. This can become extremely draining, causing empaths to require a little downtime following social interactions. They aren’t being lazy, despite how it may seem—they have just been bombarded by far too many stimuli and now need alone time to balance and recharge their energy.
Truth: Empaths almost always see straight through bullsh*t.
People can lie, deceive, twist, and turn stories upside down to try to fool empaths, but, generally speaking, empaths will turn it all back the right way around and intuitively know the truth from the lie. The only time this can catch an empath off-guard is when there are volatile emotions involved. Whenever an empath’s emotions are running rampant, they may struggle to see the reality within situations, however, as soon as they calm back down—sometimes it takes until the next day—the raw truth of the situation reveals itself and hits them from nowhere.
Myth: All empaths are good people.
Just because someone is an empath does not automatically mean they are a good person, nor does being an empath automatically propel someone further along a “spiritual path,” or cause them to be pure, virtuous, or enlightened in their thoughts and intentions. Empaths are people just like everyone else and depending on what’s going on in their lives, they can be good, bad, and every shade in between. Empaths are not angels who only radiate out white, positive, bright light. Empaths have off days too, and they don’t attempt to live “perfect” lives. Above all, empaths are real. Generally, what you see is what you get—they rarely use manipulation or masks to fool people.
Myth: Empaths are always empathetic.
Often people confuse the term “empath” with “empathetic.” While the two do correlate, they aren’t interchangeable. There are two parts to empathy: the first part is the ability to tune in to what someone else is experiencing, and the second part is to then be empathetic with the information their senses have offered.
Empaths can read situations, but then can either consciously or subconsciously choose not to express empathy, depending on the surrounding circumstances. Empathy is not always the healthiest option—both for the person giving and for the one receiving the empathy. Sometimes empaths disconnect themselves from situations if they feel that empathy is not beneficial. When empaths choose not to be empathetic, they usually revert to being compassionate instead.
“While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.”
Many people believe the main trait of an empath is being highly empathetic and that they feel everything around them until it overwhelms and shuts them down. The truth is, that is not the definition an empath—that describes a highly sensitive person.
Empaths not only feel all the stimuli, but they also have the ability to read and understand the incoming energetic data, which then allows them the opportunity to detach from it if they suspect that it will be depleting, or if they feel empathy would only further heighten the emotions of the situation.
Empaths are still able to understand and support someone without also feeling the intense emotions that the other person is feeling. For example, if someone is deeply depressed, it serves neither the empath nor the person who is depressed for the empath to also experience a depressed state. It better serves both people for the empath to keep their energy balanced and in a position to be able to clearly understand the emotional state of the person they are interacting with. This gives them the chance to not only have a good grasp on how that person is feeling, but also so that they can transmute any negative energy and potentially lift the vibration up to a higher frequency.
Myth: Empaths are attracted to narcissists in the hopes that they can heal them.
Usually, one of the main things that attracts empaths to narcissists is that, at first, the empath believes they have met another empath—for an empath, the initial attraction is not based on soothing wounds. Empaths are natural healers, however, when they first meet a narcissist, ironically, it is the narcissist who focuses the spotlight on the empaths unhealed wounds—not the other way around.
In the beginning, narcissists appear to be highly empathetic and although empaths are usually highly intuitive and can read people instantly, when emotions are involved, chemicals flood the brain and can quickly and easily cause an empath chaos and confusion. Therefore, instead of empaths seeing the situation with clarity, they are often manipulated into believing that the narcissist’s intentions are authentic and that they have met someone caring and considerate—and unfortunately in this scenario, it isn’t long before empaths are caught inside a narcissist’s sticky web.
Myth: Empaths can also be narcissists.
Empaths cannot be narcissists, as in, someone who meets the full criteria of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Empaths and narcissists are at the opposite end of the spectrum to one another. An empath’s intentions are generally selfless and narcissist’s intentions are generally selfish. While there will be times that empaths become triggered and behave in ways that serve the self and are not mindful of others—and they can say and do things that could be deeply hurtful––it does not make them a narcissist.
Everyone can behave in ways that are harmful. It’s what people do to rectify the harm, and how that person feels about what they have done that really identifies one from the other. Empaths focus on others; they take responsibility, they are self-reflective, and they look inwards, while narcissists focus on themselves (apart from at the start of a relationship), take no responsibility, are projective, and look outwards.
Myth: Empaths are all introverts.
Empaths are all different; some are introverts, some are ambiverts, and some are extroverts. It appears that the majority of empaths are introverts, although introversion is not a prerequisite for being an empath.
Myth: You can stop being an empath.
Empaths cannot stop absorbing energy, despite how hard they may try. Empaths have a highly sensitive nervous system that detects a high velocity of entities, whether visible or invisible. It is not possible to stop sensing energy. If empaths deny or try to reject the influx of energies, it will all just build up in their energy field and cause more pain and suffering. The healthiest thing an empath can do is learn to identify the difference between their own emotions and other people’s emotions so that they do not absorb and internalize emotional energy that does not belong to them. Empaths can easily process and transmute negative energies; therefore, it is essential that empaths awaken to their gifts and embrace them so that their own—and other people’s energies—can freely flow.
Myth: Empaths are all traumatized victims that hide beneath a protective shell.
It seems to be a common misconception that empaths are weak, powerless, or co-dependent on others, and that they are fearful of the world and therefore live in a state of victimhood. This could not be farther from the truth. While it is true that many empaths have suffered greatly, either within their own family dynamics, in relationships, or in peer groups at work, school, or in general society, generally empaths bounce back twice as hard from any traumatic circumstances they find themselves in.
They do not wallow for long in their grief; they take responsibility for their part in whatever dynamics have played out; they learn lessons from the experience, and although they may be bruised on the inside, they muster all the strength they can gather to fearlessly move forward. Empaths are highly sensitive creatures, yet they do not allow their sensitivities to get the better of them. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and courageously continue regardless of the fact that they feel, sense, and experience life intensely and vividly through every layer of their skin. This, in my eyes, makes empaths the strongest of all—most certainly not the weakest.
As with all things, there will always be misconceptions and there are people who will reject or attempt to tarnish something that they don’t understand—it is an aspect of human nature to automatically fear that which they do not understand.
Those who live in fear of the unknown or those who do not want their thought processes to be challenged may downplay that a person such as an “empath” exists. People are often afraid when someone appears to be outside the box, as it challenges the status quo and they might think it weakens their own or mass collection of thoughts and beliefs.
Many empaths have spent their entire lives wary of the judgment of their inherent abilities, and this can cause them to create a defense mechanism that protectively ensures they do not express certain aspects of their being if they are at risk of being condemned, rejected, or isolated.
There are many aspects to being an empath that are not easy to explain or reason, though that is mainly because we live in a world that mostly relies on logic, mathematics, and scientific studies.
However, empaths instantly and strongly relate to and resonate with the traits and characteristics that are defined by the term. That is because they are aware that, although it is sometimes complex to scientifically make sense of their energetic journey and how energy interacts and connects with all things in the universe, empaths sense and feel their way through life and do not need scientists or any other professional to justify or explain their inherently natural existence.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Flickr/Shots of Carmen Fiano
Editor: Travis May