Updated: May 27
Empathy, hyper empathy, and empaths? Have you thought about empathy or explored other phenomenons related to it, such as being an empath or what it means to have hyper empathy? Being aware of these concepts can change your perspective.
Empathy: Analyzing What it Really Means
Empathy is generally referred to as the ability to relate with another person’s point-of-view, that is, to be in someone else’s shoes and experience what they might be feeling in the exact same fashion although separately.
Being empathetic is considered to be one of the greatest human virtues because it allows people to be compassionate to and accepting of others, not just superficially but out of genuine understanding.
Sympathy, on the other hand, depends heavily on the need to help others, to ensure their situation improves and they become happier rather than the actual sharing of the same emotions or feelings. One might even equate sympathy with pity, where the desire to satisfy others needs is of utmost priority as compared to trying to experience the situation as something they are themselves a part of. This is what makes empathy such a crucial factor in the growth and development of human behavior.
Hyper Empathy: When Empathy Seems to Have No Limit
Now comes the question of hyper empathy. Can someone be excessively empathetic, to the extent that it is detrimental to their own health?
Yes, this is what people commonly call the hyper empathetic syndrome.
As opposed to empathy, hyper empathy is not a psychologically proven syndrome or scientific condition that one can get diagnosed with, despite numerous articles online claiming it to be so.
We all know how anything that goes beyond a certain limit can cause harm, just how excessive exposure to something as safe and technically harmless as water can also affect our skin and result in pruney fingers. Another instance is, holding a bottle of water at an elevated level for a couple of minutes would make no difference but if you hold the same bottle for five hours at a stretch, your arms will start paining and you might even get muscular cramps after several hours have passed. Similarly, too much empathy might not always be a good thing.
It is when we study with this attitude in mind, that we realize the prefix ‘hyper’ which refers to ‘above average’ could in fact be an anomaly or at least an inconvenience to people who frequently experience it. However, interestingly if one can regulate the balance between emotions felt, this could be the answer to why nurses and emotional care givers have such a mysterious style of maintaining their calm even in the most stressful situations and always delivering exceptional words or small acts of comfort to people who may need it, despite coming from totally unrelated backgrounds.
Perhaps, in creative people again, it is hyper empathy which endows them with a kind of heightened sensitivity that makes them farsighted and wiser than most other people.
Are You an Empath? Possessing Rare Emotional Intuition
Right from the old ages, whenever something extraordinary happens, something that we cannot quite explain or analyze with our incisive scientific reasoning, we assume that to do with the spiritual, or in other words, to be divine. Abiding the same logic, many of those who have hyper empathy often believe in the theory that they are connected to nature and spiritually gifted. These people are called the empaths.
Empaths are not magicians, but they are special groups of people who claim to have a better understanding of emotions that seem to inflict humans. They are very good at recognizing and identifying intense emotional troubles or negative feelings of people by merely looking at their face and reading their body language. Sometimes, they might also be capable of sensing the emotional shifts in a crowded room because of the different vibes that each person could be giving off. It works in the same way as how we can tell when someone stares at us from across the hall, almost by intuition.
According to the article featured on Medical News Today, common signs of being an empath include:
Imitating the actions of another person around them - For example, if they see someone bruising their knee, they might unconsciously try to rub their own knee in order to lessen the pain. It is suggested that an empath’s neural processes can get affected by witnessing a trauma event, thus activating the same motor and sensory nerves.
Feeling the emotional state of another person - Such as, experiencing grief or deep agony on seeing or being around someone who is in mourning. This type of mirroring effect occurs because observing somebody’s emotional response to a situation can unknowingly trigger the same response in empaths.
Having more patience and being less likely to complain - When usually people lose patience and resort to violent or aggressive methods of reacting, empaths tend to be more patient because they can intuitively understand what the other person is going through.
Having quicker emotional reflexes - Being used to staying in a constantly alert mode, ready and on the look out for anyone exhibiting distress, empaths can be very quick and accurate at reading the overall ambience of a place or social group, allowing them to have fast emotional reflexes.
Empaths can get easily overwhelmed by intimacy - These people are highly sensitive and it is no surprise that they are wary of difficult situations and remain cautious when approached. The idea of being close to someone makes them feel vulnerable because their mental state of mind can get completely affected by another.
Having difficulty setting boundaries - If there is one thing that empaths are terrible at, it is maintaining a healthy distance from people, especially, those they care about. Sometimes boundaries are necessary, but an empath finds it extremely difficult to just not care about a person’s distress. Often in cases of toxic relationships, an empath has a tough time getting out of it because they are more likely to form a co-dependency.
The Bottom Line
It is important to remember that although
psychology is a scientific field and much of our emotional turbulence or the respective responses to such psychological conflicts can be explained with the help of science, there is still a lot left to be discovered and learned. This uncertainty gives rise to what we call the debate between the science vs the spiritual, both trying to comprehend the natural functioning of the human psyche in their own rights. In further explorations, we shall find out how science examines the different types of empathy and to what extent empathy itself is a scientific phenomenon.
How do you feel about empathy? What does it mean to care? I care about partnering with individuals who are passionate and seeking ways to relate to others, addressing social justice and environmental issues, and helping underserved groups.
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About the Author
I am an Indian writer with an avid interest in films. I love creative writing, and I have my own personal blog, Lemongrass, which features a blend of writing, short stories, and poetry covering divergent topics.
I also manage a portfolio of art, il Pennello. I love playing with shapes and colours but it is not always up to me as to what I create with them. Perhaps, my art had always existed somewhere around me. I'm the bridge to the other side. The medium through which art escapes. I'm not an artist but I believe in the visual narratives of the forms I give life to. Words will not do justice, so explore and let them tell you who they are. Maybe, in their stories you'll also discover pieces of me.
I'm a person that can't stop petting cats. When alone, I play the ukulele sometimes.