Do you think you're born a sensitive soul/empath or made into one by your circumstances?
The debate is the same as for anyone really. Nature or nurture and even now it's not clear which is the overriding factor.
According to Judith Orloff in her book, The Empath's survival guide, there are some subtle differences between being an empath and being a sensitive person.
Highly Sensitive People as Psychologist Elaine Aron calls us (HSP's) have a low threshold for stimulation, have a need for alone time, can be sensitive to light, sound, smell and have an aversion to large groups. Not great traits for a world full of noise, lights, sounds, smells and people everywhere.
We also take a lot longer to wind down after a busy day because our body, mind and spirit take longer to transition from periods of high stimulation to quiet time. Hence we love being in nature and quiet environments. Love a library, museum or bookshop anyone?
So you can be a HSP and an Empath and in many ways they are similar.
Empath's take it further by being able to sense the subtle energies around all living things, remember we're all made of energy, empaths can sense it in a way that others cannot and will absorb these energies into their own bodies without even realising it. We can struggle to differentiate someone else's discomfort from our own and some empath's can have profound spiritual and intuitive experiences. Some are even able to communicate with animals, nature and their inner guides.
Now some of this may have been passed down via genetics or from the way your parents raise you. Equally you may not notice anyone else like you in your family right through history because these are often traits that we are taught to hide or medicate.The common factor is that as empath's we haven't learned how to deal with and defend against stress in the way others have. Sometimes this may have potentially been worn down due to being in a household where the child was exposed to some form of neglect, abuse, or through alcoholic, depressed or narcissistic parents. Or even due to long term illness as a child or through life. Equally some form of major trauma can cause the system to overload and for a child to loose the ability to deal with stress.
Whatever the cause of a person being an empath or HSP we do know that our threshold for sensory overload is extremely low.
Think back to your childhood what do you remember about yourself? Or what have people said about you as a child?
I was always collecting "waif's and stray's" often in animal, insect and bird form but also with people too.
I always love school and loved learning, but I always need to go for a walk in nature when I got home.
I remember going for walks around the fields of the farm we lived in with my dog, my cats and I even had a duck at one point joining me on my walks. I loved being in nature and would crave to get out in the fields and to just sit and be. I felt only the animals really understood me and equally I understood them. I could sense a cow was ill before anyone else. Even the more moody cows would respond to me. I'd be the one sent in to calm an animal down if it was trapped, or hurt or frightened. My local vets tried everything to get me to become a vet and it was the first career choice I considered as a child, however just like I can feel for humans I can feel for animals too and realised I couldn't put a healthy animal down if needed. I knew I'd have no problem putting an injured animal down and often I am the one saying we should put an animal down before everyone else, as I know it's the right thing to do. My relationships with my pets were intense and I would be much more upset about one of my pets dying than any human, but equally if a chicken or a duck was taken by a fox, I could really understand the foxes need and would never blame them. I also eat meat, but choose free range and organic where possible and like to honour the animal by ensuring I do not waste anything. Hence I always boil up my chicken carcass to make a chicken broth. However, I have heard of some empaths who cannot eat meat due to the intensity of the feelings they have.
You see being an empath isn't just about empathy i.e. understand the joy or discomfort a person or animal is going through, you actually feel what they are feeling and can find it hard to distinguish what is you and what is them.
When I look back to my childhood from an early age I can see the empath in me and I can also remember trying to block it out as I got older, recognising that in this modern world they are traits often seen as a sign of weakness. I also had a number of trauma's in my childhood, like many people do, and I can see how I tried to block out my emotions, but equally even when I tried to block them I was feeling more than others, but I hid it away and did not deal with those trauma's until I was in my 30's when I was diagnosed with CFS/M.E.
I think there is an element of genetics and circumstance for me. I know that both my dad's and my mom's families are both interesting background. My great grandma on one side being the person called to for a cow calving or the wife birthing. From an early age I've had a natural affinity with healing plants and herbs and I now know she was an accomplished herb woman. And on the other side of the family there is a link to gypsies via another great granny and I mean the proper gypsies the ones who have immaculate homes and gardens.(not that my house and garden is!)
I've heard jokes in the family about certain family traits skipping a few generations and i like to think my empathy comes from these two Grannies who were phenomenal women.
One thing I do know, is since I dropped the mask and set up my own business I can embrace my natural abilities, the ones that come easily to me like my herbs, my empathic skills and my intuition and I can truly use it to help others.
Look at what you loved as a child and if you embrace any of it now. If your child or teenage self walked into your home what would they think of it? If they shadowed you in your job what would they think? I know mine would think it was really cool and it's the sort of home and life I'd dream of having.
Whether you're an empath, a highly sensitive person, someone who is sensitive or someone who has more empathy than others, think about where you came from? Think about your natural gifts and think about are you doing what your intuition is telling you that your life purpose is for.
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