Empathy and sympathy

Empathy and sympathy are often thought to mean the same but they are different. The dictionary definition of sympathy is a feeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. It can also mean a common feeling or understanding between people. So there are many times in our lives when we have sympathy for others often when people have lost something or someone close to them.

But empathy is very different. It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. You try to imagine yourself in their place so you can understand what they are feeling. Empaths are often told they are too sensitive and I have been told this many times in my life. An empath feels everything sometimes to an extreme. There are different kinds of empath too, some are sensitive to the earth, or plants, or animals more than people. Some empaths are sensitive to many of these. Empaths can also be sensitive to noise and smell and feel exhausted when around a lot of people together like in a shopping centre. It is easy for an empath to be overwhelmed by their feelings which are often the feelings they have gained from others.

It is OK to feel overwhelmed and to feel extremely sad but an empath has to learn to deal with all of this so that they don’t become ill or totally stressed out. Being an empath can be hard to live with as you take on the feelings of others so you can understand their sadness and their problems. I always knew I had that kind of insight into how others felt but it has only been in the last few years that I really understood that I was an empath. I find that those who need help are often drawn to approach me and this can be overwhelming when they all come at once! But I am learning to deal with this and learning to keep myself from being overwhelmed too often.

Are you an empath and if so how do you deal with it?


2 thoughts on “Empathy and sympathy

  1. From your discription I guess I am also an empath. I often ‘feel’ others pain. I, too, get people talking to me about things that are very personal to themselves. It can lead to overkill on my emotions and, in the past, has led to me suffering stress and anxiety. Certainly that is not good for ones health. On the other hand, to be able to empathise is a wonderful gift and I wouldn’t like to be without it.

  2. I was once advised that to be compassionate we must ‘walk in another’s shoes…but keep our own socks on’. It took me a long time to learn about boundaries, and how to ‘come back into myself’. Mindfulness has helped me but I can still get overwhelmed sometimes.

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