Amanda's greatest passion is encouraging people as they walk the path to inner healing and self-awareness.
The Difficulties of Empathy
Read on for eight common difficulties of being an empath.
1. Loss of Self
I think the hardest thing about being an empath is not knowing who you are. When everyone else’s thoughts, emotions, and sometimes even physical pains feel like your own, it can be impossible to know what is really you and what is someone else. I might feel really depressed all of a sudden. My mind “helps” by making up a story to go with the feeling, giving a reason for my depression. But what I am feeling may actually be my neighbor’s depression—not my own at all. It is like looking at a plate of spaghetti. I know one of those strands of spaghetti is me, but I can’t tell which one.
2. You Can’t Turn It Off
You don’t have a choice when to feel empathic and when not. Other people’s thoughts and emotions intrude on your life all the time, even in your sleep. You can block it, but this takes constant effort and leaves you feeling drained. You will unintentionally know things about random people, things you never wanted to know. If in a crowd, you will be overwhelmed by all of the different thoughts and emotions you feel. Which has a cascading effect leading to #3-6.
3. Constant Overwhelm or Overstimulation
Constant fatigue comes from the constant state of being overstimulated and overwhelmed by what you sense around you. We all have a certain radius to our perception. That is, some of us only sense things when in very close proximity to the person. Others sense things clearly from across the world. Some people can sense not just through space, but through time as well. They can hold an object and connect to the people who have touched that object in the past. So, in order to have any break from what they are sensing, an empath needs to be alone in a very secluded place.
4. Solitude and Seclusion
Most empaths need a lot of alone time to recover from being around people. For me, being alone is not enough. I need to be alone, far away from people to get any kind of break. Nature helps tremendously. Nature is like a sponge that absorbs everything and leaves me feeling like myself. It is the only place where I truly know who I am. However, this need for seclusion and solitude, and subsequent withdrawal from society, can make friendships and relationships difficult.
5. Friendship and Relationship Issues
Like many empaths, I tend to have just a few close friends. I avoid superficial gatherings and crowds. Sometimes, though, when I want to spend time with friends, my need for solitude is greater. Friends don’t tend to stick around if you never make time for them. Oftentimes, as an empath, you will know things about your friends that they are not aware of themselves. If you push too hard or tell them things they are not ready to hear, you may sabotage the friendship.
Needing so much time alone can leave you feeling. . . lonely. It’s a double-edged sword. An empath desperately desires a deep connection. There is nothing better than being with someone who opens themselves and allows the empath in. An empath sees the inside of people, kind of like standing outside the window watching a warm scene inside but not being invited in. The empath knows the people inside as if they are family. But to the people, the empath is a stranger and an intruder. So, the next best thing to being invited in is being alone.
7. Not Infallible
An empath relies heavily on their intuition. They perceive the world and make decisions based on that intuition. But their intuition is not always right. It is possible to be tricked by a con artist. I don’t know how, but some people can change their personality like they change their shirt. They can genuinely be one person one minute, and a totally different person the next. This is very confusing for the empath.
8. When It Doesn’t Work
I am precognisant, meaning I have fore-knowledge of life events. Most of the time, it is not specific knowledge, but more of a feeling. For example, if I am planning a trip, I think about a point in the future that occurs after returning from the trip—from this insight I get a sense of whether or not that event will actually happen. If I feel strongly that the future event will happen, then I am confident the trip will go as planned and I will return safely. On the other hand, if that future event seems uncertain, I might be hesitant to take the trip. Some days I wake up knowing that my day will not go as planned, that something unexpected will happen. One morning as I was getting dressed, I felt strongly that I should wear something nicer than the clothes I planned to hang around the house in all day. I didn’t know why, but I put on something decent. Later that morning, an unexpected guest showed up and I was glad that I listened and got dressed that day!
I did not realize how much I rely on my precognition until it didn’t work one day and a death in the family took me by surprise. I was shocked and scared. It was like suddenly going blind, since the sense that I relied on was gone. I think it was good though, to realize how strong my precognition is and how much I have relied on it all my life without really knowing I was doing so.
What About You?
While there are many downsides to being an empath, it can also be a great privilege. You can use your empathic ability to help others. Being empathic affords you the unique opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level and help them heal. For more about what it is like to be an empath, read these real-life examples.
© 2019 Amanda Buck
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on November 22, 2019:
It sounds like you may be an animal empath. I have known people who are. They deeply feel what animals feel, like in your story about the dogs. Thank you for sharing your experience!
Juliet Acedera from Valenzuela City on November 22, 2019:
It's not easy being an empath, I often drained and feeling tired at times. I'm too sensitive physically, mentally and emotionally. One time, when i was sitted near the sea, I saw a couple of distress dogs around.Then, an intense and overwhelming emotions surging up that moment. Suddenly, I terribly felt sad and I was bursting into tears. I felt their pain and suffering. I feel things deeply.
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on November 21, 2019:
I agree that these experiences seem to come and go. Sometimes I sense things strongly and other times not. It can be somewhat mysterious.
brian from uk on November 21, 2019:
When i was 12 everything would stress me out at school so on the way i would walk slowly tough the cemetry it was so peaceful ok its were people are buried but that did not bother many times i would the names and inscriptions of dedication to there loved one. When i visted london i think it was the tower of london even before i got through the gates id feel unwell and would have an intense un happiness inside me just had to get away and then id feel fine it was years before i knew of the word meaning of empath and HSP but i know the energies are not always there i dont know if thats something to do with the time of year or something else all i can say ive had many experiences throughout my life and like to shares these
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on November 21, 2019:
Hi Brian, thanks for your comment. I like what you said about negativity lingering in the air like a bad smell. I think that's a great way to explain how we pick up on things in a place. I'm thinking of what being in a cemetery feels like or visiting the site of a historic battle. I can feel what lingers in the air, in the same way that someone might smell a bad smell. Thanks for sharing!
brian from uk on November 18, 2019:
Thats true loss of self your not sure who you are what you and on occasions if your walking around looking through your eyes you forget were you are but you can train your mind to filter it out to a degree overwelm is the biggest problem it just tires you so much you can struggle to stay in the know. And then you suddenly become highly emotional for no reason at all. Ive gone through a stage were id wake up in the morning and my eyes would dried together indicating id been crying in my sleep i often wondered why the neighbours below me would look at me with sad eyes but im ok now.but on the positive side we have very special powers if only we d stop fighting them. Drink only suppress the pain most of us that arepyschic empath have had experiences most people would kill to have but could cope with it when its taken most of own life to understand and control to just a degree. Meditation and OM chanting has worked wonders for me o prefer to meditate with a group but saying ive wondered if we take away there negative suffering indirectly. Yes we can sense if theres been negativity in the air even if theres nobody there it lingers in the air like a bad smell but does not smell of cross well enough about me i want to read about you guys
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on November 15, 2019:
Silas, that's a good point! Thanks for sharing.
Silas777 on November 15, 2019:
To me, the most annoying thing about being an empath(or an HSP. I’m actually an HSP) is that if you feel what other people feel it is just so hard to not feel what they feel and stand up for the person who you mind-read. Even if you feel bested and think you should stop standing up for them, as long as they feel this way, you can’t.
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on October 30, 2019:
Hi Brian. I wouldn't worry too much about the label. Whether you're an empath or HSP or whatever, doesn't matter. What matters is that you know yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Labels help us find others who are like us and they can help us feel like we are not alone or crazy for what we experience. Beyond that though, I try not to get too hung up on labels. Just know yourself, appreciate your uniqueness and do what is necessary to take care of you. Thanks for commenting!
brian from uk on October 30, 2019:
Yes my intution trips me up plus i dont know if im empath or the other or both i do get drained as to when im in or been in a crowd i cannot enjoy things because i get sudden brain fog like my normal thinking been disabled for a while till i start to recover a little but solitude is a great healer i only prefer small groups but some times i wonder as i can go months without any problems?
Amanda Buck (author) from Indiana on October 23, 2019:
Louise Elcross from Preston on October 23, 2019:
I think you described being an empath perfectly and I experience similar. I always thought that my being an empath was a sign of mental illness because I did not know of any other person like me. Loved the spaghetti analogy. I understand the need to be alone because it can be overwhelming to be around people for me. I enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for sharing.