If we all are naturally empaths as Jeremy Rifkin suggests in his new book, The Empathic Civilization, how do we protect our hearts from taking on all the problems of the world and doing damage to ourselves This question came to us when a friend of ours who is an empath and a school counselor called to tell us she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the left breast, over her heart. We discussed with her how she goes about protecting herself and not taking on the problems of the children she counsels. She admitted that it was difficult for her to not feel some of the pain that she hears and sees from the children she counsels.This led us to reflect about the effects of early developmental trauma on empaths.
All we have are questions at this point, but it would seem that if our natural essence is empathic it would explain why early developmental trauma, before we had any chance at all to build defenses against the hurtful things that were said and done to us, would have more lasting effects. Does our natural inclination to empathically reach out to others make us more likely to get traumatized?
How can we protect ourselves from further hurt without just shutting down our empathic nature Are those who seem to lack empathy toward others just defending against further possible trauma Is it necessary to heal the wounds from early developmental trauma before we can truly recover our ability to empathize with others
What Are the Characteristics of So-Called Empaths
Maybe we can discover some answers to these and other similar questions by better understanding the characteristics of so-called empaths. Here are some common characteristics of empaths:
- They are often quiet achievers who enjoy talking about emotional issues as a way to figure out who they are.
- They can become easily overwhelmed by emotions and as a result tend to block their feelings.
- They typically over-focus on what others feel and may discount their own feelings.
- They tend to avoid any situation that might involve emotional conflicts.
- They can usually very sensitive to loud noises and television shows or movies that involve any violence or emotional upsets.
- They are emotionally sensitive to any kind of violent or chaotic situations.
- They struggle to understand acts of cruelty and any crimes that hurt other people.
- They also do not understand problems like hunger, disease or suffering and tend to theorize about them.
- They volunteer to help others in need and are close to animals.
- They are often talented in art or music.
- They tend to draw others to them and are able to connect with strangers. People sense their compassion and warmth.
- They can be moody or be prone to mood swings caused by overwhelming thoughts, feelings and situations.
- They can be very good listeners because they are genuinely interested in others.
- They often report having paranormal experiences.
- They often daydream and have trouble staying focused on a task.
- They are more likely to have déjavu