Most of us are aware of the word 'empathy' - being able to understand and share other people's feelings. An empath goes beyond this definition.

An empath is a highly sensitive person who can tune into the feelings of other people, animals or even places and objects. This tuning-in may be voluntary or automatic. Conscious or unconscious.. The core difference between a person who feels empathy towards another and an empath is the empath feels these emotions as if they were their own. You are not just imagining what it would be like to walk in another's shoes - you are emotionally walking in them. This can be an intense and confusing experience for those who are unaware of their empathic ability. It can make visiting places that are highly emotionally, such as hospitals, a challenge. On the positive side it can also mean you have a gift for understanding and reading people. Many people who are empaths, including those who are unaware of it, go into the helping professions because of their innate skill in understanding people.

An empath is born with their innate ability to tune-in to emotions. This means that children, not just adults, can be empaths. This can make parenting more complex as you help your child to control their highly sensitive emotional ability.

Empaths are usually aware of both the seen as well as the unseen. This means they are generally highly observant of visible communication elements like body language and tone of voice, as well as being able to feel another's emotion. This means most empaths will be reading people on two different "channels" to understand them.

As an empath myself I went for many years unaware that I had an "empathy radar" although I have always been very skilled at reading people, even when I was a toddler. Awareness has enabled me to control my empathic ability. This has enhanced the positive aspects of being an empath and decreased the negatives. Here are three techniques I have found most effective in learning to control one's empathic ability: 

Education : The more understanding you have of what being an empath means the greater your control will be - education really is power in this situation. Google is a good place to find free information about this topic and work out if in fact you (or your child) is an empath.

Awareness: This means not only being aware that you are an empath but being conscious of what your "emotional radar" is picking up. If you suddenly sense a feeling overcome you suddenly do not assume it is your own. Be aware of your environment. Are you picking up the distress of an upset child? The anger of two people arguing? This takes some effort at first but with practice you will recognize and be able to find the source of such emotions. Knowing where the emotion comes from (and knowing it is not your own) greatly decreases the emotion's intensity and will give you extra information for reading situations and people.

Build a Bubble: Sometimes being an empath can feel overwhelming. Imagining a protective bubble around you to deflect outside emotions is a very effective way to control what can feel like a bombardment of emotions. The strength and effectiveness of your bubble can be increased if you personalize it. Pick your shape, size and color (or colors). You can also fill it with things you find peaceful and calming. The stronger your imaginary image is the easier it will be to image it when needed. Practice also helps. It is usually easier to first create your own bubble in a place you find comfortable and calm. Your first "use' of it should also be in this place. Once you are familiar with your bubble and can imagine it quickly it will be easier to create it when you actually need it for emotional protection. Then if you are going into a place that you find emotionally draining you can imagine this protective bubble around you during your whole visit - or just during times when you need an emotional break. You can also use it when dealing with people you find draining. Basically anything that sends your "emotional radar" into overdrive can be calmed with this method.

Like the Back of My Hand
Credit: ohhhbetty (flickr)