We all possess interesting characteristics, and genuine empaths are no different. However, the traits that make them unique are rather astounding.
The trademark trait of empaths, or what everyone knows about them, is all in the name- empath. They exhibit empathy.
“It’s been argued that empathy conferred an evolutionary advantage to humans. Since we’re tribal creatures, empathizing with others increased our sense of commitment to the community and to those in it. Additionally, it permitted us greater understanding of not just our own feelings, but those of others,” writes Peg Streep in PsychologyToday.
While empaths are undeniably gifted in this area, they are so much more than this one aspect.
Here are 5 unique traits that make every empath special:
1. They Mirror The Emotions Of Others
There are certain brain cells which are responsible for us feeling compassion, and relating to the joy, fear, and love of others. These brain cells are referred to as ‘mirror neurons.’ Empaths are believed to have hyper-responsive mirror neurons, making it possible for them to deeply understand the feelings of another person.
Dr. Judith Orloff warns that we should be aware of those who display a lack of empathy. “Psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists are thought to have what science calls ’empathy deficient disorders.’ This means they lack the ability to feel empathy like other people do, which may be caused by an under-active mirror neuron system.”
2. They Can’t Be Around Negative People
No one wants to be around someone who is constantly negative, but for empaths, it is much more than simple dislike.
There is a phenomenon called emotional contagion where “one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people.” For example, an infant crying in a hospital will set off other babies to cry. Or, if someone is having a bad day and displaying anger and aggression, others around them will do the same. What does this mean for empaths?
Orloff states, “Empaths need to choose positive people in their lives so they’re not brought down by negativity. Or, if, say a friend is going through a hard time, empaths should take special precautions to ground and center themselves.”
Enduring the full effect of the world and those in it can be physically and mentally exhausting for empaths. You will notice they have to take time for themselves, where they are on their own, in their own space. Even if that space is nature, which it often is.
Besides needing this time to recover and reinvigorate themselves, empaths actually crave alone time. As Orloff explains, “Research has shown that introverted empaths tend to have a higher sensitivity to dopamine than extroverts. Basically, they need less dopamine to feel happy. That could explain why they are more content with being alone.”
4. They Can’t Watch Upsetting Things
Whether it is a video on the news, a disturbing image on social media, or even a texted photo, empaths can’t watch or look at it. It’s not that they are avoiding the realities of this world, but they already are aware, and when they have to see these things it makes them feel like they are seeing it in person. Empaths get the full effect. While most people can see these things with a sense of detachment, that simply isn’t an option for empaths.
In fact, if you are an empath, you’ve probably unfollowed a few people because of the things they share. It’s never a bad thing to take care of yourself, and you get to choose what you allow into your life.
5. They Grew Up Being Told It Was A Weakness
“You’re too sensitive.” “You cry too much.” “You’re too emotional.” Empaths spend a lot of time hearing these phrases throughout their childhood, and sometimes even well into adulthood.
Instead of support, empaths often have to go down a road of scrutiny. They learn that there is a cycle of growth we all have to go through- we let the world in (we get hurt), we block the world out (we hurt ourselves), and return to letting the world in again (but with boundaries in place.)
Empath sensitivity and heightened emotional awareness is not a bad thing, and it is certainly not a weakness. It takes real strength to feel everything so deeply.