Empaths (Everyone Is One!)

by bennybargas

“I think I am an empath! I can tell what other people are feeling just by looking at or speaking with them.”

“I’m an empath. I can feel what other people are feeling.”

troiI am sure every student of magick, paganism, or the occult has heard the claim. In fact, I have been running one of the largest Pagan-oriented discussion groups for over six years now and there isn’t a month that goes by where I don’t see someone claim to be or question the possibility that they are an empath. Usually, the claim is made by those relatively new to witchcraft or the occult, though that isn’t always the case.

However, I have always remained both skeptical and critical of empathy as an extrasensory perception. What so-called “empaths” often describe as an extra sense has, in my experience, been nothing more than basic, human empathy. Human beings, by nature, are social animals. As such, we need to be able to determine how other members of our social group are reacting, how other members might react, what others might be feeling, how we might feel if we were experiencing what other members were experiencing, what others might be thinking or feeling despite their verbal or behavioral communications, etc.

We are programmed by biology to be able to read other people’s states of minds and feelings and we are programmed by biology to broadcast these states of mind and feelings, voluntarily or involuntarily, to others. In fact, studies have shown that the very same areas of the brain are activated when one simply watches others experience pain as when one experiences pain, themselves. Such phenomena is so essential to human biology and nature that the foundations for this ability are laid relatively early in human development–approximately 2 years-old.

So, clearly, the ability to be able to tell what other people are feeling without their prior communication of their feelings and the ability to apparently feel what another person is feeling is neither unique nor special; it’s, quite frankly, ordinarily human.

Let us not mistake horses for unicorns.