Empath and other things that I’m not

Van-Renselar-3-300x283I’ve written one blog about Intuition & Psychic Ability: Your Spiritual GPS. I recently finished the book and found that it was chock full of extras. These bonus articles included an essay on how to help children with their psychic abilities and even another book. This one, on energy vampires, started off by talking about empaths.

Empaths had been mentioned in the original book and I had thought it sounded like bullshit then. But heading it all again didn’t help this woman’s case any. The thing that I find hilarious/frightening about her explanation of the alleged psychic abilities is that I, by her definition, should be an empath. But I’m not. I’m actually introverted and mentally ill.

Let’s go down her list and talk about what makes one an empath, why I fit the description and why the entire thing is more likely an indication of mental health issues than psychic abilities. Note: I’m not going to reference any other books or sources on empaths. Like Orcs, empaths are a fictional creation and different sources will have different criteria for them. I’m going to keep it simple and stick with this single author and her writings.

Ways to tell if you’re an empath:

1. Do you feel “overwhelmed” when going to a place filled with a lot of people?

The idea here is that an empath is so in tune to everyone else’s emotional energy and signals that being in a large group of people overloads you with other people’s emotions. O’Neill explains, “Your spiritual body is receiving information, and your physical body is trying to process it all, but it’s making no sense in your mind.” If you feel physically or emotionally overwhelmed by large crowds, you could be an empath!

Or you could be an introvert. Or have a problem with social anxiety. I’m an introvert and being around scores of people is not my idea of fun. Going to clubs, even for drag shows, is incredibly draining for me and I regularly plan on going to places and doing things in order to avoid crowds. When I’m in a crowd I try to completely block out the other people and focus on myself and the people that I’m with.

But this isn’t because I’m psychic, it’s because of the way my brain works. It takes energy from me to be around people. The more people, the more stressful and difficult it is to be around people. There’s no science behind the idea that you’re receiving spiritual information or having trouble processing it.

2. Can you always tell when someone is lying to you?

An empath has a way of just “knowing” that someone is lying to them. Even if the person is an expert, flawless liar, you can just know that they’re not telling the truth. And wow, I can totally do this. But I’m very good at reading people, I know what makes sense and what doesn’t and there are “tells” for when people are lying.

Body language is a proven, psychological event and things such as avoiding eye contact, fidgeting and other nervous habits are all signs that someone is lying. Without even realizing it, someone can pick up on these hints and other things, which gets more accurate the longer that you know the person, and none of it involves psychic ability. Psychology is not as sexy as psychic ability, but there’s some actual evidence that it exists.

3. Do you have random emotions or mood swings, especially when in someone else’s presence, or when you think about them, which makes no sense to you?

If you have this sign you’re supposed to be picking up on someone else’s emotions and spiritual energy. The book states that feeling strong emotions around other people, “–indicates that you are picking up on someone else’s feelings like a radio, a sign of being an empath.” Or maybe you’re just moody and emotional.

I dated a guy that was extremely moody and his moods would brush off on me because I was forever trying to make him happy and his sudden shift in temperament upset me. When he felt bad, I would get upset too. It wasn’t because I was an empath, it’s because I pick up on other people’s emotions though obvious and visible clues and react to them.

Also, mood swings? Welcome to bipolar disorder. During an episode I can experience a stunning variety of mood swings at any given time for any given reason. Other people being around has little to do with it. But if I was looking for other people’s presence to explain my mood swings, you’re damn right that I could find it. If I believed in this bullshit, I might have gone to a psychic instead of a doctor and gotten diagnosed as an empath instead of a mental illness.

Being an empath sounds like a hell of a lot more fun. You get to be special and unique and filled with awesome psychic powers. When you’re mentally ill, you’re sick and you have to take medicine. Who wants to do that? But the truth of the matter is that you ARE sick and you DO need medicine.

4. Can you feel someone else’s physical ailments?

This is really just sympathy pain, which is a documented human occurrence. O’Neill gives an example in her book that her daughter’s tooth started to hurt, despite not having any medical problems with her teeth in the past. Then the two women found out that O’Neill’s husband, the girl’s father, had a cavity. Once the cavity was filled, the pain went away! Very amaze. Much empath.

I once felt pain in my middle finger and wasn’t sure what it was from. Then one of my friends posted that they had jammed their middle finger in a car door earlier that day! I’m so empathic, right?!

Wrong.

It was a coincidence. How many people do you know? How many things happen to people on a regular basis? How many things happen to you on a regular basis? Combine all of these factors and given any strange illness or feeling, you’re bound to find someone that coincides with it.

I’m pretty sure that whenever I had a pain or a minor inconvenience, I could post on Facebook and ask people if anyone has a problem related to the area that I’m feeling pain in and get confirmation from someone, somewhere. Look for something hard enough and you’re going to find it. Period.

5. Do you instinctively know when someone needs to feel better emotionally or physically?

An empath is supposed to be so in tuned with people’s emotions and thoughts that they just know when someone needs to be cheered up or helped out or have their spirits lifted. It’s supposed to be an instinct that someone is feeling down or needing assistance and you just go and do it. But there’s no magic here at all.

I can assure just about everyone that if they go up to a random person and say that you think they need a mood boost or some help with something, they will agree. Everyone wants companionship, to feel good, to have human contact and a connection with people. Also, there’s usually no mystery when people are upset or in need of help.

We have many ways of finding out that people are in need of help or assistance. Other friends can tell us, we can witness something ourselves, we can see a post on Facebook, we can overhear a conversation. We might not realize how we know something, but we can know it from a lot of different sources.

These vague feelings don’t impress me. If someone was able to know that a friend had just received a cancer diagnosis and showed up at their house with dinner made and a bouquet of flowers, I would be impressed. But this is just having a feeling, then getting confirmation for that feeling and your mind assuring you that you knew it before hand, when you didn’t.

6. Do you feel emotionally of [sic] physically drained after being around an individual, or a group of people, to the point of needing to take a nap, or physically not feeling well?

This goes back to introversion. Being around large groups of people drain introverts. It’s how their brain functions. It has nothing to do with psychic abilities or magic. It’s just how they work as people.

But taking the mundane and trying to turn it into the extraordinary is something that psychics and their ilk specialize in. Is it fun to think that your brain gets overwhelmed by people and it can sometimes make you feel badly? Hell no! You want to think that you’re so special and talented that you are being inundated with psychic messages that your delicate body just can’t cope with. That’s a lot more fun to think.


Occam’s Razor is a theory which states that the simplest explanation is the best one. While it’s a lot more exciting to believe in psychic powers and being an empath, without any proof that any of this nonsense actually exists or can be measured, the simplest explanation; that your brain is playing tricks on you, which has been proven to happen, is really the best.

Some people like to claim that psychic ability can’t be measured by science because science can’t measure it, psychic abilities are supposed to have a real effect on the actual world and that can be measured. The fact that every psychic ever has failed under proper laboratory testings shows that what we’re witnessing here is most likely the human mind doing some amazing twists and turns and not a person receiving information from a spiritual or otherworldly place.

Sure, it’s more fun to think that you’re an empath rather than an introvert or someone who is mentally ill. But the fact of the matter is that someone who is mentally ill needs real treatment with doctors and medicine, not meetings with psychics and detailed dream diaries. Reality can be a cruel mistress. But better the bitch that has your back than the sweet girl who smiles in your face while watching your illness become worse and worse, while keeping you from getting real help.