Five Common Misunderstandings About Empaths

1. I am intuitive, I know things about people… therefore I am an empath.

Nope. There are different ways to “know” things. There are different forms of intuition and psychic abilities, being an empath is just one of those options.

Empaths feel energy.

Other psychic gifts can be connected to different senses: knowing things, somehow. Seeing energy around people or having visions or dreams of things that come to pass. You can hear or smell things that are technically not there but that can be a way that your mind is telling you about something happening on the energy plane.

You can also have a mix of different gifts, but the point is that they are all different ways of knowing things.


2. I have feelings I don’t recognize, so therefore I must be psychically picking them up from others!

Nope. You have to be really careful with assumptions like this. It’s possible to be really out of touch with the feelings in your own body, to the point where they feel foreign, even though they are your own.

If you’re convinced that you are an empath but can’t really explain how you know or give a good example (saying: “I just KNOW I was picking up on their feelings…” is not an example :) ) then you need to spend some time investigating. How are you coming to this conclusion?

I’m not saying it’s a false conclusion, just that I’ve spoken to plenty of people who claim to “know” it’s ‘other people’s energy’ when upon closer inspection, that was not the case at all. I’ve also spoken to plenty of people who were picking up on energy from others. Not knowing how you know doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it does mean you need to investigate further before assuming.


3. Empaths are necessarily kind, because they feel other people’s emotions.

Oh, how I wish this were true! Feeling energy from others is not the same as understanding what you’re feeling or even caring about what that means for others.

In working with empath clients I’ve found huge differences in the ability to truly understand others. Yes, there are empaths who are self-aware, understand emotions in themselves and others and have the psychological insight to put those emotions in context. They can connect “I was feeling this from the other person, so that’s how I know they were going through that, which makes sense because…”

There are also empaths who are severely disconnected from their own bodies. When they are panicking, they don’t experience it as panic. They will say: my chest is tight and my heart is beating very fast. When I ask them what the feeling might be they honestly don’t know. For them, learning that that is panic, is a big aha.

Now imagine if someone who doesn’t recognize panic in their own body, feels tension and pain from others. Yes, they feel it, but they don’t know what it means! Often their experience of other people will be: “other people are in a lot of pain”.

Or, if they are not really interested in the experience of other people, and just experience all those emotions as an overwhelming burden, they could describe other people as being dense, heavy and scary. In other words, for empaths who are not coping well and who are not that emotionally literate, the feelings of other people can be experienced as “get all that ick away from me!”.

This can lead to a somewhat aggressive attitude towards the pain of other people. Kind of like when someone has a contagious disease: “don’t sneeze in my direction!” There’s little concern for how the other is doing and an overwhelming concern with trying to be o.k. yourself and not get infected.

4. I am an empath, and I just want to switch my abilities off. How do I do that?

I understand the desire to try to “switch off” but that’s not how this works. To get to the point where it feels like you’re switched off, what you actually need to learn is how to

  • Identify when/why you’re tuned in to the other person
  • Learn how to stop doing this

It’s a little bit like saying: I want to switch off my nail-biting! Well, you don’t really switch it off. When you get to a point that you can stop, it’s because you’ve become aware of when, how and why you do it. Plus, you’ve found a way to not just know it, but do something about it as well. You’ve unraveled the habit, as it were. But it’s not like you find a switch in your hand and 30 seconds later, boom, done!

Often the desire to “switch it off” comes from fear, which is the opposite of what you need to get it under control. To get it under control, you need to get curious about it, investigate it, and then apply the right techniques, which I teach here.


5. I feel energy from other people coming at me, this means I absorb it and am an empath, right?

A lot of people throw everything that has to do with being more attuned to other people’s feelings onto the same pile and call it all “empath”. I don’t, because I’ve discovered that there are lots of very different processes by which you may be more sensitive to the emotions of others.

One interesting distinction is between empaths who absorb and hold on to energy, versus clairsentients who feel things (but don’t absorb it). It’s the difference between breathing in air and keeping that air in your lungs, versus breathing in air, and then breathing it all out again. When you breathe it all out, then when you switch environments, you breathe in different air. The old air is gone!

If you keep the air in your lungs however, then you carry the air with you, so even in a new place with different air, the old air will be with you. Keeping this “air” in your “lungs” is not a conscious process, and that’s why being an empath is usually of a whole different order than being clairsentient. Deciding to “let the air go and breathe it out” won’t help, because your conscious mind is not in control of the process.

(This is why even empaths who are very self-aware, are diligent about self-care practices and know “it’s none of my business, so I should let this go!” still won’t be able to, no matter the therapeutic process they try, or how hard they try)

Another important distinction is between people who “receive” energy versus people who “fly around”. Imagine it like this: A few “receivers” and a few “fly arounders” walk into a room. They notice there is a chocolate fountain in the corner. It’s a little over-capacity so the chocolate spills over onto the floor. Something in the fountain settings is a little off, so it’s bubbling up more chocolate than the fountain base can catch and hold.

All that chocolate needs to go somewhere and it ends up gravitating to the natural receiver. The receiver doesn’t go looking for it, they don’t even move towards the fountain, but they are very open, so anything that is present in excess, will gravitate towards them and just flow towards them. The chocolate literally flows across the floor towards them. After a while, their shoes are covered in chocolate!

Now, the people who fly around on the other hand will actually end up flying towards and dipping themselves in the chocolate foundation. But it’s such a habit that they don’t realise they’re doing this. So they may tell friends: “gah, all this chocolate just keeps coming at me! One moment I’m fine, the next moment it’s in my face!”

But do you see how the processes by which “chocolate happened to people” is very different? It may feel like the same experience, but it’s not. And so the solution is also different.

Lastly, there are people who say things like: I’m super empathic because when I sit down next to someone, I will have all these feelings! When I notice that they are a bit tense, I wonder if it’s because my hair looks really funky today. And then when they look away, I wonder if maybe they really don’t like me! Gah, I am so empathic!

Notice, none of that has anything to do with the “energy” of the other person. It’s taking the tiniest of superficial clues and making it “all about you” and whether people like you, if you’re good enough, what you should say to be popular etc.

This has nothing to do with empathy and everything to do with an anxious brain looking for evidence that you’re not welcome somehow. Obviously, having all those anxious thoughts will also create a lot of anxious feelings: fear, panic, anger, frustration, doubt etc. Totally different thing, but I notice a lot of people tend to lump this in with empath experiences.



So, there you have it! 5 common misunderstandings about empaths.

Are you more confused than ever now? That’s o.k., allow me to help you sort out what is what in a Clarity Call.

Or get started with some core tools and see where that takes you. The Energy Sensitivity Starter Kit applies to a lot of different energy situations, whether you are an empath or not (it’s especially helpful if you know you have a tendency to “fly around” the room).


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