The Power of Empathy


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As a psychiatrist and an empath, I am fascinated by how the phenomenon of empathy works. I feel passionately that empathy is the medicine the world needs right now.

Empathy is when we reach our hearts out to others and put ourselves in their shoes. It also means that we can be happy for others during their times of joy. The Dali Lama says, “Empathy is the most precious human quality.”

During these stressful times, personally and globally, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even so, empathy is the quality that will get us through. It enables us to respect one another, even if we disagree. Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding. Being empathic might not always be effective in getting through to people but I think it’s the best chance we have for peace in our own lives and on the planet.

Empaths Survival GuideIn my book The Empath’s Survival Guide” I discuss the power of empathy. I also address the difference between ordinary empathy and being an empath. Like many of my patients and myself, empaths are people who rank high on the empathic spectrum and actually feel what is happening in others in their own bodies. As a result, empaths can experience deep compassion for others–but they often get exhausted from feeling “too much” unless they develop strategies to safeguard their sensitivities and set healthy boundaries. Research suggests the empaths may have a hyper-active mirror neuron system in their brains. These are the cells responsible for compassion. Because of an empath’s tendency to experience pain in others, it’s important for us to learn how to be caring without shouldering the suffering of others or the world.

The message of empathy is always “I hear you” even if you don’t agree with someone’s reasoning. These magic words are the first step to making others feel safe. However, being an empath doesn’t mean that you become a doormat or tolerate abuse, just to keep the peace in unhealthy situations. Rather, once you can see where someone is coming from, you can make the best decisions in that situation.

Empaths share all the traits of what Dr. Elaine Aron has called “Highly Sensitive People” or HSPs. These include a low threshold for stimulation, the need for alone time, sensitivity to light sound, and smell, plus an aversion to large groups. It also takes highly sensitive people longer to wind down after a busy day since their system’s ability to transition from high stimulation to being quiet is slower. Empaths share a highly sensitive person’s love of nature and quiet environments. However, an empath’s capacity for highly developed intuition and their tendency to be an emotional sponge who absorbs the stress of the world, sets them apart from someone who is sensitive to excessive sensory stimulation.

Choosing empathy over anger and fear generates a profound shift in our relationships, personally and globally. It catalyzes a compassionate evolution of humankind and a hope for us getting along in more meaningful ways as individuals and as a planet. Empathy will be the deciding factor between war and peace, between hatred and tolerance. We need to grow larger than our smaller selves and egos to be empathic in our lives. Empathy is the game changer. It is the trait that will ultimately save the world.

Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff, MD a guidebook for empaths and all caring people who want to keep their hearts open in an often-insensitive world.

Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

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3 thoughts on “The Power of Empathy

  1. It’s like you’re my spirit animal!! The very words you speak have came out of my mouth to others!!! So eloquent in your speech I can feel the love through your words in these articles. I know I am an empath and have not dealt with it correctly….that being said I didn’t know how to separate MY feelings apart from others. I LOVE how you talk about the happiness aspect of being an empath as opposed to some who only focus on the intense or the negative concepts of feeling. I can’t help but feel love for all things in life including people, animals and even nature itself. People are almost sickened by how happy I can be at times but they immediately feel at ease around me. I like the thought of even projecting my feelings or energy outwards so others can feel serene in their thoughts when they are near me. It took me a very long time to realize that I don’t have to be angry and scared to feel so immensely but open to the knowledge it brings!! I would never suggest myself as being ‘better than’ the stranger next to me because I can feel what he is thinking. It’s not easy or something that can be attained overnight as it took me years to distinguish if it’s what I’m feeling or someone else is feeling. It’s especially hard for me to be in an intimate relationship. Not because of the ‘negative’ connotations associated with being an empath and your partner not understanding your emotions, but because I honestly feel that if you can love me you can love someone else even more and they need you and that love you’re willing to give and I want you to find them and find true happiness. I don’t know why exactly I feel like that someone couldn’t be me? Self inflicted awareness lol. But because we are empaths we tend to carry the negative around also….which can easily lead to self destruction. I would love suggestions on which of your books can help me understand that it’s ok for good things to happen to me too, that I don’t always need to push people out for the better of humanity….I guess how to be more ‘selfish’ in the matters of the heart.

  2. I always thought being an empath was a curse; something unnatural. I see now that it is more of a gift. Something that should be cherished.

  3. Thank you..
    I live in Oakland CA.. I have had many messages for all of CA..
    I am exhausted ..I realize that it draining my fast as I protect myself..
    Needing help thank you..

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