The Myth of the Introverted Empath
Something I see a lot is the idea that spiritual awareness has a direct relationship with empathy and introversion. The more spiritually aware you are, the more introverted and the more of an empath you are. Today, I’d like to debunk that.
I think the first psychic medium I had the pleasure to meet was my granny. She often has very clear visions, with her physical eyes, of spirits who want to talk – and they tend to talk to her verbally, too. She has had the gift all her life, and she is well-known for her sensitivity. Here is another thing she is very well-known for: her outgoing, talkative nature. Everyone she meets says she is a very fearless person who will approach anyone regardless of social status. At the same time, she is even more sensitive to spirits than I am.
My apprentice’s mother is another outgoing clairvoyant. So am I, maybe to a lesser extent (I tend to feel spirits more intensely than I hear or see them. They’re probably #facepalming at my statement now). The point is: according to my personal experience, and empirical evidence collected over the years, I cannot see a direct relationship between introversion and spiritual awareness. A psychic could have any kind of personality, as spirit contact does not depend on it. The only crucial thing for spirit contact is openness to the communication.
I can see where the stereotype comes from. Of course an introverted person tends to have a lot of experience with internal talk, far more than extroverted people. Most of my introverted friends tend to be very good at discernment – that is, telling external messages from intuition. Never an easy task! Therefore, they make very good spirit workers, since spirits usually speak through us. Extroverts, on the other hand, have a tendency to take things a lot more literally. My guess is that a lot of extroverts are naturally sensitive to spirit but don’t realise it. (That was my case, by the way, for a long time). People like my granny receive very literal, clear, hard to ignore communications, so they have no choice but to engage in it.
A quick note:
When I say “psychic”, by the way, I am not labeling a specific group of people according to a birthright. I do believe everyone has the capacity to slowly awaken their sixth sense through practice, since we are all human and made of the same kind of stardust. (I can already see certain shamans shaking their heads and completely disagreeing with what I said. That is fine). What I mean by psychic, in the context of this blog post, is a person who was born with their sixth sense very well developed, for whatever reason. This can happen – which does not necessarily mean “ordinary” people couldn’t work with spirits on any level.
Are all psychics empaths?
This is another interesting food for thought here. The stereotype goes that everyone – or at least most people – who work with spirits are empaths. While there can be empaths in spirit work, true empaths are extremely rare.
The problem with “empath,” in my view, is that the term has been overused. It has become synonymous with sensitivity to people’s suffering and “a good heart,” whereas in fact its definition shouldn’t be so broad. Dare I say, it is a term as appropriated as “shaman” – but maybe without the same cultural connotation. New age culture has taught us that empaths are these wonderful beings of light who can relate to people around them and create an atmosphere of acceptance everywhere they go. No wonder so many people today want to be considered an “empath.”
Once we remove the rose-tinted glasses, we can see a very different reality. For a start, this is the definition of the term according to Merrion-Webster:
The dictionary also notes that the first recorded use of the term was in 1956, in a literary context. I was especially interested in this remark, because it implies that the concept of “empath” as we know it is quite recent and does not have its basis in any spiritual tradition. In fact, this term seems to have become popular among psychiatrists when describing conditions that could make a person mirror others’ feelings without a physical reason. (This could range from hypochondria to certain forms of PTSD).
An empath is, therefore, a person who “experiences the emotions of others”. When used in a psychiatric context, it usually means something a wee bit more extreme than simply understanding others’ feelings and being there for them. Empaths just cannot help mirroring emotions, even if they aren’t feeling healthy enough to help others.
I know two people who are empaths, and they also happen to be spirit workers. Specifically, they help spirits of dead beings who are stuck on Earth cross the “veil” onto the underworld, where they are supposed to go. This is one of the possible careers for empaths in spirituality, since the mirroring they do facilitates the job. On the other side of the spectrum, there are healers, and I include myself among them – a lot of healers are actually not empaths, for their very job is to help rid people of spiritual ailments without getting affected by it.
Aye, there are a lot of spirit workers who are introverts, and even some who are empaths. There might even be a few who are introverted empaths. However, whereas the first qualifier (personality) is totally irrelevant to spirit work, the other (ability to mirror feelings) can severely limit your options in the job. I do not think there is one right way to do spirit work, and I am adamant against any dogma in this area of knowledge. However, when it comes to stereotypes, it goes without saying that they should be taken with a grain of salt. Working with spirits can be very dangerous, even if you “know thyself” perfectly well, and a lot of gifts and abilities that the new age community keeps praising are really a double-edged sword when you have to live with them every day. Do not romanticise empaths, but do know that you are perfectly normal and valid if you are one.