Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Fictional Empath: Empaths In The Media

This blog is going to be a little bit different than some of the others, because I wanted to touch base on the stereotypes of Empaths in the media. I also wanted to contrast those Empaths and the reality of being Empath, so there are no mistakes. So lets start at the beginning and work our way through them, shall we?

The first Empath to be featured on Television was named Gem, and was featured on an episode of the original series of Star Trek called 'The Empath'. Here is a picture of her. She was able to take on the physical suffering of others, at great detriment to herself. And in the end, she ended up dying to save the life of one of the Enterprise officers.

The next set of Empaths to be featured in the media were again on a Star Trek Series, only this time it was Star Trek the Next Generation. The first one was a half human half betazoid, named Deanna Troi, who had the ability to feel what other people felt, garner their intent, and determine if they were lying or holding something back.

The next Empath in this trio was the Empath named Tam Elbrun who starred in the episode of Star Trek The Next Generation called 'Tinman'. His gift was so overwhelming in its nature he could not stand to be around other people for long periods of time. So when he came upon a living ship, he connected with it and eventually stayed with it.

And last, but certainly not least, in this Star Trek Trio was Deanna Troi's mother, Lwaxana Troi, who was a full Betazoid and exhibited not only the gift of Empathy, but also that of Telepathy, which is the ability to communicate with another person in both word and image, through a connection of the mind. She was an on going and very popular character.

After these Empaths, we come to another set which held audiences captive for their richness of detail. The ones that I'm speaking of now came from the series Charmed, in which three sister witches were each given gifts of magic to help thwart the darkness.

The first Empath on Charmed was Prue, in the episode called 'The Primrose Empath' when she casts a spell on a supposed innocent and it backfires, giving her the ability to feel the pain of the entire world at one time. She becomes so overwhelmed by this accidental gift that her other powers begin to backfire and become very destructive. But in the end, she masters the gift and is able to pass it on to the demon she is fighting in such a way that it destroys him.

Within that same episode, there was another Empath, named Father Thomas, who was being held on the psychiatric ward of a hospital, because no one believed that he had passed on his gift of Empathy to a demon in order to stop him from killing innocent people.

The next Empath is also from Charmed, but unlike Prue who came upon the gift of Empathy through a misfired spell, this witch, Pheobe, came upon it naturally. Through it she was able to not only feel what other people felt, but she was also able to reflect other's abilities because those abilities were based in emotion, something like Empathic Reflection. She went on to work as a Help Columist, like Dear Abby, and used her gifts to help people all over the city.

And now we come to one of the most recent additions to this strange collection of television Empaths. Peter Patrelli, from the show Heroes, is said to have the gift of Empathic Mimicry, which is the power to take on others skills and abilities through Empathy. Unlike Pheobe, who merely reflected the abilities of others, Peter Patrelli actually absorbs the abilities of others and they become his, as well. This is much like making a duplicate of any ability, while the original stays intact.

Another example of Empathic Mimicry, brought to life on the big screen from the pages of a comic book, is the character of Rogue from Marvel Comics's X-Men, within the movie of the same name. She exhibited the ability to take on people's memories and abilities with one touch of her skin on another person. She has issues dealing with all of the personalities locked within her psyche, because even as the biggest effects of a single touch dissipate, there are still fragments of each personality which remain.

The last Empath to hit the big screen was first in a book, by Stephenie Meyer, and then in the movie, of the same name, Twilight. His name was Jasper Hale, as you can see in his picture. He is said to be both a Vampire and an Empath. He exhibits the ability to calm the emotions of those around him when they are agitated and/or upset, though this effect is only temporary based on his proximity to the person he is calming.

The Empath In Contrast

Can you see yourself in any of these characters? Can you relate to them? Did they inspire your thoughts about being an Empath?

While it is true that the Empathic movement is growing at a considerable rate, in part because of the media's portrayal of us, there is much more to it than that. Is the gift of Empathy like that of Phoebe or Prue? Is it like Deanna Troi? Is it like Peter Patrelli or Jasper Hale, or any of the others we've discussed? Or is it something that goes much deeper than that? That's for you to decide. But do not limit yourself based on what you see on TV. The truth is far more complex than what is viewed there, because it does not exist in the outside world. Empathy exists within you.

So lets look at this in a little bit more detail and see the contrasts between the media's portrayal of an Empath and the real thing. Here are 16 common traits of an Empath. Please remember that these are generalizations. And that some people may find more in common with them than others will. These are not the only traits, and should not be used as a definitive guide in the process of asserting one is an Empath or not. Ultimately, only you can decide who and what you are.

Traits Of An Empath

1. Empaths are quiet achievers but expressive in area's of emotional connection. They find that talking about emotional issues is a great outlet that aids in undertanding themselves and others.

2. Some Empaths can be the opposite of what an Empath 'should' be because they are overwhelmed or unable to handle emotion and what they feel in the world around them so they block their feelings.

3. They can be focused outward, toward what others feel, rather than themselves. This is a common trait to many people who have not gone through a process of self development.

4. They avoid disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations. This type of situation can easily create an uncomfortable feeling because an empath feels this emotion.

5. Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and general chaos.

6. Empaths are sensitive to loud noise and televison. In particular, television programs that depict emotional drama like the news and police shows.

7. They struggle to comprehend acts of cruelty and crime that involves hurting others.

8. They struggle to comprehend suffering in the world and are often idealists who theorise about fixing the worlds problems.

9. Are often found working as volunteers, with people, animals or the environment.

10. They are expressive so they can often be found in areas of music or the arts.

11. They often have the ability to draw others to them. This includes children and animals as they have a warmth and compassion that is beyond normal You may find that strangers always talk to you if you are an Empath.

12. They can be good listeners as they generally have an interest in other people.

13. Empaths can be moody or have large mood swings due to overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotion.

14. They are likely to have had, other paranormal experiences in their life. This could be astral projection, psychic ability or a variety of other experiences.

15. Empaths are daydreamers that have difficulty keeping focus. This is common with people who deal more IN emotion and neglect other area's of their mind.

16. Like many people on a spirtual path, Empaths frequently experience deja vu and syncronicities. This is something that occurs to everyone however Empaths are often more aware and therefore 'look out' for it.

Can you see yourself in any of these traits? Do you relate well to them? Can you see, when you compare these to the traits of Empaths in the media, bits and pieces of the truth within each of the television/movie Empaths? Can you see the differences?

Empathy, as a gift, is considered to be a psychic ability to a certain degree. But beyond that, the reality of Empathy is that most everyone possesses it to one degree or another. The Empath is simply one who feels things deeper and has the ability to emote and project emotions to a heightened level. So while it is true that some with the gift of Empathy lay claim to other psychic or metaphysical abilities, it is more to the point that everyone has the potential for Empathy.

There is also a psychological aspect to Empathy in the relationship between therapist and patient. As the therapist listens to the stories of the patient, they attempt to see the situation through the eyes of the patient so that they can give them better care and treatment. This is also the basis for peer counseling and basic support within the bounds of relationships whether it be with family, friends or lovers.

On top of this, Empathy is also utilized in businesses all over the world. This is especially true when the business in question is customer based or does marketing toward a specific age group or gender. People within these spheres must understand the minds of their customers if they are going to successfully sell or promote a product.

All of these aspects of Empathy, from the Media portrayal to that of the relationship of therapist and patient to consumer based business usages, are important things that must be understood about this process, so that the idea of this gift is not twisted into something it is not.

So in saying all this we come to the most basic truth about Empathy and Empaths. Its not a game to be played because it sounded 'cool' on television. Its not something one becomes overnight and has total and complete control over. In reality it is a life long process, and on the whole, a very painful one, as well. It can leave the person with this gift emotionally stretched to their limit, scarred, burned out, lacking in self esteem and self worth, and emotionally dissociative.

And only through true self analysis, be it on your own or with the help of a counselor or a peer, can one finally find true peace with this gift. The power to sink or swim is in your hands alone. So to live beneath a fantasy of what your gift and your burden is, only prolongs your own suffering. As long as you fight against the process of self analysis, you will continue to give until you bleed, find your purpose in helping others while denying yourself, and in general, feel lost and overwhelmed with the world around you, even to the point that you isolate yourself from the world.

So give it some thought. And while your at it, give yourself some thought, as well. ^_^

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