What is an Empath exactly and what is the gift of Empathy? An Empath is a person who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. Empathy is the capability to share your feelings and understand another's emotion and feelings and is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes".
Lets break that down. An Empath is one with a has a highly developed sense of Empathy. And Empathy is both the ability to share feelings with others while understanding another's emotions, as well as the ability to put oneself in another's shoes or see through another person's eyes.
So an Empath is not just one who feels what others feel and feels things in their own life deeply. They are also someone who can share perspectives with other people, one who can see from another person's point of view.
Perspective is defined as that which is seen through an opening; a view. And a Point Of View is defined as a position or perspective from which something is considered or evaluated.
Thus an Empath who can not see through another's perspectives or tends to see them only through the filter of their own emotional experiences, is an Impaired Empath who suffers from Perspective Blindness at times. Perspective Blindness is an inability to change perspectives, for whatever reason, or an unwillingness to do so due to fear based emotions crouched in prejudice (this includes but is not limited to, disgust, anger, shame, guilt, fear, terror, anguish, etc.). In saying prejudice though, this does not limit it to things like race, religion, or sexual preference. It also includes personal biases and pet peeves which one has that could cause you to instantly dislike another person.
Generally these biases exist because they skirt to close to something within the Empath's life in which they avoid, hide, are afraid to face and/or are ashamed of. That does not exclude what they have been raised to believe, as well, but the main focus in this discussion is personal issues which cause things like Perspective Blindness.
This can be exemplified in the idea of reading a book in first person or in third person, which are both different perspectives. A healthy aware Empath has the ability to switch from one perspective to another, first person being themselves and third being that of other people, to foster understanding between themselves and others and bridge the differences which cause us to be separate entities. But an Impaired Empath who suffers from Perspective Blindness limits the Empathic Process, due to personal prejudices and biases. This can leave them drowning in emotions they do not understand and cause them to lash out. And it can cause a complete halt or even a derailment of offering Empathy to others.
When I say that Empathy must begin with you (self empathy) and then extend outwardly to others, what this means is that one must first deal with their own emotional issues before they can, in any healthy respect, work with others. Otherwise it is simply a means to escape their own issues. And this can show itself in the forms of depression and/or prejudices ~ which have been inflicted upon them, the Empath, in one form or another.
The premise behind this idea is that one who is abused or the victim of some sort of prejudice will do one of two things. The first is withdrawal from the type of people who treated them this way, and eventually, to some degree or another withdrawal from everyone. This can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and, sometimes, suicidal feelings.
The second is withdrawal from those types of people which offend the person, because of past experiences. But this one is crouched in prejudice and tends to take the form of the abuser they were pushing away from to begin with. The mind associates the power the person had over the one being abused with being 'empowered' and acts it out to give the person a sense of power in themselves. But prejudice compounds on itself, and it can become an even bigger issue as time goes on.
Either way the people being withdrawn from are somehow internalized by the other person, and ignored, given no consideration, or judged solely on bias and found wanting or lacking in some respect. Because this is an issue within the biased or prejudiced person that they will not face and deal with, it becomes an external issue expressed through prejudice or the withdraw of the prejudiced person from the other person or situation. (long winded I know lol)
Prejudice is defined as an opinion or judgment formed without due examination; prejudgment; a leaning toward one side of a question from other considerations than those belonging to it; an unreasonable predilection for, or objection against, anything; especially, an opinion or leaning adverse to anything, without just grounds, or before sufficient knowledge. Another definition is to cause to have prejudice; to prepossess with opinions formed without due knowledge or examination; to bias the mind of, by hasty and incorrect notions; to give an unreasonable bent to, as to one side or the other of a cause; as, to prejudice a critic or a juryman.
This is a discussion almost no one wants to read. This is a discussion that most people, Empath or otherwise, would rather push away than deal with, because it cuts to the heart of our own issues. And that is something we, like this discussion, are more inclined to run from than face , deal with, and really find some understanding in it, much less own up to it.
But its an important one, none the less. Because this is what holds us back in our lives. This is what keeps us from reaching higher than the limits we set upon ourselves. And this is what forces a filter over our own perceptions when we work with others, or avoid working with someone all together because of personal prejudices.
Perspective blindness blunts the use of Empathy by blurring the lines of connection we have with everyone. It causes Empathy to stagnate. And it leaves Apathy room to grow. Its very easy for an Empath to go from sharing Empathy to sharing Apathy, when they stop caring or limit who they care about. So really think about it.