As an empath and therapist, I often discuss the difference between empathy and compassion with clients. Empathy and compassion are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they have different meanings and implications for our daily lives.
Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the emotions of others as if they were your own. Empaths have a heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others, which allows us to experience others’ feelings and respond accordingly. However, empathy can also be overwhelming and draining, especially when you are surrounded by intense emotions or trauma.
Conversely, compassion is the ability to feel concerned and care for others without taking on their emotions directly. Compassion allows you to connect with people deeply and show kindness and understanding, even when you don’t fully embody their experiences.
I find that cultivating compassion is healthier for empaths. It enables you to be in the world and interact with people while maintaining a clear boundary between you and others. Often, empaths isolate themselves to limit their exposure to others’ feelings. As a result of your sensitivity, you can feel flooded and bombarded. Within personal relationships, empaths often try to control situations and people please because when “everyone is happy,” the empath feels better. This can lead to exhaustion and shaky boundaries.
Both empathy and compassion are essential for building deeper connections and creating a more empathetic and compassionate world. However, for individuals who are highly sensitive to others’ emotions, cultivating compassion can be a healthier approach to caring for others while maintaining clear boundaries. By recognizing the difference between empathy and compassion and learning to develop both, we can build more meaningful relationships and create a more compassionate world.