NOTE: This article was written a few years ago when I was still in the process of dealing with my own anger and out of balance relationships with HSP. Much of my views have softened, expanded, and changed since then, but I leave it up because I know how many empaths go through this phase in their journey to get free, and every perspective along the way is valid.
The term empath and “highly sensitive person” often get lumped together, but they are not the same thing..
Most experts agree all empaths are highly sensitive, but not all highly sensitive people are empaths. Here’s the distinction:
A HSP is sensitive and primarily reactive to the energy around them. Dr. Elaine Aron, the originator of the term, defines it this way:
“A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
While all empaths are highly sensitive to energy, the difference is in their ability to feel and perceive another person’s actual feelings. Empaths, therefore, are more extrasensory and possess at least one significant gift for directly experiencing what it is like to be in the emotional/mental/or physical body of another– literally feeling what the other is experiencing.
This is not to be confused with basic empathy. All humans have the ability to empathize (minus sociopaths, which is an inability to comprehend another’s emotions). Example: If a friend looses their child, most humans have the ability to empathize with the tragedy, even if they themselves have never experienced a significant loss. An empath, on the other hand, might literally feel what the friend is going through in their body – the anxiety, sadness, and emotional pain mimicking in the empaths system as if they themselves were directly experiencing the loss. If the friend has a headache from crying, the empath may develop a headache as well.
See the difference?
A highly sensitive person, on the other hand, may cry and feel overwhelmed by the idea of losing a child – but due to their sensitive nervous systems, a HSP (especially if they have unhealed emotional wounds from childhood) may go into a downward spiral, taking the friend’s tragedy and making it about them “I don’t want to live in this world anymore, it’s too hard.” At this point they are not in the friend’s emotional experience, but simply using the friend’s loss as an excuse to feel their own pain.
I’m not suggesting that all HSP misappropriate emotions, but MANY do. A HSP may be triggered by the energy around them, but from that point they remain in their own emotional body/nervous system, experiencing the world through the lens of their intensely emotional and reactive world. Because of this, HSP are often lost in how they feel, unable to have a direct experience of another person’s literal experience.
Both empaths and HSP often have a difficult time dealing with emotions, and having a highly sensitive nature does not automatically make us a saint (I’m going to talk about the dark side of empathic abilities in another article but for now, I want to focus on the dark side of HSP).
Because HSP are highly reactive to energy, they often project their extreme sensitivity onto others, assuming others feel what they themselves are merely projecting. Meanwhile, as they remain consumed by their emotionally reactive state, they often entirely miss what the other is feeling. They won’t even realize they’ve changed the focus to themselves and will often think they are simply validating the other person, when in reality, they are lost in their own reaction – incapable of even noticing they have changed the subject.
In my experience, HSP actually have a difficult time reading other people’s emotions accurately. While they are highly attuned to subtle energy (maybe picking up from body movement that a person is uncomfortable or upset) they will often piece together a story in their head about WHY the person is acting the way they are, usually based on their own emotional state in the moment. Because they are highly sensitive/reactive, HSP often make huge assumptions about what other people feel, when in actuality, they’re merely projecting their own fears and insecurities.
Where empaths typically have a difficult time accessing how they themselves feel (due to being lost in other people’s energy/emotions), an unhealed/unskilled HSP is nearly incapable of separating their own emotions/sensitivities from others, especially if they are in an emotional trigger.
It is especially difficult for a HSP person to realize the extreme level to which they project if they THINK they are empathic. In fact, one of the worst combinations (in my experience) is when an unhealed/unskilled HSP believes they are empathic. Now their projection/misapplication of emotions is fueled with a belief that they are, in fact, accurate in their assumptions and even possess some special, extra sensory gift.
Aye, yi, yi.
I’m not suggesting empaths don’t project. We all project to an extent, especially when we’re triggered or insecure. But for HSP, projecting often becomes the main modality for protecting themselves from the world. If they can place the cause of their highly reactive natures “out there” somewhere, they feel less overwhelmed (it also keeps them from having to take responsibility for their own emotions/projections).
For the sake of our mental and emotional health, it is crucial we not only understand the difference between HSP and empaths, but properly identify where we are on the spectrum. As noted above, all empaths are highly sensitive in nature, so they may slip into reactive tendencies like projecting. But usually an empath has the opposite problem – rather than projecting their emotions out, they draw other people’s emotions in (and get lost in the process).
For an empath, an unhealed/unskilled HSP is often the most draining type of person to be around. The strong emotional projection and reactive nature of the HSP triggers an empath’s negative tendency to feel they must take care of the other person’s emotions. In fact, relationships between HSP and empaths can be the most co-dependent (if both parties are not skilled in dealing with their sensitivities), with the HSP constantly needing the empath to validate their intensely sensitive natures, and the empath feeling responsible for HSP feelings.
When an empath does take time away from the HSP (or begins to have boundaries), the unskilled HSP will take the action extremely personal, interpreting the act to be directly against them and often behaving in passive aggressive ways toward the empath. Because HSP reactions are so emotionally intense, the empath often feels the energetic aggression as psychic attack.
An empath, when feeling the energy of another, literally feels what the other feels (rather than simply noticing social dynamics, energy, or subtle body movements), so shaking off the negative projection of a HSP can be especially difficult for an empath.
While an HSP can be kind and compassionate, their emotional stance and energy is typically on the defense (self-protective mode), so if the person they are attempting to “help” says or does something that triggers them, they are unable to stay (empathically) with the other, and instead launch into their own emotional body/wounds/and triggers. In my experience, this is the KEY difference between empaths and HSP.
If you constantly feel hurt and offended by other people and take make their energy/decisions/words personal (to the point where it affects your mental/emotional peace) chances are you are a HSP.
The trick for a HSP is not to put a personal story to every movement in the world around you. It’s important to learn not only to deescalate reactions and validate how you feel, but also release the storyline/meaning you give the experience. It’s the interpretation we give the energy that is painful, not the energy itself.
For empaths, the challenge is separating ourselves from other people’s emotions long enough to recognize our own. This is especially important when dealing with HSP. Sometimes the boundary line between empaths and HSP need to be even stronger than other relationships, simply because of the tendency to trigger each other’s negative traits.
It’s important to clarify: ALL EMPATHS ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE (HSE), but not all HSP are empaths. The difference is in the primary way of processing energy. An empath has the ability to literally feel what another person is feeling (sometimes it’s emotionally, or it shows up physically — you get a headache when someone walks in the room who a head ache — that sort of thing).
Empathic abilities are extrasensory in nature. While an HSP has a sensitive central nervous system, it ‘s not necessarily extrasensory perception. Someone who is HSP (not HSE), is extremely sensitive to the energy around them, but typically is not able to completely connect to what another is literally/actually feeling because their own reactive/sensitive nature is what they primarily experience. An HSP may be able to feel and recognize when another person is upset, but they can’t literally feel what the other is feeling. It’s not that specific. In other words, their own sensitives are what they are feeling, NOT ANOTHER PERSONS.
Before you assume you’re an empath, access your emotional reaction to the world around you, first. I personally feel some of the healing/thriving techniques for empaths are not only inappropriate for HSP, but will actually exacerbate their tendency to project.
Learn what you’re dealing with, then gather the information that will best help you move forward from there.
62 thoughts on “Empaths vs. HSP (They’re Not the Same Thing)”
Amanda beautifully explains clearly the energy experience differences between HSP and Empath. As an Empath and coach I have experience with both types. I agree with Amanda on the need for people to clearly understand which way they process energy and emotions, so the can learn skills to navigate the world with Joy!
Thank you for the feedback, Jade! I’m happy the article resonated. 🙂
I’m glad the article resonated. 🙂
Great article! Thanks 🙂
Glad you liked it. 🙂
I needed to read this very badly. Thank you for the service you rendered.
I am in the process of learning that what may appear to be a liability – being more sensitive than I’ve every been comfortable admitting – is actually an asset. As I continue the process of acceptance it may well be that more is revealed and I strongly suspect that things I’ve tried to push away were actually gifts intended for the good of others.
It is definitely a learning journey. The more we love/nurture ourselves, the easier it gets. 🙂
Very clearly stated. Thank you Amanda, for all the time, experience, and research you put into this. No doubt it will help many people. If you do a follow up article, I would love to see a “how to” for both groups on how to identify and discipline their perceptions and responses, for their mental health and for improving interpersonal relationships (or whatever value you put on the topic 😊).
Thank you so much!
Good suggestion. I’m in the process of combing it all out for clarity. Hopefully, more to come. 🙂
Thank you Amanda. This was very helpful.
It is a difficult separate distinction to make between HSP and HSE, as I had believed it to be basically same thing. And it took reading your whole article in it’s entirety to gain confidence in the distinction.
I have had for a while good understanding of myself to be highly sensitive, but recently pondered about also being an empath, and associating myself with that term.
I now believe I am mostly, if not totally, HSP. Perhaps I had been confused as I do employ some learned empath like abilities, but I’m thinking this is not natural and intuitive, but something I easily project.
How do you advise, as you put it, I can become a skilled HSP? I have grown a great deal over the years, and revel in my heightened senses, but there are still some debilitating traits I experience, some of which you mentioned. Such as being uncontrollably reactive, instead of responsive.
Are there face-to-face courses or groups I can partake in? I’m not a fan of online training.
Thanks for your help 🙂
I think the key for any hsp is to start taking responsibility for our own self-care/self love/ and self nurturing. We can’t expect (or even hope) others will be sensitive to our sensitivities when they’re not even sensitive to their own. And learning how to recognize projections and see that they are ultimately self-judgement is crucial, too. Really, it could all be summed up as “love yourself as powerfully as you can.”
Thank you! I have been looking for this article for some time and it’s perfect. I am still not quite sure if I am an empath and HSP or and HSP with a lot of empathy (I am a psychotherapist). Any tips on helping parents identify that their child is an HSP or empath?
Thank you!!!! I now know I’m an HSP, so I know I need to work on projecting my own emotions onto others. I always thought I had the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes, but apparently I’ve been putting myself in their shoes and then thinking like I would, not how they think/feel. Any suggestions on changing this about myself? I’m really trying to ‘fix’ myself, so I can actually have a REAL relationship with someone. I’m afraid of getting close to someone and then ruining it bc I’m still so ‘broken’. I’m trying to look within, but I’ve spent my life trying to protect myself or hide from my emotions. And it’s hard to change…
Excellent post! I am an empath and an HSP, and Amanda accurately describes what it is like to move through the world as an empath. I do need space from people to feel my own feelings and I am helpful to an absurd degree sometimes. I recently had an unpleasant encounter with someone I now realize is a HSP, which makes this article even more helpful. The good news is, when she projected a bunch of stuff on me, that wasn’t about me at all, I did not take it on. I will say this: being around toxic-minded folks is a nightmare when you are an empath. But being around people who want to collaborate and grow is a dream. The key for me is always making sure I am reaching out to the right people.
Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. You make an excellent point — collaborating/dreaming with people who want to grow is an ideal community for empaths, and being aware/self-loving when around toxic ideas/people is crucial for healthy empathing. Glad the article resonated.
Hi amanda, i loved the article, unfortunately im having trouble figuring it out, when you described the relationship between an empath and a HSP I immediately thought of me and my best friend, ive always thought of myself as the empath because i sort of feel the world with my intuition, but im just not sure, but im not surw, there so similar and ive asked my friend before if he could literally feel ppls emotions in hos body and he said yes, but he could just he interpreting tone, body language and such to get a feeling of what they are feeling… Im so very confused and feel drained and like i dont get much out of the friendship, but hes been my best friend since high school and ive always been the one helping him out of his crap and negativity.
It sounds like the friendship may be a bit co-dependent. The important thing is to make sure you’re not “being there” for him at the expense of your emotional/energetic health. If he allows you to take care of your self, take space, and encourages you too, then you’ll know it’s balanced. But if you try to take care of yourself and he takes it personal and tries to make you feel bad about it, that’s a clear sign things in the friendship are out of whack.
I was in a relationship with a hsp and I was an empathist. I had no idea at the time and I did not realize how toxic the relationship was before it was too late. Now I am a hsp who just feels lost in the world and I’m confused as to how I allowed a person to destroy my self perception in the way that I allowed. I’m trying to learn ways to build myself up now and to create a future. I just feel lost and I don’t know how to go back to the way I once was.. So full of life and so open minded and beautiful spirited, be careful who you waste time on, it could be detrimental to your health. Or maybe I just wasn’t strong enough..
I totally understand that feeling, Rachael. It is crucial to take an active and conscious decision to put your emotional/physica health first. There are a lot of resources online and also a great community on Facebook (Empowering Empaths Community) where we share our experiences and support each other. Feel free to join! You’re not alone.
Hi Rachael, Please do NOT THINK for one moment that you “were not strong enough”. You were, you just didn’t know that you were an empath at the time. There is a funny guy on youtube that makes videos to help people get their lives back after being in relationships with whatever label you wanna label them, toxic, narcissists, sociopaths, borderine, HSP, etc. Here is a link if you’re interested. He has tons of videos. Some I resonate with, some I don’t. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wbTwPkL88E
This guy is great! I am listening him and watching his videos for almost one year already. He knows how to pull someone up from the knees after toxic relationship. His videos helped me to recover and see the light at the end of the tunnel, see myself as a “spartan”! I wish I would know about him earlier….but everything happens when we are ready, and not before…..
I’m glad to hear that Rimma, I need it also. I RESIDE with, as we speak, lol, a Covert Narcissist. It is hell. I can’t leave anytime soon either. Long sad story.
Wow, what a great article! The empath-HSP was a dynamic I wasn’t consciously aware of until now. It helps make better sense of a friendship with someone who I have mostly cut out of my life. Though I knew her extremely well, I could never make sense of her high sensitivity level, given that she also had highly narcissistic traits.
Rachel, I completely relate to what you are saying. My friend has Histrionic Personality Disorder, and when the disorder is at its peak, can wreak havoc in the lives of those around them. It did mine…. as an empath, it eventually got to the point where her toxicity overcame my sense of self, the good things within, etc. I shut off my “inner light” to protect it, but it was detrimental to my growth and health and journey in life. It sounds like this might be the same for you. My guess is that your best friend had some level of higher-than-normal narcissism in order to create so much chaos in your life. It might help you to research the different forms of personality disorders so that you can fine tune your understanding of what has happened, as well as find others that experience the same. When this happened for me, a light clicked and there was a ton of validation when I read other people’s experiences that were right on with mine (even things that were confusing and I thought no one would understand). It can jumpstart your healing process. And it’s always important to understand your role in allowing the situation to manifest in your life as it did.
You can ALWAYS recover, and be wiser, stronger and happier than before.
Reblogged this on Emerging From The Dark Night and commented:
An excellent article on the subtle variations between empaths , highly sensitive people and those who are both highly sensitive and empathic. (Thank you to Hunt for Truth posting this on Facebook. )
I really need some guidance and reading this article gave me some insight but I still feel I am wandering a path in darkness. From childhood I have been in tune with others emotions, physical being and state of mind. Upon walking into a room I become overwhelmed by the energy/emotions of everyone as I can literally feel what everyone is feeling. I know that sounds CRAZY or neurotic but i’m not sure how else to explain it. I tend to avoid crowds and places with a lot of people because I can’t take on what everyone feels. If that makes sense. I don’t even have to be close to someone or in the same room to feel them. An example would be my mother or my son. My mother is a type 1 diabetic, she’s been since she was 9. Sometimes (Though we don’t live together) I have been known to show up out of no where, in the middle of the night even and wake her from sleep to test her sugar…on 2 occasions we have had to call the paramedics bc it was so low. This has only happened twice. But once i left a party bc I felt so ill over it and could not focus until I addressed it. Im the person who calls or text messages and gets the “I was just thinking of you” and i never want to say “I know” because, actually I did know. For a very long time I have taken all of these feelings on as anxiety and depression. I didn’t recognize that I was overwhelmed by the way others actually felt. Recently I have begun to recognize that ill be somewhere and my mood swings are actually the moods of other people! It’s completely crazy, i know, i don’t know who else to talk to about this stuff. I dont really expect anyone to believe me and i dont dare tell a mental health professional, but i really need to figure out how to deal with this energy properly. The past few years weird things have been happening too…when I am at peace, like when I’m trying to fall asleep I hear things…like people talking, or music, or I see flashes of light when my eyes are closed in complete darkness….last week I heard someone call my name twice in a row. anyway. Thank you in advance.
I’ve been there……I thought I was crazy too…Caroline from thehappysensitive.com really helped me to deal with all these energies and gave me a good tool. There are other ppl, but my “sensitivity” brought me to her….
Hi Kelli Ann. Sorry to hear of this being so overwhelming for you. First of all, do not doubt yourself for one moment! It is in your best interest to continue to grow your understanding of what being an empath means, and maybe join a message board so you can start relating your experiences with other empaths since you need someone to talk to. I would also highly suggest for you to learn about these two things: The first is the “dark night of the soul” (only if you feel that are in a profound depression). The second is “kundalini awakening symptoms”. I wouldn’t do it justice to summarize these concepts, but if you don’t know a lot about either, definitely look into them. The dark night of the soul is an experience that is talked about from many religious/spiritual perspectives, but it is a universal concept. I like the explanation from this website: http://www.themystic.org/dark-night/. The reason I brought up kundalini awakening is because of what you described when you were falling asleep. I experienced the exact same things (including some other strange symptoms such as physical sensations like electricity, buzzing in the body, ringing in the ears, moving through light-tunnels when I closed my eyes, etc)… and the majority of those symptoms would only happen when entering that stage right before sleep (it’s almost like out of body, or when you get super relaxed during a massage). Being in public or around even a few people was especially difficult during this time…. filters and boundaries can be down even more than usual. Thankfully someone guided me to a really amazing Native American healer who was sure that I was having kundalini awakening symptoms. I am so grateful for this person and her message because it eased my suffering greatly. It was a foreign concept at the time, but once I looked into it, there was no doubt in my mind. I can’t urge you enough to learn about this. You will be ok 🙂
Thank u so so so much. I am so lost and just came to the realization they i may be an empath or hsp. I also experience sleep paralysis often. Very often. I’m def looking into this. I’m so greatful you wrote me back. I feel relieved. How did u find this healer? I come from northern ca near Sacramento and have felt there are a lot of scam artists hear. I talk to ppl and automatically know they aren’t true healers and want my money. Thank u so so much!!!!!! U have no clue how greatful I am for your insight
Hi Kelli, you are very welcome! The great thing is now you know that you are empathic, and that knowledge in itself can take a load off of you. I learned of the healer through a hypnotherapist I went to. But, that’s not what I am suggesting for this situation (I apologize if it seems that’s what I meant- my writing is not the most fluid or clear)… and of course it goes without saying what works for me might not for you. You’re right there are a lot of scam artists out there. I was fortunate for that experience because she explained what a kundalini crisis was, not because of energy work that most people go to healers for. Anyhow, try to learn as much as you can and get support from others going through the same. Try a google search for “empath forum” and find one that you like best. I just joined one called Elise’s empath community. I will send an invite to the email mentioned above if you are interested in joining that one 🙂
I am still not sure if I am an empath or HSP. I do know that I feel different around different people. I am a bartender part time and there are a few people who if I am around for more than 45 minutes I will completely change. There is one lady who when she comes in I get angry, I feel very picked on and bullied. This happens every time she comes in for more than 30 minutes or so. There is a man who if I am around him too long, I feel very judged. Another lady makes me feel confused. I have been around these people and talked to them enough to know that these are emotions they have had as children. The lady who when I am around makes me feel bullied and picked on had a very bullying mother who has passed away. I can’t figure out if I am an empath or not. This man who makes me feel like I’m being judged had a father who made him feel judged in childhood. I just found that out from my boyfriend who has known him since childhood. I am in a spiritual awakening right now and I don’t want to think I am more powerful than I really am.
Hey Girl!!! Fellow Empath here. I say “fellow” because In My Opinion your statement ” I don’t want to think I am more powerful than I really am.” sounds like what a real empath would say. They tend to be humble people and from reading your post, it sure sounds like you’re an empath. I could be wrong. I am new to all of this myself about 5 months now. I never heard the term empath until then. I am 51 so yeah, like I was pissed off at first, because had I known when I was younger, life would have been a lot easier. I tend to look at it this way: My past life experiences happened without me knowing I was an Empath in order to fine tune my “training” for the future. LOL. One thing that’s a dead give away of being an empath is that you’re bursting with love. (not lust). You love everything basically (except negative things). You love all nature, you love animals, you love-LOVE. Check out tis article also It’s a good one. http://themindunleashed.com/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html
Thank you! On several occasions, I’ve picked up other people’s body pain or headache and have wondered if I were an empath. But nope…I am not (Or, that part of me I only access when I am emotionally balanced).This article really helped me clear that! I tend to project a lot. I am definitely a HSP. I react and get defensive. Could you write something on dealing with conflicts as a HSP also? Your article really made a lot of difference.
Thank you for this! I never understood how my mom could think she’s . . . whatever type of intuit she alluded to being, when even as a child I knew that she was not only incapable of appreciating others’ feelings, both contemporaneously as well as developed, but she actually believed/believes she’s sensitive. Or an angel, or empath, . . . It feels like she’s psychically attacking me every time I respond to her with criticism. But my physical reactions to her only manifested after my spiritual awakening. I just told her one day ago that I had to take a peace break, i.e., not hear from her for a while, because I was near death emotionally. Do you have any thoughts on how I can keep a safe emotional space? Also, my father and siblings are empaths, and she seems to bounce from one of us to the next to fault/false victim role. Can I help them?
please research Bach Flower Remedies. They actually work. I just started using them as an experiment. I am amazed lol ((hugs))
That is so refreshing to hear! I’d just read about their purpose and effect, but they didn’t have them at the retailer that I went to. Now that you said that, I will be sure to get a sample for those around me affected. Thank you!
You definitely sound like an empath, because of your last sentence above. “Can I help them?” When I suggested the Bach Flower Remedies I was suggesting them mainly for you. I live with someone that is like your mother. These types of people usually suffer from what is known as Borderline Personality Disorder. There are different sub types and usually the sufferer is also narcissistic. Many of the characteristics of BPD are similar to empaths. Also I order my Bach remedies from Walmart online. They seem to be the cheapest. The local health food store does stock them, it’s just a little high priced for me. Have a good holiday and I wish you well.
Thank you for all your guidance and support. I hope you can find the light in your situation. Be safe.
I’d like to thank all of you, both for the article and for the comments. The article was informative and gave new insights. The comments warmed my heart! ❤
Thank you very much Amanda for this article, it enlighted me. Where could I find more info about enpaths, how to deal with being one, learn to use it to help people without letting your energy drain, etc.
This was such a great read! Thank you for sharing this. I’m curious where children would fit into all of this… In your opinion at what age do people learn to project? I was an extremely empathetic child, definitely HSP. Sometimes I confuse being an empath with projection… like, was I able to project my feelings as a child, onto my mother for example? Or am I an empath and was I really feeling her emotions/sadness? Or her headaches and bellyaches? I was merged with my mother as a child (even now I merge with those close to me) and I always felt like I could feel her feelings. I always felt so out of control and crazy! I still do in a crowd/group. A therapist of mine once thought I was only projecting -my- pain/feelings onto her, my mother, as a child. But I wonder, Is it possible? That I am feeling all of these emotions of other people?
Sorry if you receive this comment more than once 🙂
I would like to add my two cents to your comment. I believe your”therapist” was wrong. I believe that your mother’s emotions we being projected ONTO you. Remember you were a child. Children will reflect back what is given to them. In other words, if there is a misbehaving child, in public let’s say, and we as “observers” are most likely going to ASSume that the child needs “correcting” or even worse a spanking. The reality is that the parent or caregiver of the child needs to be analyzed closely to see HOW they treat the child behind closed doors. There are no bad kids, only bad parenting.
Im an empath and Im in love with another Empath or HSP, im not even sure
is this gonna work? i really love her and care for her health.., i recently happened to break her heart, but i didnt really..so i dont know what to say to her
i know she will be ok cause she is empath too i think or HSP not sure..
I am a truly HSP. The way you described a HSP on YouTube was degrading and sounded selfish. HSP were born this way, so if you were truly an empath you’d see that and be more understanding of the pain we endure. That “projectile,” word that was used as a discriminating and inappropriate. Our output has an abundance of complexed meanings, that I won’t get into now. But a true empaths should be able to see that. We also are able to help many people through our own intense experiences because we do understand better the full picture where empaths seem to only pick up on singular issues. People can be an empath or/and a HSP but don’t compare the two, as one being self centered and the other is much more understanding towards others just because they experience the persons singular affliction. Have you ever thought that it could be your own thinking that created the affliction inside yourself because your thinking of it? Yes, there are true empaths that experience people’s pain from a far. But HSP have already experienced so much pain in our lives that we don’t have to HAVE that person’s pain to understand what that person is going through. HSP have an extremely, some unbearable nervous system, so with that comes pain and emotion is goes so deep that it’s far beyond words. I tend to believe that you are not as empathetic as you claim to be because you would be more gentle with your output about HSP. A truely HSP is sensitive to the core, physically too. Their skin, hair and organs are even fragile. Its not just about experiences, emotions, etc. It’s a physical manifestation from birth that is unspeakable. Comparing empaths and HSP is like comparing plants., Like a tender violet to a tree. They’re both plants but if you touch a violet it dies. HSP do pick up other people’s energies, the atmosphere and surroundings very easily and it stays inside us. We tend to be Absorbers, picking up others energies is debilitating for us because of our delicate nervous system. Its like the old (demeaning) saying “thin skinned people”. Literally that’s what we were born with, we can’t help it. It’s debilitating if we don’t get support and special treatment, so we can survive and thrive because we have a lot to offer the world. We are very detailed people. If you’ve ever seen gorgeous detailed art, it’s probably been done by a HSP. Anyway, HSP is almost like handling a burned patient. So you should be able to sense that if you were a true empath. But it appears there’s no real empathy here for a HSP because if there were, your definition would have been more empathetic towards HSP. It would be muchly appreciated if there was more understanding about real HSP. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I agree. I was expressing lower vibrational emotions in this article, which makes us immune to our more subtle sensitivities. I was in the expression of my experience, giving a voice to the unhealed side of my empathic self.
In fact, recently I did a video talking about the jaded place I was in when I wrote many of my articles at this time. I was experiencing emotional pain in relation to my own sensitivity with HSP in my family.
Unhealed HSP tend to use empaths (unconsciously) to feel and express those lower vibrational emotions they reject within themselves and then shame and emotionally manipulate empaths for feeling them. They do this because of a belief that only *certain* emotions or vibrations are acceptable to feel (obviously, this comes from trauma).
Although I was expressing my “war” with HSP in this article, I will always leave it up because it is an authentic reflection of where I was at the time, and the reality of an empath: we feel others – most especially the emotions they reject, suppress, and deny.
The conflict between HSP and Empaths lies here. Many HSP identify so strongly with being “good” that they develop an acute aversion to lower vibrational emotions, which can cause them to construct a superiority complex that demeans and belittles the very REAL human experience of feelings like anger or jealousy, or bitterness.
Because HSP are so sensitive to these lower vibrations, they often project their rejection of these vibrations onto the empath and then paint the empath as the “enemy” for expressing them (which justifies withholding love).
This, in turn, triggers the empath’s deep wound of rejection, which can cause them to either try to “earn” the HSP’s love back, or attempt to appease the HSP by promising to change. Both of these options invalidates the emotional experience of the empath, and reinforces the belief that “I can’t feel what I feel because it will hurt someone.” In reality, what we are saying is “I can’t feel feelings others are uncomfortable feeling.”
A better option for empaths is to validate our emotional state, REFUSE to withhold love from ourselves (or the other) for feeling it, allow the HSP to feel what they feel (without taking it personal), and let the emotion go.
The point is, we do not have to modify, minimize, or lie about how we feel. However, understanding the nature of an HSP can certainly help us remember the rejection of emotion is not about US – it is reflective of a deeper wound.
Your response helped me remember the second agreement (from book THE FOUR AGREEMENTS),
“Take nothing personally.”
If an empath allows the HSP’s fear of lower vibrations to be internalized within, we agree to the HSP’s story (lower vibrations = I’m unsafe). This is a profoundly damaging belief for an empath to have, as it causes deep internal conflict about the very essence of what we are. By nature, we cannot reject emotions without making ourselves sick or blocking Life Force.
Although I know it was probably unintentional, your tone in this comment is reflective of this dynamic. Because I was expressing lower vibrational emotions in this article, you imply that I am somehow “unworthy” to call myself an empath and should be ashamed of my feelings.
Your comment also implies one of the biggest misunderstandings humans have about emotions: that they are unchanging and stagnate. Just because I FELT this way over two years ago does not mean this is what I AM. A belief that we ARE our emotions suggests that we are also powerless to them.
Lower vibrational emotions do temporarily mute our sensitivity to higher vibrations (we cannot feel both love and anger at the same time), but getting angry is how we, as empaths, free ourselves from being controlled by the emotional needs of others. Anger helps release us from the co-dependent agreements and interactions that have caused us to self-destruct.
Feeling emotions (ALL OF THEM) is not wrong. This article does express my Shadow, my limited perspective, and my projections, but it does not make my sensitivity or me any less “empathic” to HSP any less valid.
Empaths and HSP are extremely sensitive to each other because they both represent the contrast of emotional vibrations. Ultimately, we are perfect reflections of each other.
HSP may be “born” with sensitivity, but they are not born with the Matrix of lack and fear. Fear of lower vibrational emotions comes from trauma and is the root of why so many HSP feel unsafe in this world. In order to be free, HSP, just like everyone in the lack matrix, need to reprogram their understanding about what it means to be highly sensitive so it becomes their superpower, not their handicap.
Hi, I just came across this article and the YouTube video that came along with it. As someone with chronic disease stemming from an incredibly hypersensitive nervous system my whole life (I don’t believe I’m a true empath), I don’t know if I would agree with your assessment Crystal, that HSP are born that way. I can’t say I know for sure, but after doing so much re-search into Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work and many others, it seems very likely that much of the trauma we experience can very often begin in the womb and THEN set off the nervous system. Meaning we likely pick up our mother’s (and father to a lesser extent’s) own fears (remember 9 months in the womb is a long time!) and this sets the stage for much of our lives going forward for our own perceptions/beliefs/patterns. Genes are formed IN the womb, and then only expressed if there is stress at the onset (even being picked up from the mother). I think energetically a lot is transferred over in the womb and THIS creates our sensitive nervous systems in many of the cases. However, again, with that said, to say people are ‘born with highly sensitive nervous systems’ who are not empaths, is something very different. While people with incredibly strong empath qualities might actually incarnate into this life from conception with those strong nervous systems, I believe the rest of us who are just highly sensitive, only are so, as a result of what we are picking up in the womb and after the womb (ACE). And personally, I hate the expression HSP, because it just creates more of an identity/label when we who TRULY are is not any of that 🙂
I totally agree about labels. They only limit us. Thank you for your feedback and perspective.
Thank you so much for the explanation! I have never such a detailed description of HSP before and this has helped me to better understand one of my friends. I am an Empath as well, so I always am excited to read about other Empaths 🙂
Nicely written. However, (I apologize before hand if I’m wrong) I think HSP is misused here. It sounds like what you’re describing is Hypersensitivity rather than Highly Sensitive Person.
Here’s a quick non-thorough explaination that I think sums it up quickly.
Thank you. That could very well be. I’ve never heard anyone make the distinction.
Reblogged this on Creatively Inward.
This is a response to the clarification video you made for the commenters of this article: (http://youtu.be/WHO9Nj3RqlI) <I actually listened to it like 3 times to drill it in lol
Thank you! The thing about empaths experiencing others emotions so much that they may not experience their own enough -while HSPs have such a strong nervous system that they often can't see the world the way others do so they get defensive- was great. I realized that I'm not empathic and definitely a HSP from that. That was the best explanation I've heard!
Thanks for the great article. I know a woman who calls herself an Empath because she can’t stand being in large crowds and gets her feelings hurt if people aren’t coddling her. She’s very self-centered and is always freaking out over the smallest things. So I get she’s an HSP not an empath.
I found this really interesting! As of 3 days ago I learned about HSP and Empaths. This whole concept is new and interesting to me. I have been doing research, and I really think and believe I am a Highly Sensitive Person. It just makes sense with everything thats going on. I have taken some online tests to see if I am an Empath, and they say I am, I don’t really believe them. I would like to be, but I feel deep down I am not. I really appreciate your article because it gives me some new things to think about and maybe research more. Also, some negatives that I may do due to the way I am wired. I just realized there is a part two to this down here, I will have to read that! Thank you again for doing all this!!! I am so wanting to learn more!!!
Hi!! Sometimes people have been so trampled on since childhood that they are led to believe that there is something is wrong with them. If you Google: “30 Traits of an Empath” and go to the link for “The Mind Unleashed” website, maybe you will have more clarity. The difference between Empaths and HSP (in my opinion) is a deep love emanating from the soul of the Empath. Empaths have a conscience, have MUCH empathy and they feel remorse. I live with an HSP and I am an Empath. I only found out about Empaths about a year ago and it is still difficult for me to fine tune my gifts due to living (I am trapped for now) with an HSP. I hope you’re not an HSP. One other difference I have discovered between HSP and Empaths is that the Empath is ALWAYS looking to further their intelligence. They want and NEED to figure out TRUTHS. Have a good day, my friend 🙂 PS if you’re an Empath please be AWARE that you will attract people on the other side of the spectrum. The sociopath. Sociopaths are drawn to Empaths like flies on shlt. One of the telling signs of a sociopath is that drama seems to follow them. They have a short fuse (anger issues) and they WILL and DO project their issues onto Empaths. They will accuse us of the things they are guilty of. They hate Empaths in a covert fashion. Many times we are living with them, many times they are our PARENTS, siblings, boyfriends or girlfriends. Walk circumspectly, my friend, because the days are EVIL 🙂
So I’m an HSP and when someone else experiences a tragedy I both feel their feelings and empathize for them. I become sad or concerned and wonder how I can help. Never have I responded to someone else’s tragedy with my own despair. I am outrageously sensitive to the goings on in my life and too affected by everything that happens to me. But things that happen to others do not make me feel hopeless. Instead hopeful, wanting to find ways to help out.
I love this. Thanks for sharing.