As someone who’s often felt sensitive to people’s energies since I was a young girl, I recently began to look more seriously into resources about what’s often called highly sensitive people (HSP)— otherwise referred to as empaths or empathic people.
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical at first to learn more and, as a writer and former teacher of creative of writing, my first connotation with the term empath was Octavia Butler’s incredible, dystopian novel, Parable of the Sower, in which the main character, Lauren, is afflicted with afflicted with hyperempathy syndrome, “a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.”
Not exactly the same (nor even the same term…hehe), of course, but all this to say, I was resistant to learning about this particular topic for a while. It made me feel uncomfortable and that discomfort largely stemmed from a bad habit of privileging certain types of knowledge (i.e. academic, what’s deemed “intellectual”) over others (resources related to emotional well-being, mental health, and women’s experiences).
However, I’m recognizing that not broaching something solely because you’re uncomfortable often comes at a great cost and disservice to yourself in terms of learning and opening up potential paths to well-being.
So with that in mind, I’ve been delving into learning more about HSPs and empathic people, and wanted to share with you what I’ve found so far.
*hey y’all, since our goal is to share ideas and resources, some posts may include affiliate links, which means if you decide to buy something we suggest, we earn a small commission. this comes at no additional cost to you, but helps us continue to create great content for you, and we only share products we believe in. Thanks!
HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE (HSP) VS. EMPATHIC PEOPLE
People sometimes use the terms highly sensitive people (HSP) and empaths interchangeably, but Judith Orloff—empath, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide—offers this distinction in a Psychology Today article:
Empaths share all the traits of…“Highly Sensitive People,” or HSPs. These include: a low threshold for stimulation; the need for alone time; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; and an aversion to large groups. It also takes highly sensitive people longer to wind down after a busy day, since their ability to transition from high stimulation to being quiet is slower. Highly sensitive people are typically introverts, while empaths can be introverts or extroverts (although most are introverts). Empaths share a highly sensitive person’s love of nature and quiet environments, their desire to help others, and their rich inner life. Being a highly sensitive person and an empath are not mutually exclusive: One can be both, and many highly sensitive people are also empaths.
A TROVE OF WONDERFUL BLOGS ABOUT HSPS AND EMPATHIC PEOPLE DISCOVERED SO FAR (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):
An array of HSP resources by psychiatrist, empath, intuitive healer, and best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her TEDx talk, “The ecstasy of surrender,” is particularly helpful for learning about 3 types of surrender and letting go of self-doubt, anxiety, and fear.
A community co-founded by Jenn Granneman (who, incidentally, is the author of the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World) and Andre Sólo offers advocacy for fellow HSPs, with insightful articles like “News Overload Is Real. Here’s How It Affects Highly Sensitive People.”
A healer and empath whose journey began with trauma and eventually led to a transformative healing practice. Raftis offers retreats, remote healing meditations, and more. Full disclosure: I’ve had the opportunity to meet Janet during a session kindly gifted by two dear friends. I can say the session was very influential in my decision to learn more about HSPs and well-being.
Maria Hill — a painter, printmaker, and a reiki master/teacher — promotes the self development of highly sensitive people and includes a wonderful library of resources, including a great explanation of the DOES model developed by Dr. Elaine Aron, which describes the key characteristics of HSPs.
A social worker from the East Coast of Canada offers clear guidance to determining whether you’re an empath, plus courses and free offerings.
Caroline van Kimmenade believes that HSPs have an “immense capacity for compassionate joy” and offers one-on-one Skype consultations to discuss actionable tips.
With a background in clinical psychology and psychotherapy, Dr. Elaine Aron and her husband, Dr. Arthur Aron, are considered two of the pioneering researchers about HSPs. Their site includes valuable information, such as how to find an HSP-knowledgeable therapist. Dr. Elaine Aron is also the author of The Highly Sensitive Person, The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, and The Highly Sensitive Child.
A blog and podcast with a total of 70 episodes featuring nuanced conversations about strategies for HSPs and introverts, including an interview with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.