I never considered myself an empathetic person until I had my son. I think we all have some sort of empathy whether we realize it or not. Often, it gets confused with compassion as there are a few types of empathy which I will describe below.
The first type is Cognitive Empathy- this is knowing how a person feels and what they might be thinking. In cognitive behavior therapy it is also known as perspective-taking. This is a learned skill and is especially important for children to acquire. This is great for understanding different viewpoints and being more open-minded.
The second type is Emotional Empathy- this is feeling what the other person is feeling at the same time. This is the type of empathy associated with people who are labeled “empaths”. It can be overwhelming for the individual as they are processing not only their emotions but also the person they are with.
The third type is Compassionate Empathy- this is understanding the other person’s predicament and feeling their emotions with them but also being moved to help the other person. This is the type of empathy we all strive for as it requires us to consider the whole person.
My son is an empath. You might be laughing or thinking how I know this as he is only 8 years old. He has always been a thoughtful child and very in tune with how other people are feeling. He seems stand-offish when people first meet him, but he is actually getting a feel for the person. He has had sensory issues since he was a toddler and often goes into sensory overload when too many people are around. He is also very perceptive around adults and becomes a “care-taker” when he senses negative emotions or stress. He essentially tries to comfort the person in distress. Through therapy we have also narrowed down his stomach aches and headaches to anxiety and he has since told his therapist that he gets them when there is a problem and he can’t fix it. One way we have found to help him is to take a nature walk. It can be as simple as walking around our backyard barefoot, also known as grounding. He also loves to draw, so when he is feeling very upset I will ask him to draw it out.
Learning about the struggles my son has had in his short life has made me more empathetic towards others. I don’t have the emotional empathy to the same degree my son possesses, but it has definitely become more apparent in my life. I am more conscious of what I am projecting, but I am not perfect. In those times I falter my son is there to give me the biggest hug, and tell me he loves me or that I am the best mom. He doesn’t do these things to inflate my ego, but to help me not be so hard on myself. I am so proud of the person my son is and every day I strive to be a little more like him- loving, caring, and more empathetic towards those around me.
My theme for this year’s meme is ‘Lessons my son has taught me’. No matter our age we are never to old to learn something about ourselves. To read what other’s have written please click here.