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The Empath Realization

by Dave Markowitz(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 250 - November 2018

My first glimpse of an empath was in the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, Dr McCoy, and a woman from another planet were captives of an alien race called Vians who wanted to explore the concept of empathy. The woman, named Gem by Dr McCoy, communicated nonverbally. She was an empath - someone who could feel the pain of others. But Gem took it one step farther; she could heal others by absorbing their pain and then transmute it! Perhaps curious about empathy because they appeared to have none, the Vians continually tested Gem’s desire to experience the pain of others and heal them by progressively torturing the abducted members of the USS Enterprise.

While I’ll assume many viewers thought, “How could those mean Vians do that to our heroes?” I thought, “Damn, wouldn’t it be amazing to do what Gem does?” Who could have known that in a sense, I’d be doing what Gem does 40 years later?!?!

I didn’t hear the word “empath” again for a few decades, even though I’d been living as one for so many years. The concept arose again after I became immersed in metaphysical communities in my late 30s, but I never inquired much beyond my sci-fi–infused understanding of the term.

After 45 years in and around New York City, Spirit suddenly said to me that it was time to go west. To that, like most New Yorkers would have, I replied, “Heck no!” But within three months, I was living in Portland, Oregon. Have you ever tried arguing with the Universe? Good luck with that!


Once here, I attended a MeetUp (through the online networking site meetup(dot)com, which matches groups of people with shared interests); while I was there, a man approached me and told me I was an empath. Repeatedly. At that time, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to own it. He sensed my hesitancy to believe him, so he said, “I’m the head of the (now defunct) Portland MeetUp for empaths. And I know an empath when I see one.” But it wasn’t until I had a more visceral experience with empathy that I would eventually buy into the label.

Being new to Portland and desiring camaraderie, I agreed to attend the birthday party of a friend of a friend. What I didn’t know until I got there was that it was a party bus tour: seven bars in seven hours! And like many on the bus, at the end of the night I was drunk. Not atypical, right? But I hadn’t drunk any alcohol. In that haze of post non-alcohol induced confusion came the clarity Spirit had been trying to tell me: I’m an empath. I’d absorbed the “drunk vibes” of all the people on the bus and in the various bars over the course of the evening.

With only a few exceptions, I hadn’t been drunk since college. As the Chef from South Park says, “There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s called college.” I quit for good in 2005, but this time I knew why I hated it so much. Bars are not good places for empaths!

From that point on, roughly 99 percent of the people who have come to me for intuitive guidance and healing facilitation have been empaths or Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). I saw that these new clients shared several common factors:

  • Most, if not all, had already done a tremendous amount of healing work;
  • They were for the most part, highly spiritual, and all had limited to no success, permanently shifting what they were trying to heal;
  • They all had an exceptionally high degree of responsibility for others;
  • They were frustrated with their lack of personal progress and their limited ability to share their gifts with the world.

Initially, I had no idea how to be a catalyst in healing others, but I’m a clear (enough) intuitive, and being open to assistance allowed vital information to flow through to me. I was then able to share that information with these HSPs and make useful recommendations about how they could heal. My main insight was that their symptoms were end results of consistently and empathically transmitted energies.

The Unskilled Empath vs. the Skilled Empath

The unskilled empath takes in whatever energies are coming their way and holds onto them. Over time, many empaths absorb others’ energy to the point that they start to identify with what they’re carrying. The unskilled empath can even be diagnosed by Western medicine as having a pain or illness, but one that was never theirs to carry! For the unskilled empath, empathy is a burden and can be a major factor in unhappiness and illness.

The skilled empath allows themself to experience the energy of the pain of others in order to express compassion and create deep connection. This is the modus operandi of many empaths; but the skilled empath knows that the incoming energy is not theirs to carry. Instead, they can have a momentary experience of the emotional state of whoever is in front of them without needing to fix it, and can therefore let that energy go through them. The skilled empath sees their abilities as a gift.

Once you have the tools, it’s only a matter of practising them until they become second nature. The tools and concepts in my book, Empathipedia: Healing for Empaths and Highly Sensitive Persons will help you on this journey.


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About Dave Markowitz

Dave Markowitz is a two-time best-selling author, intuitive healing facilitator and guide for Empaths and Highly Sensitive Persons. His work has been endorsed by Shirley MacLaine, Lynn Andrews, Lee Harris, Dannion and Kathryn Brinkley, Karen McPhee, Dr. Meg Blackburn Losey and more. He’s shared the lecture bill with Deepak Chopra and Gary Null and has worked with thousands of empaths and highly sensitive persons (HSPs) since his “empathic awakening” in 2012. To find out more about Dave, check out


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