The Truth About Empathy

Is there an astrological correlation for empathy? Possibly. I think Moon-Mercury aspects are up there but traditionally, it’s a Water element trait. Think of how it ripples and holds resonance.

Empathy has become an all-purpose virtue. The trait is now often a synonym for ‘nice’ or shorthand to describe the ‘goodie’ in a relationship debacle – you know the sort of thing: “I was an empath, they were a narcissist…

Its deficit is used to explain corporate failings – how many times have you heard some variation of “…a good leader but lacked empathy” intoned with liturgical seriousness.

But real empathy is not necessarily a desirable ‘virtue’ and it’s certainly nothing to get sanctimonious about. In fact, it is probably an unpopular opinion but I think even sociopaths and their ilk have empathy. They just ‘customize’ it to their own ends. 

Real empathy can’t be developed and nor can you switch it off when you like. Far from resembling the cliche of the ‘nurturing empath,’ it’s closer to the predicament of the pre-cogs in The Minority Report. 

Fine, they’re prisoners in a dystopian Philip K Dick novel but still. Empathy can be a liability. It’s hilarious that it is still often cited as a preferable trait for potential partners.

Empathy Can Be A Liability

Men seem to especially value it – theoretically – in women but perhaps they’re confusing it with acquiescence or the variety of tact that features soothing ‘hmmms’ and ‘yes, you’re right again.’

But legit empathy is when you can tell if your partner has the hots for someone else because you heat up. Or you know if there is no resolve behind a particular statement because you feel weak when you hear it. Actual empaths spend half their interaction time trying to figure out if they’re feeling your emotions, their own or someone else’s.

Here is an example that occurred with me the other day: it’s Spring Equinox where I am and I’m wandering along walking the dog at dusk, my mind is on a variety of ephemeral topics and you know, the dog, trees etc.

Suddenly I feel this wave of emotion, vaguely reminiscent to a break-up from the past and kind of like a cross between home-sickness and alienation but stifling because I can’t express it. Whatever it is, it’s not pleasant.

It’s so strong that I stop to take stock and then I see them: a man is standing at the well-lit threshold of a door, dropping off a five-year-old-ish child to the woman who is clearly the child’s mother.

Now obviously I didn’t want to stand in the street gawping at them but her tight bright smile and his poignant attempt at nonchalant chit-chat seemed like they’d relatively recently split up and were navigating the early co-parenting space.

The sensation I’d picked up before I even saw them was – I now hypothesized – from him wanting more than anything to just go into the house and for everything to be as he thought it had been. Or maybe it was from her, I don’t know. But this is how empathy works – feelings and other human phenoms are like sound waves.

Empathy + Uranian Traits?

Empathy becomes even crazier if you add neurodivergence or, as I think of it, Uranian attributes, to the array. Left to their own devices, someone who is neurodivergent and empathetic will launch into conversation with someone based on what they sense is going on, blithely ignoring every signal.

It’s not intended to be rude because they often experience the ‘sensations’ as communication and the signals are weak by comparison. Thoughts?

Image: Ganesh Pyne – Luna

55 thoughts on “The Truth About Empathy”

  1. Spot on description Mystic. Thank you. It’s always so difficult to find the words to describe what it’s like to feel others inside your own self. Thank you xxx

  2. I so relate to this. It’s hard to tell if I’m feeling my own emotion or other people’s at times. I need to take time out to process all the feelings (only some of which are mine!). I do think there’s a difference between the common usage of the word – as in connecting with people, understanding where they’re coming from and holding space for their emotions – compared to being an empath (hypersensitive and picking up on all sorts of crap like a superconductive radio-transmitter for emotions!). I have an Aries Moon at the top of my chart trine Uranus in Sag and a very strong Mercury in my chart. I’m not great at touchy-feely things as all my water energy is Scorpio, but I do think emotional stuff is important even when it’s a PITA!

  3. I think I have dulled this down to the extent I don’t feel specific emotions or vibes. For better or worse, I usually just come home from the world feeling drained but not specifically sad, anxious, happy or otherwise. I do occasionally pick up detailed energies as above but rarely and usually only in one on one encounters.

    I definitely remember living this way as a child. To the extent my mom always described that everywhere she took me, whether in a stroller or being carried, I had to face outwards and would hold my arms straight out as if warding off invisible forces.

    Feeling emotions and understanding people’s adult intentions and problems but with no adult understanding of my own to make sense of it. I remember wanting so badly to tell adults I knew what they meant behind their words or to explain to the other adult what the one really meant when I knew they were being misunderstood – hey, I know those words just hurt you or hey Mom, that isn’t what Dad meant at all. But I also felt that I had no power to voice that, nor words to express what I understood only as feelings and intentions. I used to wish I could just physically link my brain with the adults and make them understand what the other one was feeling or somehow be a mirror so they could see what I understood.

    But yes I wouldn’t say it was a virtue. Although I have a few cherished moments where it helped me to make someone feel seen and for us to connect deeply because of that, it otherwise has just drained me and I’ve had to become callous to self preserve.

  4. I have a breathing technique for empaths (and anyone else).

    Hands on your heart:

    1. Breathe in all your holi-ness, loveliness, essence of your love of self, your joy and peace, your Divine you-ness.
    2. Breathe out EVERYTHING that is NOT yours (can be directed to a person, place or situation, etc.).
    3. Repeat as needed.

    From my fav yoga Teacher: Maya Fiennes
    This works!
    You are welcome:)

    1. I did this Hela, sitting up in bed this morning, just to lightly try it.
      And it did work – much more powerfully than I was expecting.
      To the extent that I knew I needed a deep healing, so I booked a massage for later in the day.
      My usual masseuse was away so I was given a new healer (funny how things work out).
      Well my massage was cathartic, so much pent up emotion released (torrents of tears) as she guided me to breathe my way through it. I shuddered out plenty of what was not mine, and breathed back in holi-ness, divinity – finishing in a state of utter vibration, heart open.
      So thank you Hela for sharing your yoga teachers breathing technique 💕
      (Obviously I need to take better care of myself in future – more self nurturing needed!)
      This was a real gift you shared with us today, and I am very grateful for that, and the amazing experience it led to xx

  5. Perfect description, as someone who is always startled to be described by others as “an empath” and empathic. What they don’t realize is, I don’t necessarily feel that nice about them, I’m just feeling what they’re feeling and that can make people think I’m this well of sympathy and understanding because I “get” them. I don’t, really – I’m just feeling what they’re feeling. It’s not the same thing, and I know it’s a gift but I would often rather turn it off. Also, when I was a young woman I would often feel strong desire from men towards me that was confusing because at times I couldn’t sort it out from what I was feeling for them.

  6. My Crowd: 11th H Libra Sun/12thH Libra NN/Mercury/Moon/Scorp Neptune/Jupiter Asc:

    Could not abide the crying baby rm during holiday services-and carted around my wee ones to the playground and exploring. That room of wailis and disbelief at abandonment- I still tear up at the memory. Welcome to religion induced trauma- nope.

  7. What a spot-on description of empathy and what it is like to be an empath! We just don’t know it’s coming and where it comes from until we see it. Sometimes to me, it is like walking blindly and sensing something is there (in terms of thought, affect or something happened) but you’re just not sure what it is until you see it closer or stumble into it like you described with the child getting dropped off. It definitely feels like a curse to see something no one else does and they think you’re delusional, and then *pow.*.

    Some comments mentioned varieties of empathy, like having it stem from Neptunian energy and MM also mentioned Uranian potential. I guess have a double serving (Sun/Merc square Neptune, ASC trine Venus/Uranus) and that made sense to me!

    I think it is an evolutionary trait that people formed for survival. An ability to read emotions (and even changes in energy like the weather) came about to adapt to a chaotic world and one in the past where we were extremely vulnerable to changes (i.e., crop failures, wars, drought, etc.). Those who didn’t understand it, or were terrified about the power it gave those who possessed it, naturally vilified those with it.

    As an almost silly pop culture reference, I’d like to thank the writers of one of the Star Trek reboots for having Deanna Troi who was a ship offer, whose role was counselor because she was an empath. Sci-Fi, again, shows the almost other-worldly possibilities in people and I doubt most people knew what an empath was until then (in my unobjective opinion)!

  8. I remember walking into work one day and the front desk was empty except for one of my coworkers and I was hit with this huge wave of *something bad just happened*. It was like a huge stink that only I seemed to smell. My coworker turned around and said hi to me and I said, “Did something happen?” And she got this spooked look on her face and said that our boss had gotten into a fight with one of our coworkers and they went into a meeting room to sort themselves out. Apparently it had happened a half an hour before I even got there. But this is exactly the kind of exhausting and uncomfortable thing that super duper Piscean people (like me) deal with. Side note: people also don’t differentiate empathic from empathetic.

  9. I’ve just been invited/presence requested to a football watching event. Ughhh on so many levels and irks, the venue, the patrons, actual thugby grand final, the patrons (yes I wrote it twice) I can feel the vibe already. Couldn’t I stay home and listen to music and dabble with some art materials? Oh wait there’s a covers bands! This could be a sensory overload.
    Occasionally I feel boundless joy for no reason, like I’ve crossed a key line or some energetic hotspot. I remember hearing on the radio news the mandates were dropped and I was in a different zone within 1/2 hr of the press release, I thought whoa this is not just me. I think when you see another empath you look them in the eyes and recognise their energy straight off, others or less empathic are more guarded and hard to read. But their emotions scream protection.

  10. I hate being empathic. When people brag about being empathic and or declare themselves empaths, it is a big red flag for me. In fact, I’ve done years and years worth of self-help to be less empathic and more selfish and I am finally reaching a balance aka becoming a whole person. My chart details as follows: 8th house libra sun conjunct mercury opposite moon, all exact. Aqua rising and moon trine Uranus. I’m an introvert and can’t really stand being around people except my husband, animals, and a a few pure souls. You’d think I’d be more detached as a Uranian but all the scorpio makes it difficult. I have Pluto creeping up on my asc. I think that’s when I finally integrate all the training I’ve been through and break free from the empath trap for real. Leaving my very 12th house occupation last year has been a godsend.

    Also my unpopular opinion: I believe Neptunian variety empaths are projecting 98% of what they pick up but that’s just been my observation.

    1. What’s that quote from Joseph Campbell? “The oceans that schizophrenics drown in are the same one that Shamans swim in”. Something like that. I am Neptune heavy but Mars in Virgo orderly and I don’t care for chaos and projection. It’s good to have a priority/reality anchor when out in those waters at least at the beginning I guess, maybe that is what a guru is for?

    2. ‘Neptune variety empaths:’. That is a great point! Maybe empathy has its own expressions based on the sign or planet!

  11. I know all this all too well. Especially the who’s feelings am I feeling. But it doesn’t always come through like a wave, sometimes it creeps up on you, almost entangling itself into your everyday life, affecting you until you realise that those feelings are not yours. But they are so real for you. And that can happen for weeks.
    The other thing that I notice is that often there is the come down. The reactions after the feelings, even though you know they’re not yours, but you go through the course of the emotions. Anger into depression often, or the mourning into guilt, etc.
    We are so gifted, and so cursed.

  12. I find empathy as an innate sense a double edged sword. I’ve longed to be wrong when I just know things and feel situations so acutely that it almost knocks me for a 6. Often, I’m amazed that I know someone else’s intentions better than themselves… I’ve learned to mask it as I get older as so many people just don’t get it. I know it’s a gift and I think I’ll spend lifetime’s trying to harness the massive swells and waves that it is. Probably is a part of Pisces, Moon & ascendant. 8th house Uranus….

  13. Oh. The last paragraph was spot on. If I’ve had a couple of drinks I have to watch myself because I put into words what the other person seems to be thinking, even as I’m warning myself to shut up! (Mercury in Aries here) And then, I can end up listening to a whole avalanche of what they’re feeling and thinking and have been for a while but haven’t been able to articulate it. I myself think my behaviour is rude!!!! On the funny side, I was having a session with a counsellor a couple of years ago who ended up spilling a whole lot about herself, pulled herself up and said in a shocked voice “I’ve never done that before in the 30 years I’ve been a counsellor. I’m so sorry”. I just laughed and said it happens all the time. Don’t worry about it. It’s like I have an invisible sign on my head that says ‘I understand you’.

  14. As a neurodivergent, recovering, actual empath (thank you Moon square Neptune, conjunct Jupiter & North Node) I absolutely agree with you. Learning to set boundaries is all well and good but not being able to switch off caring about or feeling the feelings of people who have hurt you is rough. Although distance & an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude certainly helps (cheers Saturn).

  15. Cancer rising and I identify as an empath. Maybe my moon in the 12th, sun conjunct neptune as well. I feel the collective. I feel others – the exact sensations you described, Mystic. I feel so intensely it’s overwhelming at times to navigate life. I also resonate with the hypersensitivity that comes with it…my moon is Gemini and at the 29th at that! :DDD In conversation with others their energy can put me off. I’m learning to navigate this more every day but such sensitivity has almost gotten the best of me at a few low points in my life before I was called to astrology, and concepts like empath and HSP and the like.

    Sometimes I feel like Suki Stackhouse from True Blood but less telepathy, hearing thoughts and more on the clairsentient, empathic side of things if that makes any sense at all.

  16. The true natural empaths are our Pisces. They also seem to keep it low key-under wraps for protection purposes.

    ‘Walking the dog at dusk’, am curious to know if it is a Golden Retriever, they who i call The Blondes of the canine world due to their blonde eyelashes. Gentle handsome love-sponges 🙂

    There is a book published called Highly Sensitive People, it even has an acrynom HSP.
    Like my OPS which empaths can sense and need to be aware of without creating an armour around themselves.
    Compassion feels different from empathy, compassion comes from the heart whereas i think empathy is our upbringing, past experiences and our family of origin.
    Mentioned before that the French word for kind is ‘gentile’…gentle.
    People often mistake kindness for gullibility. That’s their problem.

    My super soft empathy bits are for animals now. An animal being hurt physically shakes me to the core. Need to turn off nature documentaries where the hunter tackles the hunted and the ads for donations to help captive bears or orangutans.

    1. Thank you – I removed the social share buttons as they’re a security risk -but if you cut/paste the url it will work, thank you!

  17. I think having empathy and being an empath are very different things. One can be learned and the other needs to be managed carefully. Enough times I’ve been knocked off kilter by other people’s feelings when I’m not purposefully in “empathy” mode or taken by surprise.

    1. Yes that is a good point. As in, for example, good doctors train to put themselves in the patient’s place which is important but if they were actual empaths, it would be very difficult to do their job.

  18. Need to stop calling myself an empath, despite Moon-Merc signature + Virgo rising. I feel situations and give loads of unsolicited (and I feel, much needed advice), but I rarely lose sleep over other people’s problems.

  19. I also think empathy is a two way street.
    I can feel when my energy/emotions is too much or effecting someone else even if they consciously cannot, but I can almost hear them thinking ‘what is that?’
    And I’m telegraphing back, ‘sorry, it’s me’.

    1. Yes I can relate to that. I don’t think people realise just how easily feelings are broadcast and picked up. When I understand I’m doing that I shut up and withdraw my energy as best I can. I never could last more than 3 months working around lots of people, Neptune squares Sun, Moon and Mars, Uranus conjunct IC

  20. thats some antennae you have there mystic.

    For an added bonus try unpicking all the codependent traits that one absorbed as a youngster for a real “is it me or….” session or 10. Amazing (liberating) to learn how much stuff isn’t ours to handle. that’s 4th house ick for ya. But yes the non-verbal either way.

  21. Lux Interior Is My Co-Pilot

    As someone with ADD I’ve been a hyper-empath most of my life and it resonates. YES, it can be a liability and completely exhausting/draining when you naturally tune into the emotions of, well, everyone. Boundaries are the answer. Aura shields. Large sunglasses. Learning to tap into your Saturn aspects.

    1. YES! the pranic healing aura shields for me were a lifeline when I had to put up with a highly stressed-out, slightly abusive, certainly patronizing work environment. I thought I was going insane (had to seek refuge in the toilets crying my heart out). a herkimer quartz pendant also helped me against the electrical pollution in that same work environment. from then onwards nothing they could say or do could touch me.

  22. Feeling reality not observing with the mind, yes! We live in a an emotional program but apparently feeling is just the by-product of our Google filter of the autonomic nervous system according to some. Not sure we can’t dampen it down as I have and others mention by stepping back from working in energy work jobs. It’s a conundrum, Yogananda says to plunge on fearlessly through this natural stage in spiritual attainment. The only truth is our Sweet Lord ultimately. Though when not Being Sweetness, which is a narcotic of choice for many including myself, the Empathy Olympics played by some is associated for me with those who err to hyper histrionics of the Yin Realm/State. I have Jupiter Pisces on the MC trine Moon in Scorpio, Mercury in Cancer. Only recently did I realise how agreeableness with others is not an effective control system for my own feelings.

  23. The only people I’ve known who’ve claimed to be empaths have been frightful, so I now have a little bit of eye narrowing whenever someone uses “empath” as a personality trait. (Frightful in that they clearly did not have a well regulated nervous system and would weaponise their “empathy” to manipulate people and situations to their liking.) I can be empathic as you describe Mystic but I am gun shy about it because of this experience. I try to check in that it isn’t just me projecting. Use with caution!

  24. Being an empath hurts the heart. To take on the feelings of others can be disturbing.
    Have found those that say the have it actually don’t.

  25. I have had to consider deeply how to reply so I don’t offend anyone but I cannot tell you how much it annoys me when people are flippant about empathy or being in a state of unconditional love. I had to give up Hawaiian massage years ago as I could no longer stay in such an open state. The heart palpitations were intense. And I have six planets in earth but I have the moon-mercury signature. To keep working, I knew somehow I needed to detach. It has taken years but I can now. My water sign coworkers find it harder. A Pisces rising, Cancer moon colleague goes deep into the bush for a week and sleeps under the stars when he can no longer hold space and recharges that way. A Cancer Sun and rising colleague just stops work, shuts herself away at home until she can come out of retreat again. I do feel for them but it is the only way they can manage and they are exceptional therapists.

    1. Ooops guess i have offended some with my bluntness. Am a retired bodyworker so know what a balance it is to be compassionate but not take other’s energy on board personally.

  26. Inmaculada Concepcion

    ❤️‍🔥✨THIS. Is Absolutely brilliant, Mystic. Thank 🌷🌻🌹✨🙏🏽
    Round my 1st Saturn return I’d realized that if one develops compassionate detachment, murder could be avoided 🤣… Its taken half my lifetime but what a blessing it’s becoming…a gift that keeps giving. ♏️ ASC, Piscis in 12th house & Neptune in ♏️.

  27. Love this MM. Brought tears to my eye with that scenario you painted so eloquently. You must feel so much in your day to day goings on. Kudos to you ❤️

  28. That last part- is me. I am
    a cancer, with an Aquarius moon. A true Uranian and an empath. You are so dead on with that last piece. I have a saving Grace Sag stellium that helps me detach. But my Mercury Gemini also adds to that last part and having convos with strangers lol.

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