Monday, July 18, 2011

Empathy – psychic ability or good sense of smell?

There are a lot of folks in the New Age and Pagan communities who list Empathy as one of their gifts, or even self-identify as an Empath, meaning that they sense and experience the emotions of others.  Folks in the non-psychic arena define empathy as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another” – basically inferring it’s intellectual, not psychic.

I was listening to the radio while driving recently, and there was a news story about animals and something to do with pheromones.  So naturally my brain meandered over to the memories of other information about pheromones and I realized that most of what I’ve heard about on the subject was related to either fear or sex.

But what if there’s more?  What if there are pheromones we exude when we’re calm, different ones when we’re happy, or sad?  What if, instead of empathic, a lot of us are just accurately interpreting what the pheromones mean because of a good sense of smell without knowing it?  I suppose that it doesn’t really mean much in terms of what the person experiencing someone else’s emotions goes through, it’s just something to think about.   We may never know the answer, if there is one.

For folks who are sensing someone’s emotions from across town, that’s definitely still a psychic ability.  


  1. Hi Allan! Interesting thought on the pheremones. I've often wondered where the line between "super fast analysis of observed facial expressions/body language/tone of voice" and "empathic ability" becomes blurred or non-existent.

    However, the more I work with energy fields, the more I realize that we experience emotional information from others through our entire bodies, not just mentally. The "processing" of what another person is feeling happens on a much faster, subconscious level that creates a mirrored neuronal response in our own bodies. This is what is traditionally thought of as "being empathic" -- feeling what another feels.

    Again, as I've work with energy fields, and as I've realized that there really is no time or space in the energetic realm, I have become able to send out "energy feelers" (so to speak) to check in on someone's emotional state from across town or through a chat-room contact. Why should that be surprising? After all, we do it through the phone all the time. Not sure I would label it psychic, though: it's the same skill, just better practiced.

    -- DeAnna

  2. Something else to think about...
    A common prescription for empaths who are just too emo for their own good is Grounding + Shielding. If empathy is based, at least in part, on smelling pheromones, what is an oversensitive empath to do? Other than contracting a head cold, it would seem there isn't anything an empath could do to totally insulate themselves from the emotional surges of others.

  3. Goebbells approaches Hitler one day and says, "Mein fuehrer, you still haven't visited any of the camps, or the killing fields. Our men are quickly exterminating the inferior races from the world, as you commanded. Why do you not wish to view the fruits of our labors with your own eyes?"

    "Unfortunately I couldn't bear it," replied Hitler, "I'm too much of an empath."

    The point is, I don't care if it's psychic, psychological, or (my own preference) some combination of the two which explains empathy... but it seems in the New Age community, everyone's an empath no matter how little empathy their actions and attitudes reveal. It's trendy.

    I do have a great deal of empathy myself. Am I an empath? I think categorical terms like "empath" and "psychic" at best identify certain specialists at those skills, and more often are just labels people give themselves to feel important, earn esteem, etc... So I don't use them. Empathy... that is certainly real, psychic, psychological, biological, or some of all three (probably more the latter two in most cases). I do feel very deeply and can easily identify with the emotions of others, but I'm not the empathic equivalent of a young Sookie Stackhouse by any means, I can block it or shut it off or damp it down as needs be with few difficulties.

    As to pheremones... sure they affect our behaviors in subtle ways, no one doubts that. Males find the odors of women near ovulation more attractive in double-blind clothes smelling studies; conversely women in similar studies think the best smelling males are those who smell like their fathers (where their fathers clothes are mixed in unbeknownst to them with other males so they don't know they're doing this consciously). Can emotional hormones (not necessarily just pheremones) possibly be smelled and influence behavior? Absolutely they potentially could, and not just people with good senses of smell but even people with an average sense of smell or little sense of smell at all.

    (This is Eli BTW. Don't be confused.)

  4. Man, for a "just for a fun idea to play around with" kind of post, you all had some *really* interesting points to consider.