The difference between a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), an Empath, and a Clairsentient

A highly sensitive person (HSP), an Empath, and a Clairsentient tend to all get lumped together under the term “Empath.” But, there are differences between each one. Many traits overlap which can make it confusing as to which ability/trait you may actually have. You may even have a combination of all three. I am all three and I will tell you the difference between them all from my personal experience.

A highly sensitive person (HSP) is more sensitive to all sensory input than the average person. Being a HSP means that you process more information about your world than the average person does on a much deeper level. Your nervous system can be dialed super high.

HSP people are activated by, or more sensitive to, everything in their environment. Something they physically experience will be felt deeply within them. Places can be too noisy, too crowded, too fast paced, or too aggressive for someone who is sensitive. They can be easily overwhelmed by their physical environment. Any violence, cruelty, or heartbreak they experience in the world, even seen on TV, is felt with extreme intensity deep within them. Things like a beautiful song, or a touching movie, can move them just as deeply. The body can also be just as sensitive, or allergic, to many different things as well.

A HSP can easily pick up on small subtle cues that others don’t usually notice. They are so aware of subtleties that it almost seems as if they are psychic. They can read the silence, your eyes, your body language. They can virtually read between the lines with ease.

Everything that causes distress or moves a HSP comes from their physical environment. Their awareness comes through their physical senses not anything energetically. A highly sensitive person carries a lot empathy, tend to be bleeding hearts, and care very deeply for almost everything. They are very sensitive people with an extreme amount of empathy.

An Empath can also be a highly sensitive person as well as an Empath, but an Empath is activated by only the emotional state of something. They only feel the emotional energy of what is around them with extreme depth, felt as if it’s their own emotion, but it is not triggered through the five physical senses. An Empath absorbs emotional energy, becoming extremely aware of the emotions of those around them without experiencing the emotion firsthand. It comes out of nowhere, and often, they don’t even know how it got there or where it even came from. It doesn’t come from your own emotional state but from another’s instead.

Empaths are not provoked by experiencing something firsthand, in person, through their physical senses like a HSP person does. But will instead feel it as if it came out of nowhere with no obvious trigger. This can cause mood swings because they’re essentially jumping from one emotion to another and don’t even know why this is happening or even where it’s coming from.

An Empath is so strongly attuned, and sensitive, to emotional energy that they feel it from everything, constantly, all at one time. Most Empaths have a hyper sensitive nervous system which can cause struggles when it comes to separating their emotions and feelings from something other than themselves. It becomes difficult to distinguish what is theirs and what is not. It’s essentially as if they step into another persons body and are now them emotionally. But, there are Empaths out there that are not sensitive at all but can still pick up on the emotions and feelings of something around them, including spiritual energy.

Spiritually, an Empath is basically a human filter for other people’s unprocessed emotions. That includes Spirits. They absorb the energy of another’s feelings and then process it themselves, transmuting the energy to heal it. They transmute low vibrational energy to high vibrational energy. They are energy transmuters, and all Empaths are psychic.

Being an Empath is often confusing because you can feel everything as if it’s your own. That is the separation from just feeling empathy, being a bleeding heart, or caring deeply for others like a highly sensitive person does. The separation between your emotions and another’s becomes extremely blurred.

An Empaths abilities can be easily controlled with some practice. Learning your own energy signature well, so you can tell the difference between yourself and another’s energy, is vital to controlling the overwhelm. Healing your inner wounds through inner work is also essential. Once you can stand in your own power and create healthy boundaries, energetically and physically, you will have more control.

Developing emotional boundaries is vital to controlling the overwhelm, and to not get sucked into absorbing other peoples stuff. Learning to have compassion instead of empathy is essential to not being emotionally dragged into another person’s emotional state.

The more you heal your inner stuff the stronger your aura becomes. Absorbing other peoples emotional energy can mean your aura is unhealthy, that there is some work needed with regards to emotional intelligence, that you may have codependent traits, or that you may lack boundaries, including energetic, physical, and emotional boundaries.

A daily calming practice will help with tapping into your own personal vibration. Processing your emotions when they come up instead of burying them or blaming them on others also helps. Daily grounding practices and energy clearing techniques such as a salt bath, burning herbs/resins, grounding yourself in nature, journaling, using crystals, or energy work, can clear your energy so you can more easily recognize your own unique frequency and vibration so you can seperate your energy from being entangled with another’s.

You can also create a chant, a prayer, or call in your higher powers to clear all the energy that is not yours. Say, “return to consciousness,” and everything will be commanded to return to it’s source.

Learning the difference between what is yours and what is another’s and the ability to clear it and set boundaries around it is how you control the overwhelm.

Another good technique is to put your hand on your heart, take three deep breaths, and say your own name 3 times. This can ground you back into yourself and then you will be able to tell if you’re absorbing another’s energy.

You can tell when you’re getting dragged into someone’s emotional energy by having the same emotion they are having in the moment. When they’re angry – you’re angry, when they’re sad – you’re sad. This is when you’re absorbing their emotional energy instead of just observing, or witnessing it, with compassionate and understanding.

Temporarily, you can shield yourself, but this is just temporary and it takes a lot of extra energy to maintain. You can envision yourself being cloaked to block out others energy or you can surround yourself in a bubble of light, with a color of your choice, to filter out the energy of others energetically.

Sometimes I surround my bubble with a mirror to reflect the energies away from me if the space is especially overwhelming. But, this will drain your energy having to constantly protect yourself instead of working from the inside out so you’re deeply grounded into yourself and your personal energy signature like it’s naturally designed to do.

Once you have a handle on how to clear and ground your energy daily then you can maintain a healthy aura. When you learn to maintain healthy emotional boundaries it will be as if you’re no longer an Empath. You will be an empowered Empath able to hold space with compassion without absorbing their emotions and drowning with them.

Empaths are healers. They essentially take on the energy, work through it, then transmute it, and heal it. But, this is not their responsibility to do. Every person is responsible for working through their own stuff and healing it individually. Being an Empath means that you can feel another’s emotional energy which in turn allows you to understand what they are going through and therefore can hold space for them so they can heal themselves. That’s the purpose of an Empath. Holding space for others so they can heal.

There is also a lot of confusion amongst those who call themselves Empaths but are actually suffering from trauma. There are those who have experienced trauma in their lives and because of this learned to pick up on, and predict, the emotional state of another person for survival purposes. Because they learned how to do this so early on in their life, they assume they’re Empaths when in reality it’s actually a trauma response. Majority of the people who call themselves Empaths are actually just traumatized people and this hypervigilance is a form of survival not the trait of an Empath.

Then there is the psychic ability that gets confused for being an Empath called Clairsentience. Clairsentience is the ability to feel energy and it is the most common psychic ability. The most popular understanding of what an Empath is, is actually the gift of Clairsentience. You basically collect energy and process it. See, an Empath takes on the emotional energy of another, but with Clairsentience you pick up on all energy and you do not take on any of it. You don’t embody it, you just sense it.

You can have all of these abilities/gifts at one time, or just one. An Empath may have the gift of Clairsentience, and someone with Clairsentience may also be an Empath, and they both can be a HSP.  Most people have a combination.

Clairsentience, when used with integrity, can guide and help others. A HSP is triggered by their environment and will need to limit their exposure to sensitive things, and an Empath can feel what others feel.

As an Empath, you can connect with others more easily. As a HSP, you can connect with your environment more easily. As a Clairsentient, you can connect with the unseen energies more easily.

It doesn’t have to be a curse though. It is manageable. 

I have a combination of all three. I spent most of my life being overwhelmed. I feel absolutely everything. Every bit of energy, every emotion and thought, and every subtle cue from everything and everyone in the world! Yes, being human is extremely overwhelming and intense for me. But once I took control of my own energy, did a good bit of healing and inner work, set boundaries (boundaries make the biggest difference!) I am not as overwhelmed by everything all the time anymore. Yes, I still feel it but it is not something I would call a curse any longer.