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Thriving as an Empath

An Interview with Judith Orloff, MD


Illustration by Misty Mawn

For 20 years, Judith Orloff has helped make being an empath “something that caring characters would aspire towards.” She shares practices from a lifetime of overcoming shame and creating empowerment.

Spirituality & Health: How has being an empath changed over the years? Judith Orloff: I was born an empath and I didn’t have any words to explain it. I thought there was something wrong with me. And my parents would say, “Oh, you’ll have to get a thicker skin.” I was ashamed of my abilities and wished that I could be taken on a spaceship to another planet where hopefully someone would understand me. When I started writing about being an empath in the late ’90s, it seemed nobody knew about them. But my previous book, The Empath Survival Guide, shot into the stratosphere. It’s been a major awakening of consciousness for many people. Empaths now have a name for their experience, and they can relate and they can say, “There’s not something wrong with me. I’m sensitive. I’m spiritual. I’m intuitive. I’m open. And isn’t this incredible?” Recently I was watching my favorite show, Billions on Showtime, and one of the head Wall Street guys in a conference room says, “Well, I’m not an empath.” He said it in a derogatory way, but I got a thrill because the word “empath” has been integrated into our …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

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