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 umbrella 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 the world than others do on a deeper level. Your nervous system is always dialed to super high.

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

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

Everything that causes distress in a HSP comes from their physical environment. Their triggers and awareness comes through their physical senses. 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 body. They only feel the emotional energy of what is around them with extreme depth, 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 comes from your own emotional state.

They 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.

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 them. 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 still.

Spiritually, an Empath is basically a human filter for other people’s unprocessed emotions. 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, though, 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 states can mean your aura is unhealthy, there is some work needed with emotional intelligence, you may have codependent traits, or you lack boundaries, including energetic and emotional boundaries.

Daily mediation can help by showing you your natural calm state, your personal vibration. Processing your emotions when they come up instead of burying them, or blaming them on others, also helps. Daily grounding practices and 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 vibration. 

You can also create a chant, a prayer, or call in your higher powers or the Divine, 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 can easily tell if you’re absorbing another’s energy.

You can tell when you’re getting dragged into someone’s emotional state 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 your absorbing their emotional energy.

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. 

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 like it’s naturally designed to do.

Once you have a handle on how to clear and ground your energy daily you can then 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 instead. Able to hold space and have compassion instead of empathy and 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 state which in turn makes you able to understand what they’re going through so you can hold space for them so they can heal themselves.

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 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.

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 the idea of an Empath is actually the gift of clairsentience. You basically collect energy and process it. See, an Empath takes on the feelings and emotions of another as if its their own, but with clairsentience, you pick up on the feelings/emotions and thoughts of another and you do not take it on as your own. You can feel who’s it is and where it’s coming from.

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, and an Empath can feel what others feel unknowingly.

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 constantly. Yes, I still feel it but it is not something I would call a curse any longer.