- Animals live in the moment. They can teach us that getting up and forgetting the past in a matter of seconds can be freeing. Some empaths ruminate to the point of excessive anxiety, so animals can be good teachers when it comes to letting things go.
- Animals allow themselves to be vulnerable. They don’t have the ingrained sense of shame that humans do when it comes to expressing themselves, so they present less of a challenge to empaths when it comes to figuring out what they’re feeling.
- Animals have a measurable positive effect on us. Touch has a calming effect on all humans (in the absence of trauma, of course), and simply stroking an animal has been shown to reduce biological stress responses in humans, such as blood pressure and heart rate.
- Many animals are open to love without many conditions. It’s usually not hard to love an animal and it’s easy to tell if they are open to affection or not. This takes the stress of guesswork out of opening up to someone or something else.
- Some animals seem to be drawn to the feelings of empaths. Think of your pet and how they tend to pick up on your sadness or pain and simply lie down next to you. That’s often the kind of silent support empaths need when they’re overwhelmed.
[Read: “5 Spiritual Lessons We Learn From Cats.”]
Of course, you don’t have to be an empath to find comfort in animals for these same reasons. But because empaths are more vulnerable when it comes to trust, connection, attunement, and the potential for burnout in emotionally complex situations, animal interactions are especially soothing.
Empaths and the Natural World
Just as animals can be soothing for all types of people, nature can help improve the wellbeing of anyone. But for empaths, it’s not just an escape from the social interactions, drama, and noise that makes nature appealing, it may also have a spiritual component in helping them cope.
While we often try our hardest to separate science from spirituality, they both have the same goals, if not the same methods. Nature seems imbued with spiritual significance and can force us to realize that we’re part of something greater that is beyond either sensory experience or measurement. Whether you call it cosmic or divine is purely your prerogative, but humans have always believed in a connection between nature and the spirit world and that opening oneself up to it can help alleviate suffering.
Even without a spiritual component, nature allows us to stop and heal. It demands little of us in terms of interaction, and it doesn’t provide the strain on our emotions or senses that social environments do. When you consider how much emotion an empath might absorb in a big city setting, in a crowded office, while working in a helping profession, or simply surrounded by family and friends that need them at all times, healing goes beyond the need for peace and quiet. Interacting with animals or communing with nature is an active way of replenishing one’s emotional storage.
Empaths and Animals: An Emotional Bond
While empaths have a gift, that gift can lead to responses from emotional overwhelm to anxiety and depression. Internalizing the emotions of others makes people wonderful parents, doctors, caretakers, friends, and partners, but occasionally it can lead to more stress, hyperarousal, and negative thinking.
The natural world can provide a refuge for those seeking a break from the noise of social interaction. But since isolation can become an unhealthy coping mechanism, many empaths have relied on their relationship with animals, often in the form of pets, as a respite from emotional overload.
Perhaps animals have empathic characteristics too (it’s easy to posit but hard to measure) and that’s part of the reason they’re drawn to people grappling with strong emotions.
Getting all the feels? Consider what it means to be a true empath.