Enneagram and Empathy

9 Types of Empaths

©1995-2021 Katherine Chernick Fauvre: Originator of Tritype®

How do I find my type of Empathy?

Enneagram and 9 Types of Empaths

A few thoughts on Empathy and Empaths… Katherine began researching the different ways in which people experience and express empathy in 1969. Her research has continued to suggest several different types of empathy. Katherine has found that it is helpful for people to understand how they experience and express empathy... to be able to increase their emotional intelligence and develop the compassion needed to create lasting change in their lives. Empaths are highly sensitive people but are not always emotionally mature people. So, developing one's capacity for empathy and sympathy is one of the greatest ways to enhance our emotional intelligence, personal growth, and create community.

Cognitive Empathy:
Intuitive knowing and understanding
This type of empath has an intellectual understanding of what others are thinking and feeling. They recognize that others may be in distress and in need of assistance. They offer support by giving a logical approach to managing emotional states. They help others by mentally assessing what is needed.

The high side of this type of empathy is that they can deeply understand what others need, think and feel. They can be very wise. The low side is that they can use this understanding to manipulate others. Sociopaths can have this type of empathy and be devoid of any sympathy for the feelings of others.

Emotional Empathy:
Sympathetic resonance
This type of empath emotionally and physically feels what others are feeling. Emotional empaths feel what others feel as though they are their own feelings...

The high side of this type of empathy is that they can attune to others and can truly know what another is experiencing. They are identified with their depth of feeling. The low side of this type of empathy is when they can’t manage their own emotional states... and focus only on their own distressing emotions, often hysterically acting out their emotions. As a result, they can emotionally burn out and/or feel like emotional vampires to others.

Physical Empathy:
Physical sensations
This type of empath is very sensitive and may not know how empathetic they actually are. They feel empathy through bodily sensations without a connection to their deeper inner knowing or their emotions. These signals may be pleasant or extremely uncomfortable. When someone near them is in distress, they may experience the uncomfortable sensation without realizing what is causing them to be so irritable and uncomfortable.

The high side of this type of empathy is that they know through their physical sensations what is true in the moment regardless of what is being said or done. They know when something is off. They often offer advice and solutions to fix whatever may be causing distress to others.

The low side of this type of empathy is that they are easily overwhelmed by negative sensations and have trouble tolerating the distress of others. They can be hyper-focused on fixing or getting away from the person in distress rather than demonstrating care. To manage their emotional sensitivity, this type of empathy may shut down to the point of appearing calloused, cold, and indifferent.

Compassionate Empathy:

This is our goal and requires emotional intelligence and maturity. This type of empath can read others. They see, know, feel, and sense what others are thinking and feeling. They understand the predicament of others and demonstrate care and concern through sounds, words, and gestures. They readily feel the emotion and may feel like crying but will contain their own emotional empathic response in service of others, and instead step in and offer assistance in the manner that it is needed.

Biological Empathy:

Empathy appears to be inherited just as aggression and shyness are... which is why some people are naturally more empathic than others. We have a gene that may increase or decrease our innate capacity for empathy. We inherit our bandwidth for empathy, which is why some children feel pain when another child is hurt and cries while other children do not seem to be impacted.

Maturational Empathy:
Generally speaking, between 9-11 years of age, we have enough ego development to expand our empathy by understanding our impact on others. Ideally, with the right guidance, we can develop this type of empathy. But, even if we didn’t have the benevolent kindness of a guiding mentor, it is never too late to develop this capacity. We call this sensitivity with emotional maturity.

Experiential Empathy:
This type of empathy comes from having experiences. Some people might not be able to truly understand what another might be feeling and/or experiencing until they, too, have had the same experience. For example, they might feel sympathy for someone that lost their job... but if they also lose their own job, they might then move from having sympathy to having both sympathy and empathy. They now know on a personal level what it feels like to lose a job and have developed empathy for those that have lost their jobs.

Spiritual Empathy:
This type of empath is often described as an ‘old soul’. With this, empathy, compassion, and understanding are always present even if their behaviors are immature or reactive. The spiritual empath does not need to have had the experience to know what another is feeling. This type of empathy is what motivates us to create bonds and build bridges of community.

Spiritual Empathy is what connects us to one another on a universal level. This is why we care and are impacted when we see or hear of the other's suffering. Charity is born out of this type of empathy. When we recognize that we are deeply interconnected to all things great and small, we engage with and wish to support the needs and concerns of others. This is why we can feel moved to help a total stranger that is in distress.

Shutting down Empathy:
We all have empathy but in varying degrees. With empathy, we are able to put ourselves in another’s shoes, understand what is needed at any moment in time, and make informed decisions. Because empathy gives us the ability to know what others are thinking and feeling, it improves our decision-making processes.

However, there are times when the ego shuts down empathy due to empathy overload. This may be for a few seconds or much longer.

This is necessary for us to do in order to manage the adrenaline that comes from overwhelming distress. The defense system manages this distress by disassociating from the overwhelm of the empathetic feelings. It is usually immediate but temporary. It gives us the time needed to recognize solutions and take the appropriate action for a problem. This is needed because we are unable to make informed decisions when we are in a highly emotional state. Once we have a potential solution to a problem, we usually return to our natural empathetic style.

When and why do we shut down?
When we are hurt and/or in an argument with someone, we often shut down our empathy to manage the pain we are feeling, whether it is real or imagined. This is when we might say or do something we regret. Later, when our emotional states are no longer in overdrive, we can restore a sense of calm and apologize.

In order for the species to survive, people will have some degree of empathy, even if it is a tiny amount. Someone with a small amount of empathy might use it to manipulate and take advantage of others to increase their chances for survival. Others with greater amounts of empathy might instead use their empathy to help others survive in addition to their own survival.

Regardless of the level of empathy, we all need to be able to shut down our empathy at times in order to survive. If we did not have the ability to shut down our empathy, we would also not be able to survive as a species. I see this as a biological imperative.

Empathy shutdown can last a few seconds, or in extreme situations, last a lot longer depending on the intensity of the distress, the duration of the distress, and/or what values one has been taught or both.

If we were in full empathic resonance with others at all times, we would never be able to kill to eat or protect ourselves or those we care about from life-threatening danger. For example, soldiers need to be trained to shut down their empathy in order to be able to kill. They are taught to demonize the enemy and act with prejudice in order to survive going against the enemy.

The empath with a high level of empathy has a greater capacity to understand the suffering of others. However, when one understands the suffering of others, they, in turn, will suffer until they learn to manage their empathy and turn it into sympathy.

Being hurt or seeing someone else being hurt is extremely painful and upsetting for the empath with a moderate to a higher level of empathy. But even then, an empath with a high level of empathy may shut down their emotional empathy if they are repeatedly harmed or humiliated or need to protect someone else from the same. This type of wounding creates deep scars in the empath’s psyche, but with emotional support, this indifference can be healed, and the innate caring and compassion of the empath may re-emerge.

The Enneagram is a powerful tool for building bridges and understanding ourselves and others in a deep and profound way. It an ancient symbol of unity, diversity, change, and transformation. The building blocks for a supportive community can be found in the innate ways the 9 types demonstrate empathy. This is due to the fact that empathy is the way we connect to one another.

There are 9 types of empathy and 7 levels of empathy. There are also 9 Enneagram types, each of which expresses and experiences empathy in a very specific manner. Understanding the 9 diverse ways the 9 types express empathy helps us understand the ways in which others may be demonstrating compassion and consideration.

We can appreciate the diverse ways others may show us compassion and consideration. This is key as each type demonstrates empathy according to the needs and concerns of their own Enneagram type. We can miss the signals of empathy that other types are demonstrating, simply not know how to read the other type's style, and often feel let down when their way is foreign to us. So, for example, a 5 will demonstrate empathy by sharing the knowledge that they have acquired to be of assistance.

To create and sustain meaningful relationships, we need to develop our emotional intelligence and sense of personal empowerment. To feel empowered, it is essential that we be critically self-aware; recognize our values, goals, and skills, and our impact on others.

When we discover our style of expressing empathy, we can make sense of our world and the struggles we face in a new way. Empathy connects us to one another and gives us the compassion needed to build a community that honors and appreciates diversity.

©1995-2021 Katherine Chernick Fauvre: Originator of Tritype®

Learn more about Tritype® here:
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