Wikipedia describes empathy as the capacity to share and understand another's emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or in some way experience what the other person is feeling. Empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, sympathy or empathic concern because this capacity can be present in context of compassionate or cruel behavior.
A usual way to experience empathy is with our family, friends, in a therapeutic context, and with people generally close to us.
The most typical type of empathy to describe is the one that exist between a mother and her child.This is sometimes manifested by the fact that if the child suffers, the mother suffers as well, sometimes regardless of distance.
Many of us have experienced another type of empathy, this is the empathy that can exist between someone we do not know well or sometimes with a perfect stranger.
Experiencing this type of close link with someone unfamiliar is usually interesting, and sometimes extraordinary, or frightening depending on the circumstances.
This type of empathy can usually be found in people who tend to be easily depressed.
I have seen and met people that have this ability to be very sensitive to other people’s issues. They personally experience the emotions of the people frequently around them, and are not sufficiently aware of this most of the time.
Hence they are usually not armed to control this phenomena, and most of the time, they don’t even know that they are deeply feeding off someone else’s emotions. Sometimes even if they know they are experiencing someone else’s negative emotions, they do not know how to protect themselves, which is important.
First of all, being conscious of the fact that you are easily influenced by other people’s emotions can help you prepare and protect yourself from these negative feelings.
If you think you are feeding of someone else’s emotions, there might be a reason. Your path might be temporarily in synch with this person’s path, or at least the person believes you are on the same path and wants your help, consciously or sub-consciously.
If this circumstance occurs, it is important to think of yourself first and foremost. Ask yourself if you are mentally strong enough to live through such an experience?
If yes, great! Live the experience fully, and do what you have to do to help this person, and in the process yourself, because you feed off both the positive and negative emotions.
However, if you believe the empathy felt from someone else’s emotions is too much for you to handle, identify the source of these feelings, and then, try to visualize yourself cutting a umbilical cord between you and this source.