Celebrating the Highly Sensitive Man

Sensitive men are incredibly attractive. They are path-forgers in the new paradigm of the evolved man. Strong and sensitive. Intuitive and powerful. They’re able to give and receive love without ambivalence, being “unavailable,” or commitment phobia.

In my book Emotional Freedom, I write extensively about the power of empaths and describe strategies for how empaths can stay centered and strong in an overwhelming world. Since I’m an empath and worship sensitivity, I want to help empathic men (and women) cultivate this asset and be more comfortable with it. Empathic men often have a harder time than women because in Western culture sensitivity may be seen as a weakness or too “feminine.” This is a huge misconception. The new evolved man is skillful in balancing both the masculine and feminine in himself, embodying his full power.

Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. This is particularly challenging for men as they are often told by society while growing up, “Big boys don’t cry.” That’s why it’s so important for sensitive men to let go of stereotypes and learn to embrace their gifts. I understand how hurtful the negative messages about being “overly sensitive” can feel—also how easy it is to get overwhelmed by excessive stimuli in the world. I've always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. Crowded places amplified my empathy.

The beauty of a male empathy is that they can feel where you are coming from. Some can do this without taking on people’s feelings. However, for better or worse, others, like myself and many of my patients, can become emotional sponges for other people’s stress. This often overrides the sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting. Thus, empaths are particularly easy marks for emotional vampires, whose fear or rage can ravage them. As a subconscious defense, empathic men may gain weight as a buffer. Plus, an empath’s sensitivity can be overwhelming in romantic relationships; many stay single since they haven’t learned to negotiate their special cohabitation needs with a partner.

A man’s empathy allows him to love more fully and be more committed in a loving relationship. But empathic men must nurture their sensitivities while also grounding themselves in their power and setting boundaries with negative people so they aren’t drained. For more relationship strategies read my blog, “Relationship Tips for Highly Sensitive People.”

Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them. As one empath to another, I want to legitimize your sensitivity so you don’t think you’re losing your mind. I’d had numerous patients who’ve said, “Judith, I thought there was something wrong with me. I feel like such a sissy.” Not so. Our systems are just more permeable. Also realize that the fact that you’re the only person feeling something doesn’t invalidate your perceptions. To maintain resolve in an emotionally coarse world, empaths must have enough self-knowledge to clearly articulate their needs. Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships. Here’s a summary of this emotional type.

Upside of Being an Empathic Man

  • You’ve got a big heart, are gifted in helping others.
  •  Your sensitivity makes you passionate, a great lover, and exquisitely sensual.
  • You’re intuitive about people’s thoughts and feelings.
  •  You’re emotionally responsive, can relate to another’s feelings.
  •  You’re in touch with your body and emotions.
  • You have a palpable sense of spirituality.
  • Downside of Being an Empathic Man

  • You’re an emotional sponge, absorbing people’s negativity.
  • You’re so sensitive to emotions, you feel like a wire without insulation.
  • You’re prone to anxiety, depression, fatigue.
  • You may feel hemmed in living in the same space with other people.
  •  You may have chronic, debilitating physical symptoms.
  •  You have difficulty setting boundaries with draining people, get run over by them.
  • Honestly accessing which traits are productive or not makes you freer. Of course, you want to be emotionally charitable, intuitive, and open, an empath’s assets. However, empathy won’t make you free if you walk around perpetually raw, easily fractured, or have your wildness go out in a whimper because you’re constantly having to emotionally defend yourself. For a male empath to be comfortable in his own skin it’s important to find the right mix of intellect, feeling, and grounding. Here are some exercises from my book, Emotional Freedom to help you achieve this.

    Emotional Action Step. How Empathic Men (And Women) Can Find Balance

    Practice these strategies:

  • Enlist your intellect. When you’re emotionally wrung out or suspect you’ve taken on someone’s distress, think things through to counter anxiety. Use both positive self-talk and logic to get grounded. Repeat this mantra: “It is not my job to take on the emotions of others. I can be loving without doing so.”
  • Allow quiet time to emotionally decompress. Get in the habit of taking calming mini-breaks throughout the day. Breathe in some fresh air. Stretch. Take a short walk around the office. These interludes will reduce the excessive stimulation of going non-stop.
  • Practice guerilla meditation. To counter emotional overload, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. Find a private place to close your eyes. Lower your expectations--it doesn’t have to be Shangri-La. Do two things while meditating. First, keep exhaling pent-up negative emotions--loneliness, worry, and more. Feel them dissipate with each breath. Second, put your hand over your heart and visualize loving-kindness permeating you from head to toe. These actions will quickly relax you.
  • Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally stressful situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. For example:
  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing--even if you adore the people--take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • If you feel nuked by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.
  • Carve out private space at home. Then you won’t be stricken by the feeling of too much togetherness.
  • When empathic men can learn the above skills to develop their sensitivities and ward off negativity, they will be more alive, more loving, more creative. Over time, I suggest adding to this list to pinpoint new protective strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With pragmatic strategies to cope, empaths can feel safer, and their sensitivity talents can flourish.


    LauriLumby 29th May 2013 11:04 am

    THANK YOU for posting this article. As a species we are evolving and in this evolution, Spirit seems to be trying to wake more and more men up to their sensitive side. Unfortunately, cultural conditioning makes many resistant to this awakening. I have seen an epidemic of relationship deaths because women are waking up, the Spirit is trying to wake up their men....but the men find themselves unable to respond. Your article gives men permission to acknowledge the deep, vulnerable, tender and sensitive sides of themselves and assures them they will NOT be destroyed for loving this part of who they are, more importantly, they will NOT be destroyed in sharing this part with others...in fact, they might even enjoy a more fulfilling and peaceful life!

    Lauri Lumby

    Martin1111 29th May 2013 11:09 am

    Thankyou Judith for posting this information :)

    Love and Blessings I send you :)

    Pablovic 29th May 2013 11:39 am

    Thank you!

    the must difficult part for me has been specially these:

    You’re an emotional sponge, absorbing people’s negativity.
    You’re so sensitive to emotions, you feel like a wire without insulation.

    I just do not know how to relate with people that is very negative. I prefer not to be with them, but sometimes I realize they like to be with me and I help them emotionally, but I end exhausted after I spend time with friends that tend to see the dark side of everything. Even worse is at work, people tend to be so negative sometimes and they talk and talk and is a contagious thing, because others that were not in a negative mood, they end being negative too. It is a so powerful force.

    But I am always lucky to have very positive people around me everywhere.


    Sandra Smyre 29th May 2013 1:18 pm

    Wonderful article--thank you so much. Being an empath, I have much admiration for men trying to claim who they are as it is not easy. In LoveLight, Sandra

    johntomswift 29th May 2013 11:20 pm

    Well, my jaw hit the floor several times... An excellent read. I am an extremely sensitive empath.. It wasn't till this year that I found I had a name for it.. I've learned through experience to set boundaries, avoid crowds and gatherings where a lot of people are, honor my feelings and intuitions and get out of Dodge when things get too heavy. This is the first time I have ever seen a description so well accurately categorized. Kudos! Prior to learning how to protect myself, I was wide open. I used to turn to drugs and booze to numb things and it would close me down.. I find that no longer an acceptable alternative. All of the above resulted in two marriages crashing. Panic attacks, increased stress at work, shutting down in relationships, and turning into a recluse. To this day I'm still single after ten years. Today an emergency technique I use when I get blasted by emotion is to center myself as you described in addition to putting my hands over my navel.. this helps block some of the flow.. Then I can leave and "clean" myself...
    Thanks again...

    asphara 30th May 2013 4:34 am

    Thanks so much Dr J.O! I don't know why I was drawn to this article, because although I'm very sensitive I don't/didn't feel I needed to learn anything about it, but the header just made me smile: it's so lovely to hear this characteristic appreciated in men, because I've always appreciated it from the outside - it's been a bit of a pain from the inside at times, as God has given me, as a challenge I guess, a pretty tough exterior - but the sensitivity has always shown through, and drawn 'vampires' as you call them. I've only just discovered, through a painful detachment from my Ma, how debilitating such vampirism can be: I've always tended to think of it as providing the other person a service, thinking I had enough steam - not linking the over-dependencies on friends and drugs as a way of coping when I gave too much of myself away. The article made me feel - notice - how much there is to celebrate in being a sensitive man, and it's just not something that has occupied my thoughts much in the past. In short, it was a timely and compassionate read: thanks so much. x


    Keep updated with Spirit Library

    Author Information

    Dr. Judith Orloff

    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

    Books from Dr. Judith Orloff


    Dr. Judith Orloff Archives