I started realizing that I had been a lifelong empath in 2012. Shortly after, "They" started showing me how to do healing work. Although I never do my full emotion clearing work without explicit permission from both The Guides and from the recipient, I do send light and energy to the people from whom I "pick up stuff"
I regard picking up their stuff as the request for support.
Some people have told me that I shouldn't be sending ANY light and energy without permission. I regard that as over the top. It's almost like saying you shouldn't smile at people you pass on the street without permission. There is a time, a place and a right way for everything.
You have to decide for yourself what feels right for yourself.
Bottom line though - for me, being an empath is not the destination. It is a signpost on the road to becoming a healer (some people will want me to rephrase that as "becoming a facilitator of healing" which is longer but more accurate).
Hope this helps,