Life as an Empath can be both beautiful and crippling. It is honestly a double-edged sword if you are unable to control how you handle it.
On Being an Empath
When you struggle with too much empathy for others, there are repercussions:
> You FEEL too much
> You sacrifice your own feelings and mental health in order to make others feel better.
> You cannot find comfort among groups of people because you can feel EVERYONE’S stress, anxiety, and negativity
> You are unable to step back from people, even if they hurt you, for fear of hurting them back.
> You feel people’s pain and sadness, even if you don’t know them personally.
> When you first meet people, it is difficult to stay neutrally engaged. Once they begin to talk, you begin to feel their feelings, making new relationships awkward and emotionally uneven (unless they are an empath as well)
> Conflicts cause too much stress, as you feel both sides of the struggle, so you avoid it at all costs, even if it means compromising your own principals.
> You struggle with detaching from others you have had relationships with because you know them on such deep levels that they become embedded inside of you.
The Gifts of being an Empath:
>You have a huge heart, which you keep open and honest with others.
> You are kind, likable, and easy to talk with
> You are unable to inflict harm on others because you feel it bounce back and hurt your heart.
> People will open up to you, as Empaths radiate trust and openness.
> You make friends easily because you are willing to take on other people’s emotions.
> Laughter and happiness is a relief and a tremendous joy when you empathize with others
> Kind, caring people make you feel blessed to have the heart of an Empath.
> You can help people source out the roots of their issues and struggles because you can feel from a different perspective.
> Once you realize what you can do with your empathy, to help others, it is a beautiful thing.
Empathy, compassion, and kindness are three qualities that we hope to find in fellow humans. They are the foundation blocks for open, honest and nurturing relationships.
Empaths, like me, are very aware of the power of feeling other people’s pain and struggle. We can feel it every day, even while we are unaware of why. When we spend time with people who are empathetic and kind, the emotional vibe that they put off is beyond powerful. We are able to feel how they feel about problems in their lives or happiness over a celebration, and like an invisible alien, it seeps into our heart and soul and takes over.
When you consider, that as human beings ourselves, with our own set of struggles, taking on OTHER people’s strife is like carrying around a stack of heavyweights. This is especially true if you feel multiple people’s stresses on top of your own.
If an empath is in a relationship or friendship with others who have no empathy, the weight multiplies, if you allow it, and can be crippling to your mind and heart.
Empathy and Guilt
The topic of empathy is complex and deep. Empathy is one of those traits that we humans are given, almost as a choice. You either have it, or you don’t. You either choose to immerse yourself in it, or you avoid it.
Empaths are complex humans. Their inner psyche is built differently than other humans. Inside an Empath’s soul, there lies a special place to sort out “other people’s shit”. It’s much like having two hearts, instead of one. You have one for your own feelings, and a special one, just to feel for others.
It is exhausting having two hearts beating in your body.
One conclusion I have drawn, after years of struggle with my own inner empathy is that we are very vulnerable. We need to stay leery and cautious at all times because it would be super easy to take advantage of us. In my case, that has happened multiple times. I got caught up in trying to help other people in their struggles, so I could help them feel better, so I could feel better. In the end, I couldn’t do “enough” and ended up hurt. This is the risk of empathy.
Another risk factor is GUILT. I cannot tell you how many times over the years, I have had to swallow guilt for not being to help others. It becomes a vicious circle:
> Your friend has a struggle
> You feel their struggle and their stress
> You don’t want to feel their stress anymore, so you go above and beyond to help.
> You feel selfish because you wanted their pain to leave your heart.
> Their stress doesn’t go away.
> You immerse yourself in GUILT for not being able to make both of your stress go away. You feel guilty for selfishly wanting to remove their feelings from your mind and heart.
> You try again
> Rinse and Repeat
A Classic Scenario of Guilt and Empathy
We will use a breakup, as an example. You and your partner split up. Your partner is NOT empathetic, and it is YOU who makes the decision to leave.
The non-empathetic partner has less emotional struggle with your leaving because, without empathy, they don’t feel your sadness or anger. They only feel your own.
From YOUR point of view, as an Empath, not only do you struggle with your own anger, resentment, sadness, and even mourning of the relationship, you are also feeling all of your partner’s feelings. You see their sadness and feel their loneliness. Because you aren’t 100% detached from all the past empathy and emotions you have shared, it piles on top of the already open wounds and causes them to bleed more. It is hell.
It is most likely why many couples stay together, even when the entire world see them as dysfunctional. Empaths avoid conflict. They avoid inflicting hurt on others because, in the end, it is themselves who feels the most trauma.
It is probable that guilt comes into play after the break up because of how you have made your ex feel. Chances are if they KNOW how you respond to emotional stress, or if they are aware of your empathy, they will play on these qualities and try to a) win you back or b) make you hurt worse.
> The empath struggles to decide to leave the relationship-feeling guilt, stress, anxiety, fear and a multitude of emotions that come with a life change.
> The empath tells her /his partner that it is ending, and the guilt and fears set in deeper.
> Partner looks at the empath with tears or anger, and the empath feels the torture of their heart, as well as the emotions that are already boiling away inside her. Guilt takes over.
> Sometimes the empath will simply give in and surrender, in order to stop the torture of the mixed hearts. The empath may stay, just to keep the peace and try and be happy by making their partner happy. But, if the empath follows through and actually leaves, they need to intentionally shake off all attached emotions that are carried from the ex.
Or, the cycle continues.
How to Shake Off the Weight of Empathy
In my 50 years of life, I have yet to master the art of shaking off other’s emotions.
However, I have learned a coping mechanism that does help to shed some of the weight. It is simply called, “Intention”. I tell myself that I am releasing guilt feelings with the intention of detaching from those who I need to. I then visualize cutting any ties that I may have with the other person. I take a deep breath and visualize a chord anchoring us together, and then cut it with a pair of scissors or a knife. (In some cases, a chainsaw is my weapon of choice).
Another skill I learned when I was a child, was to visualize building a brick wall between me and the other person. The wall keeps me from seeing the sadness or pain in their eyes and their heart. When I took my father and uncle to court for abuse, I used this skill between myself and the jurors, the opposing lawyers, and abusers’ glaring eyes.
Visualization seems to be the one tool I can do, with intention, so I can manage my own mental health.
Are Empaths a Myth?
Even as I sit and write this, this question makes me laugh. I am full proof that empaths and people with an overabundance of empathy do, indeed, exist.
Not only do I know first hand what a day in the life of an empath feels like, but I know many others in my world who share the same gift. If only there was a way to turn it into a gift of seeing the future or the manifestation of happiness and wealth, but so far, I have no luck.
I just know that we empaths carry a lot of extra weight on our shoulders, and it is our purpose. We are blessed and cursed with excessive emotional responses and feelings. Our hearts run deeper than others and we understand others more clearly than most.
I am of the belief that survivors of abuse or childhood trauma are blessed with empathy. In order to truly understand the pain and suffering of others, you need to feel what it’s like to be in their shoes. In order to be able to celebrate and appreciate joy and happiness, you need to understand what it feels like to not have regular joy. Empaths understand and comprehend the experiences from all corners of the spectrum of emotions. As an abuse survivor, I have felt it all, and in order to empathize truly with another human being, you need to be able to relate to their emotions.
If you are an empath and have any other coping mechanisms that you utilize to keep your mental health in check, please feel free to share with me.
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