Empathy: Is It a Gift or a Curse?

Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter

imgresHere is a message to empaths referring to their abilities as a curse: “Tsk tsk tsk!” Your abilities truly are gifts but can falsely appear as burdens if you were taught to look at them as oddities or vulnerabilities or weaknesses or reasons to let others use them for their benefit.

Cognitive dissonance causes people to believe and to be emotionally comfortable with only what “makes them right” and with what does not challenge their beliefs or ego or trigger their fears. It also makes people intolerant of people’s differences that, well, make them feel uncomfortable. Cognitive dissonance in others is what makes them uncomfortable with empaths’ differences.  Similarly, empaths can also suffer from cognitive dissonance that can make them uncomfortable with and intolerant of their own unique qualities. While our emotional intelligence and sensitivities cause us naturally to challenge our beliefs and temper our egos which are healthy, we also have to learn to accept, trust, honor and comfortably rely on them and not fear them (as our childhood caretakers should have taught us).

So while being an empath can be demanding, we can learn with self-focused effort and care to manage our natural and divine abilities and acknowledge their value, power, and strength rather than succumb to them. These are gifts and abilities that we need to not only use responsibly but also responsibly honor and protect.

Being an Empath is Rewarding and Challenging

To be born an empath is a gift because you were born with the ability to see truth and beauty in others! However, it can come with many challenges. We are natural energy receivers and have high emotional intelligence so we also can “feel” others’ distresses and insecurities and can have an innate desire to relieve them or expose them (whether we want to or not) and even when it may not be in our best interest to do so. We are born with an overabundance of compassion and energy. We can also become very vulnerable to abusers and have a high tendency towards codependency. Read more here.

14463279_1276822885683757_5551024342412853674_nEmpaths also have a natural ability to see and absorb truth that can be discomforting to them especially when they are around inauthentic and toxic people. Diane Kathrine points out in her enlightening article that empaths can easily see and reveal the sides of people’s personalities they are trying to hide. Empaths can wear other people’s truth like the mask they hide behind; even if they are consciously unaware that they are doing it. They can readily know when others are not being authentic and even when they are lying. Unaware empaths may mistake others’ mirrored insecurities as their own and believe falsely that others’ pain is theirs. They also may have no idea that what they feel, they can then project and reflect back. This ability can bring up intense feelings in others and also cause them to dislike empaths.

Case in point…..even as an adult, my father told me that I was crazy when I told him that the priest at the local Greek Orthodox church I frequented made my skin crawl. I became physically sick in his presence and he would avoid all eye contact with me. Many others told me I “should not feel that way.” This priest made his own rules and, for example, would not allow me to take communion since I was married by a non-orthodox minister. My father told me to ignore him until several years later my father read in the national news that Father Pappas was defrocked for allegedly having sex with men and women (he was Greek Orthodox and married by the way) and claimed in his letter to the bishop (that I read very carefully) that his “zeal for perfection” made him do it.

Empaths Need Focused Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Empaths need to be very mindful of their unique needs and develop and hone their self-care and self-compassion skills lots more than the average person. Empaths can become emotionally fatigued from taking in too much energy and from giving up too much. Some can even become rattled by sleeping in the same bed with another person. We need more down time and alone time to decompress and to recharge our “emotional batteries.”

Help can be a relative term to empaths who typically can have an overabundance of compassion and strong codependent tendencies. Helping others can frequently facilitate exploitation if they are not careful whom and where they focus their help and assess their real motives for doing so. Is it really helping or are you serving a personal need to rescue others and make things that are broken right again? No one can change the ungrateful but empaths can work on their self-esteem and learn to use their compassion more responsibly and focus it on those worthy of and who value your help, compassion, and generosity. When you do, the number of ungrateful people you help goes down immensely and the number of grateful ones increases. So empaths can benefit tremendously with self-esteem work and assertiveness classes that will help them to use their compassion more responsibly, manage personal boundaries, and rely more comfortably on their own selves rather than others for validation of their self-worth and to moderate their compassion.

Sign up here for free self-esteem building tips.

Empaths dealing with codependency issues may also fear being alone that triggers their fear of abandonment. There is a big difference between being single and living alone and being lonely. You can be with someone who invalidates and neglects you and disrespects you and never feel lonelier. So empaths must learn to embrace solitude. Living alone also can support our emotional healing and health.

Learn more how living alone can support emotional healing and health.

We are prone to anxiety from emotional fatigue so we must mindful of our sensitivities, consciously work to minimize toxicity, modulate our need to fix and rescue, and simply rest. Something as simple as hugs or touches or love from animals or the beauty of a painting can help empaths feel safe and assured in their own bodies again. I, for example, have learned to not sit in the middle of movie theaters or restaurants. Doing so brings me angst. I do not defend my position or wants. I just always do so or I will wait for a table or go early to the theatre or book my seats way in advance. I have learned to shut down my energy, sort of like hibernating with my eyes open in the presence of energy vampires and inauthentic people or simply leave the room rather than like in the past, feeling overwhelmed and powerless and defenseless to them. I no longer fear them. They are like annoying mosquitoes to me so I administer psychological insect repellent.

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Learn more here on how to deal with toxic people.

 

images-1We must learn to trust and rely on rather than be reactive to our emotions. We can do this by not rushing to judgment when our emotions are triggered and learn to patiently process them. I, for example, learned to put in extra effort to moderate my overabundance of compassion and empathy. I pay extra attention to my natural drive to fix others and rather than reacting impulsively when I see people or things that are “broken,” I take rational actions by stopping, thinking, and evaluating my options that include “doing nothing.” I focus most of my attention on ensuring I am not making others’ problems my own and help only when someone truly is lost and needs help rather than is not being accountable to his or her own responsibilities or goals.

I learned how to say no and not defend it and own it and follow through when I say yes. Whatever I decide is final and I do not second guess it or criticize myself for my decision or wait for someone to validate it. I simply trained myself not to because I learned to rely and trust on my emotions and my judgment which history has dictated are pretty much spot on.

I have also learned to use simple tools to not be impacted or to feel overwhelmed around toxic and inauthentic people and energy vampires by following the 3 simple steps in the Time – Distance – Shielding rule:

  1. Minimize your time with them.
  2. Maximize the distance between you and them.
  3. And put a shield between you and them.

Learn more here on how to deal with toxic people.

Your Empathy is a Gift – Embrace it!

imagesBeing empaths is who we are and we can’t change it, but we can accept ourselves without judgment and learn how to use our compassion more responsibly as well as tolerance for our own wonderfully unique and beautiful differences and learning how to use them effectively and protect them. There has never been and will never be another person like you in the history of the universe. We have been blessed and need to nourish and respect and honor and embrace our special gifts that not only add to our individual divinity but bring compassion, kindness, and caring to so many others who authentically deserve and need it. They are part of your authenticity and beauty and your unique divine design. So, hang tough in your truth and own, honor, care for, and protect these magnificent gifts you are uniquely worthy to possess!

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