Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
I am an empath, always was and will be. I have learned through my hard work and over 20 years of study (thanks to the profound work of Dr. Judith Orloff) and from feedback from so many in the Yourlifelifter community that being one comes with many benefits and challenges as well. However, recently I learned through great pain about a challenge that may not be so obvious to empaths who are seeking emotional healing: Dealing with loss.
Healing, in general, involves loss of what is unhealthy and does not serve us in the long term but nevertheless, may have supported our safety and security in the shorter term. And change, folks, of any kind is in the best case, uncomfortable, and in the worse case, painful. So anyone on a healing journey not only has to grieve the losses but also must build coping skills for new and unfamiliar discomforts that he or she will face along the way. It takes time and effort to replace the old beliefs and skills with new ones we can comfortably rely on. For empaths, however, who are natural rescuers, emotionally sensitive, prone to codependency, and have an overabundance of compassion, overcoming losses can be excruciating and daunting. Let’s explore more how and why loss can pose unique healing challenges to empaths.
Learn more about being an empath in “Empathy: Is it a Gift or a Curse?”
Why Loss is So Challenging for Empaths
Empaths are natural energy receivers and have physically sensitive makeups and can “feel” emotions more intensely than others. We are born with an overabundance of compassion and emotional intelligence and can easily become emotionally fatigued. Empaths are also natural rescuers and have innate desires to help those in need. We are conscientious and loyal with a strong moral compass. We can falsely believe it is our divine purpose to help, rescue and even fix others.
As I discuss in Understanding Why Narcissists Targeted You is Fundamental to Healing, empaths’ inability to see the “bad” in others significantly enhances their vulnerability to attacks from emotional vampires. As a result, empaths can be targeted easily throughout their lives by energy vampires such as scapegoaters, bullies, narcissists, abusers, exploiters, and sociopaths who enlist other uncompassionate and apathetic people in their wrong-doing. Kim Saeed, a renowned narcissistic abuse recovery expert also notes that empaths have a track record of developing codependent behaviors in childhood to deal with the overwhelming unfairness in the world and to please others, which they usually carry into their adult relationships. Empaths who were abused as children can develop exaggerated codependency issues and dependence on others to define their worth. The consequences?
By the time adult empaths decide to heal, they usually have to heal and grieve from multiple codependent relationships and doses of betrayal accompanied by very high levels of toxic shame and self-loathing and exaggerated feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. Repetitive betrayals can trigger exaggerated fear of abandonment. Healing that requires self-care and eliminating harmful people and behaviors can trigger intense pain, shame, and unworthiness. Losses, then, of any kind can trigger traumatizing toxic grief. We can unknowingly sabotage healthy relationships because we believe we can handle being alone better than dealing with the pain of losing a loved one. We can also sabotage our own healing to avoid “betraying” toxic people who are harming us. And for empaths whose lives, like mine, has been filled with multiple losses and betrayals, healing challenges can appear insurmountable when in reality they are not.
How Do Empaths Deal with the Unique Challenges of Healing from Abuse
Focusing on self-care, acceptance, and truth are especially paramount to healing for empaths. Effective healing requires a clear understanding of our unique worth as empaths that will facilitate reconciliation and a recalibration of our wounded thinking and conflicting beliefs as they relate to loss, forgiveness, unrequited love, and our lovability and pain and suffering.
“Effectively healing requires a clear understanding of our unique worth as empaths in order to facilitate reconciliation and a recalibration of our wounded thinking and conflicting beliefs as they relate to loss, forgiveness, unrequited love, and our lovability and pain and suffering.”
Remember, folks, most of us, intentionally or not, were raised to believe we are the source of and are powerless to our pain and our purpose is to serve, rescue and alleviate the pain of others. Most of us were rewarded for serving others and punished for or not taught to address or manage our unique emotional needs. So we, unwillingly, became dependent on others who trigger our pain to define our worth and alleviate our pain. We were conditioned to believe, falsely, then that we must suffer to be lovable. To heal, we must accept without reservation that these were lies and have nothing to do with our personal value or power or our lovability. In fact, we were targeted because of the value and magnitude of our personal power not in spite of them.
And those folks and loved ones we lost and who betrayed us? Well, they, good or bad, undeniably helped us become who we are. Our parents or caretakers who did not know better should have taught us to manage our emotions and build healthy relationships and care for ourselves including dealing with loss. Most, instead, exploited our compassion and directed us to use it to serve their own needs to alleviate their unhealed pain they transferred to us.
The good news? We can heal and take our power back. When we know better and that we are worthy of that knowledge, we do better. We can use the pain these experiences created to motivate us to enhance our emotional intelligence and fortitude and wisdom. We can witness our own rescue that will validate our self-worth. We can use our nurturing abilities to parent ourselves and accept ourselves with our unique gifts with compassion, love, tolerance, respect, and joy and live the joy-filled lives we deserve to live. We must also accept the right of the “bad” entities to act on their malintent and at the same time, accept our ability and right to act on our free will not to and to not participate in it.
Self-care helps empaths learn to use their compassion responsibly, “neutralize” the toxic emotions, and learn how to regulate their emotions again. These are good “habits” that relieve the pain and help empaths assimilate and reconnect with themselves. Self-care allows empaths to actively participate in their own healing and regain trust in themselves and feel safe and secure in their own bodies. Self-care allows empaths to nourish their own souls and is critical to building self-worth, self-assurance and self-reliance. Self-care includes learning what personal rights are and where healthy authorities and boundaries start and finish that will help to make great strides in healing, replace maladaptive thoughts, beliefs and actions with healthy ones and support and sustain emotionally healthy and mutually respectful loving relationships.
We must study to understand what personal power really is and accept that our unique abilities bring authentic power and sustainable value to the world. We must accept with humility that we are gifts to the world. We are born with natural value-adding abilities to save humanity from itself, to create order from chaos. We must also accept that we are vulnerable to its ugliness and resilient to the harm it can inflict on us. We are the most powerful yet the most vulnerable humans on earth. We must learn to respect, care for, and honor both truths to a level that maximizes their value to us and others while limiting the risks they may pose to ourselves. This is how we use our gifts to live abundantly and with integrity to create infinite value we mirror and project like an expanding universe. That is the mystery and magic of life, of becoming a human of excellence, the ones we are blessed to be.