People Think Empathy Is A Weakness But They Don't Even Know What It Is
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Health and Wellness

People Think Empathy Is A Weakness But They Don't Even Know What It Is

Empathy is necessary, but it's not ideal to always help others at the expense of yourself.

Empathetic Woman

Empathy is a tough subject these days - many people either don't have it or think it's a weakness. Empathy is often confused with pity, sympathy, and compassion, which are only bits and pieces which generally leads me to believe many often don't understand what actual empathy is. This leaves those of us with deep feels in a weird spot.

Even when you search the word, the first definition on google has "paranormal" in it. But there's nothing supernatural about it. Empathy is a fairly crucial and understated trait that I think a good amount of the world is lacking right now but it still exists and it can be draining in a world full of shouting matches.

It's not "caring too much".

I have run into this problem pretty much all my life - I hate talking about it, but I just always feel things for people on a personal level. Empathy can be defined as a person's ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person. It involves seeing someone else's situation and sharing their emotions. It's as simple as imagining what they're feeling, how they're perceiving a situation and trying to understand their interpretations.

This means you're constantly taking in new information about the world around you. Feelings, thoughts, interpretations of even absolute strangers. The best part of that (said loosely) is that you filter that through genuine care.

That means feeling genuinely hurt for the girl you saw crying in her car at a stoplight and thinking about it potentially the rest of the day. Even though you'll probably never see her again. (For one example.)

The reason I hate talking about this is because it seems kind of silly. Who cares? You don't even know that person. It's not you, thank God!

Many people's first reactions are to turn it off, stop caring, the world doesn't promote to feel things like that. But it's impossible not to because we're wired to feel deeply. It's not just taking in information but thinking of ways to reach out, help, or fix the problem.

How can this be overwhelming?

Behind the scenes of absorbing environments and emotions around you can be extremely overwhelming because empaths are highly sensitive. It's a step beyond sympathy, so again, you feel these things as your own. If you feel them as your own, naturally you want to fix them. It's like this constant responsibility for everyone else to be happy. Again, can sound silly!

But this is where the dark side of the trait comes in because at times it seems like it's to no end.

It's my first inclination to try and help someone above my own feelings, and that is amplified by those in my life that I love. This can take a toll on both our mind and our bodies. Empaths can neglect themselves in order to take care of everyone else, even to those that don't deserve it.

There's a great post here by Caroline van Kimmenade about empath fatigue and ways to combat it where she writes:

As a result, you keep "sponging" all kinds of emotional and mental energy from other people. Energy that is not yours, that doesn't suit you and that really is not your responsibility in the first place. You use your sensitivity to help people in need and "magically" know what someone is dealing with… only to become incredibly burdened by the woes of the world.
Then one day, you blow a fuse. You've got so many people plugged into your source of compassion, that your body flips a switch and shuts down your system all together. That's when you need to start doing some serious inner research, and it ain't easy.

Is balance possible?

Empathy is necessary. Therapists, nurses, caretakers, even teachers - jobs that require an extra level of compassion if they're going to change lives. We've also seen what happens in the world when people lacking in empathy get tastes of control.

However, it's not ideal to always help others at the expense of yourself. From doing different readings, the most common theme I've found is the recommendation of balance.

The balance being referred to is retaining the level you give others while saving some for yourself. One source mentioned how going as far as being compassionate is the same but without absorbing so much energy. It's a big responsibility to assume everyone's problems, especially when they don't ask you to! My therapist had mentioned a few times about owning your own problems and this is a good way to look at it from the other side.

Our problems belong to us and it's no one else's job to make us happy or fix them, so it shouldn't be the expectation either. Meaning, empaths are hard-wired to absorb things but with a little discipline, we don't need to. In the end, it's not always a superpower if it's doing more harm.

If we feel ourselves getting too overwhelmed or burnt out, take a step a back and regroup. Realize what's happening and find the balance. This helps me a few times and hopefully, it could be helpful in regaining perspectives.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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