There seems to be a notion that we are a culture very much lacking in empathy. We have those who care very little for others’ point of view and then we have those in rage and anger who protest against the ones who are careless. Much like the disgust of empathy can be overbearing for some, it can be a blessing for others. For example, when we are in need of assistance we want that empathetic person to lend hand. Who do we call upon when things get tough if not the most empathetic person we know.
Because deep down we know that this person will not only understand our want’s and our need’s, but also be there with us emotionally. We understand it intellectually even if we cannot emotionally grasp the concept of empathy. However, where things get interesting is when you start to understand that empathy, just like any trait, can be learned and there is even something called selective empathy.
If you want a good example on selective empathy, look at the different emotional reactions to terrorist attacks in the western world. There are people starving and dying EVERYDAY in Africa. I know, talking about the starving children in Africa is the biggest cliché of them all but it is only to prove a point. We suffer for those who have been victims of terrorist attacks but we do not suffer, knowing there are people in Africa dying everyday?
We suffer when someone close to us grows ill with disease, but that homeless man on the street we barely see. It is like some types of suffering has rendered us emphatically blind.
For those individuals who have a deep-seated sense of empathy from a very early age, it is utterly hard to grasp the concept of selfishness. Selfishness to an empathetic person is like cancer. Selfishness doesn’t get any grow room because it feels unnatural. Something that is not productive in order to be a better person.
The problem arises when an empathetic person starts giving out to much of his or hers’ own energy and well-being to people who do not give anything back in return.
A highly empathetic person will then start to feel drained and after you drained that person for several weeks or months, that person becomes anything less than empathetic.
A person like that can be your best friend or your worst enemy, but it is seldom the choice of him or her. It is the counterpart that act as the balance, be kind and we will love you back. Betray us and steal your precious energy. We will resent and loath you for a lifetime.
You see, even kind people have a limit too. What they will put up with, depends mostly on time. I have seen this time and time again when someone who is good at heart gets pushed to the breaking point and eventually, you have created a monster.
It’s like that old saying ” Don’t take my kindness for weakness “.
Empathetic people really are wonderful and have some of what I believe to be the best quality a person can have. But the dark side of highly emotional people is that if we do not get your needs met, we tend to push your own self destruct button.
If you know someone like this, you have an idea of what I am talking about.
This is the side when an empathetic person tries to shut themselves down in order to feel less, it is an inherent solution that feeling less equals well-being. Well, in fact for the highly sensitive person it does the opposite thus creating a vortex of negativity instead.
This person will be much more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol as a way of self medicating or as an emotional escape. He or she will be in the mindset of not picking up the phone when you call, nor answering any texts. At this stage intense depression, anxiety and even rage is not uncommon.
So I guess the take home message of this post is don’t piss off empathetic people, right?
Empathetic people need to learn how to deal with things without becoming an emotional mess, we need to set clear boundaries and not take on too much.
A highly sensitive person that has in mind, to try to save the world, might not be the best combination.
Selfishness in itself may be viewed as a bad thing but for a highly sensitive and emotional person, sometimes being selfish is your own best medicine.
Maybe you let someone else save the world for a change? And you take a day off from everything.
Learning how to say no and take steps towards increasing your personal boundaries are extremely important for empathetics and may very well save your life.
You see we can never be selfish, we are so far on the other side of the spectrum. The side of giving and helping people, so by trying our very best to be selfish we tip the scale more towards the middle thus finding balance.
I really have no constructive tips for how one should handle life as an empathetic person. All I can say is be your own person, do what feels right in your heart and stand up for your ideals and beliefs. Also remember to set clear boundaries, say no instead of always being a yes man and be proud of your gift!
Being a person who feels very deeply is truly a gift when you channel it correctly. A person like this can give the gift of empathy to the people, being in service in a profession which he or she loves.
These people are often very great at what they do because they put a lot of pressure on themselves to be nothing less. Being supremely in tune with the emotions of others makes them great for professions in which there is much intra-personal reflection.
The task however should always remain on one self to be primary caretaker of just that ONE SELF. That is the only way an empathetic person can be in great service and keep a sense of balance within.
It is no easy task being a supremely empathetic person. But if you work at it little by Little everyday and get the right tools to cope when things are not going your way you will live a very fulfilled Life.
“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empathetic who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’, are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”
― Anthon St. Maarten