Photo by Julia Caesar
I know there is an established difference between empaths and highly empathetic people, but I prefer to discuss this topic without suggesting where I or anyone else might be on that spectrum.
To be honest, I remain skeptical about the paranormal. I question the metaphysical aspect of having the high level of empathy that makes you difficult to be around at times. Please bear in mind, when you have been that way since childhood, it feels like the most natural response one could have, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s instinctive and, in my estimation, shouldn’t be at all peculiar, except that we live in such an apathetic world.
Some people have even linked a high level of empathy with codependence.
As far as I’m concerned, codependency is not about empathy. It’s about obsession. In the relationship between a drug addict or alcoholic and a generally sober enabler, both people are suffering from addictions. Both have their agenda, and what contributes to the endless cycle of repeat behavior is due partly to the codependent’s lack of empathy, however justifiable in many instances. The pressing needs of a codependent will consistently override any desire or need he or she may have to be authentic. They may believe what they do is simply out of love or out of concern, but it’s always about their dysfunction. Dysfunction gets in the way of any healthy response.
Very empathetic people can become codependent, but anyone can. Does being very empathetic put you at greater risk? I’d say so. And I think people who have suffered trauma and abuse are more likely to be very empathetic or codependent. But codependence is at odds with empathy, in my opinion, and can ultimately destroy it. I say this as a recovering codependent, and I will say, too, that as people learn to manage and overcome codependency, empathy returns like a long-lost son and in glorious triumph.
As for the whole empath/empathy deal, I can’t speak for all, but I can relay my experience and that of two other people I know.
We get angry at people who display a horrific lack of empathy, because we’ve experienced this on some level, whether it was a lack of empathy for us or others, and we continue to experience it happening to us and others. Every incident, regardless of who suffers has an unshakable impact that stays with us for a lifetime. So, yeah, don’t look for a sweet little halo-sporting cherub. Think dragon.
We never feel we can do enough, and yes sometimes the overwhelming realization may shut us down for a moment or a lifetime. I have seen people completely shut down, and it’s very hard to reach them, to break through the wall.
Waves of energy we feel in crowds and group settings make us want to bolt. We notice everything with people—every nuance, every change of tone, the body language. Certain situations can be excruciatingly painful. We can’t shake the feeling of distress after the person is gone or after we’ve gone, and can become physically or emotionally ill for hours, days, sometimes weeks.
We learn that we may need to avoid some people and we often feel sorry for those people, and we feel guilty, even if it’s a situation they created and continued to perpetuate. Setting the boundaries we need to set hurts them—the last thing we want to do. So, quite often, we feel like horrible people. We feel selfish.
By the way, codependents would remain in those situations, thinking they are doing the right thing. They’ll be the martyrs but for all the wrong reasons, and they’ll fully expect their rewards.
Anyway, back to the empaths or the empathetic, our acquaintances (and sometimes our loved ones) get sick of us feeling genuinely sorry for everyone. They get frustrated with our childlike wish that everyone can be happy and healed. They might find it laughable that we could never take pleasure in ‘karma’ even if we know someone deserves punishment. They can’t believe that we shudder to think of what might happen to these people, that we couldn’t witness it if someone offered us a front row seat.
Is it more human to be this way or less human? I don’t know, but I realize some people have had their humanity stripped from them, thanks to the abuse of others. While they may make me angry and in certain circumstances, hate them, there’s no real desire for revenge. I just hope the problem gets resolved so that they can’t hurt anyone again.
As for me, I feel fortunate to have been able to hang on to this empathy thing throughout all the madness of life, I wouldn’t trade it. And I don’t know if it’s admirable or absurd, but we are the lucky ones. Our empathy won in the end—the empathy that makes us believe we need to keep getting better as people. We continuously seek to heal and to evolve. We forever try to learn about others, and ourselves, and we share our discoveries. What’s wrong with that? It has saved many others and me.
© Copyright April 1, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.