The Problematic Empath

An Empath is an intuitive personality type, usually hypersensitive, especially to the emotions and conditions of other people.

I walk around life with more emotions than most.  I always have.  I’m loyal to a fault and tend to take on the problems and emotions of my friends and loved ones.  If my friend is going through a divorce, it’s as if I’m going through it to. If another friend was cheated on in her relationship, I hate the guy just as much as she does.  If my friend is struggling with her child, it’s as if it’s my own child. I feel things deeply…like too much.  If my girl is broke, I’m trying to help her as if my own lights are going to be cut off.   If my friend has found a new love, new job, new opportunity, I’m excited as if was me! It is more than compassion; it’s literally the ability to feel someone else’s emotions as strong as if they were my own.  As I get older, I’m more in tuned with the empath that lives inside of me.  The person that lives inside of me that really just wants “my people to be ok” in every sense of the word. It’s a huge reason why “The Sum of Many Things” was birthed.  It was birthed out a desire for women, particularly women of color, to be affirmed, heard and validated. My heart is my greatest asset because it’s gives freely. 

So what’s the problem with that?

“Empathy is a double edged sword that can be draining.   There are moments when I know I’m running on empty but I can’t seem to stop myself when someone needs me. I put my feelings and any emotions aside and I try to be there for the ones I care about and even the ones I don’t know very well.   Quite honestly, sometimes I’m literally giving myself away in bits and pieces. I tend to focus on others instead of giving myself proper care.    I am a person who is deeply affected by the emotions and experiences of others.  I am a listener, confidant and counselor.   Who pours into the empath when they have poured so much of themselves into so many different people?

“I need someone to fight for me too”-Charley “Queen Sugar”

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Sometimes I just care too much and that can be dangerous.  Too much empathy can lead to emotional burnout, weighed down with negative emotional energy of others. It’s the dark side of being an empath.   When I feel like I’m running on empty, my emotions are out of sync and my spirit is exhausted.  It is in those moments that I retreat into my shell and isolate myself.  I retreat into my quiet space, my safe space; usually writing, listening to music, enjoying my favorite self-care rituals.  Self-Care is essential for empaths.   Some think I may be anti-social at times or that I “go ghost” but it’s not the case. I’m simply taking care of myself and “refilling” because I can’t give anyone anything unless I’m “filled”.  My heart wants to help, assist, support, love, engage but if my spirit is empty, the ones I love won't get my best.  I am a person who enjoys her moments of solitude and quiet.  I need moments to sit with my thoughts, purge negative emotions and feelings and “refuel” spiritually.   In my solitude, I am able to hear God speak to me most.  I gain wisdom, understanding and clarity in my moments of solitude.    I’m able to do more when my spirit is full.  I can be a walking contradiction; I have a need to be with others yet I enjoy my solitude.  It’s a double edged sword that has to be managed carefully so you take the time you need to refuel without isolating yourself from the world.  I’m learning there are things I need to do to keep my spirit clean.  Empaths are emotional magnets and it is necessary to clear out that energy from time to time.

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Another problem with being an empath are the types of relationships I attract.    I often attract narcissists in my personal relationships.  It’s a toxic attraction because narcissists at their core are wounded.    They eat away at your emotions, physical health and sanity, profoundly manipulating and messing up your perceptions and sensibilities.  I struggle to create healthy boundaries for myself, giving into chronic self-sacrifice. Narcissists are experts at wearing masks. They hide behind an idealized self-image which is expressed as being highly charming and attractive, yet deeply uncaring, indifferent, self-centered and cruel. (Source: lonerwolf.com)   It’s no wonder they tend to be attracted to an empaths.  An empath has the ability to sense and absorb other people’s pain and often takes it on as though it were their own.  I’ve often attempted to try to fix their damaged parts and erase their pain.   I failed to realize that narcissists are takers and emotional leeches.  They draw the life and soul out of anyone they come into contact with. The narcissist’s agenda is one of manipulation. The empath’s agenda is to love, heal and care. There is no balance.  An empath will always put themselves into other people’s shoes and experience the feelings, thoughts and emotions of others, while forgetting that other people may have an agenda very different to their own and that not everyone is sincere.  This often leaves an empath with a broken heart, completed exhausted mentally, spiritually and emotionally and drained. 

The problem with being an empath is that sometimes I pour into people and do not receive the same in return.  I often spend a lot of time dealing with other people’s pain and issues and lose perspective on what I need in the process.  In spite of being surrounded by family and friends, I often feel alone because there is no one to “fill my cup” when it’s empty.  I have to do that alone and I tend to withdraw in order to do that.  As I begin to understand what being an empath means, I am also learning tools to protect my spirit, my time and my emotions from people who will literally suck the life right out of me.  Knowing myself, setting clear and defined boundaries, disengaging when necessary and practicing self-care on a regular basis, are all ways I protect myself from becoming an emotional dumping ground.   It means protecting my energy at all costs and taking necessary time away when I need it because no one can fill my cup but me. 

My heart is big and full of love to give.  I truly believe I was put on this earth to give, encourage, share, support, uplift and love.  I love to give but I’m learning give myself those things first.  

Are you an empath? If so what are some ways you protect your heart and spirit?  What helps you balance it all?

Until next time,

Take care of yourself and one another

D. Sanders