Too much empathy might get toxic for you

Empathy is the ability to understand the emotions others are experiencing. But if you go one step further, it becomes the ability to feel what another person is feeling. Sometimes it even turns into an extreme reaction to others’ emotions.

During my soul searches and my vulnerability self-checks, I have noticed that I was getting too invested in others’ problems. Especially when it’s the people who are near and dear to me. I was making their problems mine and beating myself up if I cannot be of help. I was doing everything to help them while they most probably felt smothered by too much attention.

Empathy is a good thing

And don’t get me wrong. It’s good to step into someone else’s shoes and to try and see the world from their point of view. It makes you susceptive. It makes you human. Having this characteristic in your personality is, in fact, a must. Otherwise, you would lack compassion.

As Oscar Wilde said, everything is good in moderation. Thus, you need to keep it under control. If you feel too much empathy, get too emotional about other people’s circumstances, that might hurt you in the long run.

However, if you take on everyone else’s baggage all the time, it can lead to empathy burnout. Perpetua Neo, a doctor of psychology, says in one of her interviews; ‘It’s almost like another person’s emotions or even physical sensations become contagious.” Which then starts hurting you. Though caring for others isn’t synonymous with feeling pain. And it’s good to make others feel heard and understood. But what is important here is putting boundaries up for others and choosing not to take over somebody else’s pain.

What should you do if you are an overly empathetic person?

  • Detach yourself from the situation so that you don’t take on their pain.
  • Listen to the person compassionately but also objectively.
  • Don’t confuse your own beliefs and feelings with theirs.
  • Understand that everyone’s reactions are different. One might be suffering much less than you think while you expect them to be devastated.
  • Ask how they feel about the situation and what is their strategy to cope with it.
  • Be yourself, show your empathy, embrace everyone with compassion and love. After all, didn’t your parents and the society thought you to be a good person, to help others, to keep your judgement in check? 
  • But also, always remember to take care of and protect yourself emotionally. By doing that, you will not blind yourself with emotions, instead, you will be able to see a clearer picture. Consequently, you will be more helpful.
  • Crying together with your friend is okay but up to a certain point. Encourage them to be more positive, lift their spirits with appropriate jokes.  

Human touch is essential. We all need each other. Not to add to the misery, but to move toward a better place, together.

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