Being too empathetic can be such a drag, especially when you’re overly empathizing with a person who’s carrying the whole world on their shoulders.
Empathy is the state in which a person experiences another person’s feelings through his or her own perspective. It’s like putting yourself in another person’s position without meaning to.
Being empathetic can be a good thing, because it helps you to understand people better and allows you to find more efficient ways to help with what they are going through.
Empathizing with a happy person can affect you positively. Imagine feeling someone else’s good vibes for no apparent reason, other than merely being programmed to.
Still, there are some crippling downsides to being too empathetic.
When is being empathetic a bad thing?
Empathy swings both ways. When you empathize with someone who is feeling really terrible, you can just as easily internalize those negative feelings as you can when they are feeling happy.
This is even more troubling when you are in the presence of a person who very strongly expresses their emotions. People empathize through social cues and by analyzing someone’s history. Sometimes, it can also stem from having been through the same type of pain themselves.
When you are surrounded by people like that, you may start to develop the same way of thinking. That’s not beneficial for anybody, because the true test of empathizing with someone is learning how to cope and deal with those negative feelings.
There are instances when you need to keep your empathy in check, like when it starts to become harmful to yourself and those around you.
You cannot control how other people feel, which means that there is no point in putting yourself in a position that can cause more harm than good on your part.
If you want to help your friend, make sure that you are not being too empathetic *i.e. causing yourself unnecessary pain or stress*.
To help identify those instances, here are some examples of times when it would be best to distance yourself:
#1 When someone wants to harm themselves. This is a serious situation that cannot be aided by empathizing with the victim. They need to receive professional help. But if it’s an emergency situation, call on others around you to help you help them.
#2 When someone feels hopeless. Hopelessness is a debilitating feeling because it makes you feel that there’s no way out of your predicament. If you empathize too much with someone like this, you could end up feeling the same way, and it can affect how you function on a daily basis. [Read: Low self worth – 5 steps to see yourself in a better light]
#3 When someone insists that it’s right to feel bad. Feeling bad is necessary in order to know how to feel good. However, if someone decides that feeling bad is better than trying to feel good, you need to get out of there, and fast. Some people revel in their depression, and it’s highly likely that a person like that will need more than just an empathetic friend to help them cope.
#4 When someone is in extreme emotional pain. You may want to stand back from this one. A person who is suffering an inexplicable amount of emotional pain is emitting waves that you’re better off not catching. As a highly empathetic person, you will be more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed, which you won’t be able to do anything about until your friend settles down. [Read: 10 signs of emotional damage and ways to get past them]
#5 When there’s no way to help someone on your own. When everything you do or say has no effect on a person who is feeling poorly, you have to let go and find someone else who can help. You don’t have to stop helping your friend, but instead, you must admit that you’ve done all you can for now.
#6 When someone puts their responsibilities on your shoulders. Empathizing with someone makes you think that maybe taking on some of their burden can be of help. That’s where most people get it wrong. By being too empathetic, you won’t be able to stop yourself from taking on too much until it’s too late. You know how hard it is for them *you can literally feel it*, so it might push you to help ease their problem by making it your own. [Read: How to stop selfish people from hurting you]
#7 When you’re in a crowd, engaged in a dangerous situation. Being too empathetic isn’t just a weakness when faced with one person. It can also affect you negatively when you’re in a huge crowd. At a concert where lots of people are having a good time, your empathy may be a positive trait to have. At a violent protest, it’s not. You might end up being so riled up that you could hurt yourself or other people. Stick to music festivals instead.
#8 When someone is grieving. I know it’s only right to help your friend through their grieving process, but there will be a point when you have to leave so you can gather your thoughts. Empathizing too much with someone who is in mourning is a cause for concern, because it is a different sort of pain from the pain we feel every day. It is stronger and can last longer than other emotions. It can also be very confusing, considering it wasn’t anyone you loved who has died.
What can you do to be less empathetic?
#1 Assess the situation. Do you absolutely need to be there for someone? Do you have to attend a specific event, like an assembly with protesters? If you’re about to interact with someone who is in pain, how bad is it, and are you the only one who can help? Ask yourself these questions before jumping into a situation where you could possibly lose control of your emotions. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t realize it]
#2 Know when to step back. Is it absolutely necessary for you to be present in that type of situation? If not, then do as much as you can from a distance and refrain from unnecessary contact with people who are in emotional or physical pain.
#4 Never hesitate to ask for help. Some people who are in dire need of others around them may ask for your presence. If you’re too empathetic for those types of environments, you need to know who to call. Other people might be more suitable to help a friend who is suffering from an emotional trauma.
#5 Don’t close yourself off. The idea is to lessen your empathy so that you can function normally in stressful situations. You do not need to stop feeling for everyone around you. All you have to do is keep yourself in check and monitor how your emotions are doing.
Being too empathetic can be an advantage, but it also has the potential to be problematic. You must always be mindful of how you are feeling so that you can determine if you are stuck in a bad situation. Using the guidelines above, do the best you can to control your empathy and recognize your limits.
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Those who can’t do, teach. I can neither do nor teach as well as others, but I can try. Aside from being a writer, I am also a physical therapist. My dream is...