Thought Catalog
June 20, 2014

When You’re The Person Who Empathizes Too Much

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What is the issue?
Alex Dram
Alex Dram

When you’re the person who empathizes, you lose yourself in someone’s story. Your mother, your best friend, an acquaintance – each has been wronged or hurt in some capacity, and you can’t help but feel for them.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean: “Oh, yeah man, I mean, I feel for ya.” I mean instead that you take on their pain as your own. You struggle in their struggle. You wipe away their tears but neglect your own. You are the person who cares, and you care too much. But that’s a good thing in your mind, because the only alternative you see is that of not caring at all, and you’d rather die than accept that as your fate.

When you’re the person who empathizes, their best day becomes yours too. You become their champion. You embrace the cause and move full forward, as if a runaway train, but it’s good and wonderful and as long as they’re happy, you’ll be happy too. They hear ‘mediocre,’ and you retort with, ‘above average.’ They say, “It’s really no big deal,” and your left lips smile sideways, indicating that they’re crazy for not understanding how great this is!

When you’re the person who empathizes, their low brings your entire day down. You weep and gnash your teeth, too. They can’t understand because, well, the thing that happened, it happened to THEM and not you, so how can you be so emotional about it? Are you trying to make it about you?

But you’re not. That’s the last thing you’d ever do. They can’t fathom that you’d feel as much as they feel.

There is a place in this world for empathy. Lord knows we need more of it. I don’t know your situation until you tell me. I can’t begin to understand what you’re going through.

But I can try.

And maybe I’m trying too hard.

Because when you’re the person who empathizes too much, you start to hide your victories. You don’t want to make them feel any worse, and hey, it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. You feel selfish if anything goes your way anymore. You start to downplay your success. You have moved from having a sympathetic ear to somehow feeling guilty for the good things.

I think we need to stop for a second. I think we need to stop and think about why we’re reacting this way. Our intentions are pure, I believe. For the most part, anyway. Our hearts are in the right place.

But maybe our empathy is keeping us from ourselves. Maybe we need only be in charge of self. Maybe each time we take on someone else’s emotions, we lose some of our own.
I want to know that this can be better.

I believe that I have been put on this earth so that, regardless of my real occupation, I can encourage people. I can walk with them through the valleys and up those mountains. God needs us to encourage each other. And he needs us to encourage ourselves. This task is easy to complete – we need only look around us and be grateful.

I thank God for empathy, knowing that it serves a great purpose in my life. And I ask for guidance in helping me to say ‘no’ as much as ‘yes,’ to know when to jump in and when to hold back. Life is a tricky, tricky test, and Lord knows we all need balance in our lives.

May we reach a point where we admit that we’ve done all we can do, without letting the rest overwhelm us. May we always have a heart for people, but never neglect our own in the process. TC mark

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