When Helping is Destructive

Empaths, guest posts

This is one of the latest blogs I wrote for Modbod. I thought it pertained to empaths so I wanted to share it here as well:

When Helping is Destructive

The worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could and should do themselves.” Abraham Lincoln

When someone we love struggles, we want to help. From an evolutionary standpoint, helping is our most basic instinct because in order for the group to survive, the individual must thrive.

At some point in each of our lives there comes a time when we need assistance. but what exactly is beneficial help and how can we discern when we’re giving it?

Here are 3 examples of beneficial help:

*Beneficial help does not foster dependence: Making anyone feel they need us Enablerfosters unhealthy dependence and ultimately impedes growth. As the old saying goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It is important to make sure our help actually empowers those we love to be self-sufficient and to trust in their own abilities.

*Beneficial help knows when to say no: Sometimes saying NO is the most helpful thing we can do for another. Offering to help when it only enables one to continue in unhealthy patterns is ultimately destructive. Refusing to enable another is the best form of help we can give, even if the one we refuse does not understand that we say no out of love.

*Beneficial help does not come from a place of guilt: If we feel guilt to help another, we aren’t doing them any favors – especially when the person we try to help is the one laying on the blame: “if you really loved me, you would do this for me.” If we constantly need to prove our love by what we do for another, it’s not help, it’s delaying their understanding of their own value by agreeing to their idea of conditional love.

It’s easy to feel overly responsible for helping others, but it is important to understand that often in our attempts to help, we make things worse. Sometimes in order for people to truly learn the lessons they are meant to learn, it is crucial they fall. If we are constantly rescued out of our problems and circumstances, we never get to see what we’re truly made of.

Advertisements

Empaths vs. HSP (They’re Not the Same Thing)

Empaths

NOTE: This article was written a few years ago when I was still in the process of dealing with my own anger and out of balance relationships with HSP. Much of my views have softened, expanded, and changed since then, but I leave it up because I know how many empaths go through this phase in their journey to get free, and every perspective along the way is valid.

 

The term empath and “highly sensitive person” often get lumped together, but they are not the same thing..

Most experts agree all empaths are highly sensitive, but not all highly sensitive people are empaths. Here’s the distinction:

A HSP is sensitive and primarily reactive to the energy around them. Dr. Elaine Aron, the originator of the term, defines it this way:

“A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is tearsmore easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”

While all empaths are highly sensitive to energy, the difference is in their ability to feel and perceive another person’s actual feelings. Empaths, therefore, are more extrasensory and possess at least one significant gift for directly experiencing what it is like to be in the emotional/mental/or physical body of another– literally feeling what the other is experiencing.

This is not to be confused with basic empathy. All humans have the ability to empathize (minus sociopaths, which is an inability to comprehend another’s emotions). Example: If a friend looses their child, most humans have the ability to empathize with the tragedy, even if they themselves have never experienced a significant loss. An empath, on the other hand, might literally feel what the friend is going through in their body – the anxiety, sadness, and emotional pain mimicking in the empaths system as if they themselves were directly experiencing the loss. If the friend has a headache from crying, the empath may develop a headache as well.

See the difference?

A highly sensitive person, on the other hand, may cry and feel overwhelmed by the idea of losing a child – but due to their sensitive nervous systems, a HSP (especially if they have unhealed emotional wounds from childhood) may go into a downward spiral, taking the friend’s tragedy and making it about them “I don’t want to live in this world anymore, it’s too hard.” At this point they are not in the friend’s emotional experience, but simply using the friend’s loss as an excuse to feel their own pain.

I’m not suggesting that all HSP misappropriate emotions, but MANY do. A HSP may be triggered by the energy around telepathy-672x372them, but from that point they remain in their own emotional body/nervous system, experiencing the world through the lens of their intensely emotional and reactive world. Because of this, HSP are often lost in how they feel, unable to have a direct experience of another person’s literal experience.

Both empaths and HSP often have a difficult time dealing with emotions, and having a highly sensitive nature does not automatically make us a saint (I’m going to talk about the dark side of empathic abilities in another article but for now, I want to focus on the dark side of HSP).

Because HSP are highly reactive to energy, they often project their extreme sensitivity onto others, assuming others feel what they themselves are merely projecting. Meanwhile, as they remain consumed by their emotionally reactive state, they often entirely miss what the other is feeling. They won’t even realize they’ve changed the focus to themselves and will often think they are simply validating the other person, when in reality, they are lost in their own reaction – incapable of even noticing they have changed the subject.

In my experience, HSP actually have a difficult time reading other people’s emotions accurately. While they are highly Harry Potter You dont understandattuned to subtle energy (maybe picking up from body movement that a person is uncomfortable or upset) they will often piece together a story in their head about WHY the person is acting the way they are, usually based on their own emotional state in the moment. Because they are highly sensitive/reactive, HSP often make huge assumptions about what other people feel, when in actuality, they’re merely projecting their own fears and insecurities.

Where empaths typically have a difficult time accessing how they themselves feel (due to being lost in other people’s energy/emotions), an unhealed/unskilled HSP is nearly incapable of separating their own emotions/sensitivities from others, especially if they are in an emotional trigger.

It is especially difficult for a HSP person to realize the extreme level to which they project if they THINK they are empathic. In fact, one of the worst combinations (in my experience) is when an unhealed/unskilled HSP believes they are empathic. Now their projection/misapplication of emotions is fueled with a belief that they are, in fact, accurate in their assumptions and even possess some special, extra sensory gift.

Aye, yi, yi.

I’m not suggesting empaths don’t project. We all project to an extent, especially when we’re triggered or insecure. But for HSP, projecting often becomes the main modality for protecting themselves from the world. If they can place the cause of their highly reactive natures “out there” somewhere, they feel less overwhelmed (it also keeps them from having to take responsibility for their own emotions/projections).

For the sake of our mental and emotional health, it is crucial we not only understand the difference between HSP and empaths, but properly identify where we are on the spectrum. As noted above, all empaths are highly sensitive in nature, so they may slip into reactive tendencies like projecting. But usually an empath has the opposite problem – rather than projecting their emotions out, they draw other people’s emotions in (and get lost in the process).

For an empath, an unhealed/unskilled HSP is often the most draining type of person to be around. The strong emotional projection and reactive nature of the HSP triggers an empath’s negative tendency to feel they must take care of the other person’s emotions. In fact, relationships between HSP and empaths can be the most co-dependent (if both parties are not skilled in dealing with their sensitivities), with the HSP constantly needing the empath to validate their intensely sensitive natures, and the empath feeling responsible for HSP feelings.

When an empath does take time away from the HSP (or begins to have boundaries), the unskilled HSP will take the action Fire and waterextremely personal, interpreting the act to be directly against them and often behaving in passive aggressive ways toward the empath. Because HSP reactions are so emotionally intense, the empath often feels the energetic aggression as psychic attack.

An empath, when feeling the energy of another, literally feels what the other feels (rather than simply noticing social dynamics, energy, or subtle body movements), so shaking off the negative projection of a HSP can be especially difficult for an empath.

While an HSP can be kind and compassionate, their emotional stance and energy is typically on the defense (self-protective mode), so if the person they are attempting to “help” says or does something that triggers them, they are unable to stay (empathically) with the other, and instead launch into their own emotional body/wounds/and triggers. In my experience, this is the KEY difference between empaths and HSP.

If you constantly feel hurt and offended by other people and take make their energy/decisions/words personal (to the point where it affects your mental/emotional peace) chances are you are a HSP.

The trick for a HSP is not to put a personal story to every movement in the world around you. It’s important to learn not only to deescalate reactions and validate how you feel, but also release the storyline/meaning you give the experience. It’s the interpretation we give the energy that is painful, not the energy itself.

For empaths, the challenge is separating ourselves from other people’s emotions long enough to recognize our own. This is especially important when dealing with HSP. Sometimes the boundary line between empaths and HSP need to be even stronger than other relationships, simply because of the tendency to trigger each other’s negative traits.

It’s important to clarify: ALL EMPATHS ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE (HSE), but not all HSP are empaths. The difference is in the primary way of processing energy. An empath has the ability to literally feel what another person is feeling (sometimes it’s emotionally, or it shows up physically — you get a headache when someone walks in the room who a head ache — that sort of thing).

Empathic abilities are extrasensory in nature. While an HSP has a sensitive central nervous system, it ‘s not necessarily extrasensory perception. Someone who is HSP (not HSE), is extremely sensitive to the energy around them, but typically is not able to completely connect to what another is literally/actually feeling because their own reactive/sensitive nature is what they primarily experience. An HSP may be able to feel and recognize when another person is upset, but they can’t literally feel what the other is feeling. It’s not that specific. In other words, their own sensitives are what they are feeling, NOT ANOTHER PERSONS.

Before you assume you’re an empath, access your emotional reaction to the world around you, first. I personally feel some of the healing/thriving techniques for empaths are not only inappropriate for HSP, but will actually exacerbate their tendency to project.

Learn what you’re dealing with, then gather the information that will best help you move forward from there.

Peace out.

Mental Health: How Being an Empath Can Ruin Relationships

Empaths, Features, The Heart Chakra, The Third Eye Chakra

Features

Empaths and relationships. It’s that underbelly hot topic that many people in the “New Age” community tend to ignore. But I think it’s important to understand the Shadow aspects of all things, because the more self-awareness we become, the more growth and expansion can occur in our lives.

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen (both in my own life and with empathic clients I’ve worked with) is the issue of co-dependent relationships. Most empaths see this happen in their lives at least once, if not over and over. It can be hard for an empathic person to learn healthy boundaries because they naturally (and subconsciously) spend so much time exploring other people’s auras, that it can be difficult to know where they end and the other person begins.

I found this article to be highly informative, honest, and exactly the tendencies many of us empaths need to understand about ourselves in order to develop healthy relationships and break the damaging patterns of co-dependency.  I hope it helps shed light on some of the more destructive aspects of empathy.

By Marilisa Sachteleben

Fourteen years ago, I discovered I’m an empath. I always knew, even as a child, that I felt others; pain, but it was good to discover that intense sensitivity had a name. Empath Guide defines it well: Criticism, suffering, hurt, humiliation, shame are hard enough for me to bear. Watching others feel them is agonizing. Knowing I’m an empath explains a lot about my interpersonal struggles. It can ruin or heal relationships.

* I can read hearts. Sympathy is feeling for another person while staying inside one’s self. Empathy is feeling with someone. It’s like I live inside their heads and hearts. I understand others’ motives and reasons better than they sometimes do. I make excuses for them they’ve never thought of.

* I’m in constant pain. Empaths often act depressed. We are. Continually feeling others’ pain is exhausting. Sometimes, it’s plain miserable. It’s like having the weight of the world, with all its sin, hurt and sorrow on our shoulders.

* I’m paranoid. As an empath mom and wife, I feel a flood of compassion, sympathy and closeness with my family. That’s good, except that I worry about them 24-7-365. I could easily become a “smother mother.” I read about a mom who couldn’t let her kids out of her sight for fear something might happen and she wouldn’t be there to stop it. I know how that feels. Other parents, sometimes spouses and kids, most of society doesn’t get that. They just think we’re over-controlling, helicopter paranoiacs. We are. We have to be. Empathy dictates that we be constantly vigilant.

* I try to control others. Because empaths feel everyone’s pain, we start to believe we’re responsible for it and can stop it. The guilt is all-consuming. To assuage it, we try to correct, fix and change others’ behavior. We hope to stop them hurting themselves and us by default.

* I drive people away. I had my empath epiphany at a roller-skating party. A stranger fell and broke her arm. I began to sob and shake. I was incoherent. I felt her arm pain, shock and fright. My friends felt sorry for her, but were horrified by my reaction. One said, “Mar, you really take the gospel injunction to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ seriously!” They acted wary of me after that. And these were friends.

* I’m crazy-vulnerable. If friends can’t take extreme empathy, imagine how raw an empath is with unsafe people. We easily fall prey to victimizers and predators. I have been scolded, shamed, punished, abused, mocked and taken advantage of because of my empathy. Empaths are an addict’s codependent-mate fantasy!

* Empathy is a gift and a curse. Being able to get inside someone else’s heart is a double-edged sword. I’ve seen things that will never cease to traumatize me. Compassion frankly hurts. And all the while I’m being hurt, I kept on empathizing. I intuitively understand where behavior comes from. I can never really be angry with anyone because I can’t distance from them. Anger at someone else is just anger at myself.

* I have panic attacks. This part is the hardest to admit, but the most necessary for me and other empaths to hear. In my agony, I have melted down and hurt myself and those I love. Weird isn’t it, that I would hurt those who I worry most about protecting. I used to feel unbearable guilt for this. Now I realize it’s the logical result of so much inner torment. When loved ones do things to hurt themselves, they’re hurting me doubly. When I rage at them, it’s myself I’m livid with.

My story is still being written, but I think it’s going to have a happy ending. I’m fortunate to have a loving family who supports me. I’m learning to recognize obsessive empathy and redirect it. I’m using this existential crisis to understand myself, my relationships and my purpose. I’m seeking positive outlets so I’m not engulfed by angst. I’m finding healthy diversions and channels for my empathy.

(originally published on Yahoo!).

ID-1009404