I have always taken other peoples’ pain on myself, even as a child. Then I realized it’s because I’m codependent to emotional pain and an empath–now there’s an emotional molotov cocktail! I feel others’ feelings as intensely (stronger even) than my own and I internalize and care-take. Here’s how to understand codependency and empath behavior from Al-Anon principles.
* Empaths absorb. We feel with others not just for them. We carry their problems. Instead of letting crap bounce off, we suck up. We think we have to fix everything and everyone.
* Empaths are selfless. Unselfishness sounds nice in theory. But it’s an onerous pain in the rear to maintain. We give too much and burn out. We make everything perfect for everyone–except ourselves.
* Empaths can’t separate. No one can fix another’s problems. We can assist, but only if we preserve individual identity. Empaths can’t detach because we don’t know where we stop and others start. We have no personal space, no safe zone.
* Empaths make it too easy for others. Not only do we carry problems, we sometimes carry people. We shield, defend, buffer, make excuses for others. We body-block, at great personal sacrifice, any perceived threats. We let people exploit us.
* Empaths are codependent. We’re terrified to let go, lest we let others down. They might get angry and reject us. Dysfunctional people manipulate that, guilting and shaming us. Codpendent No More (Melodie Beatty) describes this vicious cycle that keeps us people-pleasing.
* Empaths get emotional leprosy. We subjugate our own feelings, needs, personality and let others consume us. We feel so much of others’ hurt we can’t feel our own.
* Empaths are driven. We aren’t disingenuous. We really care. But we’re forced to by the monkey on our back.
* Empaths parent. The description of empath is very like parent. Children need parental care. But they grow more independent. An empath parents everyone, even adults. And dysfunctional adults grow more needy.
* Empaths stifle. Our compulsion to fix problems prevents others from learning to fix their own. They cannot achieve full potential if we hover, shelter and remove obstacles.
* We set ourselves up. Life for us is a constant losing battle because we expect impossible perfection of ourselves.
* We constantly disappoint. We never feel we do enough. We disappoint others who have learned to expect too much of us.
How can empaths break this downward spiral? By learning to be more selfish. Yes, it feels foreign and wrong at first. People who rely too much on you won’t like it. But you’ll feel better and your healthy relationships will improve.