the Dark side
Problems in Relationships
Most Empaths, find themselves at the center of almost any group. They are leaders, teachers, they make good speakers, and can do all these things and more, with considerable talent. However, there is a Dark side to empathy, that one must be aware of, especially in relationships. Some things to consider for any relationship, but doubly so, if one or both of you, are Empaths.
Be prepared to be considered moody, and "emotional" by most partners. Because, quite frankly, we often are. But realize, that many of the "moods" we find ourselves in, are very often, not our own.
Even for those feelings that are our own, be aware that we tend to feel them much more intently than your average person.
"It has been said that if the emotional depth of an Empath were suddenly dumped into the mind of another, the other person might well be institutionalized from the shock." For us, to love or to hate is not just a word, it can be an emotional storm. So, expect more of a response, positive or negative, from almost any Empath.
What we hear Vs what we feel:
This is a tight wire we all walk. As we hear much more than just the words people say out of their mouths, we see into the depth of what they really mean. This can create major conflicts, as all too often, what our ears hear, is not what the mind feels.
Polite social lies, don't go over very well with us, as we know them for the sham they are. We find hypocrisy a personal offense. Likewise, we have very finely tuned Bullpuckie detectors, going full blast, all the time, so trying to put one over on an Empath, is just asking for trouble.
The need to be with others and the problems it can create:
Most Empaths do not like being alone, yet conversely, we often crave solitude. Our need to have someone to share with, can create problems of its own however.
When one has a partner, disagreements are inevitable. However, to have an argument with an Empath is much more than just the words you toss at each other, it can feel like being hit over the head and assaulted to the Empath. If the other partner is not an Empath themselves, this reaction often leaves the other mate confused, as they cannot understand how whatever it was they said in the heat of anger, created such a powerful reaction.
The Empath is often accused of being "overtly sensitive" or "thin skinned". Understand, we do not react well to casual sarcasm, or "poking fun at", as generally to us, it's not at all funny. Likewise, we do not deal well with insults. Any negativity in the middle of a conversation, can literally wipe out any positive aspects the conversation might have had, as the negative often takes on a much heavier weight than the positive statements.
Just as we can and do, feel and full fill a partner’s needs, we can also feel what you are really feeling, meaning we know when you are trying to evade the issue. So absolute honesty on the part of the partner, is paramount. The more typical side stepping of the real issues, or taking a cheap shot in anger, that commonly happens in many relationships, is not going to work well with an Empath.
Further, to the Empath, cut your partner a little slack here. Anyone who is used to the allowed "social lies", that are typical in day to day relationships, who suddenly finds their empathic partner in their face. Flat demanding they "get real" and just say what's on their mind, will tend to duck and run for cover. This seemingly excessive reaction, often leads the non- empath partner to wonder, what on earth did I do?
The Empath must understand, your partner honestly may not know that they have any deeper issues, and may not be trying to lie to you or evade the real issue. Take the time to discuss it rationally and calmly, and perhaps help them to see the underlying issue, even if it's plain to you, it may not be ... to them.
We tend to scare people in relationships:
We do have a much deeper understanding and capacity for love generally speaking, it’s been said that we have "never met a stranger". We can, and often do short cut the time it would take most people, to get to know, and perhaps even fall in love with someone. We can do this in a matter of weeks, rather than months. This, unfortunately often scares the pants off of a prospective partner, as it seems like we are moving much too fast for them.
They simply cannot believe you mean it when you say ... "I love you" when to them, there has not been enough time to get to know them well enough to say that. Therefore, we are often accused of faking such feelings. (Two empaths reaching out to each other can seem like a whirl wind, and create massive combustion, which can either make for a very tight bonding, or terrify both people, and make them both run off) A wise Empath must understand, you may "know", but they may not and to give them enough time to come to the same conclusion.
Setting boundaries is a must:
A controlled Empath will generally create very clear boundaries on what they will, and will not tolerate. As well as, what they are responsible for. They will defend those boundaries with everything they have.
Likewise, they will respect their mate’s boundaries, with just as much vigor, if those boundaries are made clear. Mutual agreement on these boundaries, is a must have, to be in a relationship with an Empath.
There is no room for playing the "blame game" in a relationship, as to who is responsible for what, or tromping all over the other’s turf, as in barging in and "taking over" their responsibilities. Likewise, you cannot just leave "your" responsibilities lying around for your mate to handle for you. There can be no confusion on what is "your" responsibility Vs "my" responsibility.
Be prepared to "do a little dance" if you want to " make a little love":
Not talking sexuality here, although it does apply in many ways, rather it has to do with how you deal with conflict. Typical action, you have had a fight, blown up all over each other and your still angry.
Now, what normally happens in such a case? The cold shoulder and avoidance is pretty common, right? Well, to a point, a bit of distance after an unresolved dispute is wise, but there is a point of taking it too far and doing it too often.
Empaths, as stated, need both companionship and solitude, but too much solitude, as typically happens when your mad at each other, can be the kiss of death to your relationship, if you’re doing it all the time, and not resolving the issues. This is easier to get into, than you might think.
If every time you approach X subject, it turns into a fight, you tend to avoid talking about it. That's human nature. Your reasons are honorable. You want to stay together and you are afraid that if you fight, you might lose the other party. So, you become afraid to talk about "that".
The only problem is, over time the list of "things we don't talk about" tends to grow, to where you can get to a point where you no longer talk to each other, at all. You are totally detached from each other.
Avoidance, has become a way of life. If you have reached a point of constant avoidance, rather than dealing with the issues. You are utterly ignoring your mate, for anything but mundane, day to day affairs. You are setting up your relationships death knell.
Empaths do not deal well with being ignored. We need intensity, we need and desire union and confirmation. Too much avoidance can mean you will wake up one morning, and find your empathic mate gone, and you will be standing there, wondering what the hell happened.
So, it's a dance, a few steps forward and one step back, as needed to resolve issues, but never go too far away, or for too long. Or you will find yourself with what you have inadvertently asked for ... you will be alone in truth.
Avoiding toxic relationships:
Given an Empaths capacity for love, it is startling to find that it's very common for them, to have had a long history of bad or even toxic relationships. We tend to be drawn to people who "need" us, which can, unfortunately lead to an Empath being in the hands of an abusive person, unless great care is taken.
An abusive person, may well have empathy. Yet it is contrary to what we normally think the term means. They can read the other’s feelings, but are completely detached from feeling them themselves. They must be, as otherwise they could not do such harm to another, and not suffer it themselves. But an Empath can be fooled into thinking, "this person is another Empath, they will understand", only to find themselves with someone who can indeed read them perfectly, but does so for the sole purpose of control, manipulation, and/or to cause fear and pain.
To counter this, we must develop our own emotional stability, that is totally unrelated to any partner. Otherwise, we can be led into some very unhealthy co-dependent relationships and behaviors.
Signs of an Unbalanced Empath -- red flags:
As might be expected, the typical signs of and Empath who is out of balance, is one who doesn't appear to have any empathy. This is often a self-defense mechanism.
Since what we hear, and what we feel, very often don't match, we tend to try to focus only on the words, and ignore what we feel. This is typically a mistake, but one that often happens, as we try and avoid the conflict of feeling Vs words. More signs ...
Empathy that is uncontrolled, can be overwhelming. Major depression, sadness and other symptoms can abound, and a common means to "deal" with this onslaught, is to drown it in substances that blunt feelings.
This is not the answer to the problem of course, but it can easily happen, and any inclination to develop such unhealthy habits, should be avoided at all costs. So, if your Empathic mate suddenly takes up such habits, it is a sign that there may be a need to figure out new ways of dealing with the conflicts that arise in any relationship.
Due to lack of controlling the input, we can and often do, become virtual prisoners. Like a turtle, we retreat into a rather hard shell, and hope the bad vibes just go the heck away!
This is pointless and self-defeating of course, as it means the very next time we stick our head out, we are going to feel like someone just ran it over with a Mac truck.
So, avoidance is not an answer, we must become desensitized to the emotional wind out there, and not give in to the tendency to become a hermit. If your Empathic mate, is suddenly avoiding you, again it likely means you need to come up with some more constructive ways to deal with issues.
Major mood swings:
The thoughts of others can over amp a person. So, we can vacillate back and forth in a near manic - depressive manner, without actually being bi polar.
Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and chaos. We are not too fond of sudden loud noises either, suddenly blasting the TV or yelling around an Empath, will often bring nasty, and unexpected results.
To come into a space, yelling and screaming, is liable to cause one of two reactions, you will either get your own rage thrown back at you, with interest ... or your mate might react in fear to your anger. Neither of these reactions is conductive to a healthy relationship.
The bulk of current day television, just tends to annoy most Empaths. Your favorite real-life cop show for example, since it's happening to real people, is a horror flick to an Empath. (oddly enough, we might like horror shows, but for us, the more unreal the plot, the better. The closer it comes to any possible "reality", i.e. it could really happen to real people, the more distressed we are likely to become)
Acts of cruelty and violent crime are incomprehensible to us. Showing things that depict violence done to real people to an Empath for example, could be setting them up for an emotional tail spin, that might take weeks to get over.
This is not to say we are, or should be unaware of such things, but forcing such violence on an Empath unexpectedly, is cruel and uncalled for.
Therefore, don't be surprised if we don't want to watch the nine o'clock news with you, or that we become very distressed if we got an email today, that showed us the horror of our world in living color, out of the clear blue sky (I have personally dropped a few friends, on account of them sending such horrors to my in box on a regular basis ).
Later, on our own terms, we will keep in touch with the reality of the world, negativity and all, but only when we are ready for it. Forcing it on us, is just setting us up for depression. So, if you like reality TV, expect to watch it ... alone.
Mental Health issues:
While generally not a cause for mental health issues per se, out of control empathy can make any current mental issue, worse. ADD, agoraphobia or clinical depression are common mental issues that empaths often find themselves labeled with, whether or not they have such problems, and a little bit of thought about it, can tell you why.
Empaths are often erroneously labeled with ADD, especially children, as they often are picking up on so many emotional levels, at the same time, that it's hard to stay focused, which is the most classic sign of ADD.
Agoraphobia, goes back to the tendency to Isolationism, and depression ... is all too easy to come down with, as the world all around us contains enough emotional negative baggage to infect even "ordinary" people, much less an Empath.
Now, is everybody who has these problems an out of control Empath? No, but it is one to eliminate from probable causes.
Comfort foods, we all enjoy them,
but an Empath under assault, can be driven to the nearest source of comfort
food, not out of hunger, but for emotional need. Having a spat with the mate
for example, can lead to a chocolate binge, for the simple fact that chocolate
raises serotonin in the blood stream, and calms the mind. However, over use of
any substance, can become habitual, and lead to health issues. So, if you see
your empathic mate, suddenly chowing down on major amounts of comfort foods,
it's a very good sign there are some issues that need to be resolved.
Dealing with being an Empath, Some practical lessons
Relationships the pitfalls and how to keep it alive
Return to Empath lessons