Empathy is the foundation of humanity. It’s what makes us who we are. But not everyone is as equally empathetic as the next person. Some people are overly empathetic, to the point that it negatively impacts their life. Others are barely empathetic and ignore all opportunities to ease the suffering of others. What about you? Do you care too much or not enough?
The Psychology of Empathy
According to Psychology Today, empathy is the ability to understand things from someone else’s point of view — their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Rather than merely feeling bad for someone, empathy requires self-sacrificing compassion and may include action to remedy the situation, including taking on someone’s sorrow and suffering as your own.
The amount of empathy you have may be influenced by genetics, but it’s also possible to experience an increase or decrease in empathy due to experiences and conscious efforts to change.
Empathy, Boundaries and Self-Care
It’s possible to have too much empathy. This is often referred to as excess empathy or hyper-empathy. When you’re too empathetic, you have compassion and understanding for others to the point of absorbing their pain. You suffer along with them. This can have devastating consequences on your own life. It may even cause you to make decisions that are detrimental to your own wellbeing, such as continuing a relationship with an abuser because you feel sorry for them.
If you’re an overly empathetic person, it’s important to set boundaries and practice self-care. To set boundaries, you must pay attention to and be in tune with your own feelings. When you’re getting pulled too much in one direction, you need to recognize it, set limits and stick to them. What’s more, you must give yourself permission to put yourself first. Be selfish and engage in activities that restore you.
Signs You Care Too Much
If you are regularly overwhelmed with other’s feelings and emotions, you may care too much. This is especially true if you suffer physical symptoms, such as stress, anxiety and anger, that can be attributed to something someone else is going through. Chronic depression and feelings of hopelessness are also common in people who are overly empathetic.
Signs You Don’t Care Enough
If you rarely feel bad for others, you may have too little empathy. Some psychologists refer to it as empathy deficit disorder. People who are unable to empathize have difficulty understanding other points of view. This can lead to personal conflicts, communication issues and relationship troubles, all of which could leave you feeling isolated and misunderstood.
Fortunately, you can strive to become more empathetic through talking with others, putting yourself in their shoes and getting active in your community. Therapy is also a great and safe place to look inward and see what you can do to be more empathetic.
Empathy is an admirable quality to have, but having too much of it can zap your energy and make you choose others’ interests over your own. The key to being a healthy, empathetic and loving person is balance. Strive to care for others when you can, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.
~Here’s to Your Success!
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