Empathy can be one of the best gifts you can give. It makes you an excellent communicator, a genuine friend, and someone people simply love to be around.
Until it doesn’t.
Here’s why having too much empathy can be a painful and destructive experience.
Is Too Much Empathy Bad?
Having too much empathy can be just as harmful as having no empathy whatsoever. The primary difference between the two? The latter hurts others while the former can have horrible consequences for your emotional well-being.
Many empaths respond to the feelings of others with non-reactive understanding. They’re able to relate to the emotions of those around them without embodying them.
However, some people simply can’t control their empathetic response. They pour their heart and soul into the experiences of others, which makes them feel as if these problems were their own.
Imagine the kind of impact this can have on someone’s emotional wellbeing. One moment you’re happy because you’re spending time with energetic, positive people and the very next, you might be on the brink of depression because of someone else’s emotional experience.
Many empaths believe that this is just how they are and are resigned to having little to no control over their wellbeing.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.
What Is an Empathy Disorder?
A disorder is a physical or cognitive drawback that prevents you from functioning as others do.
So, how can something as seemingly positive and helpful as empathy be a disorder?
The fact of the matter is, too much of anything is simply unhealthy.
You cross the line of healthy empathy the moment that other people’s emotions rule your mental state.
Empathy becomes problematic when you lose control of the ability to feel or take on the pain of others. This is how empathy takes a dark and destructive turn. It’s sometimes called “empathy burnout.”
What Is Hyper Empathy?
The single most important relationship in your entire life is the relationship you have with yourself.—Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Quest
Hyperempathy is a recognized disorder that describes a condition when you not only understand what someone feels but you start to feel it as well. This can range from minor negative emotions to actual physical pain.
Everyone needs a healthy way to release their emotions. Not only do empaths struggle with this, but they also absorb the issues of those around them. When all those emotions have nowhere to go, they hijack your body and mind.
You lose control over your thoughts, and your emotions hold power over yours. Even worse, they’re often not your emotions at all. This can result in overwhelming anxiety that can further affect your mental health.
Thankfully, this can be changed. You can train your mind to build a non-reactive approach to the emotions of others and protect yourself from their influence.
What Does Healthy Empathy Feel Like?
Now that we know what empathy shouldn’t feel like, we should discuss what healthy empathy feels like.
Empaths are great at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. However, they shouldn’t stay in them for too long.
Instead, empaths must learn to tame their gifts to ensure it is beneficial not only for others but for themselves.
They must learn to gather a good understanding of the emotions of others without mirroring or absorbing those emotions. Of course, this takes practice. There’s a fine line between balance and disorder and it takes a continuous effort to stay on the right side of the effects of empathy.
Too much empathy can turn your biggest blessing into a horrible curse.
Even though some people are hardwired to feel more than others, there are many things that they can do to take control of their empathetic response and cultivate healthy boundaries for their own wellbeing.