Have you ever had an experience when you were going about your day happily and then someone with big feelings suddenly entered your environment, in one way or another, and it turned your sunny day and your own feelings upside down? This might feel confusing and leave you wondering why you couldn’t seem to let their feelings roll off your back.
If this experience seems familiar, you may not know there are others that also feel this way. Most people would just like this challenge of, “taking other people’s feelings on,” to take a hike and let them be. It can be an exhausting and distracting experience that feels like it is taking over your life in extreme cases. You do not have to suffer alone, thankfully there are more people that are speaking up about their experiences and as a result, there are more therapists that are starting to cater to this niche. As a result, there are more “tools” to be put in the empathic or HSP toolbox to help you find some balance.
One of the first places to explore when struggling with this issue is why this imbalance exists. Some good questions to ponder are “How come I even have an "inbox" for other people's feelings in the first place?” In other words, why are you registering and then taking on others' feelings to begin with? Another way to ponder this is, what happened in your life that made it necessary to develop an “inbox” to experience other people’s feelings?
Some might say “it is because I am Empathic” or “because I am an HSP” or just plain old “I seem to be sensitive” however, some people who are empathic and/or HSP seem to be able to turn the volume down and don't struggle with this so much, so what is the difference?
The truth is, the answer is different for each person; however, the trend seems to be that people who feel unbalanced in taking on others' feelings have had to monitor the feelings of caretakers, parents, teachers, or people who hold a position of power while they were young and developing, to get their needs met. This could look like experiencing but is not limited to neglect, bullying, abuse, racism, ableism, or poverty. Many people in these scenarios have had to over-develop their “empathy” muscle in order to figure out ways of interacting with people that are in a position of power to get their basic needs met. It is a muscle developed out of necessity and often under duress.
Unpacking how your particular empathy muscle got over-developed is an important step in dismantling an old program that you probably don’t want or need anymore. If you’d like to work with someone on discovering the root of your empathy imbalance, contact us here.