A strong piece of what leaves an empath feeling drained despite using all the right techniques and taking good care of themselves is the feeling of being responsible for a large piece of the world around them. When we are hyper-aware of the things happening around us, it becomes much more difficult to ignore them. Everything from the tragedies of war spread across television programs to a suffering bird on the side of the road can send an empath into full help mode, wanting to cure all problems.
Not only are empaths cognizant that these injustices and woes are occurring, but they also have a dramatic effect on their emotions and physical feelings. Seeing a bird struggle on the side of the road, especially for an animal empath, can leave them physically aching and wanting to bring an end to that pain. Even a toddler crying in the supermarket can feel like the responsibility of an empath because they feel the true, intense emotions of the child and want to help them reconcile these emotions, freeing themselves in the process.
It is because of this deep energetic connection that an empath feels responsible for things that others would hardly notice. Turning a blind eye does nothing for them when they are still left suffering the pains of another even if they can no longer see them.
But the truth is no one person can solve all the aching in the world, no matter how hard they try. This leaves an empath with what I call empathic guilt.
Empathic guilt is the feeling of wanting to help, knowing the extent of the suffering, and yet our humanity leaves us incapable of fixing the problem and bringing peace to the situation. Empaths feel as though they have failed the individual, themselves and the world.
They then start to feel burdened with a gift that shows them so many in need but is paired with a body that cannot accomplish it all. This guilt can turn into self-loathing, wondering if something is wrong with them. Wondering why they lack the capacity to help everyone they wish to help, burning out as they try and wallowing in frustration about these shortcomings.
They are left asking why they have the ability to feel it without the ability to fix it.
This empathic guilt, if left unchecked, can be detrimental. It can send one into a spiral of depression and poor judgment. It also leaves them exposed to those who wish to take advantage of that guilt, opening them up to abusive relationships and friendships, furthering the degenerative emotional cycle.
The truth is that empaths are not responsible for nor should they attempt to fix all of the suffering of which they are aware. It is simply impossible. Instead, we must recognize that we have the awesome ability to feel what those around us feel, making us amazing at helping the people we can, but it is incredibly important to recognize our own limits as human beings and not beat ourselves up for those limits.
The empath’s capacities to help others are phenomenal and should not be diminished. It can be so easy to look at all the areas in which we fall short, to see everything we cannot do and cannot fix, but we also need to take the time to reflect on what we can do and have done. Every small act of making things better counts for something.
We may feel deeply the perils of injustice around the world, in humans, animals and plants, but offering a hug to one suffering child or lending a listening ear to a person in need, is enough.
The things you do are enough, no matter how much it may feel like they are not. Your actions and abilities are enough.
You are enough.
When we realize that we are enough, that even the smallest acts matter, we can begin to let go of some of our empathic guilt that only serves to lessen our capabilities rather than enhance them. Your gifts were not given to you to burden you with a world’s worth of struggles. Rather, they were given to you to help those who you are able.
You do not have to turn a blind eye to the suffering, but in order to lessen the empathic guilt, you do need to turn your focus away from what you cannot do and shine the light solely on what you can do. Recite the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Empaths are unique and special, but the world does not rest on your shoulders. Each person has their limits and learning yours will lessen your feelings of guilt.
If you find yourself struggling with empathic guilt, unable to cope or handle your emotions, please take a moment to look into the 4 week eCourse, Take Back Your Emotions. You have a beautiful gift. You do not deserve to suffer from it.