Excessive Empathy: My Pain = Your Pain + My Pain

Empathy is a funny thing (in a really sad way). If you have too little, you’re a jerk. Maybe, even a sociopath, and you might end up killing people because it seems like the logical thing to do – without empathy, what’s to stop you? (No, showing no empathy does not automatically make you a serial killer. Jerk, yes: serial killer, no.)

On the other end of the spectrum, having too much empathy always seems linked to one sort of disorder or another. In fact, studies show that people who are more empathetic are more inclined to depression and anxiety (and getting into abusive relationships with serial killers, go figure). When other people’s distress makes you distressed, it’s really hard not to cave and do whatever you need to do to make them happy.

I have very strong empathy, and sometimes, I simply have to hide from the world’s problems. They make me feel too much pain and sadness, and the fact that I don’t know how to fix them makes me feel weak and helpless. Helplessness is not something I deal with well, so when it gets overwhelming, I have to push it aside and try to forget it’s there (a couple articles down on the depression tag is about all I can manage before it’s too much).

Strong empathy also means that it’s hard not to be a doormat. I don’t want to make the people I love unhappy – but I don’t want to be unhappy either! Learning to say no and do what I need to do even if it’s not what they want me to do (with my life, mostly) has been really hard, and even when I succeed, it hurts to know I’m upsetting them.

Sometimes, I wish I had a little less empathy.


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