If you consider yourself a highly empathetic person, you might have had the experience of not knowing whether something you’re feeling ‘belongs’ to you. Often when I empathize with others, I subconsciously take on their feelings. This even lead to me also taking responsibility for their feelings. I did this as a way to help alleviate their pain because naturally when I felt their pain, all I wanted to do was help.
The downsides to taking on other’s people emotions.
But when I continually took responsibility for the feelings of others, I unconsciously expected others should be responsible for my feelings in return.
I found myself exhausted all the time. Emotionally drained and physically lazy.
Being super sensitive added another layer to this—it was easy to blame people for ‘making me feel’ bad all the time. This stopped me from looking at how I might have been taking things personally when they weren’t intended to be made personal.
How I related to the world became convoluted and unclear and I’d often leave conversations wondering what just happened. I spent far too much time deciphering the emotions of those around me and projecting onto them what I thought was going on.
It was an exhausting, paralyzing, never-ending drain on energy and it stopped me from being the best person I could be.
The importance of emotional and personal growth work.
I have a desire to grow and be a better person for the world, and this forced me to look at what was going on for me. When I did I realized this: I am not responsible for the emotions of anyone else, and no one else is responsible for mine. I can empathize with people, but when I do, I should not take on or take responsibility for their sadness, hurt or anger. In return, no one, except me, is responsible for my emotions either.
My fear was that this gave anyone free reign to go around and be a total jerk trying to intentionally hurt other people. Like, if you punch someone in the face, surely you are responsible for the pain they feel. And yes, that’s true! But the truth is, most people are not jerks or physically violent, when it comes to emotions in everyday relationships, things are a little different.
So my new mantra is this: let people have their own experiences, take responsibility for my own experience.
Do what you can to provide support if it’s in your capacity and if you want to. But let them have their own experiences. Their experience will stay the same, it might even be a little clearer as it will be free from the entanglement that your projections create. Then, you can provide support to them in a clear and truly loving way.