Toxic Empathy and What to Do
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to someone else’s feelings. People who are highly empathetic often have a natural curiously about people. They listen hard, encouraging others to open up and help challenge prejudices and breed commonality. Many times, they have active imaginations and inspire social change. Empathy can be an immensely powerful skill.
However, there is such a thing as being too empathetic. Toxic empathy is when you over-identify with someone else’s emotions and essentially takes them on as your own. You do not just mirror someone else’s feelings; you absorb them and them to on as your own. You even react and act as if they are your feelings.
This can lead to anxiety and overwhelm, all for feelings that are not your own.
To manage toxic empathy, you must learn to separate other people’s problems as your own. This means setting boundaries, learning to say no and sometimes even walking away from situations. It is hard to do.
You must learn to recognize when feelings arise and then know coping mechanisms to relax and let things go. In addition, a healthy relationship requires give and take. Just as people will seek you out and complain about what is going on in their lives, you must be able to share your emotions and get the same type of support.
Speaking with a counselor can give you the support you need to set healthy boundaries, cope with your own emotions and toxic empathy when you take on other’s emotions.
About the Author
Neeley R. Hughey, PhD, LMHC, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and Certified Life with over 20 years of experience specializing in CPTSD, PTSD, Trauma, Depression and Anxiety.
Call 321.757.4015 to make an appointment with Neeley.