The assumptions that are causing you empathic burnout
Empaths have a completely different operating system from the rest of the world. They process things primarily through the right, creative, emotional brain whereas the dominant system on Earth up until now has been the opposite left-brained, strategic, less emotional thinking. (Remember, empaths only make up approximately 15-20% of the population).
People who are empathic also operate under different assumptions than the rest of the world. We expect the best from others, get disappointed when they don’t live up to our expectations, desire compassion, seek to help, believe intention is more valuable than visible actions alone, want to meet others’ needs, and process information through our bodies and hearts rather than just the mind. While these are positive traits, they also cause empaths to run a high risk for burnout, fatigue, methylation problems (stress uses up nutrients), hormonal imbalances, and immune dysregulation.
This is because empaths are constantly draining their own energy to send to others, even if others are not able to reciprocate, and even if others are not energetically sensitive and therefore cannot feel our good intentions. We are stubborn and think if we just keep trying, someone will get it.
In fact, many empaths have a servant energy archetype in which they have learned from early on that the way to love others (and hopefully get that love reciprocated) is to constantly be of service to them, in denial of their own needs.
An unawakened empath may spend an entire lifetime doing this without realizing they have another option. Take, for example, the mother who primarily shows her love through cooking the meals, dishing out the hugs and words of encouragement, cleaning up the messes, and doing the emotional labor to constantly mentally prepare for what could come next, keeping lists of what needs to be done, and keeping things afloat because she knows no one else will step up. How many mothers, grandmothers, and caretakers in your life come to mind?
While beautiful, it is a one-sided energy trap that we need to get out of for our health and healing. Because deep down, even that mother sometimes gets resentful that no one offered to help. Or she sometimes gets overwhelmed with so many responsibilities. Sometimes she would like to sit down and take a break, but that isn’t an option because the assumption has always been that she is the reliable one, she is independent enough to do it on her own, no one else can do what she does, and she can handle this by herself.
My job as a coach is to encourage you but it is also to tell you the truth so you can stop the cycles of stress and sickness that you didn’t know were affecting you. So here’s the truth: your assumptions are burning you out. Your assumptions are draining your energy — figuratively and quite literally. I see it over and over again with clients.
In order to keep your energy for yourself, in your body and soul where it belongs so you can find total healing, you have to make peace with these assumptions. This doesn’t mean that because someone doesn’t reciprocate their energy that they’re a terrible person and you cut them off. It means you accept that you two operate differently and stop expecting them to “get it” or send the good energy back. It means you may need to stop wanting to go deeper with this person, or find boundaries in your life. You deserve to give to others because it feels good to you, but also to find people who are capable of allowing you to receive. If one person cannot do this, it’s okay and the sooner you make peace with that, the quicker you’ll stop the energy drain and find people who understand the basics of energy.
The biggest assumptions that are causing empathic burnout:
- “They will see my good intentions”. Though we all communicate through the written word and spoken language, empaths also infuse unseen energetic intention into these two forms of communication. In other words, empaths often communicate in a third way — hidden, less-than-precise, or less-than-direct. We intrinsically understand someone else’s intention even when they do not actually communicate it. So we believe others are doing the same for us. This just isn’t true. Remember that others may not be able to get gut instincts about your intention so you have to literally say or do these things so they get it. You have to be very clear with what you say in important situations because your good intentions may not be picked up by the receiving party, which can leave you frustrated, questioning yourself, and disheartened. Be clear, be direct, be honest. Other people need this just as much as you do. I believe this is one reason empaths have largely been resigned to a subordinate role — we have to actually show people our worth because they won’t feel it. This will help you feel less misunderstood or overlooked which will save you tons of stress.
- “I sent my good energy so they will reciprocate.” This is very similar to the above. For example, I was an acquaintance of a very left-brained logical woman who was also very friendly. Every time we tried to speak, however, it seemed like we were speaking two different languages. She dyed her hair, and I noticed and liked it a lot and told her, “I like your hair! It’s different!” To which she replied with a snippy condescending defense, “Different is good, right?” The irony was, the color she dyed her hair was close to my natural hair color — surely she would see I wasn’t being catty, right? But I realized she couldn’t read my good energy and to a left-brained logical thinker, telling them something is “different” is a really bad thing. For me as a right-brained creative thinker, I thought I was giving her the highest compliment but it wasn’t received that way. There was too much left up for interpretation because she couldn’t read energy, and that caused tension in the relationship. My assumption was good energy for good energy but that isn’t always the case. Instead of internalizing that, I made peace with it because I know I had good energy towards her. Let go of the expectation for reciprocated energy because you may never get that from people and until you do, you’ll stay stressed, resentful, and frustrated.
- “Someone will come to my rescue.” Because many empaths have an attachment wound, in which they have been taught they have to work hard to get love from external sources, they do not believe they are capable of rescuing themselves. When times get tough, we continue to seek external sources of support and love. You are fully capable of helping yourself, no matter what comes your way. The expectation that someone else will save you in your time of need is not helpful because many people will not. They lack the attentiveness or compassion. Some people will, though, especially if you are surrounded by great people. But you have to release the expectation because first, it prevents you from doing the “life lessons” yourself (which you are here to do), and secondly, it generates anger towards others which will keep you sick. One day we will all be able to act in a community-oriented mindset and see what is good for one is good for the whole, but until that time, let it go.
- “I am the only one who can do this.” Because empaths often have a servant mentality, we take the brunt of the load in life by ourselves and get trapped under huge amounts of stress as a result. You want so desperately to help and save everyone because you see how much you have needed it yourself. As I said above, there may not be anyone coming to rescue you from the problems. In some cases, this is necessary so you can learn the lesson fully. But, that doesn’t mean you have to take the burden of responsibility for other people’s concerns by yourself. If it is not your own obligation, let it go. If you are already overwhelmed, sick, or stressed, remember that if others need something, they are capable of taking some of the responsibility for themselves. You can still help if they want it, but you don’t have to do it all for them.
- “If I explain myself, they will understand.” As I said above, empaths and left-brained thinkers communicate and understand the world in entirely different ways. Empaths infuse their unspoken energy and intention into every interaction, whether in person or through the written word. Because of this, we often feel there is an assumption that we have to do our own P.R. work to explain how we work to others. It becomes exhausting to try to get people to understand us. Here’s what you want to remember: those who are interested will ask, listen, and process. Those who are not will jump to conclusions, take things the wrong way, or dismiss you. Do not chase them when they show you their intention here. Understanding can only come from a desire from within. You cannot make someone have a desire to understand.