If you’re like me, you have a tendency to be aware of, or to feel responsible for, the feelings and emotions of others. This can be a disorienting perspective, because you get into the habits of compromising, accommodating, and catering to their needs, at the cost of your own wellbeing.
For much of my life, I’ve done this in unhealthy ways.
As an example, when someone you care about is acting or saying things in blunt, hurtful, insensitive ways, you generally stay calm and just take it. You’ll analyze their words, and based on what little you may know about them, try to connect the dots, to reason and logic and discern the root of their trauma—to justify their attitude or opinion, and to explain away what you may have taken personally about it.
You want to heal, and to uplift, and you want to help them through this moment. You’ve had plenty of evidence in the past of how people hurt each other and you don’t want to project or perpetuate that pain and suffering. Even if you had nothing to do with their trauma, you feel somehow responsible for helping them heal it.
It begins fairly innocently, but can easily become an endless looping pattern, likely carrying on from one relationship to the next. Perhaps they need someone to validate their pain, to express their victim/martyr trauma paradigm, and you need someone to heal, or to belong or attach yourself to. Both want love, and to be loved. Both want to be seen. Yet both are enabling the other to persist with emotional dysfunction and imbalance.
When you make yourself responsible for the feelings and emotions of others, you always lose. You make yourself feel guilty for caring about your own happiness, and you second-guess, or discount any decisions about your own life; their feelings about it, and everything else, are more important than yours. Their needs are more important than yours. Their life is more important than yours…on and on. You become a hollowed-out shell of yourself because you’ve disintegrated your identity.
A healer’s job isn’t to take on, or to take away the pain. It is to assist in restoring the natural flow by focusing a light on the hidden, distorted and maligned. We do this through physical, metaphysical, psychological, spiritual and energetic means. Yet the healer’s first responsibility is to know and heal thyself. Life is the perpetual sharing and dancing with cosmic forces, and we bring to ourselves catalysts for growth, understanding and spiritual healing.
The world certainly needs more empathy. But it also needs self-compassion and understanding, self-actualization and reintegration—so we can put an end to the vicious cycles of self-reproach, self-denial, and spiritual, emotional and psychological wounding.