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Taking on the Pain of Others Can Cost You Your Health

Do you take on the pain of others?  Does a sad Facebook post from an acquaintance bother you for days on end?  Do you lie awake at night worrying about the troubles of your family and friends and wish you could make their problems and sadness disappear?  Is your emotional health taking a toll because you spend so much time caring for the distant pain of the world around you?

YOU ARE A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF PERSON, but there is a healthier way to show empathy and care for the ones you love.

You may be thinking...but I am always weighed down by this pain and the events and ailments that burden my friends.  How does this make me special?  Aren't I just a worrier?  Why can't I just let all these emotions go?  Why can't I be happy, and can I, when I know there is so much suffering?  Why am I so sensitive to everything around me?  Why do I feel like I notice things about people and feel them and others don't?

It is very possible that you are an Empath and a Highly Sensitive Person. An empath or healer if you like that term, truly takes on the pain of the people around them.  Empathy is just that and is not something everyone possesses.  I know people who cannot feel empathy at all and do not understand why a person would care that deeply about another.  That saddens me, but it also makes me envious at times that they don't feel constant pain and sadness by absorbing the world's pain.

There is a healthy way to be an empath and from what I am learning, it takes some effort and understanding that you are gifted.  An empath should not feel burdened by this gift, but blessed that their soul has the capacity to embrace other souls.  The thing to remember is that it is NOT your responsibility to ease others pain, or take it on for them.  As mental processes go, you may feel that if you ignore your friend's suffering, it is like you don't care or aren't acknowledging that they are going through a hard time.  But holding onto these emotions will end up becoming physical ailments from the toxic nature of negative thoughts and feelings.  Think of it this way.  If you feel sad for a friend, it doesn't take away their sadness.  No matter how you react or hold onto their suffering, they are the ones that must overcome.  As an empath it is wise to feel compassion and let them know that you understand, but to let the pain and weight pass right through you.  Holding onto years and years of other people's pain, seriously can cause chronic illness, depression and much more.

A photo posted by Alexandria Embleton (@alexinhwood) on

I am very interested in this topic since I am surrounded by empaths and have at times been one myself.  My mother and sister share this beautiful quality and literally lie awake, feeling the weight of the world.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great social tools, but can also make this worse.  Hearing about a friend's miscarriage, divorce or loss of a loved one is information we take on just by logging into our social networks.  On top of that, the news and other worldly problems are in our faces every day and not from the television, but on our mobile phones.  We are bombarded with messaging and bad news.  How can one stay above the water with all this weight?

Let it go.  Let it pass.  Feel the pain for a second and let go the responsibility of feeling that pain.  The more you indulge the worse you will feel and while you are sympathetically trying to understand and make the world a better place, the problem will still be there because it is not yours to solve.  It's almost selfish to try to take away another's pain.

Pain begets learning.  A person must overcome their own obstacles to truly learn and build the tools THEY need to keep on going.  Trying to take away that process, will never benefit the sufferer, and suffering for them doesn't make them suffer less.  Take a breath.  Tell them you understand.  Listen.  Love.  Open your arms.  And then walk away and visualize the pain pass through you.  Do not hold onto it.  Do not try to make it smaller.  Do not wallow in it's sadness and give their pain, power over your happiness.

It is okay to be selfish.  A selfless person is rarely happy, fulfilled, or healthy.  It is unhealthy to lose oneself completely.  A proper empath is self-aware of their gifts and learns to use their gift of love and exercise compassion for those around them.

If you feel like this is a path you would like to read more about, I definitely recommend reading

Self-Care for the Self-Aware: A Guide for Highly Sensitive People, Empaths, Intuitives, and Healers by Dave Markowitz.

Stay tuned for more on this topic as I discover more on my own path.

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