What is Toxic Empathy?

What is Empathy?

Empathy is, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy is typically a quality that people seek to have. So how can too much empathy be a bad thing?

What is Toxic Empathy?

Toxic empathy is when a person over-identifies with someone else’s feelings and directly takes them on as their own. For example, feeling anxious for a friend when they’re facing stress at work can be normal. However, if this anxiety keeps you from concentrating on the things you need to get done, it’s considered toxic empathy.

Another example is if you’re the one all of your family members flock to for advice. This may cause you to become overwhelmed by all of their problems. This may leave you feeling drained and make you feel like you have no time left to take care of your own problems.

Toxic empathy is when you don’t just mirror other people’s feelings, you absorb them. So how do we fix this?

How to Manage Toxic Empathy

Learn to Separate Other People’s Problems From Your Own

Setting these types of boundaries can be a healthy way to provide support to others while taking care of your own mental health. Remember, you are not required to take on the burdens of other people.

Prevent the Emotions of Others From Hijacking Your Body

Human brains are wired with mirror neurons that connect us to the emotions of others. This is what gives us the ability of empathy. However, shouldn’t be feeling physically stressed when listening to a friend complain about something in their life. To help prevent others emotions from hijacking our own, notice what feelings arise in you and then focus on relaxing your body. As your body begins to relax, try to let go of the emotion. Eventually, the feeling will likely subside. It’s all about observing your reactions and then choosing to let them go. They are not yours.

Ensure reciprocity in your relationships

In some cases, certain people only seek you out to complain about their problems and may not allow you an equal opportunity to share your emotions. This is not a reciprocal relationship. Remember, a truly healthy relationship is “give and take.” When a relationship is just one sided, then only one side is getting his/her needs met. Remember, setting boundaries upfront and communicating how you feel about this to the other person can help you resolve this issue.

Always try to protect yourself from toxic empathy by remembering to set boundaries and not allow other people’s problems to trample your path to inner peace.

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