Empathy is a beautiful quality whereby we have the ability to step out of our own experience and understand someone else’s.
This type of compassion and understanding helps us connect with other people and build stronger relationships. It’s particularly important if you work in a profession that requires you to perceive other people’s experiences and emotions, such as being a counselor or a psychic, as without this quality, working in these fields would be very difficult.
Isn’t Being Empathetic A Good Thing?
If you’re highly in tune with your empathetic radar, you may have started to realize that feeling other people’s pain and emotions can also be incredibly draining, particularly if you’re taking on people’s sadness or unhappiness on a daily basis.
Over time, this negative energy will not only leave you feeling drained, but it will limit your own joy and ability to live in the moment, as you’re so consumed with everyone else’s experiences. On the other side of the coin, running to someone else’s emotional rescue all the time can be detrimental to their progress, too.
For example, you may have a parent or family member who looks to you for constant support and sees you as a personal sounding board. It’s hard not to take on their emotions and to want to help, although by being too empathic, will not only leave you feeling drained, but inadvertently you’re preventing them from taking responsibility for their own actions. Despite coming from a good place, your constant reassurance and understanding will not empower them to see that they do not always have to be the victim.
Therefore, while it’s important to be empathetic, it’s equally as important to have an imaginary “off switch”, which cocoons you from feeling the negative emotions of others and to help you deal more effectively with others.
How Do You Switch Off Over-Active Empathy?
If only it was as simple as switching off an actual switch! Unfortunately it’s takes time to master the art of learning when to switch off feelings of empathy.
With every emotion you feel, your energy levels are influenced and your body responds. Next time you feel like you’re being caught up in the emotions of others and that emotionally you’re being swept away, take some time to get centered and come back to yourself.
The best way to do this is to leave the conversation or room if you can, and then observe your breath for a few minutes. Close your eyes and then turn your focus inwards, visualizing your own powerful energy wrapping around your body and protecting you in its warmth and positivity.
As you feel the strength you get from the exercise, you’ll start to feel your body relax, your mind becoming free, and you regaining the energy needed to deal with that person or situation without making it your own.
Know Your Triggers
Are you triggered by anyone, or just by those closest to you? It’s important to understand your triggers so you know how to prevent yourself from allowing other people’s energy in.
Having this awareness takes time, as quite often you’re not aware you’re even doing it. However next time you feel yourself over-identifying with someone else, take a moment to ground yourself. Is there a way you can deal with the situation without being emotionally dragged in? Try and bring yourself back to the moment and learn to become aware of how you respond to other people during these situations.
Move From Unconscious Empathy To Conscious Choice
Switching off your empathy, especially when dealing with people who are close to us can leave us feeling guilty or like we’re a bad person. It’s important to understand that you can still be a supportive friend without taking on the energy and emotions of those around you.
Once you’ve accepted this, subconsciously you’ll be able to turn off your empathy and protect yourself from receiving negative energy from others, or from being over empathetic.
Being a good friend, colleague, partner or family member is important. We all love to help people and don’t like to see those closest to us suffering. However, you can still be there for those around you without taking on their energy to the detriment of your own wellbeing. This is something which goes against what many of us have grown up to believe, however striking a balance is important for our own happiness and to best support those around us.
If you have changed the way you deal with people and have mastered the art of turning off your empathy switch, please share any techniques you have below. We understand this can be difficult to do, so would love to hear your views.