The dark side of empathy is rarely noticed or talked about. Yet, it exists and can poison an empath’s life.

Empathy is the capacity to be able to put oneself into another person’s shoes and understand their thoughts and feelings. An empath is a person who has the ability to resonate with other people, on many different levels, so that they can accurately feel their emotional wellbeing.

It is not yet known how empaths have this ability, but many believe that it is innate and is handed down through our DNA.

As for how it works, everything in the world resonates to an electrical energy; it is thought that empaths are able to sense the changes in this electrical energy around them.

Empaths are typically regarded as being sympathetic, caring, sensitive to the feelings of others, and compassionate souls. So would it surprise you to learn that there is a dark side to being an empath?

The very nature of empathy means that many people rely on empaths for support and guidance. It also means that empaths see much more of the world than we do, and as such, this can cause problems in different areas of their lives.

The Dark Side of Empathy

They cannot handle their own emotions

You would think as an empath is well-versed in emotions they would be experts in handling their own, but the truth is they are in a constant battle to keep these emotions in check. Because they feel others’ emotions so keenly, particularly others’ sadness, it can sometimes bring them crashing down into depression.

They find it hard to distinguish between their own emotions and others’ and have to find other empaths to share their thoughts with.

Dealing with negative energy results in fatigue

Empaths have to deal with a huge amount of information from their sensitivity to electrical energies. This can make them feel overwhelmed and extremely drained as they try and make sense of it all.

They are particularly susceptible to negative energy, as this upsets them greatly. When all they can sense is negative energy, they can swiftly become fatigued.

They are taken advantage of

Because empaths are trusting souls who always believe in the goodness of people, they are quite often taken advantage of by the less scrupulous amongst us.

Empaths are typically generous and kind and are givers by nature, this can lead them to attract those that only take and never give back. When an empath finds out that they have been conned, they can easily fall into a deep depression.

The problem with being empathetic is that you feel sorry for assholes too

The problem with being empathetic is that you feel sorry for assholes too.
-Unknown

They neglect themselves

As empaths prefer to give to others rather than receive, they are more likely to neglect their own welfare, including their mind and body.

This is the dark side that is all too common, as empaths are fatigued from the stress of what they experience, is it all too easy to forget to take care of themselves.

It is hard for them to fall in love

Because an empath has seen all the cruelty in the world, they find it extremely difficult to give themselves totally to someone. They hold a little piece of their heart back, just in case they are going to be hurt in the future.

They cannot allow themselves to fall deeply in love because they are fearful of experiencing all that passion, it could be too much for them to handle.

They often feel like they carry a heavy burden

Empaths are selfless people who are bombarded by sensory information on a daily basis. They feel that their role in life is to help others, but this places an enormous burden on them, as they cannot possibly help everyone that they come into contact with.

Despite the harm to themselves, they would still rather carry another’s person’s problems than let that person down.

To conclude:

Empaths should realise that the problems of the world are not theirs to solve. To prevent the dark side of empathy from taking over their life, they do not have to give themselves to every single person they meet. At the same time, they should let down the walls of their heart once in a while.

References:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com
  2. https://www.learnreligions.com
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Paul

    “… it is thought that empaths are able to sense the changes in this electrical energy around them.”

    Sounds exceptionally hokey to me. Is there a source for this claim?

    1. Avatar
      Ana

      Birds navigation when migrating requires tiny magnetites in their brains reacting to earth’s electromagnetic field. This is awesome for 2 reasons: 1- earths electromagnetic field is not that strong, specially being this one of the weak electric forces, and 2 – magnetites are hugely..small. Well, either way it happens, it’s known that it happens and it is being addressed by quantum biologists. So, not beein able to definitly prove why or how something happens does not discard tge possibility that it does happen 🙂
      I am a sensitive empathic person. That means that not only i go through the day feeling with my 5 senses (and not with a intuiton like mechanism) the energy around me (which is both great and horrible), I also disrupt every electric machine at home and office. These I know that are electric interferences. Why? How? I dont know. Maybe some day we’ll all know 😉

      1. Avatar
        Faith Carey

        What she said ☝☝

        1. Avatar
          Shelly

          Thank you for sharing.. I completely understand..identify, and especially feel everything you mention.. I’m 49 and this too has been my life.. Learning to bubble myself often..

    2. Avatar
      Hoeby

      Yeah this could have been written in language less rich with “woo”. It is of course true there are those more intuitively tuned into others emotions and more open to feeling their effect because of a somewhat over active amygdala. Helping those you empathise and sympathise with, constantly seeing others pain is of course going to be a burden and this type of personality often has issues with anxiety and depression.

    3. Avatar
      Chris Nixon

      Would a source even be relevant for something that is merely a thought?

    4. Avatar
      Mario

      It sounds like some sort of super power I know, but it is as close to a real explanation as it gets :/ . You just “feel” it, like its not necessarily an electric energy, more of how you can sense when a situation is getting heavy, that sort of thing.

      The article is rather close to reality, but for some reason they decided to add a wow factor, which frankly is a bad idea cause it kind of makes it easy to ridicule.

      No need to make it seem even more special.

      1. Avatar
        Faith Carey

        Yess

  2. Avatar
    Anne

    Personal exoerience

  3. Avatar
    Josh

    Shits on point 100%
    Was nice to get a confirmation

  4. Avatar
    Kevin

    Brilliant article, thank you. Defines my life to a T. Clearly written from an experiential perspective.

  5. Avatar
    Alvin

    It’s when we do give our entire selves in love, and are told that it’s being returned, but knowing it’s not, because we know, that really kills us inside. We loose our calibration and ourselves, fearing that we’ve finally gone cookoo and are so lost, that we keep questioning….only to be torn between what we hear and what we feel.
    Perhaps the lesson is still to trust ourselves and our feelage (knowledge) regardless….and that hurts, when we find that we can also be the subject of the dark emotions we feel so painfully from so many around us as we navigate this experience of this life.
    Life is meant to be lived and love…is still meant to be given

  6. Avatar
    Rich

    Great article, I can relate.

  7. Avatar
    Jebus

    I think people don’t understand what the dark side of empathy really is because all i hear is how a novice can be overwhelmed by the side effects. Not all empaths are at the mercy of their ability nor are they good people for example here is my five step guide to the dark side of empathy. For example some of us have learned how to shut it off and only use it when it benefits us but this is just the first step in putting this ability to use. The second is learning how to completely shut off your own emotions and in doing this your ability to accurately read others greatly increases. Once you have reached this step you will be able to obscure your true intentions while reading your target and combined with even a basic understanding of psychology can prove a powerful tool for interrogation. The third step is the ability to mimic emotions without feeling them and to accomplish this you need have experienced the desired emotion intensely. Once you are familiar with the vibe of the desired emotion you practice emitting that particular electromagnetic signature without succumbing to the emotion your projecting which will enhance your ability to miss-direct, decive or manipulate a person or situation. Step four is learning how to project your will onto others and to accomplish this you need to resonate the frequency of your aura with your target as closely as possible so to disguise your will as their own and emit powerful pulses of particular emotions combined with verbal cues through conversation. This can alter the targets perception of how they think they feel about whatever it is you want them to do. Finally step five is using your aura as a precision tool to disrupt brain function for example disrupting the limbic system can prevent a target from clearly recalling a conversation or incident and targeting the cerebellum will disrupt motor function. Personally i would go for a blanket disruption as sometimes both effects are desirable and there you have it the five basics of the dark side in a nut shell.

    1. Avatar
      Mario

      Great comment, but you make it sound WAAAAYY easier than it actually is.
      I learned to numb my feelings and mimic other ones at a young age and ended up doing it quite a lot, to the point where one day I couldnt distinguish which were real and which were fake. Makes you feel dead and void inside.

      Took a strong emotion (love, surprise surprise) and a bit of time for me to get out of it. Now a days i just hold back from my emotions the conventional way, focusing on other things, but the time I spent mimicing other feelings really helped to gather a better understanding of them and make it easier to understand people and figure out their possible reactions and also to understand their emotional state and causes.

    2. Avatar
      Hope

      You’ve just described what a sociopath does TO empaths and other giving individuals. So essentially its a plan to turn an empath into the opposite – which I highly question. That takes a huge moral redirection on top of intellectual and spiritual reprogramming your basest views and moral compass for interactions with others.

      There’s a reason empaths get sucked into relationships with narcissistic sociopathics, bc empaths *can only see the good in someone else, through their own eyes* – but a sociopath lacks the emotional capacity to *ever actually feel empathy*. They’re inherently oil and water – you can’t just wake up one day decide you wanna be a duck, and so it shall be.

      Interesting points – as it’s dead on in so much as it describes what a sociopath is and how they behave & present themselves to others.

  8. Avatar
    Sylvia

    Jebus and I agree more with you. Shutting the emotions to those WHO have disappointed us over n over ,to make them pay.and using the same emotions to get everything

  9. Avatar
    Spock

    Ummmm…. being emotionally sensitive to people’s feelings is not a super power…
    The term ’empath’ is like saying I CAN FUCKING FLY AND SHOOT LAZERS FROM MY EYES… no….
    It’s called being human and being raised right to care for others… it’s called giving a shit.. to have… ’empathy’.

    Empaths are not some kind of alien being with supernatural psychic abilities…

    I tune into people’s feelings, I can sense pain, anger, joy, worry… again, that’s what we’re all able to do so long as we actually give a damn. It’s not some kind of paranormal ability. SERIOUSLY.

    1. Avatar
      Mulder

      Not. Paranormal? Really?

      1. Avatar
        Mario

        Yea, the person made it sound WAY more “paranomal” than it actually is.
        To put it in simple words, its all about the “Feel”.
        You know when you do something and it “feels” right without you needed to check or making sure?
        Its very similar to that, but rather than just being a “good” or “bad” only, it’s sort of a bigger spectrum, thats all, and with time and practice, you start to fine tune the feeling and understand it more.

  10. Avatar
    TREVOR DANE RESPRESS

    As an empath I find it easy to fall in love rather than hard. That may be because I’m not necessarily afraid of getting hurt because I have learned just to expect it as part of loving. I do end up getting hurt easily.

  11. Avatar
    Mica

    As an empathetic person, I agree with many of the points in this article as I have experienced them. Though this article was disheartening with its “wow” effect added. having spoken deeply with many empaths and those you have no empathetic comprehension has given me a deeper understanding of this skill I have. It’s easy to disregard empathy as innate or an anomaly, but it’s a skill that can be honed and utilized if you choose to do so. However it’s something you can easily get rapped up in and lose yourself, spending too much time diving into the emotions of people around you can easily be disorienting, overwhelming, disheartening, and can leave you feeling sad and empty inside. To find a healthy balance of being a supportive and considerate person, and someone who looks out for themselves is something I’ve yet to achieve. Though I hope to one day do so as I’m no use to anyone if I exhaust myself to the point of breaking.

    I love being empathetic, but as this article states – it’s difficult at times and can lead to you closing off your heart and yourself from those around you. Especially if you’re someone easily hurt and find it hard to recover from those scars.

  12. Avatar
    Jeremy Price

    Being an empath isnt a gift or a curse. It simply is a label applied to people who are so sensitive to emotions that somewhere inside you have to learn to control them or die. That learning to control also makes you sensitive to emotion in others around you. I have a personal theory that bpd is the consequence of an empath who cant learn control, and there are many stops in between. In my case I became very strong in everything except the experience of grief and betrayal and rejection. I am still sensitive to these beyond all reason and it matters to me that people never have to feel them. Other than that I am a very type a personality. I can block the intensity of those feelings until they come from someone I have opened to and let myself love or care for and trust for my equilibrium. If they make me feel that friendship or love or emotional contract is being lost, I will collapse inside somewhere and I to all intents and purposes become a bpd in the full throes of rejection. I am more afraid of that than anything in the world physical or mental or what. That same anger or rejection from someone I havent opened to is sad, but not destructive. I dont know if I’m explaining it well as an everyday empath I agree with the person who said you can actually manipulate people of situations and I consider that an important work of helping and healing . I’m not so fond of the fact that if I see a person being treated wrongly I can destroy the one causing it within seconds physically or under extreme circumstances lashing out psychicly
    . That has happened three times and it scares me and I dont want to know how to do it by decision it only happened accidentally and I dont want to know how.

    I just wanted to say though that no one deal here with the immense pain and sorrow and grief of an empath who has believed in someone and given their all and then been betrayed and lied to

  13. Avatar
    Vinko

    Well, that’s me in a nutshell. Don’t know is it scientific or not, but being empath all my life, and in addition I am professionally carer to old people with a variety of helth conditions, all this emphaty is just drains me. I have a problem with stress last couple of years, and recently got angina pectoris, which tells me: I have to start to look after MYSELF and less to others, otherwise, I will be soon kissing goodbye this world.

  14. Avatar
    Chell Han

    Being empathic my entire life ….I can clearly say …its NO gift…..I realize others might disagree…But from my life experiences….. It has only drained me of my energies….My entire life force…. Has been depleted from time to time over my lifespan of 51 years…. I have studied read and learned as much as possible on this subject and Psychology in general….But still to this day ….. I feel too much…. I feel so deeply it’s to the essence of my soul…. It has literally brought me to my knees several times…. Very close to be end.. To close…
    I’m well aware of the dark sides of being empathetic…. Taking on others’ feelings and emotions along with your own you become so confused to the point of insanity….
    I have learned how to try to bubble myself to save myself…. Doesn’t always work but it has helped me…. Meditation yoga clearing the mind… Big benefits for an Empath…. Really helps you sort out all the feelings…. I walk around trying not to read people at times trying not to touch them because I absorb it all….. I know there’s a lot of us out there I’ve researched it…. As with most human beings we have are good sides in our bad sides… But as an empath we feel things so deeply we truly believe that the world can be saved with love and compassion….. So we tend to get really disappointed throughout our lives with people that we come in contact we have to remember we don’t all have the same hearts and some people are just not capable of understanding ours…..
    Blessings to all Peace & Love and light….

  15. Avatar
    Andy Schollg

    Thank you for this description of being an empathic person. I do not know if I am an empathic person. I do know that I have been “MR Fix-it” for all my marriage and raising 4 children, I have the T-shirt. My profession is general contracting and in that, I am constantly fixing for others and just can’t get to my / our stuff. It seems to be a way of life for me and my family seems to know or understand as our house is in a 24-year renovation. I have lived this all my life right from my teens. I hardly ever finish things for me. Friends or family always called on me to help fix or get things done for them.
    My big problem is, I seem to live for others and through there needs I seem to evolve or exist in some way. That is OK!
    My comments to my wife were always” Its all for you dear”. ” Its all about you, with love and devotion.” Though my wife is my life and friend and Love. I miss her dearly in her passing and thus can’t find my groove to fix for us / me. Even though she is gone I am still having to do things for her and I have a hard time keeping my thoughts together.
    Are there any things practices or suggestions that may help me get back on track? I can’t even finish my thoughts as you can see! Thanks for your help!

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