Psychology Today’s definition of empathy is: “The experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling.” This is a good feeling to have towards others and we need more of it in order to make a better world filled with love, peace and understanding, however, too much empathy can actually hurt some who experience this reaction as a reflex.
I may suffer from what I call the reflex condition of “too much empathy,” and although it beats being a sociopath, it can actually be a drawback and be hurtful. Slap me one day and the next, when you apologize, no matter what it is, I will not only forgive you but feel painfully sorry for you. It’s a figure of speech, but you get the point. I will always walk in your shoes.
I wish no one harm and I’m as understanding as can be. This is hard especially when it comes to being in the middle of a quarrel between two people. I will not only walk in both people’s shoes, but try to understand where they are coming from, and by this I mean, their background which may have led them to do or say something mean.
Why is feeling too much empathy hurtful? For one, I get to experience not only my own feelings but others’ and carry them around with me, which sometimes becomes a bit emotionally exhausting. If you have a quiver against me, I take the time to digest, process it and finally forgive any sort of reaction even if it’s unfair. I therefore often set myself up for disappointment and maybe some regret, but my personal excuse for the way I am is that I cannot live hating anyone. The emotional toll doesn’t pay.
My sister says I always excuse everyone’s behaviour to an extreme, and maybe she is right, but as I said, my empathy is a reflex and I’m too old to change that and at fifty, I still believe in the goodness of people and will do anything to make that belief stick even if I am proven wrong and it hurts.