I am always talking about the upsides of being an empath and contradicting the idea that being an empath is inherently a curse, however to have a balanced discussion we also need to look at the dark side of empaths.
Being an empath can be both a blessing and a curse, it totally depends on the individual and the relationship they have with their sensitivity.
Growing up in this world as an empath can be extremely difficult, not only do we face being called “too sensitive” but we aren’t given the tools to work with that sensitivity.
Therefore the only other option is to become cold and callous. When you can feel, absorb and embody all of the emotions around you, hardheartedness can act as a defense mechanism. It can seem a logical choice to close yourself off from the world.
In this post we’re going to talk about that dark side and how to navigate it, because the chances are we have all been there at one point!
Life as an Empath
For many their empathic sense are activated in childhood, empaths are born with nervous systems that are already super sensitive and so living in a home environment that is stressful or anxiety inducing can be like hell for the empath.
Their empathic abilities act as the defense mechanism in a family unit that requires them to always be on high alert. Our sensitivity which is meant to protect us and alert us to danger, ends up working against us and only heightening the anxiety or danger we feel.
It’s for this reason that empaths are often diagnosed as anxious or depressed because their nervous system is being constantly overloaded and cannot relax. We aren’t given the correct tools to regulate our nervous system and bring peace to our bodies.
As we get older we may start being told we are “too sensitive” that we need to “lighten up” or that we should “stop taking everything so seriously”. These comments come from a good place, but without the knowledge of how to work with our energy we instead close off our sensitivity.
I go in depth on how to navigate your sensitivity and work with your empathic abilities in my free empath guide.
Empaths and Narcissism
The empath who closes off their heart in order to adapt to the world in this way can become cold, apathetic or even manipulative. They can begin to use their sensitivity in order to manipulate or may hide their abilities in order to stay safe.
It’s often remarked that the flip side of an empath is a narcissist and its true that many empaths unknowingly tread this line. This isn’t to say that you are now a ‘bad person’ or anything of the sort, but that you have picked up unhealthy coping mechanisms that not only harm you but those around you.
Empaths and narcissists act as polar opposites; on one hand we have a group of people who survive through a lack of empathy and on the other hand we have a group of people who navigate life through their empathy.
This is why empaths are often the victims of narcissists, as they haven’t learned how to tune their sensitivity and are easily taken in by those will ill intentions. Empaths tend to also be people pleasers as away to avoid addressing their own needs, leaving them vulnerable to abusive behavior.
An empath who comes to realize this can either take it as an opportunity to grow, set further boundaries and cultivate deeper self love or turn their sensitivity off and begin acting apathetic towards others.
As empaths are so tuned into the emotions of others this becomes a double edged sword. We are tuned into the positive but also the negative to an unbearable degree. Learning to balance these aspects is crucial!
The Empath’s Shadow Side
We all have what is called a shadow side: this is all of the aspects of ourselves that we suppress, ignore and would rather pretend didn’t exist. It’s the dark side of us encompassing the unhealthy coping mechanisms, fantasies and negative aspects of our personality.
For the empath the shadow side manifests in the ways we discussed earlier: coldness, apathy, manipulation or narcissism. This can look like a gradual progression over time as an empath disengages further and further from their empathic abilities.
To see if you have fallen in to the ’empath shadow’ here are a few questions you can ask for self inquiry:
- Do I hide my empathic abilities out of fear or shame?
- Do I close myself off from the external world?
- Do I allow criticism of my empathic abilities to change me?
- Have I become cold and apathetic as a defense mechanism?
- Do I use my sensitivity as a manipulative tool?
Write each of these questions down in a journal with your answers underneath. You might be surprised at what comes up! Think of why you may have these characteristics, and who you have allowed to influence your inner voice and perception of your empathy.
Shadow work like this is all about diving deep and really taking a look in the mirror. It’s about facing the ‘dark’ and ‘negative’ aspects of ourselves without judgement but through the eyes of awareness. We can then use this information to form better ways of being and begin healing.
As I said before being an empath can definitely be seen as a curse, however it can also be a mighty gift when we know how to navigate it and work with our energy. Although the world can seem like a hard place for an empath and often is, we can cultivate inner peace and strength within ourselves.
As an empath you are here to thrive, develop your abilities and find a balance between your strength and sensitivity.
Free Empath Handbook
I delve into the many ways in which the empath shadow can manifest and how to do the introspective work needed to grow from this.
In the first part of this empath guidebook you will discover what an empath is (for those who need a primer), the type of empath you are, the types of empathic abilities there. This will work as your foundation.
The second half of the guide will teach you how to navigate your sensitivity, work with your empathic abilities and grow as an empath and spread your wings beyond the empath label.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in you can pick it up for FREE or make a small donation towards the work it took to create.
Do you battle with the empath’s shadow side?