The Hypocrisy Of Sensitive People
You know that inside joke we have — calling someone a “Vampire” because they drain us of our energy with their negativity and self-absorption? The nickname might be a bit dramatic, but it’s a pretty fair assessment of what happens in the relationship.
Two Kinds Of Hypocrisy
Yet one of the problems with casting someone in the role of a Vampire is that we automatically are casting ourselves as the Victim — because without a victim, the vampire is just some unevolved creature walking around obsessed with themselves. Of course, it’s difficult to disassociate entirely from them, especially when they are part of our family; but I find there is some hypocrisy in identifying someone as a vampire and then getting upset with them when they bite.
The other bit of hypocrisy we sensitives have is that while we are name-calling and finger-pointing (albeit usually in the privacy of our online sensitive circles), we, too, are out there sinking our proverbial teeth into people — only instead of ‘Vampire’, we wear the cape of ‘Savior’ or ‘Hero’. We usually don’t realize that we’re doing it, but even when we do, we somehow convince ourselves that it’s noble, or at least selfless.
You may think I’m being unreasonably harsh… like I’m not Team Sensitive. I am Team Sensitive! I’m actually Team Everybody, but that’s an article for another day. Right now, I’m blowing the whistle on this behavior of hypocrisy because not only have I seen it frequently on social media and with my clients, but I’ve seen it in my own mirror — and the sooner we become aware of it and take responsibility for it, the faster we’ll be able to recognize the hypocrisy, change it, and evolve in our sensitivity. So here’s the nutshell version of some steps you can take to shift these relationship patterns.
First, to help stop playing the part of the victim, stop spreading your victim story (online or otherwise) about the vampires in your life and how they are draining you. I also found it helpful to stop replaying the incidents in my head. Instead, I swapped those thoughts for prayers, asking the universe to help shift the relationship. And if someone else asked me to retell a vampire tale (usually people who like to fan the flames of drama), I would make a benign statement and then repeat it every time they probed. Like no matter what they asked, I would answer: “I’m handling it,” or “I’m praying about it.” Eventually, they get tired of asking. But it takes time to change, so be patient with the other person; and it takes practice to stand up for your boundaries, so be patient with yourself, too.
Second, as for the vampires themselves, I found that the same method can also work here. For example, if someone was droning on about how black the sky is and how fast it’s falling, I would gently say, “I have confidence you’ll get through this,” or “I’m going to pray for you about that.” And I’d keep repeating the same thing every few minutes. Sometimes, however, it’s more effective to come right out with the truth: “I’m going to have to interrupt you, because I’m finding this conversation uncomfortable or _______ (fill in the blank). Can we please talk about something else?” My family responded very well to that approach – and it only took one year to shift our relationship to healthier patterns! I told you… be patient.
Giving Up The Savior Role
In the case of sensitives playing Savior or Hero, let’s first take a moment to acknowledge that we are incredible problem solvers. That’s one reason why people come to us. Our keen sensory perception, acute emotional processing and innate intuition are all stored in a databank of wisdom that we can tap into at near-lightning speed. (As an aside, I was once engaged to a man who would always ask me why I decided to do something in a particular way. It was exasperating! How could I possibly spell out for him the complexity of the Sensitive Algorithm when I barely understood it myself? I finally just started saying, “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.”)
But despite the remarkable gift we’ve been given, we are violating one of the divine laws when we try and solve someone else’s problems, because part of their journey is to learn from their mistakes and grow as a human being. They can’t do that if we keep swooping in to rescue them or solve their problems for them. When we do, we’re stunting their growth! So whenever you feel the urge to jump in and offer a solution to someone’s problem or take matters into your own hands, PAUSE.
ASK these questions:
- Am I being asked directly by this person for help? (Someone who complains about a problem does not constitute an invitation to solve it for them.)
- Is it possible that my listening is help enough?
- Am I trying to ease their situation (anger, discomfort, etc.) or my own? (Oftentimes, sensitives try and resolve issues in someone’s life that remain unresolved in their own; or they are attempting to take away the other person’s pain so that they can feel better.)
- Even if I know how to solve their problem, wouldn’t it be healthier for the person to experience solving it on their own? Wouldn’t it empower them and make them more capable in the future?
- Can I be helpful simply by letting the person know I’m here if they need?
PRAY or send positive thoughts to the person. With some practice, doing this often feels just as good or better than getting directly involved in other people’s problems (partly because the act of sending another person positive thoughts raises one’s emotional state).
Practicing this ‘Pause-Ask-Pray’ method will shift your energy. Over time, you will not only find it easier to respect other people’s boundaries, you will also find that other people respect yours more, too.
This is a good article– I have been overly helpful all my life; it is my nature and I always thought that was how to be kind to others. Fast forward many years and I have learned to temper my impulse a bit as I developed boundaries. I like that this article lists specific criteria on how to evaluate a situation. (Is this an example of a type of framework?). Whatever it is, it will be a useful tool, because I really have a hard time knowing where the appropriate place is to draw the line. Thank you for this article, Maria!
I am glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. I think many of us, especially women, have been encouraged to “help others” which often means doing for them what they should do themselves. I agree that it is hard to decide on boundaries. I would not call this article’s approach a framework but it was a nice process laid out for making changes.
Thank you. I have heard this before and it has good intentions. I was with you until you said two things that I don’t totally agree with. Mainly because I’ve been there myself on the other end needing help and afraid to ask, hoping the other person would catch on. The thing is, many people are begging for help but for one reason or another can’t get themselves to EVER ask for it. Watching their behavior instead of their words. Sometimes IRS a word of comfort or an idea to share with them. To cut that off, I know exactly how that feels when people hold back something that I have no idea how to help myself and spend maybe the rest of my life that w as y when they had the answer right then. That’s selfish. The truth is that we should share our caring thoughts by questioning what they want and say it back to them. That’s a strategy that helps too. Theres many ways to help some without always holding back. I believe that it’s not always about soothing ourselves, but to actually have WALKED in THEIR SHOES BEFORE AND KNOW HOW IT FEELS IS THE KEY. Most people have not actually had the experience but I’ve experienced a lot of abuse and emotional pain. Text book training and seeing this on paper sounds good but not uh until a person has become a real victim, they don’t honestly know. The Vampire idea is good about learning for themselves but that too could be buffered. Don’t get me wrong, I did like your article and will take some of it into account. I just don’t believe that it’s the bottom line. Thanks so much!
Thanks, Joy. This article was about detaching which is one strategy but you are right there are many different strategies for different situations and our sensitivity can sometimes discern what is needed. Thanks for your thoughtful perspective.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your comment on my article. I struggled myself for years being both the victim and the savior. It felt so good to break free from all that and it sounds like you are doing a good job, too! Like Maria, I am also a coach specializing in HSPs/empaths and this material in this article comes from an HSP professional development program at https://www.nickersoninstitute.com/hsp-certification-program
All my best. Jeannette Folan