The Limitations Of Empathy In An Unbalanced Culture


Photo by Joseph Keil on Unsplash

Empathy is one of the best qualities in a human being and is abundant in sensitive people. Empathy is an important foundation in relationships and also in understanding all aspects of our world. Empathy opens a door to discovery and can help us identify the realities around us. Empathy helps us connect our energetic being with the rest of the world.

Does Empathy Always Serve Us?

I love empathy. I think it is one of our great gifts. But I have also noticed that empathy can make it difficult to address challenging issues. I am not talking here about mistakes that we all make. I am talking about patterns that are harmful.

In toxic situations, empathy may be appropriated in order to demand our silence. In childhood out of necessity, we develop survival strategies in order to maximize the support we receive from our caretakers and minimize harm to ourselves. As a result, even if we can identify the toxicity around us, we will not challenge it because it is too dangerous to do so, especially in environments that are exceptionally abusive.

Too often, our innocent selves bump up against the unhealthy ways of our caretakers and we internalize our exuberance, curiosity, and joy as dangerous to others. Children are known for their honesty and our honesty gets shut down when it is inconvenient for those around us.

It is not unusual for children to be shamed for their honesty. They will then start to see themselves as wrong, less than, and bad. They will internalize the attitudes of their caretakers about what is OK or not and even start to see themselves as victimizing those who are unhealthy. By fully being themselves, children can remind adults about their own compromises and that can be painful for everyone in different ways.

Is It Empathy Or Something Else?

In our desire to be welcome and accepted, we can easily allow our empathy for others to be used to shut ourselves down because the negative messages we receive as children are too painful. It is our nature to be loving and loving children will see themselves as unloving when in fact it is their caretakers who are unable to be loving. What starts as a natural desire to be loved and accepted can turn into a pattern of enabling. If children have to protect the feelings of their caretakers, they have to give up themselves, including any parts of themselves that do not align with their environment. If the toxicity is severe, the wounding can be deep.

This is how children become subservient and why many adults are not able to fully come into their own. There is something important to understand about this: children arrive in the world and are fully here. They are all in. There is no reservation; they are easy to love and be loved. We can see that in children everywhere. However, when we start conditioning children to hold back we also create an environment where we cannot solve our problems together because honesty is important for effective problem-solving.

We have been ushered into a world where we have to pretend a lot and that pretending erodes our sense of self and our happiness in life. Then we spend countless hours and dollars trying to get back our true selves. There is a high cost to mistreating the natural love and empathy we all have as children. It would be wonderful if we could find a better way.

What Can We Change?

If we want a different dynamic, we will need to change something. Unfortunately, the cost of change can seem so steep and prohibitive that we often back away. Suppose there was a different way? There is, in fact. Through quantum healing, we can release the false beliefs, assumptions, and programs that cause us to keep others feeling safe at our own personal expense. We can eliminate the toxic ideas and keep the loving aspects of ourselves. In fact, when we release that which is toxic, we make more room for our natural loving nature. It is wonderful that we have these tools today to heal in ways friendly to ourselves and others.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy kralik on September 8, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you Maria. I am one of the tribe.