You’re not. And that’s okay. You’re you. Even the most spiritually inclined of us are meant to have a full identity based on things other than holding space for everyone else. Let’s define our terms. Empathy is “in feeling,” directly translated. Sympathy is “with feeling,” directly translated. Sympathy has been distorted, somehow becoming connected with shallowness, pity, and sometimes condescension. Empathy is a very particular frequency. We’re meant to be experiencing sympathy more often than empathy. Very few people are totally available for actual empathy, and this is not a bad thing. Sympathy is that sensation of “Wow, I’m with you.” Empathy is that sensation of “Wow, I’m in you.”
No matter how many times you listen to Peter Frampton, you cannot possibly be “in” everyone at all times. You should not seek this, even as you cultivate greater capacity for wholeness and unity. There are beautiful, rare moments of total connection on an empathic level. We should cherish those. Empathy requires a serious dropping of personal distortions. There’s a reason it’s associated with intimacy.
This is a doozy. Are you ready?
Empathy is actually being able to look at a situation, do all of the calculations about someone’s psychospiritual, cognitive, and social metrics, “place yourself in their position,” and feel the feelings they’re feeling as they’re feeling them.
Who is doing that? I do, to an extent, through genetic inclination, spiritual ability, and extensive therapeutic training. Some people are more inclined toward empathy. Perhaps it has something to do with experience and mirror neuron function. Even when my work veers into mediumship, I still choose to be present. It’s me, listening with an open mind.
“I care too much”
This is codependency, not empathy. It’s usually maladaptive behavior resulting from being made secondary all your life. It’s not serving you to have it be a snaps, snaps topic. It shouldn’t remain a point of commiseration or your primary identifier. Normalization of this idea is what keeps the world off its axis. There’s this bizarre notion that “real empaths” drain themselves constantly for others, growing bitter and resentful over time like some sort of gluttonous sin-eater.
Commiseration is an evergreen source of profit. It preys off the human need for validation so effectively that it makes people forget there are other sources of community. The myth of the “empath” has been a source of immense profit for the last few decades, ever since blogging started to become profitable. Neurodivergent people, which includes those with mental illness in addition to ADHD and ASD, are even more likely to find themselves prey. Content creators in the personal/wellness spaces can keep you in a revelation cycle with these affirmations of your empathic plight. The formula is this: lamentations of how ill-used “empaths” are followed up by some sort of revenge fantasy. But it’s not really a revelation, is it? You feel that quick hit of resentment and keep scrolling. There’s no action item attached.
This disempowering content is dressed up as validation and support. Note above that I said content creators, though I have seen mental health professionals with other aims use this strategy for traction. Personally, I have been in the consistent business of transformation. The constant regurgitation of people’s hurts with no path forward is abuse in my eyes. Constant triggering without healing action being taken is a recipe for burnout. I’ve provided solutions for years on end now. They’re available, they’re proven. I refuse to convince or scaremonger as a strategy. I am there for the people who want the real thing. I’m for the people who don’t resonate with the commiseration cycle or no longer want to. I serve the “do something” folks, I have nothing to say to the others. I’m here for “possible can mean probable.” Everyone else is everyone else.
“I care too much.”
That’s a statement of emotional slackness, lack of processing skills, lack of boundaries, and unwillingness to develop differently. For intuitive people saying this, it speaks to spiritual immaturity, lack of practice, and lack of groundedness. Living differently starts with a decision. If you are a genuinely empathetic person, you’re not centering yourself in others’ “stuff” and going home to make it all about you. It’s not about you at all or what you’re not getting, it’s about the other person’s direct experience. This is where sympathy comes in handy because you realize that you get to feel with others. That gets to be enough.
There are times when the world is more difficult to live in as an empathetic person, like now. People are rightfully in pain. You must acknowledge it and bear witness, if you are who you say you are. (“Empath/etic.”) Then you must do your part. Where you have skill to aid the situation you’re feeling for, you show up and use it. If you want to learn new skills to aid the situation, do so (in a way that isn’t taxing the highly skilled). If you have resources to share, share them. Do your part. If you are who you say you are…
Let’s return to the revelation content churn. When you still have a charge attached to your traumatic experiences, you will continue sparking on stimuli. You must decide that your life is more important than that self-righteous hit of resentment. You cannot live for people who nine times out of ten don’t remember or care what they’ve done to vex you so. Until you make this decision, you’ll suffer. And suffer. And suffer.
Why suffer when you can live well and become yourself? You can’t effectively be empathetic if you don’t have a self. People fail to recognize this. Healthy ego means having a self. Unhealthy egoic behavior is what you lapse into if you skip steps. You can’t bypass self actualization and call yourself empathetic. You simply don’t have the capacity. It will be a facsimile of empathy. A performance.
Even “do something” folks need a reminder that they have done, routinely do, and can do more things. This sad sack shit? It’s infectious. And pushed by algorithms. And very convenient for when one is feeling ungrounded, impotent, and out of sorts. Again, I have to ask: what is the intent of content like that? There is such a thing as an awareness post, but that genuinely seeks to illuminate. It doesn’t aim to keep a pain point active. What and where is the action item? There isn’t one. It’s engagement farming. Perhaps they’ll sell you a workbook down the line.
I have to wonder: how many times can random people build their “authority” on the backs of collective unwillingness to act? How many “thought leaders” and esoteric “figures” will emerge essentially talking drivel that fosters passivity? Where is the how? Where is the power in the thing? You’re allowed to earn from expertise, where you have it. It’s just that the expertise isn’t even there half the time. It’s enough. This is another one of those “choices” you have that can define your professional life. You can allow content creation to supersede ethics. Because it’s easy to “run it up” fast keeping people in a toxic revelation cycle with no substance. It’s really a choice.
I was raised on tumblr. I got my fair share of revelation and commiseration content. At the time, I viewed those spaces as community at a time I desperately needed one. I felt constantly misunderstood, isolated, and sickly. I felt angry. Eventually, I grew to piss my own damn self off. (Thank heavens, it’s really insufferable.) I was one of those “I just care too much, humanity is awful, blah blah blah” folks. I could’ve easily lived there forever, aided by revelation and commiseration content. I got to a point where I chose not to. I wasn’t going to aid humanity with my virtual disgust and material disdain. I eventually noticed there was no room for the good things to enter and remain in my life with that psychic clutter.
There really is a moment when you decide. I had a conversation with myself where I decided to stop being overwhelmed and just start. I knew I wanted to live differently. I felt like a loser, and I didn’t want that to feel like me. Somewhere inside I knew that wasn’t me. (This is important; it's how to recover from burnout.) I decided, “I’m just not going to lose.” From there, my question became, “How do I not lose? I’m open to not losing.” I got some answers at that point; threads to pull on and trails to follow. From there, I could think more expansively. I wondered, “What would it feel like to get what I want and really enjoy it?” From this place of increased availability following a decision, I got to make more decisions. I got to be more available for myself.
If any of this has made you curious about who you could be in a particular area where limitation was affirmed, good. That’s the first step. You just decided to be available to a different truth. A different truth is a different reality.
Here’s how I can help:
I’ve cultivated a pretty good community of wise people. If you’d like to be among them, the door is this way.
I put my thoughts in lots of places - here, emails, articles, podcasts, tweets, IG posts, my broadcast channels (IG/Voxer), and private spaces. I'm @keyleemiracle on everything. Was that daunting? Explore the blog, the products, the services, the library, etc. Start on the email list.
I offer 1:1 services where I can get all up in your “stuff” and practice that rare thing: empathy. I can then slide into sympathy and expertise to advise you. I take people to the next level. Is there anything more beautifully mundane and powerful than living a life without undue fear?
I offer The Neurointuitive Product Suite, where I tackle the common subconscious scaffolding supporting specific lived problems. This is the result of thousands of hours of work and hundreds of client sessions. I’m really proud of the suite - it’s timeless, elegant, and allows you to be your own light leader in your subconscious.
If you read all of this, you’re a champ. If you made it, you can comment whether or not you still believe you’re an empath, if you ever did. I will enter all commenters in a raffle to win a Subconscious Session in the new year. I’ll close the drawing on December 31st.