Have you ever been told you need to “toughen up,” “grow a thick skin,” or “stop being so sensitive?” For me, that message was most strongly delivered when I was in a relationship with a pathological narcissist.
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Often people who are severely ‘empathy deficient‘, such as pathological narcissists, want those with empathy to feel ashamed for having that trait. They view it as a weakness to deeply care about the suffering of others, the well-being of animals, the state of the environment, or society as a whole.
Many even believe you can just shut off your compassion and sensitivity! (FYI – We can’t. That’s the way our brain is wired!)
Empathy, Compassion, & Morality are signs of a Healthy Brain
We have sets of social neuronetworks within our brain that give us these special abilities – to feel the emotional state of another. Just know, you are not at a disadvantage for being a sensitive person.
What will be important to do if words like Empath or Highly Sensitive Person describe you (they describe me too) is to learn how to work with your empathy.
Like many ‘humans’ I was never taught how to:
- protect myself from empathy related overwhelm,
- how to guard my empathy from selfish/ callous people, or
- how my empathic abilities could be used to have better relationships.
That’s why on my life-long journey of psychological growth, I wanted to give focus to my personality traits. My job (neuropsychology) often requires I focus on deficits, however in one’s personal life, I believe growth requires a nurturing mindset.
I’ve always known that my empathy and compassion held such a prominent role in my life, however I did not give it the attention it deserved. You might be the same way, too!
The Empath’s Survival Guide
In my search to learn more about people like myself (empaths) I decided to take Dr. Judith Orloff’s course. It’s The Empath’s Survival Guide Online Course: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.
This online course gave me tools and actionable steps I could take to not only honor my empathy, but protect it!
I was never taught those practices growing up, even though I was a sensitive child. If you have similar sensitivities, check out Dr. Orloff’s course. You’ll even find she dedicates a session to the topic of – “Protection Techniques for Empaths: Dealing with Narcissists and Other Energy Vampires.”
I hope her course brings you as much clarity and assistance as it brought me.
You may not be ready for this course if …
I do not recommend this course for those who are still in the midst of a relationship with a pathological narcissist. A brain living under abusive conditions tends to be within a highly distressed state and will need to prioritize other matters (e.g., calming the nervous system; safety). Therefore, focusing on your empathy patterns can come later in your healing journey, not now.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Orloff’s course take a peek at her program page, click the button below.
Dr. Rhonda Freeman