Taking On Pain Of Others

I get it: it feels good – to make others feel good (or, in some cases “less bad” when they are going through their own “stuff”).


As humans, we have the incredible ability to empathize.  You’ll often hear psychologists use the term “empath” to describe a person who experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense.


I’ve developed a tremendous amount of respect for mental health professionals – nurses, LCSWs, psychologists, etc., thinking about the amount of other ppl’s “stuff” they consume on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean they don’t have their own stuff to deal w too – they’re only human.


So then, what about the rest of us who aren’t professionals?  It’s a good feeling to be told we have: “a big heart”…”care for others”…”selflessness”….& “compassion.” But is it always good for us?


There’s no way to accurately measure “what we have to give.” But, I’ll say this, as I’ve noticed the downside of this in myself – I’m sure you want to help everyone you possibly can who reaches out to you. And I’m sure saying no at any time feels like an unacceptable answer. However…I can promise you, if you take on TOO much at once from others, while not doing enough of your own healing & replenishing, you will actually be able to help FEWER people over the long run.


I’m very much a numbers & science guy at times, & that formula above is how I’ve been able to convince myself – that as long as it’s politely, with care, & an explanation, you can communicate with someone that “you don’t have enough to give – right now – but as you work to recharge, you can’t wait to help them.”


Yes the saying goes, if you don’t fill your own well, others can’t drink from it. But it’s a little cliche – so I hope the explanation above is helpful/practical in balancing how much you want to help others, with the fact that you must feel strong enough for yourself first. That’s not selfish. That’s actually an unselfish way of figuring out how you can help even more.

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