As an Empath, one of my deepest fears is doing nothing. If someone is upset, I want to make him or her feel better. If someone needs, I want to give. This wanting to give is instinctual and for long as I can remember has been a part of who I am. Overtime, I have witnessed that this empathic impulse can lead to actually hurting others more than helping them in some cases.
I know, it doesn’t sound right does it?
Think of it this way: if you spoil a child by giving them what they want without teaching the value of earning, your giving nature may do more harm than good. That is why you must distinguish between giving what is needed verses what is wanted if you want to really help the person make positive changes from the inside out.
The question I often asked myself is why is my natural instinct to give?
Carl Jung described the Shadow Self as consisting of impulses, instincts and empathy. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) occurs when the Shadow Self rejects empathy as the emotion of love was never established, thus all emotions, including love, are commingled with fear that reflects in the Ego. On the flip side, Empathy Personality (EP) would occur when the instinctive impulses bind with empathy in an abnormal degree that effects the Ego to be more responsive to other people’s needs verses one’s own.
So, if the Empath’s natural instinct is to give, how can the Empath ensure he or she is giving what is needed verses what is wanted?
The answer is by: Critical thinking.
Let’s take an example…
(totally hypothetical situation)
You work in a prestigious marketing firm, and an important deadline is rolling around where you and your co-worker, Matt, have to present our pitch to the boss before it is presented to a large client.
Matt and you split the work into parts, and you have already completed your portion (quite perfectly I may add!). The week before the deadline, Matt informs you not to worry, he is running behind on his part, but he should be able to get it all done. Instinctively, you know this is Matt’s way of asking for help as he proscrastinated…again. You start to get a little panicked as you have worked very hard on your part of the project and Matt’s performance is also weighed into your own. This always happens when I, or any other person is paired with Matt.
Applying Critical Thinking
Before you speak, STOP! The key is not the decision you make, but how you applied critical thinking to reach your decision.
Option 1: Offer to Help Matt with the Project
Remember, your natural impulse will be to say something to the tune of: “Matt, what parts do you have left? How can I help?”
As soon as these words are uttered, you would be sacrificing your time to get the presentation done. Your personal life would be put on hold, and Matt would not learn his lesson, which may lead to being fired from his job or at least reprimanded by his boss if he was not able to finish the assignment in time. You could also start to harbor resentment against Matt that you take out on those closest to you.
Option 2: Don’t Offer to do Anything
You don’t have to say anything, even if you know that this was Matt’s way of asking. At the very least, let Matt ask you for help before you jump in there. When someone asks for something, it becomes a favor.
In situations like these, I am of the opinion the best thing for Matt is not to offer to help and let him be responsible for his own procrastination. If Matt is to ask directly for help, then that becomes a choice you have to think about. Considerations to such would be if your job was at jeopardy because Matt did not do his part – if this was the case, you may need to offer to help, but then figure out a way to make sure this does not happen again.
Of course, in my fact pattern, I made sure to note that Matt has frequently acted like this before. If this was a hard time for Matt or something that was not related to Matt’s repeated behavior, doing a helping act for someone is the best thing you can do. However, keep in mind, that if you are a wife, mother, or in a role where other’s rely on you, your decisions effect them too and that should be evaluated. It is great to give, but it can also be selfish to give in some cases when we haven’t thought through what our natural impulse of giving does to not only ourselves, but others as well!