Empathy, co-dependency, energy vampirism… whatever you want to call it the sharing of energy and how you deal with others’ energy has the potential to completely overtake your life if you let it.
Although ‘empathy’ is becoming increasingly recognized as a character trait often linked to introverts or the overly sensitive, co-dependency has had its place in the world of psychology for a few more decades.
And it is for this reason, though distinctly different to more spiritual guidelines, the healing of this particular ‘disease’ can offer us much more insight into our wounds and how they formed in the first place.
Whether we are souls sent to earth to help others, alien life forms who can’t quite get our heads around the depth of human emotion… or not, the root of most co-dependency is a learned behavior from childhood.
Usually linked to having an alcoholic parent, co-dependency forms when we begin taking responsibility for other’s actions from an early age.
As children, we take everything personally and relate the actions of others and external events to our own perimeters of control and influence.
This is how we learn, and forms our instinctual fight or flight reactions that will later ‘help’ us as we develop into adulthood.
But what if those boundaries are formed on false or unhelpful perimeters?
When the adults in our lives are incapable of fully looking after us (or themselves for that matter), then the balance is tipped and children can end up taking on much more than the parent or others around them could ever realize.
Feeling responsible for others as a learned behavior usually occurs like this: the child learns the pattern of the ‘problem’, for example an adult drinking alcohol or crying over the loss of someone close to them, and finds ways to protect them, putting the full weight of this responsibility on their own shoulders.
As children we are extremely sensitive and often, being more pure and connected to ourselves in the first place, are able to understand much more than the adults around us about what is really going on as well as experience purer feelings of empathy without rationalization and logic clouding our experience.
The act of ‘taking on’ these superhuman acts; essentially trying to control the actions of others then becomes habit and how we deal with those around us is always that little bit off balance, even when triggered by the seemingly smallest circumstances.
Say for example, your parents decided to divorce when you were six and a step family moved in.
Any child, particularly one who was sensitive in the first place might sense how everyone was feeling; the tension between particular individuals, the desire to be liked, the anger at a parent from another sibling, and the need to protect all involved.
This outward mirroring is the beginning of a slippery slope into being unable to mirror oneself and ultimately leads to the coping strategy of trying to control the events that follow. The fear that that parent might start crying again would lead to the child finding some way to distract or console them (often at the detriment to the child), and therefore put that individual’s feelings before their own.
Co-dependent habits can fade in and out of our lives, but usually return in full force in our relationships with others, in particular emotionally abusive and manipulative partnerships. Because of the long-standing feelings of resentment from pushing your own feelings aside from an early age, the more progressive stages of the disease can lead to various forms of depression, eating disorders, abusing or neglecting your own children, and even suicide.
Being on a spectrum that most people – more likely than not – have had experience of to some degree, it can be difficult to spot co-dependent habits let alone fix them. So how do we go about protecting ourselves? Though the advice for empaths can be extremely valid; building energy fields around ourselves to block out negative energy or cleansing ourselves as a daily ritual, often we need to get the mirror out and have a good old dig in order to begin the healing process before we can even approach such practices.
Detachment begins with locating the moments – situations, particular people, particular places – where we feel drained or caught off guard. When are we rescuing others and ignoring our own feelings?
Doing what you want at all times is a really helpful and a bold statement to start off with, but it can take a while for this to trickle through the cracks. This kind of self honesty can often be alarming as we might find, having turned the mirror on ourselves, that caring for, blaming others for our feelings and/or constantly looking outwards appears to be the full extent of our identities and that, without it, there doesn’t appear to be very much there.
This can be an incredibly liberating moment and, if we have enough courage to do so, it can be the moment we begin to rediscover ourselves again.
Rather than protecting yourself against that ever-present and continuously unpredictable presence of ‘other people’s energy’, try completely blocking it out for a while.
Tell yourself that nothing is about you. This will give you the space to begin examining your own feelings.
Every time you feel a strong emotion, examine it. Allow it to pass through you. The only way to release emotions healthily is to recognize and accept them, and so building up the habit of naming the core emotion to yourself can be the start of this wonderful practice. Keeping it simple – as you would for a child – will help you to avoid analyzing it. ‘Sad,’ ‘scared’, ‘happy’, ‘angry’… most things can be stripped back to these four core emotions.
Once you let these emotions pass through you, you might find that the ‘solution’ to what to do about them will usually present itself of its own accord. Just recognizing them is actually a huge leap forward in self respect; it is honoring your feelings.
You will also probably find yourself ‘uncovering’ the person who caused those repressions in the first place and, with your new-found honesty, be able to forgive them. As we know, we attract from the universe at the frequency we are giving out, and so the more honesty and honoring we treat ourselves to, the more others will stop walking all over us and begin to give us the respect we deserve.
Removing the victim and simply taking responsibility for ourselves can be a lengthy process but will ultimately lead to a brighter future and is the answer for any empathist and co-dependent. Once we have come to terms with this new way of being, we usually find we actually are able to help others, having lifted the burden of it from our shoulders.
Detaching from ‘reacting’; seeing someone has a problem and then trying to rescue them from it… leading to feelings of resentment when they aren’t grateful or act accordingly, which then leads to suppressed anger and persecution (co-dependents can often seem controlling and dominant), is the only way out.
The lack of reaction is often the best way to help anyone, and is the ultimate way to mirror back to them how they are acting.
People feed on each other’s reactions, and so if we are always reacting; answering questions as soon as they are asked, becoming angry when we are undermined or taken advantage of, each party will never find wisdom.
Becoming receptive and listening to the gaps between other’s words and actions leads to compassion for them. Then we become The Master; watching ourselves acting in these situations in order to learn from them, and detaching ourselves from taking it personally, more fully able to understand the soul’s purpose and the lessons we are here to learn.