Throughout everything I’ve experienced in my life, few things have been more transformative than empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to see something from their point of view and to understand what they’re experiencing because you have either experienced or felt the same way before.

Whether it was what I like to call “empty empathy,” genuine empathy or an absence of empathy altogether, they have all proven to be serious game changers that have taught me, humbled me and added so much unapologetic joy and gratitude to my once lackluster (depressing, unlucky, insecure, OCD insane, people pleasing), existence.

Empty Empathy (aka, empathetic bankruptcy)

“Empty Empathy” is a term that I just made up (surprise surprise), that has happened to me a lot and yes, I’m super guilty of engaging in empty empathy in the past. Empty empathy was a big factor in what kept me in emotionally unavailable relationships and friendsh*ts for waayyyy too long.

Basically, empty empathy happens when someone gives off the vibe of being empathetic (sends you sweet messages “just because,” is thoughtful, being the first to watch your story and snap chatting you all the right things all the time, considerate, tagging you in cute pics on Insta, on their “A game,” etc.), so that they can ultimately get what they want out of you because they’re a user.

If you have no self love, low self esteem, and are a people pleaser that looks to others to validate you – empty empathy “works” on you. You eat it up, but never truly feel “full” (satisfied). 

Genuine Empathy

Genuine Empathy means genuine connection. Genuine empathy is about sharing in another person’s pain, experiences and feelings. It’s about getting down in the mud with them and saying through your actions, “I speak your language.” It’s about creating meaning and making a connection.

Empathy benefits you by allowing you to step out of your own world, your own issues, your own ego and your own head so that you can see something from another person’s view without advising, judging or bringing up your own pain – no matter how similar it may be to theirs. Genuine empathy is the foundation of gratitude and joy – it’s connection; it’s meaning. 

Empathy is not about sympathy at all and it’s definitely not about assuming how someone feels.

It’s about relating to their particular position. Being able to genuinely empathize does not mean having to fix other people’s problems or heal them. It also doesn’t mean that you need to take on the problems and pain of others as your own. It’s not about thinking that you can (or have to) “rescue” someone. It’s about being there for someone while allowing them to remain in the driver’s seat. It’s affirming and mirroring their strength until they feel it again.

Genuine empathy says: “I know this is painful, I understand. I’m here for you. I feel your anguish. I see it exactly from where you stand. I speak your language. I have those battle scars too. I’m not going anywhere.” Empathy has a heartbeat.

Sympathy and compassion are two-dimensional in comparison to the light that empathy is.

What happens when there is an absence of Empathy?

The reason that I always say to make a dignified exit from an emotionally unavailable relationship, is because in these relationships, there is ALWAYS a lack of empathy and a relationship without empathy is a plane without an wings… or an engine… or jet fuel.

If you’re in a relationship with someone that’s empathetically bankrupt, you will never have a mutual, healthy relationship. Empathy is what keeps you together, appreciative, understanding and capable of respect and realness.

Remember – you don’t need to go through someone’s specific situation to know how painful it can be.

Be kind, always. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Be there for others not to fix, help or heal them, but just to be the beautiful light that you are; the light that you’ve always been. 

For 2016, let’s all get on a light dimmer diet. I’m in. Who’s with me?

x

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8 comments

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I’m super guilty of empty empathy at times with friends where I appear supportive of whatever situation they’ve chosen to share with me, but my ego just wants to project my past experiences and hurts onto their circumstances and though I bite my tongue and rejoice my energy completely betrays me (for example when my friend is gushing over a man who is clearly showing signs of fucktardedness or emotional unavailability and she’s building him up to be some God and fawning over crumbs, it’s so hard for me to simply be there and share in her happiness). Is there a balance between being supportive and present and also giving a well-meaning opinion? Perhaps I’m just still too stuck in the negativity of my break up processing to see that every situation is different.

I think empathy also helps immensely with the post-break-up/moving on process. I’ve struggled to let go because I let the anger eat me up and I would generally wish an ex ill-will, the active disliking of my ex took up so much energy. It’s difficult to arrive at a place of neutrality but for me it has happened when you have empathy for yourself (knowing that this person’s hurtful actions towards you have more to do with what’s going on for them) and shockingly empathy for them (recognising that they’re obviously in a fucked-up and unhappy place emotionally for them to be doing what they’re doing in the first place and if we are truly mirrors, their self-loathing can rival our own. Doesn’t mean you excuse or accept their bad behaviour moreso just realizing that they’re way more behind, stagnated, and stuck in their journey.) It feels lighter not to hate but it definitely takes time to get there, I’m still so very angry at the last man I dated but your blog is helping me so much in just putting these hurtful experiences into perspective. Love the new layout and excited for more of your life-saving posts!!!

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Josie,

You go girl. You are so right, so aware, so intelligent and such a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m so happy that you like the new layout and I promise to keep writing. I’m not going anywhere 🙂 Thanks again xoxoxox

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Love it! Im in 100%!!❤️

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🙂 xoxo

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Thanks for this. You’ve given me the understanding I needed to make the sound decision to make the dignified exit that I needed.

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Proud of you! Thank you for being a part of this tribe! 🙂 XOXO

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Hi Natasha.

I just found your blog reciently and I love it.

In my case, I am a man who met an emotionally unavailable girl who drove me fuc**ing crazy for months. All those contradictory signals, the initial chase she did pursuing me until she got my trust and built some rapport, that hot-cold behaviour since then…

She is not a bad girl, but she was seriously hurt in the past and even though a few years have past since then, she is not over it and is stuck in the past. The sad part of all this is, that she only told me about it when I found she was still using actively dating apps. The most pure and powerfull of the reasons was used as a cheap excuse to justify her poor behaviour. As it was a long distance relationship she might have thought that I would not find out what she was doing in the shade.

I had to cut her off and let her go. It still hurts, and I still doubt if I sent her to f*ck off too soon, but there were some red flags just there and I had to save my own integrity.

I love your blog, it really helps a lot.

XOXOXO

Reply

Hi Gonzo! I’m so glad that the blog has helped! 🙂 I have many male readers and coach a lot of men as well. Unfortunately, this kind of stuff does not discriminate against age, gender, orientation or wisdom.

You are understood, supported, empathized with, appreciated and never alone in this. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your experience!

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