Can you feel too much empathy?

I came across an article about empaths, and I was interested in how the quality of empathy relates to me, my work as a coach, and all the coaches and consultants who directly serve others in their work.

An ‘empath’ is generally described as someone who is highly attuned to others’ emotions.

Empaths experience a great deal of empathy (obviously), often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense. Empaths feel everything, which typically makes them generous, big-hearted, good listeners and naturally giving. It also means they can be overwhelmed quickly by large emotions (their own and others’), may struggle to set boundaries, and feel drained by intimate conversations.

This oversized capacity for empathy can be both a superpower and a super-stressor.

I appreciate that in coaching, ‘emotion’ is not as foundational as it is in the work of a counsellor or a therapist. But emotion does definitely come to the fore when working in partnership and particularly when navigating with a client during difficult or uncertain times.

I have found that I ‘take on’ the emotions of my clients at times and have to work really hard to ‘clear’ after sessions. I concentrate on separating my own stuff from my clients’, so I can provide level-headed, objective strength and support. This is so important during the coaching exchange, but also important for me to practice afterwards.

For empaths working in a service capacity right now, whilst working from home, it is an unrelenting struggle to share energetic space 24/7. You may be finding it draining to serve at your highest level because you now have minimal ‘space’ for yourself – physically, emotionally, and energetically.

Pay close attention to what you need at this time, and don’t feel guilty for needing to adapt.

- Be kind to yourself; recognize these unusual circumstances; don’t beat yourself up

- Find ways to reclaim your space and your time when you’re not ‘on call’

- Acknowledge that you will find it even harder right now to set boundaries

- Take time out for yourself to relax and replenish: go for a walk, take a long bath, allow yourself to be still

- Make time to do what you love: dance, read, exercise

- Find a willing ear for you to download to, and don’t feel guilty for needing to do so

The most important thing for empaths, and all compassionate human beings, is that we recognise that in being ‘of service’ to others, we also need to be ‘of service’ to ourselves. Which means tuning into your own needs at the same frequency that you are to the needs of others. Address any self-talk that implies you’re needy, weak, self-indulgent, too emotional or overly sensitive.

Re-fill and replenish yourself often to help you serve your clients without depleting yourself. Empaths are a gift to the world; you have earned the same level of tender care that you provide for others and we need to be reminded!

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