I have found doctor Christine Northrup’s book on energy vampires to be a helpful resource geared as it is towards empaths who struggle with being rescuers or with what spiritual teacher Matt Kahn calls an often crippling sense of an ‘inferior ego’. This relates to the fact that often due to sensitivity in childhood such people are not valued or validated and so are more likely to feel that they are less worthy. Empaths often tend to struggle more with issues of self doubt and a shaky or ‘porous’ ego. We learn to get attention by meeting the needs of others, rather than being encouraged to understand and meet our own, often due to parental issues with neglect, narcissism, emotional unavailability or addiction. I am also wondering if growing up in an alcoholic home or home with alcoholism in its background is related to the development of empathy. According to Northrup such children
learned early on that we couldn’t be our true selves. Throughout our lives – because we didn’t understand our empathic nature – we became lint rollers for the unfelt pain of others. We took on stuff that wasn’t our responsibility. And we did everything in our power to uplift others and make them feel better too.
She explains how empaths often twist themselves out of shape to cover three essential wounds : abandonment, shame and/or betrayal. Anxiety pain and sensitivity follow until we learn to understand how we react from these wounds as each has an antidote : the cure for abandonment is commitment to ourselves and our true value, the cure for betrayal is loyalty, we learn the value of this in homes where we didn’t get needs met and we make very loyal friends but the important lesson is to learn to be loyal to our true nature too. The antidote for shame is to come out of hiding and explore what we believe to be deficits as well as learning how to act honourably, for example being honourable may mean sharing our vulnerability with safe others, or at least understanding the part of us that feels vulnerable and re parenting it. It also requires us to act in alignment with our true self and value instead of assuming a shape that others will approve of.
In addition empaths have high sense antennas for the trauma and heart blockages or wounds in parents and often we are the ones tasked with bringing attention to ancestral wounds and healing them. When we do a genogram to understand the ancestral wounds we engage in a process of naming them. For example many of us come out of narcissistically wounded families and may attract narcissists to us but all for a necessary healing purpose, to understand how our unresolved wounded child of the past may be playing out old patterns instead of practising and learning essential lessons of self care.
Empaths often struggle with the feeling ‘there is something wrong with me’ due to empathy not be valued or recognised, but the truth is that our empathy is a super power once we learn to use it in a healthier way. Northrup points out that we will never change our sensitive nature but we can learn to use it as a gift. She claims empaths carry light for humanity but our essential lesson is to value this light and see how it, at times gets obscured by darkness or preyed upon by the dark energy of others who are wounded. We learn over time that we are not responsible for others pain,wounds or darkness, we are ultimately only responsible for our energy field. That said we can share our light with others and be a force for good by knowing who we are and staying true to our authentic selves instead of putting ourselves down or allowing our self to be shame dumped by those who do not understand.
Empaths also struggle with the expression of righteous anger and Northrup’s own experience is that until we learn that feelings such as anger contain important messages for us, we do not fare well. Many of us may have been taught to put our true feelings aside, or if we are picking up on others, may be told we are making things up or imagining them, simply because our antenna is often more attuned. This is different to projecting old pain onto new experiences. Part of healing means acknowledging where our inner child was wounded, at what age and giving that part of us help to release the feelings and correct false things we came to believe about ourselves when we were not showed what David Richo calls ‘The Five As” – Attention ( I see you), Appreciation (I value you), Approval (I accept you), Affection (I love you) and Allowing (I trust you).
Christine Nrthrup’s book is called Dodging Energy Vampires : An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power