4 Steps to Intuitive Emapth (No Toxic Empathy)
Do you consider yourself an intuitive empath? Does it feel like you are able to predict the needs of others? Are you always available to others because you believe you know what they need and you want to meet those needs?
If you answered yes to these questions, then I want to explore where those “gifts” might have come from. As with the majority of things I write about, it’s my belief that being an intuitive empath stems from negative childhood experiences.
If you consider yourself an empath, do you think about how you had this “gift” since you were a child? Does it seem like you could always predict the needs of others and know what they were feeling? Why might that have been?
The Root of Being an Intuitive Empath
Well, it stems from having to predict and meet the needs of others, typically your parents, in childhood. Unfortunately, that probably means that your own emotional needs weren’t met because you were always meeting the needs of others.
I’d also be willing to bet that you still struggle to identify and get your needs met as an adult. If that sounds like you, I encourage you to read my post Struggling to Get Your Needs Met.
As a child, I was always trying to meet the needs of my parents, mainly my mom. Due to her own struggles, she was emotionally unavailable to me. That means she was emotionally unavailable to herself as well.
Obviously, I didn’t know what that meant, nor could I even describe it as a child. However, I somehow understood that she had emotional needs that weren’t being met.
Meeting the Needs of Others in an Unhealthy Way
I thought I could meet those emotional needs for her. That is where my being an empath was born.
I learned that I could pay really close attention to what my mom was feeling and try to make things better for her. If I could make my mom happy or do something to help her, then maybe she would show me love.
Not only that, but if my mom was happy, then maybe everything would be better for me. She often took her anger out on me. So, naturally I would do what I could to prevent that from happening.
There were some times where my mom would acknowledge what I had done to make her life easier. When that happened, it was like I was on a high.
The Need to Be Needed
Chasing that high was a large part of my childhood. That is how my need to be needed was created. I felt like I had a purpose when I was needed.
My need to be needed spilled over into elementary school. My teachers would tell you that I was so helpful and always eager to do anything they asked me to do.
In our society, that is praised. Sadly, that just furthers the need to be needed for us. It feels good to be needed. It feels good when we receive acknowledgement for something we’ve done for others.
That’s normal, but can easily turn into something very unhealthy, as it did for me. My emotional needs weren’t met at home unless I was doing something for my mom.
Cue my predicting the needs of my mom and determining what she was feeling out of necessity to get my needs met. Sadly, that is how I learned to perfect my craft of being an empath.
Fast forward that into adulthood and I became a very unhealthy adult who was always predicting the needs of others in every relationship I had. I thought I was an empath even before that became a trendy term.
In reality, I had falsely learned that my worth was dependent upon my doing for others. That left me with a really twisted and unhealthy view of love. Sound familiar to you? If so, then read my post Missing Love as a Child (4 Signs Your Parents’ Love Was Conditional).
Always Available No Matter What
So, back to being an intuitive empath. Was that really what I was or was I participating in toxic codependency and toxic empathy?
Prior to my healing journey, I would’ve told you that I was an empath if I had known that term back then. Looking back now, I see that I was without a doubt functioning from learned behaviors of toxic codependency paired with toxic empathy.
Nobody could’ve told me that what I was toxic in any way to where I would’ve even considered it to be true. Isn’t it a good thing to be an empath? I sure thought so!
The truth was that my need to be needed and loved unconditionally left me feeling empty and exhausted. If you consider yourself an empath, I bet you tell yourself that it’s exhausting and being an empath is the reason you are always exhausted.
I agree with you. It is exhausting to always be thinking, feeling, and predicting the needs of others and what they are feeling. It doesn’t leave time, energy, or space for you to meet your own needs!
Being Available to Yourself First
If you knew me many years ago, you would’ve said that I am the friend who is always available when you need me. Has anyone said that about you? Do you tell others that you are always available if they need you and to call you any time?
NOBODY should always be available. Let me repeat that. NOBODY should always be available. If you are, then please understand that is toxic codependency. It is not healthy.
After some tough personal healing, I learned to teach my family members and friends that I am not always available. The most important thing I can do for others is take care of myself first.
If I’m always available, that can’t happen. It took a good bit of time for me to teach people in my life that I was no longer always available, but I promise it is worth it. You will have to continue to remind them and stick to those boundaries of not always being available!
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A few years ago, I had a loved one experience something really difficult. I had taught her that I go to bed early and do not have my cell phone with me when I am sleeping. I am not always available.
She knew there was no point in calling me late at night because I wouldn’t answer. First thing the next morning, she called because she knew I would answer then. I had gotten a good night’s sleep and could truly be there for her when I was available.
If I were still in a place of toxic codependency, then she would’ve called me while I was sleeping and my response would’ve been anything but helpful or empathetic. Instead, I was able to offer healthy empathy, love, and compassion when I was actually available after taking care of myself first by getting uninterrupted sleep.
Now, let’s look at the intuition piece of empaths. The night of her difficult experience, my intuition told me something was going to happen to her. I knew it in my soul.
If I was participating in toxic empathy, then I would’ve called her and told her that I knew something was wrong. I would’ve told her how proud I was of her and that I knew she was struggling. She would’ve rejected it because she wasn’t ready to see the truth that she was not in a good place and was spiraling.
Not only that, but my toxic empathy would’ve kept me up all night worrying about her when there was nothing I could do to stop what was going to happen. Also, that would’ve meant that when she called me the next morning, I wouldn’t have been able to be what she needed. Id’ have been too exhausted.
Toxic empathy means that we over-identify and allow what’s going on for others to impact our own lives to our own detriment. I don’t have to explain why that is unhealthy.
Rescuing Others is Not Your Job
Let’s go back to the term “intuitive empath” for a moment, as that example of my loved one illustrates my being one, but in a healthy way. As I said, my intuition was screaming that she was not in a good place and something bad was coming.
It’s not my job to rescue her or anybody else, even when my intuition tells me something is going on. My job is to take care of myself and communicate my love.
I did just that. I sent her a text that night telling her that no matter what she does, I love her and will be here for her. That illustrates how to be a healthy empath.
Your intuition lets you know something is going on for somebody. However, it is not your job to stop them from going through something they need to go through.
When to Communicate Empathy
Instead, your job is to communicate empathy and love when they let you know they need it. The important piece in that is waiting for them to let you know they need it.
If you try to give love to or be empathetic towards somebody who isn’t ready or able to receive it, then you’ve wasted your time and energy. Also, that puts you right back into toxic codependency.
You are then in the Rescuer Role of The Drama Triangle, which is very unhealthy! You have put your need to be needed and need to help others above what the person actually needs in the moment.
If somebody isn’t ready to receive your love and empathy, all you need to do is communicate that it is there and available if or when he or she is ready to receive it. That is what a healthy empath does.
If you have called yourself an empath and you are considering that maybe you’ve been engaging in toxic codependency and/or toxic empathy, save these steps below. They will help guide you towards becoming a healthy empath.
Four Steps to Be a Healthy Intuitive Empath:
- When you become aware of somebody’s feelings that haven’t been communicated or feel something is going on with him or her, step back and pause.
- If you are feeling the need to do something for the person, pause.
- Communicate your empathy and love in a healthy way and not in a way that you are trying to rescue the person.
- Allow the person to come to you when he or she is ready and then show him or her love and empathy.
If you learned toxic codependency as a child, you are going to have to be very conscious of that creeping in when you see somebody is struggling. That is why I tell you to pause.
You have to pause to allow yourself to bring those toxic codependency and toxic empathy thoughts and behaviors to your conscious mind. That takes a lot of practice.
Your instinct will try to take over and in an unhealthy way. Don’t jump in to do something for the person. Again, allow yourself to pause before you find yourself in the midst of toxic codependency.
Let the person know that you love him or her and communicate your empathy towards the person and his or her situation. Do not tell the person what he or she needs to do or what you are going to do for him or her if it hasn’t been requested.
Expressing Empathy in a Healthy Way
Now, when and if it is requested, that is your time to shine as a healthy empath. Your intuition was right, but you chose to wait until your empathy could be received.
That is the goal. The world needs more intuitive empaths, but only the healthy kind. Which kind will you choose to be?
If you were able to recognize yourself or others in this post, I want to hear from you. I’d love to hear what you have to say. So, please comment below and I will respond back to you.
I wish you peace and love on your healing journey!
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.
Certainly, my intuition about others was a learned ‘gift’ due to a rough childhood. It’s like walking on eggshells around some people. The challenge is learning to be myself first and leaving others to their own issues unless asked. But it’s easy to slip back into caring for others in order to be “liked”. Learning to unlearn that ‘gift’ and put myself first is the ongoing challenge. Thanks for confirming my thoughts about that ‘gift’.
Oh Louise, I know the feeling of walking on eggshells too well. You are so right that it is so hard to unlearn that “gift.” When you are interacting with others, pay attention to a tightening in the center of your chest and a feeling of excitement that usually start moves from that chest tightening and moves up to your throat. That is signaling that you are about to do something for somebody to make yourself feel better. I hope I’m explaining that well. If so, when you notice those two things that is your sign that you may be acting from your “gift.” I wish you such peace and love as you navigate unlearning what you learned to survive as a child.