Tag Archives: empathy
I really think my mind is much like a Lazy Susan. It just kinda spins & I’m not always sure where it’ll stop.. lol For some reason, a few minutes ago it stopped on 2 people I was close to who both died from cancer.
The first lady died in 2009. She faced cancer I believe it was five times before she passed away. You’d think after having gone through so much pain & misery, she would’ve been bitter, but she wasn’t. She was always kind, loving, caring. Even when she felt horrible, she never failed to ask me how I was doing or what was happening in my life. She genuinely cared about my life. Even if something small but disappointing happened like I got a paper cut, she would offer sympathy.
The second lady died five years later. She also experienced cancer multiple times before it took her life. However, she was much different than the first lady. She lacked compassion. In fact, she came across like if you didn’t have cancer, she thought your problems weren’t important. Even if you had a different life threatening disease, it wasn’t cancer, so it was no big deal to her.
Thinking about this, I realized something. It isn’t just physical problems that can make people act this way. It’s all kinds of problems. I’ve seen similar attitudes in adult children of narcissists. Some who had siblings look down on those of us who were only children. They think we had it easy because we didn’t have siblings. Some who never developed C-PTSD or PTSD act like those of us who do have one of those disorders are weak. After all, *they* didn’t develop it & they had narcissistic parents too. Sometimes this attitude is even evident in those who write about narcissistic abuse. They are the ones who expect their readers to be in the same place in healing they are, or they tell their readers to “just go no contact.. I did it & it worked for me!” without knowing anything about their situation.
Dear Reader, I want to encourage you today not to act that way! Examine your behavior & if you are acting like other people’s problems aren’t as bad as yours, change your behavior. Ask God to help you to see if you’re acting inappropriately in this area.
Also remember, just because something might not traumatize you doesn’t mean it’s not traumatic to someone else. People are very different & this means we respond & react differently. Two people can grow up with the same parents, experience many of the same things, & they will tell stories of their experiences much differently. One may be upset or even traumatized while the other talks about his or her happy childhood.
Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].” (AMP) If you notice, it doesn’t say we should judge their situations or how they feel about their experiences. it just says we should share in their joy or sadness.
Even if you don’t understand why someone feels the way they do, you still can be kind to that person. You can offer to listen to them if they want to talk, to take them to lunch or some other outing to cheer them up or to pray with or for them. Small gestures like these can help a hurting person a great deal, definitely much more than trivializing or even invalidating their pain.
Please think before you speak when someone is trying to tell you why they are hurting. It will do you both good. The person who is hurting won’t be further hurt by what you say & you may become less judgmental & more compassionate.
There is a lot of talk about empaths these days. Although some of the information claims being an empath is the same as being a psychic, that isn’t the case. I think being an empath basically means being a person with good instincts, empathy, someone who can see things from the perspective of others & also cares deeply about how other people feel. People with the INFJ personality type are known to be very empathic, & also the most frequently abused personality type.
It seems strange that someone who is good at spotting fake people like INFJs & empaths are would get involved with a narcissist, but it happens every day. Unfortunately it makes a lot of sense when you look at it.
People with a high degree of empathy want to help others & even fix them. Narcissists want people like this so they can take advantage of them. It’s very easy for a narcissist to abuse someone like this because the person simply wants to help them & see them happy. Narcissists can play the victim or shame their victim into believing they have done something wrong or abusive. Either way, if an empathic person believes the narcissist’s lies, they will do their best to make it up to the narcissist & do pretty much anything in order to please them.
Empathic people want a loving, deep relationship full of mutual respect, whether that relationship is a friendship, familial or romantic. Narcissists use love bombing as a way to lure a victim into the relationship, & this can mimic what an empath wants in a relationship. Narcissists read people very well. They pick up on subtle clues on what others want in a relationship, & present themselves accordingly. They also mirror the other person, which is mimicking that person’s morals, likes, dislikes, & even body language, to make the person feel close to them. Unless you’re very well versed in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be extremely easy to feel close to someone doing this love bombing thing. I have fallen for it many times in my life in all types of relationships.
People with a lot of empathy don’t like conflict. Those raised by narcissistic parents feel this even more. In fact, we will usually find all kinds of ways to rationalize the behavior, in other words make excuses for it, to keep the peace. Narcissists use this in their favor to convince their victims that they were just being oversensitive, that never happened, it didn’t happen as they think it did, or that the narcissist had an excellent reason for doing what they did & the victim made them do what they did.
If you are an empathic person, it’s really a good quality even though it may not feel like it sometimes! Use your sensitive nature in your favor. Being empathic means you naturally have good instincts- pay attention to them. I firmly believe our instincts are the Holy Spirit gently trying to guide us in the right direction, which is why they’re always right. If you meet someone & something about that person doesn’t feel right, pay attention to that feeling. The truth will come out sooner or later- it always does- & you’ll see why you had that feeling.
Reign in your desire to help everyone. I know it can be hard, but remember- you aren’t God. It’s not your job to help everyone, only the people God leads you to help. Ask Him to help you discern who you should & shouldn’t help.
Also remember, although conflict is uncomfortable, sometimes it’s also necessary. Examine the situation closely. Has the other person accepted responsibility for their part as you have? Are you both willing to work together towards a mutually beneficial solution? If you can answer yes, this is good! That is how conflict should go! If however, you are the only one expected to make changes or the other person makes excuses or even blames you for their actions, this is a bad sign. Those are red flags that you may be dealing with a narcissist.
As someone with a great deal of empathy, you don’t have to be a victim. Keep learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder & listening to your instincts. Ask God to help you identify safe & dangerous people, & to remove dangerous ones from your life. He absolutely will do this for you!
Compassion fatigue is a little discussed phenomenon. It happens when someone continually puts other people’s needs first while ignoring their own, & eventually burns out. It can happen with caregivers, people in helping professions such as nursing or teachers, & also with adult children of narcissists.
Adult children of narcissists learn early in life to ignore their own needs & put their parents’ needs ahead of their own. Their parents demand it & doing so means the child has less of a chance of facing a narcissistic rage, so it becomes a means of survival. Sadly, this sets in place a pattern of behavior that often lasts into adulthood. A lifetime of ignoring your own needs for the needs of others can take a toll, both physically & mentally.
Some signs of compassion fatigue are as follows:
- Being irritable. Anyone who is tired can be irritable. But, when you are beyond tired, irritability is pretty much a given. Little things that normally wouldn’t bother you suddenly can seem like a huge crisis.
- Anxiety is also common. Being too tired can make a person feel “off.” When that person is off, anxiety is more likely to happen, especially if the person in question already has issues with anxiety.
- Lacking motivation. How can a person be motivated when they are exhausted & sick of doing for everyone else?
- Trouble with sleeping can happen too. Have you ever heard the phrase “too tired to sleep”? It does happen. You may find yourself unable to sleep when normally you don’t have that problem. You also may wake up frequently during the night or have unusual dreams or nightmares that disrupt your sleep.
- Depression is also a common problem. Some people are very sensitive to others, so when they need our help often, we can get depressed. We feel badly for them because they can’t do things on their own, or the problems they tell us about make us sad for them.
- A big red flag to compassion fatigue is feeling numb. When you hear of someone having a serious problem, you simply feel nothing. You just don’t care, even if the person with the problem is someone you love dearly. This numbness can happen when you have cared too much for too long.
- Headaches can happen as well. If you never had migraines, they may start. At the very least, chances are your head may ache on a regular basis even if you never suffered with frequent headaches before
If you can relate to any of these signs, then it’s time for you to take a break. You need time to reevaluate your situation as well as to relax.
If at all possible, take some time to yourself & pray. Tell God how you feel, ask Him to show you what to do in your situation & then listen to what He tells you to do. He may not tell you obviously by saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord”. It may be much more subtle such as you suddenly getting the urge to resume a hobby you once enjoyed or spending time with your closest friend that you haven’t seen in a few months. Whatever you feel you should do, then do it! It WILL help you!
Also do things that help you feel nurtured & comforted. Indulge in herbal teas, buy yourself that new CD you’ve been wanting or snuggle up in a soft blanket & watch Netflix all day. Little things like that can have a surprisingly positive affect on your emotional state.
Take a break if at all possible & do it frequently. Everyone needs breaks & there is no shame in it. And, while you take that break, refuse to think at all about what is causing this compassion fatigue.
If you’re a caregiver, arrange for help. Tell your family you need help a couple of days per week or whatever you need. If they refuse to help, look into professional in home care. Contact your local Department Of Aging or Social Services. They may be able to help you or at least point you in the right direction. Local churches also may be of some assistance, whether or not you’re a member. Also, don’t forget the library. Libraries are truly a wealth of information. My local library has a lot of very helpful pamphlets right inside the front door, & many of them pertain to caregiving.
Balance is the key to avoiding compassion fatigue. It may feel strange & hard at first, but you need to set reasonable boundaries. You have the right to say no sometimes & to set limits on what you do for others. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you help others?
Periodically, I like to post about the signs of a covert narcissist. Everyone knows about overt narcissists, but there just isn’t much information on their covert counterparts. Today, I want to share some warning signs of covert narcissists.
They are terrible listeners. When having a conversation with a covert narcissist, it is painfully obvious they want you to shut up so they can resume talking. They look bored. They pretend they’re going to talk as you start to talk, then obviously stop talking, acting as if you interrupted them. They try to hurry your conversation up.
They create a false image of themselves. Covert narcissists are not as obvious in their delusions of grandeur like overt narcissists. They may even say depreciating things about themselves such as “I can’t do that.. I’m not talented.” “I’m not very smart.” This false image of modesty often makes people complement them & provide narcissistic supply when they make such comments. Some pretend to be stupid, when in fact they are quite intelligent, so people will take care of them & protect them. Others do for the people in their life to create the image of the self-sacrificing martyr who never thinks of herself.
They are smug. Narcissists look down on other people, whether they are covert or overt, but coverts are quieter about it. They may not tell a person flat out that they are better than the victim, but the victim knows this is how that person feels anyway. Covert narcissists have a look that conveys the message well. Or, they compare you unfavorably to someone else. My mother in-law told me how disappointed she was my husband married me instead of someone he used to date, which left me feeling not good enough to be a part of her family.
Covert narcissists have no empathy. Like their overt counterparts, covert narcissists have zero empathy. They don’t care about your pain unless it directly affects them. If you cry in their presence, they will look at you blankly. If there is a witness, the covert narcissist might offer you a hug or some kind words, but that is only to make the witness think well of them. They really don’t feel any empathy for you whatsoever.
Always the victim. Covert narcissists are always the victim. If they hurt you, & you confront them, you are mean/unreasonable/abusive/etc. They’ll even bring out the fake tears to attempt to make you feel guilty.
Covert narcissists fake apologize. On the off chance you get an apology from a covert narcissist, it is obviously fake. They don’t understand why what they did was wrong, but they feel forced to apologize to appease you & keep you providing their narcissistic supply. When there’s no way to get around that apology, it can be either passive/aggressive (“I’m sorry you feel that way”) or by saying things they think you would want to hear. Chances are, they’ll be dead wrong on what they think you want to hear, too.
They are extremely sensitive. Narcissists are all sensitive to any criticism, real or imagined, but covert narcissists are the worst. Any slight from you can have them crying about how cruel you are.
I’ve read quite a few times lately that victims of narcissistic abuse should never have compassion on narcissists. Narcissists don’t deserve compassion. Feeling sorry for them only opens the door for you to fall for their gaslighting & abuse.
Honestly, I don’t totally agree.
While it’s true having compassion on someone can lead you to tolerate things you normally don’t allow, that isn’t the case 100% of the time. For so many of us who have been abused by narcissists, we have learned what narcissism entails. We can predict the gaslighting & crazy making they will do, so we know how to deal with it when it happens. We also realize how healthy boundaries look, & have no trouble enforcing those boundaries. We are often also able to feel pity for the narcissist who abused us- after all, whatever made them the way they are must have been pretty terrible. Their behavior is so dysfunctional. It’s very sad. We can balance compassion for them with maintaining healthy behavior on our part.
God has enabled me to pray for my parents daily, even on those days I am so hurt & angry, I don’t care where they spend eternity. Sometimes, my prayers are very insincere, but I pray anyway because God understands how I feel & honors the fact I’m trying.
So why bother praying for them, especially during bad times? Why care at all for people who have hurt me so deeply, & who won’t even acknowledge I live with C-PTSD? They don’t deserve it! They’ve done too much while refusing to acknowledge anything they’ve done!
One reason is because God wants us to pray for other people, even those who have abused us. I also believe is because having compassion helps me to remember that I am NOT like them. Some examples of ways they are different than me are:
Narcissists don’t care about anything about anyone. People are nothing more than items to be used to benefit the narcissist. They are not entitled to normal human feelings, needs, wants, likes or dislikes.
Normal people though care about other people. Even people who have hurt us- we don’t wish awful things on those people. We may not actively wish the best on those people constantly, but we also don’t wish the worst on them.
Feeling compassion, even periodically, for the person who abused you, who made you experience indescribable pain, I think, can be a good thing. It’s a reminder that you are NOT like them! You instead have escaped what is meant to destroy you with your humanity in tact. That is really a big accomplishment! Definitely something to be proud of! Escaping narcissistic abuse without being bitter isn’t an easy task.
I truly believe that this is an individual thing though. Just because I’m good with feeling compassion for the narcissists in my life doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too. And you know what? That’s OK! God has very individualized plans for each person, even those in similar situations. I’ve met some people with narcissistic mothers who feel no compassion for them, only disgust their mothers chose this dysfunctional, abusive way of life. It doesn’t mean they’re carrying around bitterness or anger, only disgust for the poor choices their mothers have made. This works for them just fine. It enables them to keep firm & healthy boundaries in place or to stay no contact. It doesn’t hinder their healing process, either. So if you feel that having compassion for your narcissistic mother is wrong for you, don’t feel bad! That may just be the path for you.
On June 26, 1982, my great grandmother passed away. I absolutely adored her, & her death broke my 11 year old heart. I still miss her often.
Her death was the first death of someone close to me that I experienced as a child, & it was devastating. No less devastating was the fact my parents didn’t care. My father was caught up in his own grief. This was his grandmother who he loved dearly. My mother simply didn’t care about how anyone felt about her death but herself, so she offered me no comfort.
On the day of her viewing, my parents & I arrived at the funeral home, to be greeted at the door by my granddad. While he spoke with my parents, I looked around, & saw my great grandmother in the coffin. She was dressed in a lovely long pink dress. I remembered her wearing that same pink dress a few years earlier, as she rode with my parents & I to a wedding. I too was wearing a long pink dress. As we rode along, she patted my leg & said, “Us ladies in our long pink dresses.” That little gesture made me feel so special, & remembering it as she lay there in that same dress, made me burst into tears. My parents didn’t notice, but Granddad did. Even though this was his mother, & he was obviously hurting, he grabbed me & hugged me close as I cried uncontrollably.
As this scenario played in my mind as it often does around this time of year, I thought about something.
There is such a great lack of empathy in the world, & not only among narcissists. Not a lot of people will cry with someone who is crying, or get angry with someone who has been hurt. Many people preach forgive & forget. Others say you should get revenge on the person who hurt you. Still others say “Get over it. That was a year ago (or however long ago it was)”. And yet others compare your story to theirs, & yours always pales in comparison to how terrible their story is. They got over it- what’s wrong with you that you can’t?
When people open up to others, they are making themselves very vulnerable. They don’t need to be told they’re awful people for not forgiving & forgetting, or that they need to punish their abuser. They need someone to do what my granddad did on that sad day back in 1981- hug them & let them do what they need to do.
Writing about what I do, I’ve heard it all too, & thankfully, I’ve been able to develop a pretty thick skin. Even so, sometimes it really hurts me when someone says something heartless, such as I need to get over the abuse I’ve been through. Early in my healing, comments like that broke my heart! They made me feel like an utter failure. I even felt like I was disappointing God. He couldn’t possibly love someone like me, I thought.
My thoughts weren’t uncommon. Many people who have been abused feel the exact same way when insensitive comments are made to them.
How do you respond when people tell you their problems? I’d like to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to think about that question honestly. If you realize you need to improve your behavior in some way, then do it! You don’t want to hurt anyone! Obviously- otherwise you wouldn’t be listening & trying to help that person.
If you want to be a good listener & help others, then listen to them. Really listen! Don’t interject comments or advice, & let the speaker know you are listening. Nod & make eye contact. Only offer advice when asked. Touch the speaker’s hand or arm- a little physical contact often can help when words can’t. Maybe hug the speaker if you believe he or she is open to that. If you don’t know, ask if you can hug him/her. Let the speaker ask you questions if they want to. Offer to take the person out for a distraction if they seem interested. Going out for coffee or a walk in the park may be just what the person needs. If the person doesn’t necessarily want to talk, maybe turn on some music, dance around your living room & laugh a lot. Sometimes the smallest gesture can offer the greatest comfort. And, never forget to ask God what to do. He will give you ideas on what you can do to help.
Helping others isn’t really hard if you pay attention to people & get creative. And, as an added bonus, not only do you help that person, but you help yourself as well. Helping other people simply feels good! 🙂
Many of us who have been abused in some way have learned that other people, even strangers, like talking to us. I’ve had people in the grocery store or laundromat strike up a conversation & tell me their entire life stories. (One lady caught me twice in two different stores about six months apart- she apparently didn’t remember me from the first time) It’s strange to say the least, but I think it’s because some people are so desperate for some compassion, they’ll try to find it in a stranger.
Since many of you are also introverts like me, I know this can be uncomfortable. You probably want to just duck into a place, do what you came to do & leave quickly with minimal human interaction. (I even use the self-checkout lanes to eliminate interaction with one more person.) When a person decides to chit-chat, it can be annoying, especially if you’re in a rush.
I have begun to think a bit differently about this “annoyance.” I believe when this sort of thing happens, it is God putting you in a place to be a blessing to someone. Just listening to someone talk for a little while may make their day better or lighten the burden of the problem they discussed with you. Why not let the person talk for a while?
One evening recently, I saw my parents. I wasn’t in a good mood after leaving them. On the way home, I went by the post office to mail something out after hours yesterday using the machine in the lobby rather than dealing with people during regular business hours. A lady came in & dropped off a package while I was at the machine. Out of the blue, she told me about her day at work, which sounded very frustrating. The conversation lasted maybe five minutes, but it seemed to help her mood a bit. It also helped mine some because I had a distraction from my own situation for a few minutes. It was a small one, but I think a blessing for both her & I. And, as I’m writing, I also remembered to pray for her- I may not know her needs, but God does.
The next time you are in that somewhat awkward position of listening to a stranger, then why not just go with it for a while? You may be helping that person more than you know. You might even help yourself.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about people who have a disease or mental illness, who have the handicapped plates on their car receiving nasty notes on their car that say awful things like “You don’t look sick. Shame on you for using that parking place when someone who is really sick needs it!” Or, others who have problems that don’t show outward signs are faced with family members & friends who don’t believe they’re actually sick. These people are accused of things like looking for attention, faking it so they don’t have to work or even faking their illness so they can get certain drugs.
I’ve been on the receiving end of this myself. Having C-PTSD, some people think is a walk in the park. If only! Try to handle a flashback when you have to focus every ounce of strength on staying in reality versus getting lost in the flashback & I dare you to tell me it’s no big deal. Earlier this year, I’ve also been through getting a concussion when I passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning. Each day is now a gamble on how functional I can be, because both have done damage. But, since I look fine, & usually can hold a conversation fairly well, people assume I’m fine, or some will flat out insult me when my symptoms show up.
It can be so hard not to internalize people’s cruel, thoughtless words! All too often, I berate myself for being lazy when I don’t feel up to simple tasks or call myself stupid when I can’t remember things or can’t find the right words to express myself. Internalizing such things demoralizes you & makes you doubt the legitimacy of your symptoms. It can make you feel as if you’re crazy.
When I was 19, my mother threw me into a wall so hard, I had back pain for the next 10 years. No one believed me, except for one chiropractor & my ex husband then later my current husband. Everyone else said I was faking it, lazy, etc. It sank in. I doubted myself many times. Even in the midst of awful pain, I thought I was making it up so I didn’t have to work (the most common thing I heard). On good days when the pain wasn’t so bad, I was convinced I had to be lying & my back wasn’t so bad. It was a terrible feeling!
The fact is, with most injuries, diseases & disorders, you have good & bad days. Just because last Tuesday was a good day doesn’t mean you were lying about the other bad days! You simply had a good day!
Most people seem to lack empathy for those suffering from debilitating health problems. If you are one of them, STOP IT! How do you think you would feel if you had a serious problem & someone told you to get over it, stop faking it or even you don’t look sick? You wouldn’t tolerate it happily, so why should someone else?
If you are someone who has been on the receiving end of such ignorant, heartless statements, please remember that the person saying such nonsense has no idea what you live with each day. Ignore what they say. You know what you live with on a daily basis. You know your painful symptoms all too well. Ignore their words & believe what you see & feel, what you live with daily. Those things will show you that you are sick & that you aren’t lazy, faking, etc. While you take care of yourself, don’t forget to ask God to heal you. And, pray for the heartless person as well. Ask God to help them to have an empathetic, compassionate heart so they don’t continue to hurt you or other people.
I was talking with a good friend recently. She told me about something traumatic that happened to her a while back. She also said that many of her friends & relatives told her that she needed to get over it & trivialized her awful experience, rather than offer her compassion & support. Naturally, it upset her badly that people she expected to be compassionate were instead cold & unfeeling.
Unfortunately I understand her feelings all too well. Since I got sick at the end of February, I’ve experienced this same thing first hand more times than I can count, starting at the hospital. Apparently even a potentially deadly illness isn’t enough to warrant compassion from most people.
There is a terrible lack of love, empathy & compassion in the world today. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “1 But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]. 2 For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. 3 [They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. 4 [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. 5 For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them].” (AMP)
I firmly believe this is what is happening today, why people are so indifferent to the suffering of others. Look at how people behave. Money & things mean more than people & relationships. Animal & child abuse are commonplace, as is hypocrisy. And most importantly, God is rarely invited into, well, anything. Not many people have God as their top priority in life. Without God, it’s impossible to truly love people God’s way- full of compassion, caring, & great empathy.
Dear Reader, I’m certain you have been on the receiving end of this hurtful type of behavior. Your pain has no doubt been trivialized or even invalidated. (This is especially common for adult children of narcissistic parents, since our parents didn’t always leave bruises or broken bones like physically abusive ones did, & they act like good people around everyone but their own children.)
While there is certainly no way to control how people act & completely avoid their coldness, you can remember that a person who acts this way has a problem. That will help you not to internalize their words, thinking something is wrong with you for being upset over whatever trauma you experienced. You need to remember that, because you are not wrong, crazy, oversensitive, etc. for being upset when something bad happens to you.
And, also remember that people with problems naturally turn self-centered to varying degrees. Some people become so self-centered that they don’t have it in them to care about others who are also suffering. Remembering this too will help you not to internalize being treated so poorly.
I would like to also encourage you to consider how you react when someone tells you about a painful or traumatic experience. Do you offer compassion? Empathize with their pain? Or, are you so wrapped up in your own problems you refuse to see anything or anyone except what relates directly to you?
If you are the type to have a hard time empathizing when you too are suffering, it may be time to change that. Aside from the fact that behavior can be hurting others, being good to others also is good for you. It takes your mind off your problems, even if only temporarily. You also may learn that this person & you share a common problem, & now you have someone to talk about your problems with. You may be able to help each other!
Don’t know how to change this about yourself? Ask God for help. Ask Him to increase your empathy, to make you more aware of the feelings of others & to give you wisdom on how to help those He puts in your path & wisdom with your words. God will honor your prayer, & bless you for wanting to help others.
Many adult children of narcissistic parents grow into very compassionate, empathetic adults. We listen to others & offer support, even when strangers approach us in a grocery store & want to tell us their problems. We help generously. We’re often caregivers in many ways- taking care of the sick as well as providing emotional or even financial support to those in need. And, truthfully, we often enjoy it.
Whether you enjoy caregiving or not, though, sometimes it burns you out.
It’s like a bank account- you can’t withdraw money without ever putting in a deposit or you will overdraft your account. The exact same thing happens with your mental health- if you do nothing but give, there is nothing left over for you. You become tired, mentally & physically. You also become very irritable & bottle up your emotions. You may abuse substances or overeat. You isolate yourself because you feel you don’t have the energy or patience to deal with people. You become indifferent to their suffering. You have plenty of aches & pains without a physical cause & you have difficulty concentrating on things. Some people stop their good self-care habits, even hygienic habits.
This is a frustrating place to be! I’ve felt some degree of compassion fatigue for years, but it has reached a peak during my recent recovery. When all you can do is lay around & do very minimal tasks, it gives you plenty of time to think. I realized how very few people close to me genuinely cared about the fact I came very close to death recently. Very few have even asked how I’m doing more than once. Aside from the obvious anger about this, it hurt me badly. I have done my best to be there for those in my life as much as possible, & this is how I’m treated after trauma? This seemed to rocket the compassion fatigue into overdrive. As I write this, there aren’t many people I’m close to that I can muster up some empathy for at this time.
So.. how does one combat compassion fatigue? Honestly I had to research it because I’ve never found a way to do it on my own. The suggestions I’ve found are below along with some things I’ve been trying to do myself.
- Sometimes people won’t be there for you, but God will be. Give Him first priority in your life, & go to Him when you need comfort before you go to people.
- Don’t judge yourself for how you feel.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Practice good self-care rituals.
- Set & enforce good boundaries to give yourself a break as you need.
- Remember, when people come to you for help, you should do your best to point them back to God as much as possible, & not become a god to them by fixing their problems.
- Talk with others who understand how you feel.
- Participate in your hobbies often, or start new ones.
I hope this helps you to combat compassion fatigue & to achieve a healthier balance with helping other people. May God bless you!
Tomorrow, Christmas eve, would’ve been my 24th wedding anniversary, if I had stayed married to my ex husband.
The day always brings some conflicting feelings. Mostly, I am grateful I was able to get away from him, as he was a narcissist who treated me much like my narcissistic mother used to treat me. I can’t imagine how bad things would’ve been for me if I had stayed with him. Chances are good that I would have killed myself if we had stayed together. I was that depressed with him.
It also makes me sad though, when I think of how damaged I was back then. I knew marrying him was a mistake, which is why I had broken up with him a few months prior. Yet I still allowed him to talk me into marrying him anyway. I married him instead of continuing to date someone who I really enjoyed being with, because I believed my ex when he made me feel guilty for leaving him, & like I owed it to him to marry him for hurting him so badly.
It’s amazing the things that a child of a narcissist will do, isn’t it?
I’m sharing this embarrassing bit of information about myself with you today for a reason. I’m sure you too have things in your past that you regret. Bad choices made out of dysfunction, pain or even desperation to be loved. I want you to know that you’re not alone! You have nothing to be ashamed of! Mistakes like mine are a normal part of being raised by a narcissistic mother. You grow up so dysfunctional because all of your growing up years, you were told you were a horrible, stupid, ugly, selfish, etc. etc. person. You were blamed for things that weren’t your fault, & made to be responsible for things no child should be responsible for, such as her mother’s emotions. Things like this cause a tremendous amount of damage that permeates your innermost being well into adulthood. It is completely normal!
Please don’t do like I did for many years. I beat myself up for being so stupid & marrying someone I didn’t love, for falling for all of his manipulations, for being so starved for love that I believed him when he said he loved me, for ignoring my instincts that told me to stay far from him & for passing up a good man for a narcissistic one. I asked myself so many times how I could be so stupid, basically continuing the beating up of my self-esteem that both my mother & ex-husband started. It was wrong & cruel, & I showed myself no understanding or compassion. Don’t make that same mistake! You deserve so much better than that!
While yes, you have made mistakes & done dumb things, everyone has! No one is immune from making mistakes in their life, especially someone raised by a narcissistic mother. Show yourself some compassion & realize that you have been through some damaging things- it’s only natural you have made mistakes.
Also remember, God loves you & forgives you. If He forgives you, how can you not forgive yourself?
Be gentle & understanding with yourself, Dear Reader. You deserve it. xoxo
Good morning, Dear Readers!
I wanted to thank every single one of you who has contacted me over the last few days with encouragement, compassion & concern. Your kindness truly has meant the world to me, & I can’t thank you enough. I never expected such a response from my posts- it was a wonderful surprise. When I felt God wanted me to post what I did, I assumed it was for someone else’s benefit, not my own.
This truly goes to show that when you are rejected by your own family, God gives you a new one. Psalm 68:6 says, “He gives families to the lonely, and releases prisoners from jail, singing with joy! But for rebels there is famine and distress.” (TLB) This Scripture is so true, & you lovely people have proven it. Thank you!
Being raised by a narcissistic mother makes you feel completely alone like nothing else can, I think. That lonely feeling is there even when you are surrounded by others. It even goes with you into adulthood. The good thing is if you allow God to, He will send others into your life who understand & offer you unconditional love & support.
If you are on facebook, I have a group on there full of lovely, wise, caring people, many of whom have narcissistic mothers. I would love to see you join us! Here is the link:
If you aren’t on facebook, I also have a forum that I am trying to get started. Feel free to join in the conversation!
I noticed an unsettling trend today in things I was reading: extreme thinking with no balance. For example, one thing I read said we need to feel compassion for narcissistic people because they are so wounded. Yet, other things say we need to offer them no pity- just cut them out of our lives the moment we see even one narcissistic trait.
Neither solution is good, in my opinion. If you have only compassion for a narcissist, she will play on that, & use & hurt you constantly because you give no consequences for these actions. However, if you quickly deduce someone is a narcissist & cut them out of your life, that isn’t necessarily the right solution either. What if you judged this person wrong & they were only having a really bad day? Or, what if God has plans to use you to change that person? Some narcissists who are low on the spectrum can change, after all- maybe God wants to use you to change her heart somehow. In either case, you could be making a mistake by eliminating this person from your life too quickly.
I believe in order to be a mentally healthy person with an empathetic heart, you need to be balanced & avoid such extreme thinking. To understand that yes, someone who has abused or bullied you was deeply wounded, which is why he or she did those awful things to you, yet also understand that does not give this person a free pass to abuse.
Many victims of abuse in particular seem to think this way, without balance. Most commonly, I think, feel compassion & pity for their abuser or make excuses for the behavior. Often, they even accept the blame for the abuse. How many wives whose husbands beat them have you heard say, “It wasn’t his fault! He was drunk/If only I had done what he asked, he wouldn’t have done this!”? They don’t realize that while yes, it was terrible what happened to their abuser, that doesn’t give him or her the right to abuse anyone!
This extreme thinking & balance also fits judging the situations other people are in. How many people have very definite opinions on something so controversial as medical marijuana? Many people think it’s horrible- there is no excuse to use it! Others claim it is extremely helpful in alieviating pain when nothing else does. There don’t appear to be many people with more balanced thinking such as, “I’ve never tried it, & I doubt I ever would, however I understand that person is in such pain constantly, that he is desperate enough to want to try it.”
If you tend to think more extreme, then I would like to encourage you today to try to open your mind a bit more. Try to see things from other people’s perspectives. Imagine yourself in that person’s position. Ask God to give you a more caring, compassionate heart & perspective. Out of balance, extreme type thinking isn’t beneficial for anyone, but understanding, compassionate thinking will benefit everyone.
I’ve had a few conversations lately with people who have shared with me that no one cares about the trials they’re going through. Some have health problems, very serious ones at that, yet even their own families don’t care. Or worse yet, their own family members accuse them of faking their illness for attention or for drugs. Others have suffered great loss, even including death of a loved one, & are reminded frequently that they need to get over it (as if that’s possible when losing someone you love?!). And still others have endured abuse, either at the hands of their parents or a spouse or both, yet people in their lives act as if it’s no big deal. They say heartless things like, “Shake it off & move on!” “What’s wrong with you? That happened a long time ago- you need to get over it.”
This kind of thing sickens me. It makes me lose what little faith I had left in humanity.
It also clearly shows the difference between empathy & apathy.
According to merriam-webster.com, empathy means, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Also according to merriam-webster.com, apathy means, “the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state 1: lack of feeling or emotion.”
Empathy should be running rampant in society, especially considering how much suffering is happening constantly in the world, yet instead, apathy seems to be an epidemic instead. It’s truly sad.
There is such a thirst for compassion from people who are suffering, yet instead they are met with apathy & indifference. Or, possibly even worse yet, comparing their pain to another’s. Comments such as, “That’s not so bad. I had it much worse than you. You should be glad you didn’t go through what I did!” can be devastating due to their invalidation of one’s pain.
I want to encourage you to work on being more understanding & empathetic. There is such a great need for empathetic people, & empathy also seems to promote more empathy from others. (You will get empathy in return for giving it from most people.) You can’t help everyone in the world of course, but you never know how much you are truly helping another person. You may be like the first ripple in a lake- one tiny ripple creates more & more ripples that go out into larger & larger circles.
Displaying empathy will help other people, often more than they can put into words. Why not try it today? Empathy is also in the BIble- God commands His children to show empathy to one another. See the following Scriptures…
Matthew 7:12“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (ESV)
Ephesians 4:32ESV “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (ESV)
How do you develop empathy?
- The most important thing you can do is listen (without interrupting!) to those who are speaking to you.
- Watch the other person’s body language for cues on how they truly feel.
- Ask questions during the conversation to gather more information.
- Consider the other person’s life experiences that help to form their perspectives.
- Imagine how you would feel if you were in that exact same situation.
Mark 6:4 ” But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor (deference, reverence) except in his [own] country and among [his] relatives and in his [own] house.” (AMP)
This Scripture came to mind recently as it reminded me of something..
It seems like so many people have a serious physical or mental health problem, yet their families don’t believe they are as sick as they say, are faking their illness for attention or only to get those ‘good drugs.’ Personally I have been told to get over my past, learn to fix things with my parents, think more positive & just get a pill- that will fix it. I’ve also heard that I am wrong-that my parents aren’t so bad, I need to cut them some slack since they aren’t getting any younger yanno…
I have tried in vain to make other people close to me see the truth of my situation to no avail, & I have seen other people do the same with people close to them. Witnessing this made me realize exactly how fruitless it really can, & that some people, often those closest to you, just do not care. Unfortunately, people are so hungry for validation, that we sometimes keep beating that dead horse.
While it is certainly understandable to want that validation, especially from those closest to us, sometimes it is time to realize it won’t happen. When discussing your symptoms or your condition, sometimes you can tell when the other person is not interested in the subject at hand. They may look bored or try to change the subject repeatedly. They also may say invalidating things such as, “it can’t be that bad,” “It must be nice for you, not having to get up & go to work in the morning,” or defend the person who abused you “Well, I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way,” or “she did the best she could by you.”
If your conversation takes a turn like this, it’s time to make a decision- is it worth continuing to try to convince this person that you have an actual problem or should you just stop?
I have decided to stop wasting my time. It just isn’t worth the frustration on my part or making the other person angry. It hurts, but I have accepted that some people just aren’t capable of the empathy or compassion it takes to be supportive of me.
People who genuinely know & care won’t be invalidating. They will be supportive & not judgmental. They know you well enough to know you aren’t making anything up or exaggerating. People like that are a wonderful blessing!
I am also very blessed with wonderful, wonderful fans who email me often not only to say thank you for something I wrote that helped them, but also sometimes to offer me encouragement. 🙂 It seems strange to me that people I’ve never met care more than some who are closer to me, but apparently it happens. Obviously Jesus understood it well & experienced it firsthand.
I was watching Bishop T.D. Jakes this morning. He said something that struck a chord in me- “Some people don’t confront what’s wrong, they comfort it.”
This is so true of many people. So many folks can’t seem to handle deep issues, only light & happy things. When you tell one of these people anything about your abusive mother, they just can’t handle it. They make excuses for her behavior, blame you, tell you it’s your place to make things right with her, or say other stupid things like “She’s the only mother you’ll ever have!” They have similar responses if you have mental health problems- “You need to get out more,” “Cheer up!”, “Think happy thoughts!”, “You need to get over it.”, “You’re not a soldier- you can’t have PTSD!”
Everyone who opens up about being abused or having mental health issues has to deal with someone like this at some point. It’s painful, especially when it comes from someone you are close to, & you expected to be supportive. I just want you to remember something- when someone behaves this way, it doesn’t mean you are crazy, wrong, need to make things right with your mother. When someone can’t handle the “ugly” things in life, that is something wrong with them, not you. Please remember that!
You need to exercise wisdom on how much you tell who about your experiences since some people, even ones you’re close to, may never be able to handle tales of your experiences. Only discuss your experiences with compassionate, non-judgmental people.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to be silent about your experiences! I personally believe that although God doesn’t want painful things to happen to you, He can create a purpose for them. For me, I have been able to help other daughters of narcissistic mothers via my books & website. I don’t know what your purpose is, but rest assured, you have a purpose for surviving what you have survived! Ask God to show you your purpose, & He will!