How can an empath lack empathy?
As a child I experienced trauma. From sexual abuse to physical abuse to emotional abuse – all of it was prominent in my life at one point or another. Although the experiences themselves were awful, by themselves these were not the most traumatic piece. The biggest trauma occurred when the adults who were entrusted to care for me were unable to help me process these experiences.
For many of us who experienced trauma as children, the traumatic events themselves were not the biggest issue. Issues start to come when we are not held and witnessed in these experiences. As children we need loving adults around us to help us co regulate, to help us realize that we are worthy and that what happened to us was not okay. In order to do that our caregivers (or parents) needed to have healed their own trauma.
In our society this has not been the norm.
If you are curious about trauma this page shares some in depth infromation about how adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) affect us over the long term.
Hurt people hurt people
In both my teen years and those young twenties I was carrying an immense amount of pain. Through what I saw in the world it made sense in my mind that to succeed in this world I needed to be tough. I needed to be mean. Ditch that sensitive side and buck up.
What that meant for me was I adopted certain traits. I’ve always been loud. I’m not sure if that is because I grew up in house where there was a lot of yelling or if it’s just my natural predisposition. But as a woman who society would rather see as demure and soft spoken my loudness was not appreciated.
I also found myself actively pursuing the things I wanted. Which was often seen as aggressive. The imagery all around me in life was showing me power over was the only way to be successful. Power over seemed to be needed. I was never one to back down from a challenge so took it on.
It wasn’t very comfortable for me and in fact looking back now I can see how this exacerbated my nervous system response of being stuck in fight/flight. I often felt like I had to prove myself and my worth out in the world.
All the decisions I made during that time in my life were made through the lens of the traumas I had experienced. I had put my armor on so that I could walk in the world. If I had allowed my true nature to lead me I don’t think I would have survived. Although I was and still am an empath I was completely lacking in empathy because of the armor I had built around my heart. It is possible for an empath to lack empathy.
Parenting stopped me in my tracks
In my mind 30’s when I had my daughter my heart cracked open. I found myself struggling immensely once again. This time however there was no longer a way to bottle this up. Parenting for me meant that a piece of my heart was now on the outside of my body. That meant that my armor was no longer accessible.
Everything felt unsafe (although I wouldn’t have called it this at the time). All my emotions started spilling out. Of course, I did what any normal person would do. I tried to push every single one of those emotions back down into my body.
Throughout the years of parenting my daughter I had a ton struggles. My daughter was strong willed and with my power over mentality – we were constantly stuck in power struggles. Not only did I hate the constant power struggles but I also was becoming more and more uncomfortable in myself.
There really are other options
I remember the moment I realized there was another option. I was in session with someone to help me alleviate my suffering. We were talking about parenting and my daughter. The practitioner said to me that she could see in my energy body how this fight was happening. It was in that moment that I realized there was another way.
A way that felt more in line with my true nature. There were still rules and ideas of the way things are supposed to be done on this new path AND there was space for softness.
The next season
After that I realized how important it was to heal my traumas. I wanted to BE kind and compassionate in my life. Not only with others but with myself first and foremost. I also knew I needed to have strong boundaries in order not to be swept up into owning all the problems in the world.
I spent many years working on this aspect of myself. Regulating my nervous system. Healing my trauma. Allowing myself to become the parent I wanted to be.
These days my daughter and I have a deep, connected, relationship. There are still many moments where we fight. She is 16 and her job is to push the boundaries. We also have many incredible moments. Moments where I allow her to see me as a person and not just a parent. I spend lots of time apologizing when I am not being the best version of myself. Modelling the imperfection and ownership of my mistakes.
Looking back through my journey I can see how and why I was an empath lacking empathy in my earlier days.
These days I am comfortable in feeling my feelings and allowing those that are not mine to move through me rather than getting pushed down into my body.
I hope you now know an empath can lack empathy due to trauma. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
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