What Healthy Empathy Looks Like Through Betrayal
This topic came up in a group when someone asked us, “What if I have too much empathy – what if my empathy is coming back to bite me on the butt?”
Empathy is so complex when we’re talking to women in betrayal trauma. And even within this specific container, there are so many nuances: having too much empathy, having too little empathy, how betrayal trauma affects your capacity for empathy with your children.
As we hone in on one area for the sake of starting somewhere, we encourage you to discern for yourself how you’re doing in these different areas. Ultimately, we hope to guide you towards embracing empathy in a way that’s healthy for you.
What real empathy is
As Brene Brown says, empathy is a tool of compassion. So when you can respond empathetically, what that means is you’re willing to be present to someone’s pain. How often are you willing to be present to your own pain and/or the pain of others?
Brene goes on to say, “We need to dispel the myth that empathy is walking in someone else’s shoes. Rather than walking in your shoes, I need to learn how to listen to the story you tell about what it’s like in your shoes and believe you, even when it doesn’t match my experience.”
We want to empathize with what someone else is feeling by remembering a similar experience of our own and realizing that we can resonate, that we get it. Otherwise, we’re taking on and feeling things for the other person, and that becomes problematic.
Healthy empathy versus hyper empathy
In hyper empathy, we can feel like we’re empathetic, but it may actually be hypervigilance, which a lot of women with betrayal trauma encounter.
That’s when we’ve become so attuned to our partner’s emotions that we stay on very high alert to everything they’re feeling. Because if they’re experiencing negative emotions, we associate that with negative repercussions that we want to avoid, so our brain develops a sense of alarm via hyper empathy to keep us safe.
Real, healthy empathy makes it much easier to connect – whether with ourselves or with our partners.
- The two main types of empathy and the way each dynamic works
- How to know whether you’re empathetic or hypervigilant
- The importance of differentiating your emotions from someone else’s emotions
- Attributes of empaths and how to become an empathetic listener
- How to stay in your bubble and allow others to stay in theirs while still offering empathy and compassion
- How healthy empathy can help us create a good ‘do-over’
Mentioned in the show:
Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown
Meet the Faces Behind the Voices
Choose To Be is focused on women healing from infidelity, betrayal trauma, or from the sexual acting out of their spouse. We are a Christian based company, committed to helping women heal. Come be part of the conversation as we interview experts, others who have gone through this journey, as well as gain tools to help you move forward.