The Effects of Empathy and Over-Giving

13 November 2019
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The season of giving is quickly approaching. It becomes a motto that everyone chants, and generally, it is a way of life that betters our society. Charitable giving boosts spirits and possibly health and wellness, but what happens when a person over-gives? What does it even mean to give too much?

Over-giving is a term most commonly linked to Empaths; however, it does not solely impact this type of person. Over-giving can be a trait within anyone, and includes any type of giving – physically, mentally, or emotionally. Empaths tend to naturally react to stress physiologically, which can have physical health consequences. Understanding that over-giving is the opposite of giving to yourself (aka ‘filling your own cup’), if you are an empath, you are at an even greater risk of experiencing the negative effects of over-giving.

Multiple studies have linked empathy to over-giving, and these are both linked to ‘burn out.’ Once burn out occurs, the immune system is triggered, depression flares, and a person is at higher risk of illness – both physically and mentally.

Over-givers are generally giving because they are:

  • truly thinking they are helping someone or something 
  • hoping for something in return
  • wanting to be appreciated
  • wanting to be loved
  • needing to feel good about themselves
  • wanting to be seen
  • thinking nobody else is able
  • constantly feeling guilty

When one over-gives, they think they are giving because it is the right thing to do – or worse, that they have to do it, when (whether they know it or not) there is another, deeper routed issue. They go against their own needs and break their own boundaries, causing a downward spiral of personal guilt, shame, and inability to balance life healthily. Of course, this leads to lowered self-esteem. 

“Over-giving tends to come not from generosity, but from hidden needs. It is an energetic transaction where we expect a return, even if that is just praise, appreciation, or to stop feeling guilty. And when we give too much, we feel depleted, not energized. We might even feel annoyed at ourselves or with the other person.”

Thanks to recent research, we now understand that military spouses’ empathy for their spouses is a risk factor for their own mental health. However, there has yet to be a call to action for this heightened risk, nor has further research been published on the link between a military spouse over-giving herself through empathy or due to stress. The research also highlights that women have a higher chance of being under empathic concern and personal distress dispositions.

If you are an Empath, you also have great strengths. Reading other’s energy can be exhausting, yes, but with strong boundaries, you can utilize your trait in a healthy and powerful manner. You can become an Empowered Empath. This means that you…

“know you are not responsible for someone else’s destructive behavior; you know how to show compassion from a distance if you need to; and most importantly, you honor yourself enough to cherish and expect reciprocity as a must-have in your relationships. You know how to engage in radical self-care, with the full conviction that the more you learn to care for yourself, the more you’ll have to give to others.  You can follow through with your boundaries and are able to cut off toxic interactions before they have a chance to escalate.”

If you are not yet feeling empowered with your boundaries, know that it will take time and practice with implementing them, but boundaries will keep you balanced. Saying no will become easier over time.

If you have found yourself in a relationship where you are over-giving, reevaluate your energy. Chronic fatigue, cold symptoms, frequent stomach pain, depression, anxiety, and weight fluctuation are all signs that your body is not in balance due to a burn out, which all stems from your over-giving. Again, boundaries are needed. 

Taking time to fill your own cup and devote your personal energy on your own personal self may seem impossible, but it is needed for you to ever truly find balance – and feel complete. 

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28368154

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28954529

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24705887

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25260827

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29490966

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/isnt-what-i-expected/201403/are-you-over-giver-1