Lately I’ve been talking to other Empaths about how we are set up to tolerate behavior that is directly hurtful to us. In these relationships the Empath usually feels taken advantage of and obligated to stay in a friendship that does nothing for the Empath but the other person in the relationship expects the Empath’s support and time and connection. How do we create such situations, and how can we extricate ourselves?
In my latest book, the Empath and Shadow Work, I give an example of such a situation. The Empath gets projected upon as a nurturing mother figure such that the other person in the relationship expects the Empath to take care of his emotional needs, but cannot see that his expectations are unreasonable. While the example in the book is extreme, I find that this scenario happens quite often in Empath friendships. In this case the Empath saw her friend’s Shadow very clearly, but the friend was triggered and trapped in his pattern that was predictably going to lead to a relationship failure. He couldn’t understand when the Empath refused to play her role in his Drama and walked away from a years long friendship.
If we are the one who is projected upon, we will feel obligated to play out our expected role. If we don’t understand the set up, we can feel tremendous guilt for wanting to leave the relationship and anger for feeling obligated to stick around in a draining situation. We need to be careful to step away the Drama Triangle because it always leads to an unhappy outcome. However, not playing will also likely lead to an uncomfortable outcome as well as the other person feels abandoned, neglected, and even betrayed, and will likely attack us for that.
Their inability to understand is NOT our problem!!! Even if we explain to the other person that they need to go do their Shadow Work, they may not believe it or be willing to listen. Empaths can still feel obligated to stick around for the blinded person even after we have explained our side. Don’t stick around out of obligation. That person needs to go do their personal work by first asking himself how this person that he has so trusted could decide to distance himself from the relationship. He can exercise his choice to become conscious or not, to do his work or not. We do not need to tolerate hurtful or draining or abusive behavior from anyone, including old friends and even family. We do not need to help someone indulge in their fantasy of how friendship should be.
While this assertion may seem harsh to many Empaths, it is essential to be able to exercise our right to be free of relationships that cause us harm, that are not reciprocal in deepness or understanding, and that irritate us much of the time. People with good boundaries do not feel guilty for having good boundaries. Remember that feeling guilty over leaving this kind of relationship is a set up that keeps us tied in to the other person energetically and leaves us open to psychic attacks. We are not responsible for working on a relationship to the other person’s satisfaction. We get to decide what is good for us and what is too much for us.
If you see yourself as the one that has been inexplicably abandoned in the relationship, it is important to take the painful look at your own behavior, including if you have a pattern of relationship failures in which the other person walks away without enough of an explanation. If the pattern is there, your Shadow is in play and you have Shadow Work to do. The first step to healing is admitting that you have a blindspot and are creating a hurtful situation for yourself and the other person unintentionally. Then the deep and uncomfortable work can begin. If the work happens, there’s a strong possibility that the original relationship can be salvaged as well.
Here’s to being guilt free about setting good boundaries!