As healthy Empaths, we can grow increasingly aware of when we take on the unwanted emotions of another, but we may not realize when we take on emotions for an entire group. This can be extremely draining and horribly confusing, since the group will need to keep its processor and scapegoat in place so it doesn’t have to deal with the feelings the unwitting Empath has taken on.
I had a client who was an uncontrolled empath. She didn’t realize when she was being pulled into relationships in order to process another’s energy for them. She had married into a family that had an extremely emotionally dissociated member who acted as a Hero for the family. Because this person was so dissociated, his family members couldn’t talk to him about problems in a way that could be heard, and they were also invested in reinforcing this person’s role as Hero. So, the family members talked behind this person’s back to relieve their tension.
My client understood that this person had become dissociated because of childhood experiences, and had sympathy and compassion for him. She found it unbelievably unfair and inauthentic when the rest of the family complained behind the dissociated person’s back, but to his face, everything was presented as being well and happy. She could tell that this person was under considerable stress, and was acting out that stress by unconsciously rebelling against the role set out for him by engaging in crazy-making behavior.
This family was uncomfortable with the negative feelings they had toward the emotionally dissociated person, especially since their identity as a family depended on a sense of harmony and success. If the family members dealt with their negative emotions they were going to uncover the unconscious sense of doom and failure for having such an unhealthy family member. To compensate, they tried to push their unwanted emotions outward by venting and gossiping behind this person’s back. The Empath, being empathic, started absorbing these thoughts and emotions.
Suddenly she went from being very understanding and sympathetic toward the emotionally dissociated person, to very judgmental and frustrated. She started speaking out about this person in ways that the other family members had before, but this was totally out of character for her. She was now the spokesperson for all the unwanted angry feelings of the group, so her actions and words and more significantly, feelings, were intensified by the number of people for whom she was processing.
What was interesting was that the angry family members didn’t feel so angry toward the emotionally disconnected family member; they had successfully shifted their unwanted emotions to the Empath. Instead, they could look at the Empath and see how over the top her anger was, and focus their disdain there instead of look at how they themselves were uncomfortable. The Empath became the perfect distraction from the underlying cause of the tension within the family. Interestingly, the emotionally dissociated family member, when confronted by the angry Empath, compensated by behaving in ways that would please his family; he began producing new members, making sure to select a mate that everyone would like, unconsciously living up to the unspoken goal of gathering more members into the fold.
With their reformed member, the Empath was now the scapegoat. If only the Empath didn’t feel the way she did, then they’d have a happy family. If only the Empath would forgive and forget about things, then they’d have a happy family again. If only the Empath would accept the emotionally dissociated member as he was, they could all be together again.
Of course, the Empath didn’t like being the scapegoat. She began to defend herself by pointing out the original cause of the tension: the actions of the emotionally dissociated person. Actually, the group at this point had a big investment in not listening to the Empath. Now that their tension was gone, they wanted to keep it that way. If the empath was not to blame, then they’d have to take their feelings back and perhaps bring those feelings to painful consciousness.
So, the task for the Empath, once she becomes a scapegoat, is to stop colluding with the group. This Empath stepped out of the role, realizing that she had no control over how the rest of the family members saw her. But, the group members did all they could to keep her in that role. They literally invited angry behavior from the Empath by treating her badly and laying blame directly at her feet. All of this was done unconsciously so they could later tell themselves that the Empath was the problem. My client also had to become conscious about the ways that she unconsciously invited a snubbing or a rejection from the group, which kept her feeling angry and betrayed. For the Empath, she asked herself over and over, what role am I playing here? Does this add to the chaos or clear up the energy? Am I really angry or is this the old game?
She had to painstakingly sort through her own feelings of anger and betrayal at each of the family members. As she did so, she was able to shift her perception enough to see the original understanding and compassion she had for the emotionally dissociated member. She saw that this person was also trapped into a role by the group, and that his bad past behavior was an acting out against the role he had been cast in. But because this person was so dissociated and so unconscious, he was doomed to repeat hurtful behavior. The Empath stood by her choice to not have a relationship with the dissociated person to ensure that she would not be pulled into any more drama.
As for the other family members, their insistence on making the Empath the problem made it impossible for her to have a healthy relationship with them. However, with one or two members who were willing to look at how they helped create the situation, a new relationship was able to develop between them and the Empath. The irony about the whole affair was that the scapegoat did bring the hidden feelings of fear of losing family cohesiveness to a head: the family’s worst fears were realized. But, instead of using it as an opportunity to heal, the family most likely will continue to keep the Empath as the scapegoat and become even more entrenched in holding the appearance of a happy harmonious extended family from that point until the next family crisis and opportunity for healing arises.
Being a scapegoat is a horribly painful situation to fall into as an Empath. In order to avoid it happening, Empaths must learn to tell the difference between their emotions and other’s emotions. Also, when they notice a group of people becoming worked up over someone else or an issue in a negative fashion, they must be careful not to sympathize so as not to risk being caught in the emotional whirlwind. The best action is to stay detached, and if that is too difficult, to quietly leave the scene.