7 Ways to Prevent Apathy From Overtaking Empathy

In these highly charged times, many are asking, “Whatever happened to empathy?” From shunned victims of violence to those who ridicule another’s beliefs, people seem to have lost the capacity to compassionately experience the feelings of others—particularly others’ suffering. What was once considered human nature to feel for another person’s hardships is disappearing before our eyes.

Why is this lack of empathy occurring? Many ordinarily caring people are experiencing compassion fatigue and have shut down emotionally. Many of us are on sensory overload. We feel exhausted, overwhelmed, burned out and powerless to deal with the ongoing crises in the world. This is especially true for empaths—those individuals who are high on the empathic spectrum. We can point to many causes.

Yet empathy is the key human quality that will heal personal relationships and the world. Empathy lets us see commonalities in all people, not just their differences. Even if we disagree with others, we can get a clear sense of their point of view. Empathy doesn’t mean we’re naive or lack the ability to make discerning choices. Empathy gives us the edge in successful communication by letting us overcome differences and come from a place of understanding rather than a polarizing us versus them attitude.

Use these seven strategies from The Empath’s Survival Guide to heighten your sense of empathy and prevent burnout:

1. Take a media break. 

For at least a few hours of the day, turn off the TV, radio or Internet and give yourself a break from news. This will lower the stress hormones surging through your body and lower your stimulation level. Honor your sensitivities. Take time out to meditate, be in nature, take baths, practice deep breathing and relax your body and mind so you’ll feel replenished and will have more to give to yourself and others.

2. Listen empathically to others.

Listening with the heart is not the same as listening with the head. It’s the difference between taking in what someone is saying before asserting your own point of view, and listening to understand the intent behind the words. We need to withhold judgment to better understand others’ views. Then we can make the smartest choices about how to get through to someone, and not simply react every time our buttons get pushed.

3. Let go of resentments. 

The intense polarization in our world has led us to develop resentments against those perceived as “other.” It has moved us away from trying to find common ground with someone, or even agreeing to disagree. Grudges against others destroy empathy, and research shows they impair health and longevity. It’s a way of giving up on a relationship, and essentially on humanity. Instead, examine your grudges and work to make peace with those you believe have wronged you—or those you believe to be wrong.

4. Protect yourself from narcissists. 

People who are narcissists have an empathy deficient disorder, meaning their brains aren’t wired to feel empathy like a normal person. They may also be pathological liars, rewriting the past or dismissing facts. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by a narcissist. Empathic people, or people high on the empathic spectrum, such as empaths, are particular targets because it’s harder for them to believe narcissists possess no capacity for empathy. But narcissists cannot be won over with love. It’s better to break any ties or lower your expectations before they make you question your own reality.

5. Realize that empathy is stronger than apathy. 

Instead of discrediting empathic actions, as we often see on the news, we need them as models for how to bridge, not aggravate, differences. Coming from a place of empathy doesn’t make you naďve or ignorant. It allows you to weigh values with both your head and heart to make smart decisions for your own life and the greater good.

6. Foster empathy within yourself. 

Empathy is one of the most valuable emotional resources we have. It allows our hearts to go out to other people when they experience pain and difficulty, and lets us experience their happiness in times of joy. As we empathize with others, we actually become better at fostering empathy within ourselves. Feeling positive about ourselves boosts endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones that promote health and a sense of well-being.

7. Guard yourself from toxic people. 

Practice a shielding visualization when you’re around people displaying malicious or cruel behavior. Picture a comforting shield of white light surrounding your body from head to toe, protecting you and not allowing negativity or toxicity in. Think about how the shield guards against negativity overtaking your capacity to empathize.

 

Judith Orloff, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of the new book, The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (Sounds True, April 4, 2017), and offers an invaluable resource to help empathic people survive in an often insensitive world. She has a Facebook Empath Support Community with more than 6,000 members. Learn more at drjudithorloff.com.

51 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S1 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Telica R
Telica R2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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scarlett g.
scarlett g2 months ago

Much needed article in these "difficult" times. Care2 COULD HELP GREATLY, by eliminating the constant "TAKE STAND" political articles that run rampant on this site.....
ALMOST BEGGING for dissent & tacky comments.....

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Jerome S
Jerome S2 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jess B
Jess B3 months ago

Thanks

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rosario p
rosario p.3 months ago

LET YOUR HEART TALK TO YOUR BRAIN.

- Heart contains a little brain in its own right. The human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses a heart-brain composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn and remember. The heart COMMUNICATES to the brain in several major ways and acts INDEPENDENTLY of the cranial brain. Our heart processes all emotions When we experience sincere positive emotions, such as caring, compassion or appreciation, the heart processes these emotions, and the heart’s rhythm becomes more coherent and harmonious, generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. This information is sent to the brain and the entire body neurologically, biochemically, biophysically and energetically. - * https://www.heartmath.org/resources/downloads/science-of-the-heart/?submenuheader=3 - SCIENCE OF THE HEART. Exploring the role of the heart in human performance . entire book.
* * https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/

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william Miller
william Miller3 months ago

Thanks

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

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