Hello there, lady empath.
It’s no surprise that most empaths are female. Or at least, those who wind up on my site, and are consciously seeking out information for it.
(There are male empaths, too, but many men growing up in patriarchal cultures are not rewarded for ‘being in their feelings’, and are thus often in hiding – you guys will get an article of your own!)
Empaths are created by their environments as much as they are born that way.
Many empaths grew up in environments where their innate sensitivity had to be used for survival within confusing or even dangerous family dynamics – to figure out subtexts, to sense when someone was about to get angry or upset, to smooth over frayed nerves.
As a child whose survival depended solely on your parents, it made sense, especially to a child-mind, to preserve the peace at all costs. Conflict and anger read as danger, especially as a young child. Your life depended on it, no matter how exaggerated this claim may seem to you now as an adult.
As a result, your natural sensitivity had to over function and do double duty in order to uphold dysfunctional family dynamics.
This behavioral expectation multiplies tenfold if you are female, in a family where your father plays the dominant role, within a society where it’s mostly men who hold positions of power.
In patriarchal cultures in general, women are expected to be the empathic ones, to be the one who bends, who nurtures, who gives. Or they are kept down, made to be smaller, made to accommodate. Girls are inundated with messages about who they are meant to be and how they should behave.
Reflection: what messages did you receive about being a girl/woman? How do you view yourself as a woman? What are your thoughts about femininity in general?
As a result of environmental factors, media messages and necessity, your sensitivity may have served in some way to support these unequal dynamics of power, both within the family and without.
Change is possible; seeing yourself as part of a whole releases you from self-blame
Your responses were learned, not innate, and that’s why if you are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or stormy family drama right now, it’s possible to change. There is hope, and it is possible for you to have a healthy, creative, fruitful life with fulfilling relationships.
Many empaths often blame themselves for the situations and relationship patterns they find themselves repeating. While it’s important to take personal responsibility for your side of things, it’s just as important to understand why they came to be. Understanding the root of conflicts help us to solve things from the core.
This is why it’s always important to see yourself as part of the whole, of the society and the culture you live in. As spiritual beings in physical bodies, we are navigating our lives in a very real, very material world. It interacts with you, and shapes you, as much as you interact with it.
And when you learn how it has shaped you, you can now be more mindful of the messages you consume, and the energies you allow into your life going forward. Do they reinforce your strengths, or do they reduce you and make you smaller?
Self-blame is not helpful
So if you’re blaming yourself for having difficulty establishing boundaries, wondering why you tend to make way for narcissists energetically and physically, or why you tend to invite in or attract bullies – or if you have decided to freeze over your heart in order to cope in an unfeeling world, don’t. You responded to the extent you knew how to, based on what little information you had – blaming yourself for this is unnecessary and being way too hard on yourself.
You did what you could to survive in an unequal world, where people are often interested in preserving status quo to serve their own ego needs; where your sensitivity may have also been used to others’ advantage.
However, this isn’t about blaming others, either!
It’s about recognizing your role in a system.
Once you recognize the system, you become at choice when it comes to participating in it.
And choice is the most important thing for an empath, who often feel that they have ‘no choice’.
So now that you know: you can choose. You can choose to release self-blame, and to free that energy up to focus on your empowerment: pulling your power back within yourself, to tread your own path with increasing freedom and lightness.
Everything begins with your choice. It’s the most powerful thing you have.
(art by Tyler Feder)