There are a number of types of guilt, but none as harrowing as that which we put ourselves through, whether it is well deserved or imagined. There is also the type which rises out of the words of others, but these only go on to fuel what was within us already.
Empathic guilt, for someone who is drowning in self loathing already, will, as a result, be a much more powerful hit against their ego. It will push them further down into the stagnant waters of their own festering psyche.
But before we go further, we should look at what empathic guilt is exactly and what sets it apart from other types of guilt.
Empaths are highly emotional people, as a general trait. They tend to have low self esteem and self worth, and will often times base their own view of themselves on how others see them (since they have the ability to see through other people's eyes).
Imagine having a parent who did nothing, as you grew, but berate, belittle, and malign you. On the surface this seems like nothing more than emotional/psychological abuse, but for someone who was hypersensitive emotionally anyway, this can become the beginnings of a self defeating cycle which will repeat itself over and over again throughout that person's life.
For this type of person, there is a natural evolution. They learn to tap down their own emotions, while focusing on others. They become kings/queens of avoidance. They become people pleasers, because any intense emotion (anger, fear, sorrow, horror, rage) is like taking a punch to the gut. They become afraid of the intensity of intimacy and relationships, often causing them to isolate themselves in their shells.
And in the relationships they do have, they tend to hover around those who are suffering, because in this, they can be a salve to any wound. They also, sometimes, end up in relationship which reinforce their already low opinion of themselves. This can take the form of any type of abuse, and will even pour down onto their children.
This sounds like every abused person you've ever met right? That in and of itself is part of this discussion. We are human beings who are prone to all of the adversities that others are. Our personalities are shaped through our experiences, just like everyone's is. But when you add to that mix the ability to see through others eyes, you can end up with double or even triple the load a regular person would bear. It becomes the only reinforcement that that person needs to keep them wallowing in self pity, silently hurting themselves over and over gain, because they deem themselves worthy of nothing more than that.
But the truth is much different than the tinted windows through which they see themselves in respect to the world around them. On one side of the coin you have a victim, who can not rise above their own suffering to move forward in their own life and who repeats a cycle of self mutilation over and over again. On the other, you have someone who has learned to cope with their problems, who has let go of those silent voices, which forever mock and belittle the Empath as trash, a freak, or just plain crazy.
So the amount of guilt you feel in your life, is based on the value you place on yourself. If you have none, then you draw those kinds of people, experiences and cycles to you. If you have even a moderate amount of self worth, then imagine the possibilities of what you could draw to your side.
Hyper sensitive, empathic, and other terms of the same ilk, do not have to mean you are a perpetual victim or martyr. And just because someone holds no value on you, does not mean no one ever will. But if it does not start with you, others will not see it either. So to be a truly functioning Empath, you must be the most important person in the room, to yourself, even as you give of yourself to others in need. Otherwise, there is no balance, and the one who will perpetually suffer is you. This is what is meant when one says they live in their own personal hell, or that they feel like a bird in a cage.
We, each of us, determine how others see us. We choose this by how we see ourselves.
In my own life, there were very few who saw real value in me. Verbal abuse reverberated through my head, particularly when I was about to achieve something worthwhile in my life. And for a long time I wanted to blame those voices of self recrimination on those who had said them in the first place. But no one forced me to keep a running tab of insults thrown at me. That was my own doing, just as it was my own inner voice which whispered those hurtful things at me, beneath the mask of others voices.
For a long time, I could find no escape from this cycle of self mutilation. And at my lowest, I saw no point in continuing to live. But when a time arose that I found myself completely alone and finally surrendered out of shear exhaustion, I was forced to face myself in my entirety. There were real parts of me I could not stand. There were also other things which made me feel, for the first time in a long time, pride in myself. And the reality is, even knowing those bad things about myself, didn't make it better. It is one thing to know of something, and another to accept it. And it took time to go from one step to the next. And with this, there are never any guarantees. But when Pandora opened the box filled with the world's sorrows, what she found at the bottom of the box, when it had been emptied, was hope. And so, too, can you. ^_^