I know this is going to be a tough discussion for some of you to read. And it might bring up thoughts of false prophets like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite, but those are extreme cases of terrible abuse perpetrated on innocent people in the name of religion. And they have no bearing on this discussion. What we will be talking about is something more along the lines of Super Empath Syndrome. But to understand it, we must understand some basic definitions. And some of these definitions might be a little bit touchy for some people, but keep reading as it will all make sense by the end. So lets start at the beginning, as we always do, and work our way through this topic.
A Note: This discussion is NOT about religion in any way, even if some of the terms used can also be applied to a religious context.
An Empath is a person who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. Empathy is the capability to share your feelings and understand another's emotion and feelings and is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes".
A Superhero is "a fictional character of unprecedented powers dedicated to acts of daring-do in the public interest".
1. an invincible, all-powerful hero of a kind found in comic books
2. any person regarded as having extraordinary ability in some field
1. A group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease, psychological disorder, or other abnormal condition.
2. a. A complex of symptoms indicating the existence of an undesirable condition or quality. b. A distinctive or characteristic pattern of behavior
1. One who saves, preserves, or delivers from destruction or danger.
2. One who brings salvation to men,
1. the expected king and deliverer of the Jews
2. a professed or accepted leader of some hope or cause
A Messiah Complex is a state of mind in which the individual incorrectly believes he/she is, or is destined to become, a savior.
The term Martyr is most commonly used today to describe an individual who sacrifices his or her life (or their personal freedom) in order to further a cause or belief for many.
1. One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.
2. One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.
3.a. One who endures great suffering b. One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy.
So, you've waded through all those definitions and have come out the other side wondering what exactly this discussion is going to be about. But I think you'll find its not quite what it seems to be.
The Surface Of A Dream
Have you ever met someone who believed wholeheartedly they had a destiny? And that destiny was to achieve something great. Perhaps it was to find a cure to AIDS or to stop poverty or cleanse the environment of carbon emissions. Perhaps it was a calling to serve deity in some religious capacity like a missionary, a minister, a priest or a nun. Perhaps it was more in a counseling type of setting, where you work with people with mental illnesses or those who have been victimized. Whatever it was for that person, it was a definitive dream that they wanted to strive toward and in their zeal, they were awe inspiring.
Beneath The Surface Of A Dream
Have you ever met someone who has been abused, traumatized, or put through something so horrific that they came away from it shattered? And even as they picked up the pieces of themselves and put them back together, they still were not whole.
They walked through life seemingly normal, but beneath that mask, there was still an empty gaping hole within them that could not be filled. Perhaps they tried to fill it with different things; family, friends, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and/or any number of other things. But still it would not disappear completely.
At the same time, this type of person becomes increasingly emotionally dissociative, severing themselves from their emotions so that they are in a perpetual state of numb. And in so doing, they become even more of a shadow of their former selves. They are disinterested in life, and perhaps, they lose themselves in such illusions as television, books, movies, and music. All because of the vicarious feelings they are able to experience from such things, without any baggage attached to it.
Upon this realization, that the sensation of vicarious feelings makes them feel alive again, they find a purpose with meaning for their lives. And like the other type of person, it feels like destiny has come knocking at their door with a definitive calling for them. And that calling can be something as small as helping out friends with their problems to as big as being a victims advocate or someone who writes about their experiences to help others get through similar issues.
These types of callings, in and of themselves, are wonderful things that have great potential to bring powerfully positive effects to others. But like any of the other addictive behaviors (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.) that were tried in an effort to fill that gaping hole inside of them, so to is this.
The term 'reality' seems a bit harsh after reading what was written above. But none the less, that is what must be dealt with in cases like this. Because more often than not, this type of calling is used, in much the same way as any other addictive behavior, as an escape from one's own problems and issues. And it sets the person, who feels this calling, up for a downward spiral.
It begins with the joy of knowing you have the ability to help others. And it escalates into a driving need to help others, in order to feel fulfilled inside. For every person that is helped, that gaping hole seems to get a little smaller. But it is only a temporary effect, like that of drugs or alcohol. So it must be done again and again to allow that person to feel anything of worth.
In the end, it turns that person into a martyr, who suffers for the cause of helping others, despite the detriment it might bring to themselves. This is because, even as they try to sustain their own worth on the the backs of those they help, it is a foundation built on sand which crumbles before the tides.
A martyr who will sacrifice themselves upon the altar of someone else's need, is no good to anyone, much less themselves. Because they place no value on themselves and on their lives. And it turns, what was meant to be an altruistic calling to help others, into a bout of vicarious self mutilation. And it is that driving need, not to be seen as a fraud who actually has needs and problems of their own and isn't as saintly as they wish to be seen, that forces this type of person headlong into willingly sacrificing themselves.
You can wrap it up in pretty paper and tie a beautiful ribbon on it, but eventually the wrapping will come off and what is inside the box will be seen. You can call it many names from that of a false sense of transcending enlightenment to savior syndrome to martyrdom, but it doesn't change the underlying causes. And those underlying causes, are the hardest thing to face, acknowledge, and deal with. But the truth is that as long as those issues stay repressed, that calling that is felt to help others will never be fully realized.
The Underlying Cause
Here is where we come full circle in this discussion. Because here is where we come back to its very beginning to ask the question, 'Have you ever met someone who has been abused, traumatized, or put through something so horrific that they came away from it shattered?'
In answering that, think about yourself. And then realize that this is the one thing you are most afraid to face in your life, the trauma that set you on this path to begin with. And until whatever trauma or issue that still lingers within you, that is still being ignored and repressed, is dealt with head on, you will only ever walk in circles, repeating the same patterns over and over again.
The Empath Who Will Save The World
The Empath who will save the world is you. And to do that, you must start with healing yourself, because no matter how much you think otherwise, you are a part of this world and you deserve healing as much as the rest of the world does. So let it begin with you, and then spread to all of those other people who are in need. ^_^
Here are some Quotes on Healing:
~~ "Healer? Heal thyself!"
~~ "If you can get quiet enough to hear your heart (it has a soft voice), you will know what you must do."
~~ "You are the company you keep. Be the person you want to have a relationship with."
~~ "Your health is a unique point of balance between the infinity and *now*."
~~ "Make friends with your pain. Stop fighting and resisting it. Challenge yourself to face it head on - you have greatness of spirit to do so, or you would not be in this situation now."
~~ "Befriend your pain and listen to it's wisdom deeply. What do you need to let go of? Change? Do differently? Do you need to love more? Be open? Give more... or less? Do less?..?"
~~ "When you can greet your pain with love, fall so deeply into the experience that you lose your sense of self, there is a kind of bliss there in total surrender to pain. When you come out of it you'll know what to do next to really live - recover and thrive. The pain will tell you."