Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Reflective Love Of An Empath

I was asked this question recently, "Do Empaths fall in love easier than others?", and it got me to thinking about another question which I have pondered for a very long time. "Do Empaths fall in love easier than others, or do they sometimes reflect the feelings of others toward them and get caught up in them, mistaking the other person's feelings as their own? And what are the ramifications of doing this?"

So to start, I'd like to illustrate this idea by introducing you to Empath who embodies this question.

A young woman by the name of Lynda, an Empath, meets a man who she becomes friends with. And eventually she believes she has fallen in love with him. But this only happens after he professes his own love for her and catches her up in a world wind romance full of passion and excitement. So she effectively is caught up in a moment of intense emotions.

So, for a period of say 3 to 4 months this couple goes along happily in love with one another. And everything seems fine. They do not even fight.
And there is shared romance and intimacy within the relationship.

Then one morning, out of the blue, Lynda wakes up and looks at her partner of several months laying next to her and she thinks to herself, "I feel nothing for this person." With this realization, she begins to avoid him, missing his calls and not showing up for dates that were planned. And this goes on, until finally, the man takes the hint and stops calling or making vain attempts to reconcile with her. And she, within a short span of time, begins to date someone new, while showing no remorse or guilt for having walked away from someone that cared about her as much as she seemed to do at the same time.
So, again we come back to the question, "Do Empaths fall in love easier than others, or do they sometimes reflect the feelings of others toward them and get caught up in them, mistaking the other person's feelings as their own? And what are the ramifications of doing this?"

Do these kinds of things actually happen to people, particularly Empaths who are so prone to feel the emotions and emotional states of others? Can an Empath exhibit the emotions of seeming apathy or indifference enough to walk away from a relationship without a second glance?

First, we must understand, even before the analysis of this scenario, that just because a person is an Empath, it doesn't necessarily mean they will be empathic toward others. There is a difference there, in being an Empath and being empathetic toward the needs and concerns of others. What this means is that Empaths are people who are prone to the same emotional capabilities as any one else, even to the extent of showing apathy and/or indifference in a relationship. And to be clear, even cruelty is not beyond the scope of an Empath either. This might sound like an Oxymoron because of what an Empath is supposed to be, but it is also a reality that must be understood, in order to understand ourselves as Empaths and more importantly, as People.

The Analysis: Reflective Love

So, did Lynda the Empath really love this partner or was she merely reflecting the emotions being sent to her by the guy she was dating? Was she, in essence, caught up in the moment filled with romance, intimacy and passion instead of reflecting on her own emotions for the person she was with? According to the scenario above, one could surmise that she didn't really love him, despite her protestations to the contrary. But, this too, is a misnomer.

In this scenario, there is no intention to hurt her partner, despite her inability or refusal to reflect on her own emotions for her partner. In other words, she did not, on the outset, plan on hurting the person she was with because she, for all intensive purposes, believed she was in love. And it was only later, upon reflection of her own emotions for this person, that she realized she was not truly in love with him, which propelled her to walk away from him, despite how he was affected by choice. His needs and his pain, because of her choice, became secondary to her need to be true to herself and her true emotions upon their discovery.

Now this may seem like something that 'just happened' and was cruel in nature, but truth is often stranger than fiction. From the very beginning, because Lynda refused to deal with her own feelings, this was a potential time bomb waiting to happen. And it was one that neither Lynda or her partner could recognize because they were both to caught up in the emotions of the moment to read the subtle signs that may have existed.

If you are wondering how these people were supposed to see those things, you're right. Most people can't or won't recognize the signs of this happening. And its not a failing on their part, one way or another. It's human nature to have hope, particularly where love is concerned.

So, even if a friend, with a clear head, came to Lynda and said something like, "Lynda are you sure you are really in love with this guy? It's all happening so fast. Why don't you slow down and be sure of what your feeling.", it would have potentially been taken by Lynda as signs of jealously in her friend and the friend trying to destroy her happiness. In other words, the advice would potentially be blown off, not because it was offered by someone who cares enough to reflect the truth to her, but because she is so caught up in the moment, the world wind romance, to accept any other truth than the one she sees before her. And in the moment the truth is reflected to her, by her friend, she would find it easy to rationalize it away with accusations of jealousy and attempts to destroy her happiness.

Signs Of Reflective Love

In this section of this discussion I'm going to offer you some lists with signs of both fake/false/counterfeit/reflective love and true love. They are important, so pay particular attention to this section and see if it relates to you and your relationships in any way or if it relates to anyone else you know. This is an important topic for Empaths, as much as anyone else.

Signs Of Fake Love

1. Time

Fake love, which is chemistry only, lasts anywhere from three weeks to a year and a half and then disappears. Real love loses the immediacy of the chemical rush, but retains chemistry while it grows deeper and calmer. The onset of both kinds of love is marked by obsession. For a period of time, the two people in love cannot think about anything but the other one. They may lose weight, lose sleep, and lose all concept of time. Nothing else exists for them except the other person. When this chemical high wears off, the true picture of the person emerges for them. All of the above involves...time.

2. Projection

Fake love, based primarily on physical intimacy, is what two people assume about each other. They can't see future problems. Idealized qualities, lives built on fantasy, and a perfect life together dominates their thoughts. Each one insists that the other one is the greatest person they have ever met. The problem is, they haven't really MET each other yet. They are relating to their idealized version. When this cyclone of projection ends and the dust settles, the true person emerges. Then they can decide if they are right for each other.

3. Fairy Tales

Counterfeit love feeds off of the stuff of fairy tales. The women in the story want Prince Charming. They will have riches, happiness, love, and all dreams come true. The man in the story, who feels like a frog and may even look like one, is kissed by the princess. He miraculously turns into a handsome, dashing Prince. When two people get together and fall into the chemical cocktail, they unconsciously can fall into this stylized story. Only when the chemicals wear off do they actually see each other. They may like each other, in which case, real love may develop. Or- the chemicals become toxic, the guy goes back to being a frog, and she looks for another prince.

4. The Future

When two people meet and fall into chemistry, they may begin to plan their future together within weeks. Their "real" selves are not talking to each other here - it's their spiced, fried, scrambled brain that can't be trusted to make clear decisions.

Signs Of True And Fake Love
  1. True Love is always open and honest, even when upset, fake love plays games, hides their feelings and tries to manipulate the emotions of others to gain the upper hand.
  2. True Love is self-sacrificing, fake love only wants what it wants
  3. True Love gives from the heart, fake love gives because it wants something in return
  4. True Love forgives, fake love seeks vengeance
  5. True Love appreciates you for who you are, fake love tries to change you into their perfect ideal
  6. True Love is romantic intimacy and love making, fake love is just sex
  7. True Love tries to resolve conflict, fake love tries to prove it is right
  8. True Love lets go of hurts, fake love harbors resentment
  9. True Love gives you the freedom, fake love is controlling
  10. True Love listens, fake love only talks
Characteristics of Healthy Relationships
by Jef Gazley, M.S. LMFT, DCC
1. Each person allows for the individuality of each partner within the relationship.
2. Experiencing both oneness with and separateness from their partner. Other relationships are seen as no threat.
3. Bringing out the best qualities in their partner.
4. Each partner has the ability to accept endings, if necessary.
5. Experiencing openness to change and exploration both in the individual and in the relationship.
6. Inviting growth in their partner.
7. Experiencing true intimacy in the relationship physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
8. Feeling the freedom to ask honestly for what they want.
9. Being able to experience giving and receiving in the same manner.
10. Not attempting to control or change the other person.
11. Encouraging self-sufficiency of others. Adults don't need each other in a dependent fashion. They simply want to be with each other.
12. Accepting limitations of self and partner.
13. Not attempting to seek unconditional love in relationships. This type of love is really parental love. Parents accept any behavior from a child and will still love and accept them. Adults demand to be treated with dignity in order to stay in a relationship.
14. Able to accept commitment.
15. Each person having a high self-esteem.
16. Trusting the memory of the beloved, enjoying solitude.
17. Expressing feelings spontaneously.
18. Welcoming closeness, risking vulnerability.
19. Able to care with detachment. They don't feel responsible for each other.
20. Affirming equality and personal power of self and their partner.

The point of this discussion is to be able to recognize the signs and situational circumstances of this kind of love. This is because recognition is the beginning of healing from this kind of experience, particularly if it is a repetitive pattern in one's life called love addition. To learn more about this as a repetitive pattern in one's life go here: Love & Codependency: Through The Eyes Of An Empath

And remember, we all tend to go through this at some point in our lives. There is no use in feeling guilty or pointing fingers about it, whether you are the one who experience the counterfeit love or the one who it happened to. Things happen in life, and it is better to learn from them than to hold grudges and/or feel guilty about them for the rest of your lives. Sometimes people get hurt, even us, and sometimes we hurt people. This is reality, despite how altruistic and good natured we imagine ourselves to be. And this is true for Empaths, as much as anyone else.

So recognize it, contemplate it, learn from it, and move on with your lives. Because these things, particularly if they are in the past, can not be changed. But they can be used as lessons for the future. And that is important.

A Farewell to False Love
by Sir Walter Raleigh

Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.

A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.

A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.

A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure's lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.

Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.

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