Comment on yesterday’s post, You Can’t Fix Their Problem.
J: Very true, Athol. The Strengthsfinder test shows Empathy as a strength. To me it feels more like a weakness, because I feel other people’s emotions as if they were my own. I’m 37 and still trying to figure out how to put my empathy into action without hurting myself.
Athol: Undeveloped empathy is a pain in the ass and a classic trait of Nice Guys fast tracking the Betaization approach to a sexless marriage. And trust me… I get it. Someone else hurts and you feeeeeeeel it inside you. You just feeeeeel you have to do something and help them. Or you will feeeeeel awful. There is a solution though.
You have to learn the difference between being a capacitor and a conduit or empathy will drain you into a lifeless, negative, depressed person very quickly. I don’t often talk about personal energy as I think it might be a side tracking concept for many people, though it’s definitely a vital “under the hood” reason of why the MMSL approach works. In this case though it’s the direct issue at hand so gotta talk about it.
In short, everyone has some sort of energy level ranging from high to low. People with higher levels of personal energy are more attractive than people with lower energy. Half the point of advising physical exercise when running the MAP is simply to raise the energy levels of the person. You end up looking and feeling happier and more attractive. Both the looking and the feeling are positive attractors.
We all know some down in the dumps person who never does anything but complain and we all like to route ourselves around dealing with them if possible. Likewise we all know some bright, perky, active and happy person who is active and engaged with the world that we like to seek out. Unless of course we’re the depressed grumpy person… because who can stand happy people when you’re unhappy. People of like energy levels tend to seek each other out. Half the point of the MAP is to raise your energy level so that your spouse raises theirs.
Incidentially, that raised energy level for people running the MAP often pays off in unexpected ways. People running the MAP to fix their marriage often report that things have gotten better at work, with their kids, the house is cleaner, they finally finished some other stalled project and so on. Fixing any problem in your life also helps fix every other problem in your life in a minor way too.
Personal Energy = your time, effort, money and mood.
A capacitor is something that can gain a positive charge and then release it… but once the energy is released, it’s delepeted of energy and needs a new source of charging. A conduit is simply a waypoint for an external energy source to flow from one point to the other.
When you feel emotionally moved by someone else’s problem and seek to solve it, if you act like a capacitor, you are using up your personal energy to create and maintain a solution. Basically energy moves from you to them. It’s a one way trip and while they can be better off for it, you end up being drained. Plus, because you are the source of their solution, they will return to you for yet more of your energy. Helping people can create unintentional dependency as you become part of their energy system.
When you try and solve a problem as a conduit, your job is simply to make yourself available as a tool for them to solve their own problem, using their own energy. You’re providing knowledge, advice, insight… basically providing a connection. You’re there to help remove blockages from their energy system. Sometimes you do use your own energy to jump start another system, but that’s to get it running under its own power again, rather than you continuing to power it.
So if you are particularly empathic, the solution isn’t to withdraw from the feelings of other people’s problems. The solution is actually to widen your scope and find out everything about the person and the problem at hand. Try and see the big picture of what empowers them as individuals and as a couple. What the true deep needs are. Find out the history of the relationship… what things were like when it was good… what was happening when things went wrong. If you can see the relationship/problem as an entire energy system, very often the blockage point is easy to find. Sometimes there’s more than one. This is why I ask for information on the entire relationship history, all the medical issues and medications, the emotional shock points, is there someone outside the relationship siphoning energy off the primary relationship? Then you’re looking to reconnect the relationship over that broken area, rather than you trying to resupply power to the entire thing from the outside.
So widen your scope. Open yourself further to your empathy and experience the total landscape of emotions and actions in others. Once you identify the problem area… let the other person solve the problem. By solving their problem for them, it makes you tired and them dependant on you.
And to be quite blunt, some people are just energy vampires. Just keep demanding they solve their problem… sometimes they will, but mostly they just start leaving you alone. Either way, you win.
Oh and hey…
May the Really Really Weak Force be with you.