Empathy and Helping Others: Capacitor vs. Conduit

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.



  1. May the Really Really Weak Force be with you.


  2. Hmmmm, a power source, connected to JUST a conduit would create a short circuit, I think (assuming there were wires in the conduit that were connected to the power source).

    So, I’m using my digital multimeter, trying to troubleshoot the metaphor of electricity and conduits and all that fun stuff and I think that you need to add a black box in the middle of that conduit and that black box would contain the circuitry that would do all the examinizng (new word, copyrighted, fact) and analyzing and produce the useful insight(s) you mention in your post, Athol.

    And that black box containing all the circuitry would be the amazing human brain of the empathizer. And their personality and experience and whatever makes them empathetic.

    Sorry to make this complicated. It was a great post Athol and feels spot on.

  3. I was surprised yesterday that you responded directly to my comment, and really surprised this morning that you made it into a whole post. The last part, about seeing the bigger picture, is really helpful. But i was actually just talking about the ability to feeeeel others’ emotions being a burden to me. I have gotten pretty good at putting up a “sheild” to protect myself some, but my daughter still has the ability to really affect my heart. She’s my kid, after all. It’s my responsibility to meet her needs, and she’s not old enough to take care of all her own crap. (But I’m certainly working on turning that responsibility over to her- she’s 11) My hubby is in the military, so our life has painful things built into it- moves, deployments, etc. And when he’s deployed, I’m the only one there to handle everything, and sometimes it feels like the kiddos will eat me alive. Still trying to figure out how to manage that. Thanks for the help Athol, and you’re always good for a laugh, even on a serious topic.

  4. All this talk of capacitors and conduits, and you’d figure Athol would commend the electromagnetic force to us rather than the weak force. Oh well.

    J, in the end, your daughters have to grow up and be able to fend for themselves socially and emotionally, so I figure Athol’s advice applies in full, with the caveat that you are teaching your daughters how to do their own wiring, so to speak. Make sense?

  5. @Charles http://atholkay.com/terms-of-use/

    4. This blog is not intended to replace the advice and instruction of your own medical, legal or marriage licensed providers. It’s certainly not meant to replace advice from plumbers or electricians either. If something requires licensed professionals, use them and follow their advice.


  6. Athol. This is Brilliant.

  7. So, White Knights are like snacks for Energy Vamipres? (Spoken by someone who has been drained many times before the Red Pill.) There’s a movie or video game in this somewhere.

    Pretty much. White Knights walk around with a big sign over their head saying, “Drain the lifeforce from me.” They actively attract Energy Vampires into their life.

  8. Oh, yeah. Great post, too!

  9. I needed this post today.
    I have been really struggling with this also. It is really difficult when its your child. Keeping it together, and trying to be strong and stoic for the wife and the family is nearly impossible.
    Empathy sucks.

  10. PsychoAlphaDiscoBeta says:

    This is a great post and not the first place I’ve seen mention of various electronic components in terms of a person’s role in channeling emotional energy… the one I read before mentioned resistors as well… and…? that capacitors can store and then discharge energy at much higher levels than they received it… resistors can, depending I guess on the way the schema is designed and if an embedded system is involved, can CONTROL the flow of energy… as in, make decisions about what to do with the energy that is being conducted and stored and discharged, etc… as in, if you can accept the flow of energy but not be overwhelmed, if you are grounded you can resist being controlled b y energy and instead DO SOMETHING with it, constructive hopefully ;)

    Athol, can you recommend any reading material on the subject?

    It is on of those common coincidences that this is something I have actually been thinking a lot about recently, specifically the electronics analogy and emotional/personal energy… a very timely reminder for me…

    I like what everyone is saying about being able to relate to the draining effect… it has been very tough lately, dealing with people draining my energy… sometimes, also, outside influences can switch someone close to you from maybe, amplifying and re-transmitting the energy between you to draining you… and the worst is when they are doing so under the guise of empowering themselves… I’ve seen quite a few instances of people blowing up, lashing out at others becaase the whole energy-suck thing ends up happening…

    (This comment is way too long, forgive me) …another area of interest is how men and women can help each other to recharge, meaning men interacting doing men’s things and women doing their things, a lot of times what is drained in a man is his masculine power, he has been so beta-ized that he becomes unattractive because that masculine charge is not there… too much time with the women-folk can deplete a man’s energy (especially if he has grown up with deficient/limited father-figure influence) so in that case, he has to make specific efforts to do guy stuff and awaken that primal/killer instinct/bad-ass alpha side… it’s the whole “kill or be killed/if you don’t fuck your wife right someone else will” thing… motivating factors to be sure…

    Again, very timely, thank Athol.

    PS- Not to be too “woo-woo” and New-Agey sounding, but that would be an awesome book, something about personal energy, game… yeah…

  11. Might I suggest the book “A Failure of Nerve, Leadership in the age if the quick fix” by Edwin Freidman. He asserts that empathy is what has killed leadership and is the weapon of the most anxious and unregulated in any system (family, community, etc). He says that empathy is a modern concept and not in line with the correct term compassion. Basically, as leaders and men we must increase or capacity for other to feel their own pain, and help them when they hurt and not increase or empathy and feel their pain for them.

  12. “Undeveloped empathy is a pain in the ass and a classic trait of Nice Guys fast tracking the Betaization approach to a sexless marriage.”

    Lack of empathy is a trait of nice guys? That explains my husband who you can bet won’t be getting any for a while.

    Something happened to upset me today and I let him know and that I was crying about it (something I almost NEVER do. I’m very resilient so when I cry at home you know it’s really bad for me). Do you think he’s offered any sympathy? Did he even just send me a thoughtful text during the day? Fortunately my teenager is empathetic and gave me a hug.

    Not lack of empathy, I said undeveloped empathy. Nice Guys have empathy by the bucketload, they just haven’t developed it properly to where it doesn’t overwhelm their actions and turn them into your BFF girlfriend.

  13. Capacitors can also filter, passing either the high or low frequencies.

    Empathy is not normally a male virtue, but when present it can be a force for good. Often, someone will seem “off”, and what you are picking up on is a strong emotional state which is just below the surface. “What’s wrong? I might be able to help…”. There is also something which I do not know if there is a word for, but instead of sensing, some people seem to be able to push emotion. In the old-old Star-Trek episode “The Empath”, she could cause healing by absorbing the damage into herself. Sort of an anti-vampire. The entity who bites to inject health and strength instead of drain. The hard part is to recognize the emotions are not yours although that is the way you normally perceive them. The other feels X, so you feel X, but you need to learn to detach yourself. You are watching a movie or the news – nonfiction, but outside yourself.

    And interesting question is what happens when a vampire meets an anti-vampire. Generally the vampire explodes like being caught in sunlight. Remember vampires are death, disease, and draining incarnate. It isn’t an energy source into an energy sink, but an antibiotic into a pool of bacteria. Darkness cannot absorb or destroy light, light destroys darkness, so be happy over that.

    Vampires use empathy the way pit-vipers use their heat vision – to find prey, which are those who are energized. Anti-vampires use empathy for the same reason – to find those who are drained.

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