Unconscious Motivations: The Secret Life Of An Empath

Let’s talk about hidden motivations.  What are they?  How do they apply to us, as people and as Empaths?

Motivation is defined as the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior. In simpler terms, it is what inspires us to act.

This can take specific forms such as incentive, like a prize,  or punishment, as in the denial of privileges. It can also be based in less tangible forms like desires, dreams, needs and wants.

Examples:

1. Incentive: If I get good grades on my report card, I will be given money to spend how I wish.
2. Punishment: If I rob a bank, I could end up in jail.
3. Dreams: If I goto school for x amount of time and study these subjects, I can get my dream job.
4. Needs: I must work in order to buy food and have a roof over my head.
5. Wants/Desires: I want a new car, so I must work to save money for that dream.

Motivations can be obvious and straight forward, like these examples, which are aroused in the conscious mind where one is fully aware of them.  Or motivations can be hidden.

Now, when we say hidden, what first jumps to mind is that the motivations are completely hidden from self, that is, it exists within the unconscious mind and has no direct impact on the conscious mind’s awareness and behaviors.  Another way to put it is that the conscious mind has absolutely no awareness of these unconscious motivations which drive them to enact certain behaviors.  But, beneath the auspice of ‘hidden motivations’ which so often lay within the subconscious mind, there are motivations which the conscious mind perceives, if only in a peripheral sense.

So let’s explore these ideas and then look at how they can impact someone who is hypersensitive and Empathic.


Unconscious Motivations

Unconscious Motivation refers to hidden and unknown desires that are the real reasons for things that people do.  

An example is when someone is unable to stay in a long-term relationship and always finds a reason to break off his relationships. He may insist that there is a rational explanation for leaving a relationship, but his actions may actually be driven by an unconscious desire for love and belongingness, and an overwhelming fear of rejection. Deep down, he wants and needs to be in a loving relationship, but he find ways and reasons to put an end to the relationship so as to avoid being rejected.

Now, after reading that short example, do these things begin to make sense?  Either way, let’s go deeper into it.

The first person to theorize on the idea of unconscious motivations was a man named Sigmund Freud, who was the father of what is known as Psychoanalysis in psychology.  Psychoanalysis can be defined as:

  • A family of psychological theories and methods within the field of psychotherapy that work to find connections among patients’ unconscious mental processes.
  • A method of treating mental disorders through investigating emotional conflicts and childhood repressions by getting the patient to talk freely, examining his or her dreams.
  • A talking therapy introduced by Dr. Sigmund Freud which involves the analysis of dreams, childhood experiences, etc.. to overcome present problems. It is founded on the belief that unconscious, repressed instinctual drives and negative early childhood experiences are mainly responsible for an individual’s problems.

According to Sigmund Freud’s theories of human behavior, he asserts that most of human behavior occurs as a result of desires, impulses, and memories that have been repressed into an unconscious state, but control human actions. He believed that our minds consists of a tiny conscious part that is always available for direct observation and subconscious part that is responsible for determining human behavior. For example when someone displays negative attitude towards something, he/she is always expressing his unconscious feelings of dislike.

Now, I know this is alot of information to take in.  And you might be wondering how the heck this applies to you, so let’s look at a case study to see how it might apply to you.  And then we will explore some of the potentially unhealthy issues that can arise from unconscious motivations through early childhood programming.

Samantha

When Samantha was a child of 5, she lived with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.  Her father had long since disappeared from her life.  Her mother worked long hours to support her family, so upon coming home, was was thoroughly exhausted and had little time to spend with her daughter.  This left Samantha in the care of her mother’s boyfriend, Michael.


Michael did not care for children all that much, so he would often get frustrated with Samantha when she didn’t obey the rules he set for for her.  This frustration would turn into anger and that anger would turn into punishment.  The resulting punishments would be harsh and often times abusive in nature.  He would scream at the top of his lungs at her, calling her names like ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’, and ‘burden’.

At first, Samantha, who was not used to this kind of treatment because it had just been her and her mom up until that point, would goto her mother and complain about this mistreatment. But Samantha’s mother would dismiss it out of hand, assuming that the child was hypersensitive and was overreacting to  being punished.

As time wore on, Samantha stopped talking about the punishments all together. She believed it was useless to complain about it and simply shut that part of herself down. She learned to hide the bruises that appeared on her when she started school. And she repressed that part of her life as she interacted with friends socially.

At the age of 15, Samantha met a boy by the name of Billy. He was slightly older than she was, drove a car, and was extremely popular amongst their peers at school. He was smart, an athelete, and drop dead gorgeous (in her estimation). And when he started flirting with her, she felt so lucky to have been chosen by him, she immediately began to date him.

Everything seemed perfect at first. She couldn’t have imagined being happier, particularly after what she had suffered in her life up till that point. Being with Billy took the edge off going home to face Michael, who was by this point her stepfather. He seemed like the salve to her wounded heart and soul.

But after about month of this bliss, Billy began to change when they were alone together. He started frustrated with her. And because she had been through this kind of frustration before with Michael, she began to attempt to please him in any way she could in order to hold onto those feelings she felt at the beginning of the relationship. His frustrations soon turned into anger, though, despite her best efforts.

He began isolating her from her friends and peers. He told her she was nothing without him and that no one could love a slut like her but him. He said she should feel lucky for whatever he gave her. And beyond such words, he became violent. One occasional hit escalated into severe beatings. Beatings began to include sexual assaults.

And these things continued for years, as they dated throughout high school and up to the point where they graduated and moved in with each other. That is, until one day she realized, without a doubt, that she was going to die. Staring into the mirror finally showed her each bruise he had marked her with, in the name of love. So she left him and went home to her mother.

By this time, around the age of 20, Michael had passed away and Samantha’s mother lived a quiet life alone. So having her daughter back home was not burden on her. But even as mother and daughter cohabitated together, Samantha was withdrawn from her.

Samantha began looking for a job, but always failed to get it. She contemplated school, but never followed through with it. She attempted to dream of something to do with her life, but always the future seemed murky and undefined.

Her relationships ended quickly. She always found some reason or rational for breaking it off with her partner.

When she did go out socially, she wore a mask with a smile on it. But inside she felt as though no one truly understood what she was going through. She looked at her friends and wondered how they could be so carefree and self absorbed. And she felt guilty and jealousy as those around her had dreams for the future, romantic relationships, and seemed to take delight in the things around them.

All of this left her wondering what she had done to deserve such a fate. She would ask herself, over and over again,what she had done that was so horrible to be punished this way. And she felt helpless to change it, even as she watched it happen to herself time and time again.

Now this case study might seem harsh, and honestly it is.  No one wants to imagine someone’s life being like this.  No one wants to imagine all of that suffering.  It’s painful.  But it’s important, for the purposes of this discussion, none the less.  So let’s analyze it and look at some of the unhealthy psychological issues that arose out of her life, beginning with her early childhood programming.

The Analysis

Samantha’s life began to change at the age of 5 with the inclusion of a new member in her family.  This new person, Michael, took on a paternal role toward Samantha, which helped to define her perceptions of authority figures, how people interact with one another, and how love is expressed.

The physical, verbal, and psychological abuse were deemed unacceptable, by the young Samantha, at first because she had not been exposed to this behavior before the inclusion of Michael into her family unit in an authoritative capacity. Upon seeing her mother’s reaction to her complaints of this treatment, which amounted to a dismissal of her concerns and fears, Samantha became more docile toward the behavior, gradually accepting it as a norm. She eventually even learned to enable it by hiding the the physical results of these behaviors from people who might have been willing to help her, such as teachers and friends.

This does not mean she did not suffer emotionally from the abuse. In her mind, she dreamed of someone ‘saving’ her from the life she led and the abuse she endured. And because she dreamed of fairy tales, he had to be beautifully packaged to perfection. So enters Billy, who fits her fantasy guy to the letter, at least on the surface. In her mind he takes on the archetypal role of the Knight In Shining Armor who will save her from her wretched life.

This fantasy endures within her, emboldening her to stay by his side and enable his behavior in the hopes that he will return to the man she first met and fell in love with. It is her hope, which makes how he treats her tolerable, even as it escalates into more violent behaviors.

But this behavior, of fantasizing and enabling, can be linked back further into her childhood to her stepfather Michael’s treatment of her. Despite how she hates being abused, something inside her says that this behavior is acceptable on some level.

And it is only through the stark light of reality shining on her situation and the realization that death is close at hand, does the potential for the epiphany occur for Samantha. That epiphany is that there is no hope that he will change and that she must act if she wishes to live. So she does by returning home.

But even as she begins her life again with a fresh start, living with her mother, she discovers that she can not find work, her relationships with friends are strained by jealousy, and her romantic relationships fall apart quickly. She also discovers that she has no dreams for the future.

Having grown up the way she did, she was not able to dream of the future. From early childhood up into her 20s, her mindset was focused on survival in the moment, not on future dreams, desires, and wants. Her needs were secondary to those she saw in authority. So, having come to the point where she stands alone, without those authority figures standing above her, she is left in utter confusion, unsure where to go and what to do next.

This type of confusion can beget overwhelming fear, so much so, that it can quite literally control a person’s life. It can paralyze them when they are about to succeed. It can set into motion a defeatist mentality which permeates a person’s entire life.

This fear can also cause one to look on others, even those closest to you, with bitterness, jealousy, and resentment. It can cause one to push away from friendships and behave in ways one wouldn’t normally do.

This fear can also be translated into romantic relationships, as a fear of rejection. This mentality is based off of the idea that if someone gets to close to you and sees you for who you really are, you will be rejected. And fear of rejection can make one react in haste by pushing away from one’s partner, before they can discover these things and reject you.

So from within this overly long analysis, we can extract several psychological issues that can arise out of early childhood programming.  But more than that, these are issues that can exist in a person and have underlying roots in their past, based on the same….early childhood programming.  So let’s explore some of them.  But remember….what is offered here is not a complete list.  Nor is it mean to be taken as a psychological evaluation of any kind.  It is for informational purposes only.

1. Codependency

Codependency or codependence is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one’s needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including in families, at work, in friendships, and also in romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns. Codependency describes behavior, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or care taking.

Three Types Of Codependents

1. Caretakers–relate to others primarily through roles that put them in a position of the giver, helper, supporter, nurturer, etc. “Everyone’s needs are more important than my own.”

2. Romance~relationship addiction–must be in a “relationship” and be “special” to someone in order to be OK with oneself; may use caretaking and sexuality to gain approval/acceptance; goes from relationship to relationship. “You’re no one unless someone loves you.”

3. Messiah complex–savior of the family, church, world; over-responsible, doesn’t ask for help, tries to make self indispensable.“If I don’t do it. it won’t get done.”

2. Defeatism

Defeatism is defined as an attitude of accepting, expecting, or being resigned to defeat. What this means is that a person becomes resigned to the probability of defeat so they give up quickly after only trying for a short time, half heartedly, or not at all.  The mentality says that if you accept defeat before it arrives, you can you can prevent the hurtful feelings that arise out of rejection from other people, be it work related or personal.

3. Victim Mentality

A Victim Mentality is one where a person blames everyone else for what happens in their own life/world. Another definition, not as commonly used, is one that says a person thinks the future only holds bad/negative things for them. What this means is that we seem to become victims of our friends, family, lovers and associates.  We seem to become victims of fate and destiny.

But often times, this simply is not the case.  This is an overestimation of blame pushed on things outside ourselves, as a means to shield ourselves from blame.  And when this occurs…when one adopts the archetype of the Victim, it becomes hard to tell when one is truly being victimized and when one is pressing blame on the world, which should sit equally and/or squarely on their own shoulders.

4. Psychological  Repression

Psychological Repression, also psychic repression or simply repression, is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel its own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts. Such desires, impulses, wishes, fantasies or feelings can be represented in the mind as thoughts, images and memories. The repression is caused when an external force puts itself in contrast with the desire, threatening to cause suffering if the desire is satisfied, thereby posing a conflict for the individual; the repressive response to the threat is to exclude the desire from one’s consciousness and hold or subdue it in the unconscious. Repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of average people. Repression is an involuntary or unconscious process.

Another way this is described comes from the book Changing Minds, by David Straker, where it says:

Repression involves placing uncomfortable thoughts in relatively inaccessible areas of the subconscious mind. Thus when things occur that we are unable to cope with now, we push them away, either planning to deal with them at another time or hoping that they will fade away on their own accord.

The level of ‘forgetting’ in repression can vary from a temporary abolition of uncomfortable thoughts to a high level of amnesia, where events that caused the anxiety are buried very deep.

Repressed memories do not disappear. They can have an accumulative effect and reappear as unattributable anxiety or dysfunctional behavior. A high level of repression can cause a high level of anxiety or dysfunction, although this may also be caused by the repression of one particularly traumatic incident.

Some examples of Repression are:

  • A child who is abused by a parent later has no recollection of the events, but has trouble forming relationships.
  • A woman who found childbirth particularly painful continues to have children (and each time the level of pain is surprising).
  • An optimist remembers the past with a rosy glow and constantly repeats mistakes.
  • A man has a phobia of spiders but cannot remember the first time he was afraid of them.
  • A person greets another with ‘pleased to beat you’ (the repressed idea of violence toward the other person creeping through)

5. Dissociation

Dissociation is a partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning. Dissociation can be a response to trauma or drugs and perhaps allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too much for the psyche to process at that time. Dissociative disruptions can affect any aspect of a person’s functioning. Although some dissociative disruptions involve amnesia, the vast majority of dissociative events do not. Since dissociations are normally unanticipated, they are typically experienced as startling, autonomous intrusions into the person’s usual ways of responding or functioning. Due to their unexpected and largely inexplicable nature, they tend to be quite unsettling.

Another way this is defined is:

Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Dissociation seems to fall on a continuum of severity. Mild dissociation would be like daydreaming, getting “lost” in a book, or when you are driving down a familiar stretch of road and realize that you do not remember the last several miles. A severe and more chronic form of dissociation is seen in the disorder Dissociative Identity Disorder, once called Multiple Personality Disorder, and other Dissociative Disorders.

6. Anxiety

Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by cognitive, somatic, emotional, and behavioral components. These components combine to create an unpleasant feeling that is typically associated with uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. As such, it is distinguished from fear, which occurs in the presence of an observed threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.

Another view is that anxiety is “a future-oriented mood state in which one is ready or prepared to attempt to cope with upcoming negative events” suggesting that it is a distinction between future vs. present dangers that divides anxiety and fear. Anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to stress. It may help a person to deal with a difficult situation, for example at work or at school, by prompting one to cope with it. When anxiety becomes excessive, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder.

Emotional Symptoms Of Anxiety

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Anxiety born out of unconscious early childhood programming and expanded upon by experiences throughout life, if left untreated, can have a cumulative effect on a person’s psyche.  It can bring about issues called Anxiety Disorders.   Here is a list of the different types of Anxiety Disorders that exist today:

  • Panic disorder : People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or “going crazy.”
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) : People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions. An example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his or her hands.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) : PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, and tend to be emotionally numb.
  • Social anxiety disorder : Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
  • Specific phobias : A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear usually is inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder : This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

7. Low Self Esteem/Self Worth

Low Self Esteem can perhaps best be described as having a low opinion of oneself (either consciously or not), and/or feelings of being ‘worthless’.

It can surface in thoughts and in feelings and will often appear to manifest physically – in body postures, actions and health.

All of this can result in:

  • Feelings of ‘being stuck’
  • Low motivation
  • Low energy levels
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Potentially destructive behaviors
  • Depression
  • Feeling helpless to change anything
  • Relationship difficulties: Low self esteem and divorce are unhappy partners.

Behavior Pattern Of Low Self Worth

~External

  • General lack of participation.
  • Negative commentary/responses to questions.
  • Sluggish physical behavior.
  • Excessive use of activities for escapism (TV, Videos, Internet, Video Games, Reading). Be careful of overanalyzing here as this alone is not an indicator.
  • Aggressive/argumentative behavior.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Unwillingness to try anything new (anything from new food through to goal setting).
  • Inability to say no (needing to be liked/loved by others by saying yes).
  • Needing to prove self worth and ‘status’ by boasting, making public claims about capabilities (whether true or false).

~Internal

  • Negative self talk. (“I can’t”; “I won’t be able to …”).
  • Frequent future-based mental movies that end in disaster or unwanted outcomes.
  • Mental ‘replaying’ of past events where personally unpleasant outcomes were experienced.
  • Disassociation from success or high self esteem activities: Cannot mentally see oneself in that situation or by using self talk such as “That’s not me …”.

Now, as we move through these issues, what we will find is that there are some that weren’t expressed specifically within the case study of Samantha.  But they are equally as important, none the less.  So let’s continue our list.

8. Aggression

Aggression is defined as forceful action against another person which may be physical, verbal, or symbolic, and is meant to cause pain. Such behavior may be hostile or destructive or it may be for self-protection.  From this definition, what we find is that there are 3 types of Aggressive Behaviors.

Types Of Aggressive Behaviors

Verbal Hostility
The children’s taunt “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” fails to account for emotional abuse carried out through verbal hostility. Verbal aggression includes behavior such as bullying, threats or yelling. The Mayo Clinic includes name-calling and insults under the category of domestic violence. Put-downs, intentional or perceived, can have profound detrimental effects on the recipients. Musician Karen Carpenter reportedly became anorexic after reading a review that called her “chubby.” She died in 1983 of complications from anorexia nervosa at only 32 years old, according to Queen City News and OC Weekly.

Nonverbal Intimidation
Nonverbal intimidation often implies the threat of violence, at least in the perception of the person at the receiving end. Stalking often involves one or more forms of nonverbal intimidation, including following the victim, planting malicious software in a victim’s computer, sending unwanted gifts and vandalism against the victim’s property, according to Sexual Harassment Support. A famous example of nonverbal intimidation occurred during the movie “Fatal Attraction,” when Alex kills her victim’s daughter’s pet rabbit.

Passive Aggression
The Mayo Clinic defines passive aggression as an indirect way of expressing displeasure or anger. Passive aggression is often generated by resentment on the part of someone who is unable or unwilling to express this resentment directly. Deliberately or subconsciously performing a task poorly is one form of passive aggression, agreeing to perform a task but failing to do so is another, according to Psychology Today. Procrastination can also be a form of passive aggression.

9. Prejudice

Prejudice is defined as interpersonal hostility that is directed against individuals based on their membership in another group. It is any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.

Three Types Of Prejudice

  • Cognitive Prejudice refers to what people believe is true. An example of cognitive prejudice might be found, for example, adherence to a particular metaphysical or methodological philosophy to the exclusion of other philosophies that may offer a more complete theoretical explanation. Example: One religion over another
  • Affective Prejudice refers to what people like and dislike. An example of affective prejudice might be found, for example, in attitudes toward members of particular classes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or creed. Example: One race over another
  • Cognative prejudice refers to how people are inclined to behave. It is regarded as an attitude because people don’t actually act on their feelings. An example of cognative prejudice might be found in expressions of what one would do if, hypothetically, the opportunity presented itself. Example: In the belief that one is smarter than another, the person condescends as they speak to the person deemed less intelligent.  They talk down to them, as though they were a child.

10. Depression

Depression is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. It affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment.

Signs Of Depression:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

11. Narcissism

Narcissism is a behavior which involve exclusive self-absorption. A degree of narcissism is considered normal, where an individual has a healthy self-regard and realistic aspirations. It is considered pathological behavior when the person tends to harbor an exaggerated sense of his own self-importance and uniqueness.

Characteristics Of Narcissistic Behavior

Grandiosity
The grandiosity a narcissistic person displays may be seen in overt behavior or in a preoccupation with fantasies. She may exaggerate achievements and talents or be preoccupied with fantasies involving infinite success, power, brilliance, beauty and ideal love. A narcissist also often requires much admiration and struggles with envy.



Entitlement
A narcissist may believe he is special, so certain rules and policies do not apply to him. He may expect unreasonable favors and special treatment because of his extraordinary nature. A narcissist can also appear arrogant and conceited.

Lack of Empathy
A narcissist can be demanding and exploitative in relationships. She usually has trouble considering someone else’s point of view and trouble showing compassion toward others. She may even show contempt toward people she believes are inferior to her. Because of her belief that she is special, she may think she can associate with and be understood by only others of her status.

Idealization and Devaluation
Idealization and devaluation are strongly characteristic of narcissistic defenses. A narcissist is often overly involved in comparing himself to others. When he fails to measure up, he may become depressed, ashamed and envious. To defend against an injured self-esteem, a narcissist engages in idealizing and devaluing. Idealization helps the narcissist regain a sense of specialness by association with another extraordinary person. When he devalues someone, however, he maintains his fragile self-esteem by feeling superior to the person devalued.

Unconscious Motivations & The Empath

Now that we’ve explored some of the hidden and unconscious motivations within people and some of the resulting behaviors, how does this apply to Empaths? Well, let’s delve deeper into this idea by looking at a list of general traits that tend to apply to an Empath.

Here are 16 common traits of an Empath. Remember that these are generalisations and they may not always be obvious.

  1. Empaths are quiet achievers but expressive in area’s of emotional connection. They find that talking about emotional issues is a great outlet that aids in undertanding themselves and others.
  2. Some empaths can be the opposite of what an empath ‘should’ be because they are overwhelmed or unable to handle emotion and what they feel in the world around them so they block their feelings.
  3. They can be focused outward, toward what others feel, rather than themselves. This is a common trait to many people who have not gone through a process of self development. 
  4. They avoid disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations. This type of situation can easily create an uncomfortable feeling because an empath feels this emotion.
  5. Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and general chaos.
  6. Empaths are sensitive to loud noise and televison. In particular, television programs that depict emotional drama like the news and police shows.
  7. Thery struggle to comprehend acts of cruelty and crime that involves hurting others.
  8. They struggle to comprehend suffering in the world and are often idealists who theorise about fixing the worlds problems.
  9. Are often found working as volunteers, with people, animals or the environment.
  10. They are expressive so they can often be found in areas of music or the arts.
  11. They often have the ability to draw others to them. This includes children and animals as they have a warmth and compassion that is beyond normal You may find that strangers always talk to you if you are an empath.
  12. They can be good listeners as they generally have an interest in other people.
  13. Empaths can be moody or have large mood swings due to overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotion.
  14. They are likely to have had, other paranormal experiences in their life. This could be astral projection, psychic ability or a variety of other experiences.
  15. Empaths are daydreamers that have difficulty keeping focused. This is common with people who deal more IN emotion and neglect other area’s of their mind.
  16. Like many people on a spiritual path Empaths frequently experience déjà vu and synchronicities. This is something that occurs to everyone however empaths are often more aware and therefore ‘look out’ for it.

Let’s analyze this trait list a bit, based on some of the behaviors we have listed above.

Look at number 2: “2. Some empaths can be the opposite of what an empath ‘should’ be because they are overwhelmed or unable to handle emotion and what they feel in the world around them so they block their feelings.”  Could this play on ideas of repression and dissociation a bit?  Are there other behaviors it can be associated with?

Look at number 3: “3. They can be focused outward, toward what others feel, rather than themselves. This is a common trait to many people who have not gone through a process of self development.” Could this play into ideas of codependency and dissociation? Are there other behaviors it can be associated with?

Look at numbers 4 and 5: “4. They avoid disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations. This type of situation can easily create an uncomfortable feeling because an empath feels this emotion.“”5. Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and general chaos.” Could these play into dissociation and anxiety? Are there other behaviors it can be associated with?

The point of looking at these traits is to discover that Empaths, while having many positive and wonderful qualities including the ability to genuinely empathize with others and support them emotionally, have many issues which they carry around with them, as well, which work in part to make them who they are psychologically.  And alot of these issues rise out of the past, to be carried around as baggage in the now.

These things include what types of people we are drawn to for more intimate associations (romantic and otherwise), how we perceive ourselves, where we place the importance of our own needs in comparison with others, and how we interact with others (as equals or on higher/lower ground).

It does not take being abused, neglected, or suffering a severe trauma to be conditioned in this way.  All of your cumulative experiences can build up to some of these more negative patterns of behavior.  And this is particularly true for Empaths, who tend to draw not just people in need to them, but also more domineering and manipulative personalities to them.

We draw them to us because we are people pleasers who have a hard time standing our own ground and saying ‘no’ in the face of manipulation, anger, and guilt trips.  This is true because we are not able to set emotional boundaries, so we very easily get lost in the emotional sphere of other people…effectively drowning in it and losing all sense of who we are.

So consider all that has been offered up here.  It is an important lesson for people….and Empaths.  ^_^

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on September 11, 2010.

One Response to “Unconscious Motivations: The Secret Life Of An Empath”

  1. Very good article. It gives a lot of inside information from several fields.

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