Abusive Relationships: Don't Let Abusers Waste Your Empathy
Waste comes on all forms. Plastics, bodily wastes, and characteristics like empathy for others. Yeah, I know, we don't usually consider a good quality in ourselves as a waste - but in some cases, empathy is a waste of energy. When you're in an abusive relationship, your loving empathy for your abuser is a definitely a waste of your energy.
When you waste empathy in your abusive relationship, you throw your thinking and emotions off balance. Unbalanced thoughts and feelings lead to hasty and usually detrimental actions. When was the last time you did something in a state of anger that you wish you could take back? How often have you been so fatigued from dealing with your abusive relationship have you neglected important tasks or other relationships?
An unbalanced internal state causes an unbalanced way of living. Once you start the slide downhill, the negative energies gain power and you just keep on sliding down (Verbal Abuse Signs and Symptoms).
Why Abusive Relationships Are A Waste of Empathy
An abusive person requires you to stick around so they can maintain the will to survive. If your abuser had no one to abuse, they would be forced to turn on themselves, to beat themselves down. Due to the nature of an abusive person, they cannot remain alone for very long because they cannot take the punishment they inflict on themselves (it's like the pain they inflict on you!). They're weak. They require the energy you provide to them by acting as their punching bag, their stress relief.
However, if the abuser didn't project the illusion of a person that deserves your empathy, you would leave your abusive relationship straight away. Keeping you around by showing their nice face every now and then strengthens your empathy for the good person they want you to think they are deep down (Cycle of Violence and How to Break the Cycle of Abuse). It is easier to be nice to you ever so often than to go out and fool another person into loving them. The abuser's payout for using energy to fool you comes back to them 100-fold when you let them abuse you because you feel sorry for them.
While your empathy fuels your abuser and makes them stronger, wasting your empathy on an abusive person turns you into a sick person. Your self-esteem drops, your decision-making ability declines and eventually your body deteriorates. Your brain creates new pathways to handle the negative energies going on in your mind and spirit. You will develop depression and/or anxiety, and your body could lose its ability to fight infection or its strength to fight a pre-existing malady.
Your abuser does not deserve your empathy. There are better things you can do with it that will help you and the world around you!
3 Ways to Conserve Empathy In Abusive Relationships
Reduce Empathy Used in the Abusive Relationship
Reducing your empathy requires detachment. The ability to detach requires knowledge about abusive relationships. The more you know about domestic violence and abuse and why your abuser acts the way he or she does, the clearer it will become that you shouldn't take their words and actions to heart. In a way, whatever your abuser says or does isn't directed at you. It's directed at themselves, but instead of abusing themselves, they choose to abuse you.
Check out the picture next to this paragraph. In the center is the word empathy. Read the words around empathy. Does your abusive relationship offer anything like understanding, nurturing, relating to one another honestly, caring, good communication or love? No. So you don't have to give empathy to your abusive relationship either.
Reuse Your Empathy
You can reuse your wasted empathy. You know how much effort you put into understanding your abuser? Figuring out what they need and want and then giving it to them is good practice for figuring out what you need and want and then giving those good things to yourself.
It may feel weird to reconnect with your feelings at first. For a long time, you have ignored how you feel and allowed your abuser to manipulate you into feeling false emotions like guilt, shame, and hate for who you have become. Your abuser should be the one feeling those horrible things, not you! But your abuser won't feel bad for anything they do - they expect you to feel bad for them.
Stop wasting empathy on your abuser and the abusive relationship. Use your empathetic skills to help someone who deserves them - YOU!
Recycle Your Empathy
When you slip and decide to stick around after an abusive episode because she's having a bad day or this is just how he is, forgive yourself for staying. Admit that you gave the abuser a pass. Instead of enforcing your boundaries, you caved and let your abuser hurt you. Oh well. Everyone makes mistakes.*
Figure out exactly when you decided to stick around to listen to your abuser's nonsense. Were you trapped in the room or the car? Did they wake you up from a sleep and you didn't realize what was happening until it was too late? Maybe you were just too exhausted or afraid to get away. Whatever the reason you didn't walk away from them, it's okay.
You aren't stupid. You aren't weak. But prevent the abuse from happening again by empathizing with your feelings about what happened (not theirs) and make a safety plan for what you will do the next time your abuser sideswipes you like that.
Always remember that you deserve as much or more empathy from yourself than you give to anyone else. You deserve forgiveness, joy, and love as much as you want to give good feelings to your abuser. But since your abuser doesn't want to accept your loving gift, stop giving them something they don't want. Give it to yourself instead.
Reduce, reuse and recycle your empathy so you can stay strong and make clear-headed decisions that will increase your positive energy.
See also: Compassion Fatigue Test
*Hey! If you are physically abused, forgive yourself but leave your abusive relationship as soon as possible! Don't hold out for the next time.
Holly, K. (2013, April 28). Abusive Relationships: Don't Let Abusers Waste Your Empathy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/04/empathy-waste-energy-abuse
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
I need real help, not more humiliation and embarrassment and put-downs. I need for people to recognize any good qualities I have, and promote or encourage them.
But I haven't actually done anything to retaliate besides acting-out and frequent verbalizing of my frustration and rage. So I tend to disagree about empathizing or feeling sorry for those who are being abusive due to PTSD or similar trauma-induced disorders, if that means staying in a potentially dangerous relationship, particularly marriage.
I am trying to understand, when I manage to calm down and think rationally, but my emotional problems are worst in the mornings. I'm also worse whenever I get tired or haven't been getting enough sleep, and nobody seems to appreciate all the stress I've been through, maybe they think I was exaggerating or making things up. I've actually been attacked on the street, this happened in November of 2011 while I was briefly homeless because I didn't want to contact my relatives, I was thinking they might be planning to call the mental health dept. and have me "put away" even if they thought this was for my own good, so I took off after getting evicted, and was mostly living on the streets for 2 months.
That can be dangerous but I can't charge them with endangerment, after all, it was my choice to be homeless, I wasn't wandering around confused, but just didn't want to call my brother or relatives. They tended to talk down to me and give me unwanted advice, at least, according to my perspective. Though for all I know it might not have been sadistic on their part, maybe they just didn't understand what was happening in my mind and the struggles I was trying to overcome.
The apartment I'd been evicted from, part of the reason was that my next-door neighbor might have had a rage disorder, and even said in my presence talking to another neighbor, he had a history of being in prison (the police acted like what I told them was a joke, I'd just withdrawn without titrating from psychiatric prescription drugs that diminished my IQ, quality of life, made me dull and unmotivated and unhealthy, anhedonic (unable to enjoy anything) less communicative, or socially responsive, and unable to remember things clearly, particularly people's faces, even those I had known for years if I met them in an unfamiliar place.
But brain damage makes people passive, what can I say, whether or not it qualified as "damage" is moot, it didn't seem reversible, except for the lingering effects of SSRI discontinuation syndrome. Stimulates nerve growth factor release, which might explain my increased IQ, social response, and heightened emotionality. They might have thought I was lying and probably believed I was using cocaine or some other stimulant, and not admitting it. My behavior actually seemed theatrical. The initial result of sudden withdrawal was extreme emotion but at first it was positive, and manic, or euphoric, which can be dangerous (admittedly) if you get too reckless and have too much confidence to have any sense of fear, and engage in potentially dangerous activities. But that was temporary, and since having had so many negative experiences since then, I'm timid, at least socially, not reckless anymore. I'm too afraid to make major decisions and tend to hide away when people do or say things that offend me or put me in a defensive state.
I want to deal with this, but it's difficult unless I can get them to understand where I'm "coming from."
As for the comment about PTSD and having EMPATHY FOR ABUSERS?!!! HELLLOOOO?!!! I have complex PTSD and I dont run around doing things to intentionally hurt people to avoid feeling bad about myself. Giving the abuser my empathy has hurt me & my son. It also hasnt helped this love of my life. I STILL have empathy for him& he still claims to have "empathy" for me. Being an ultra-sensitive type, I feel pain from another as soon as I look into their eyes. I could never look into their eyes & be so EXTREMELY CRUEL to them . I CAN FEEL OTHER's PAIN. My abuser claims that he "just didnt realize" the pain that he & his mother were causing . There is SO MUCH MORE TO THIS STORY- (a pregnancy I terminated that I'll regret for the rest of my life((of which he laughed at my pain about several times. My 1st visit to jail- after I was clean- b/c he wouldnt stop yelling lies & Gosh-Awful things that my son was crying about . I "hit" him & I ended up in jail (instead of the like the ONLY other time I'd "hit" him- pregnant and being strangled (again!) & kicked down & dragged down the hall in front of my then 3year old). I'd better leave room for other replies here! Thank you again! Please pray for my precious baby & for me to do right by Him, Myself,& My Savior. I may be a stranger, but I send my love to all of you & your children who have been victims of soul-suckers (who were really good "deep-down")
Save your empathy for healing yourself. I'm not in the business of healing the abuser - if they want to heal, more power to them and it can be done (in some cases). I don't see one good reason why I or anyone else should feel so sorry for them that we need to stick around and allow them to practice on us. That's why marriage has a term called "separation" attached to it - separate, live apart, and let the abuser PROVE through his or her actions that s/he will learn how to behave like a decent human being.
I am still in the abusive relationship. He says he loves me, but then turns around and says things that don't even make sense. I'll just give you a couple and let me know if he is an emotional abuser or not. Talking on the phone with him, he gets mad if I interrupt him, he yells at me. Aren't you going to listen, what did I just say. See I knew you weren't listening cause your are talking over me. He asked me whay my favorite hobby was, taking pictures, we went on vacation, I started taking pictures. He looked at mine. You took them too close, you need to take pictures with a wider view, stand back you are too close. He even told my whole family that I don't take good pictures and my family just looked at him becasue they know how much I enjoy taking pictures. Because of this I don't even take pictures anymore. Then if he wants sex I don't want to he gets mad. This is after the 2nd or third time having sex. I feel like a sex object. I was watching a program and he changed the channel, I said hey I was watching that, he said oh it will only confuse you. what do ya think?
In the part of this writing you encourage us to recycle our empathy on our selves. When I read that it strikes me that the way I started doing that was to listen to and validate my gut feelings rather than shushing them and telling myself that I was paranoid, self pitying or just crazy like he liked to say. Unlike anything else out there, my gut NEVER lies to me.
Your blogs were something I came upon accidentally. The information I gained specifically about detaching were immeasurably valuable. They sparked my courage and got me rolling on getting free of what was a terminal relationship. I can't thank you enough.