Often when we are empathic and self-reflecting beings we are attracted to do a lot of inner work. We tend to take responsibility for our lives, and we are loving and giving to others. This makes us lovely people, but also gives us a tendency to stay in toxic relationships way too long. In this post/video I look at this tendency, where it comes from, and hopefully give you some tips for righting the balance.
I started a video on this topic and then turned it into an article as well, slightly different information in each, as it goes!
Many years ago I went to a therapist looking for answers for a particularly difficult family relationship and she asked me ‘have you tried everything?’ It became my mantra and I worked on myself for years trying to fix the relationship – I thought that I was 100% responsible for this. After many years literally exhausting myself to try to fix it, I actually got to the answer ‘yes, I have’ and what shocked me was that nothing had changed. In effect I had failed to change anything. When you spin your wheels like this and take 100% responsibility for a relationship which by definition requires two or more inputs, you are doomed to fail. You cannot be 100% responsible for something that is not 100% your input. It’s an easy mistake, and one that empaths make all the time – whilst some people believe they are 100% not responsible for anything, empaths believe they are 100% responsible for everything, but this stems from the ego, as only the ego thinks it has control over its external environment.
We have no control over the external environment! We can only control our internal environment, ie the way we think about things, and the way we respond to things, these are all within our control and we can gain an immeasurable amount of peace and inner contentment if we clear away the misconceptions and delusions we carry inside – but we cannot do that for others, and we cannot control other peoples’ actions.
In relationships it is a dance between two or more inputs, the other person is not your puppet, and you have no control over them whatsoever. So for every question you ask yourself about your own responsibility, you must also ask of them, this will give you a much clearer and fairer picture of what is going on.
For example, as I am asking myself my mantra ‘have you tried everything’, I need to also check in with ‘have they tried everything?’. When I ask myself ‘how could I respond differently next time?’ also begs the question ‘how could they respond differently?’ And it’s not to set up a ‘they should do this or that’ it’s simply to see, OK, am I holding up my side of nurturing this relationship, and are they holding up theirs? It helps you to come to a balance – especially if you are an empath. The balance needs to shift to 50/50.
When you start to see the imbalance, who is taking what, who is giving what you are then in a much clearer position to answer the question ‘when is enough, enough?’ Little hint, if you are asking this question, then you are probably there already!
That’s from a mental perspective. From an energetic perspective it’s actually even easier – simply listen to your body. Balance is very easy to discern for the body, it can feel the energy exchange and it never lies, it’s not judging like the mind and overriding itself, the body doesn’t debate – the body is a clear barometer and energy runs in or out of it, and it tells you via the simple index of fuel consumption. Relationships that pull your energy drain you – you feel exhausted after interactions, you don’t want to spend too much time with them, and you begin to resist or avoid encounters. Relationships that balance your energy nurture you, you look forward to interactions and you leave with a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart. If you are the one trying to take energy, then you will feel unfulfilled and frustrated when they can’t give you individual time, or insulted and slighted when they don’t want to be around you.
Once you begin to really get clear on the reality of the relationship – and again there is no blame or guilt here, its simply the reality of your interactions with people – with some people we are balanced, some we are imbalanced – it doesn’t really matter why, it only matters what we would like to see going forwards.
Moving forwards is where people get confused with the inner and outer reality philosophy. If my inner world reflects my outer world then by changing my inner world I can miraculously change my outer world. NO! Your inner world gives you your interpretation of your outer world, and depending on how connected you are with yourself there is a huge amount of delusion we all carry around about that. Reality and our perception of reality at best is a poor reflection, for most of us it is enormously distorted – which is why inner work is so important, but it’s simply cleaning the mirror so we can see better, its actually not changing the view.
Often in spiritual circles we are told we need to come into ‘acceptance’ and yes we do, it’s like the first stage of any addiction recovery, the first step is to accept where you are. STEP ONE. From acceptance you can then begin the road to recovery. For empaths we are addicted to fixing things, and we do it internally – if I just fix this inner flaw, or this inner perception, then I can change the outer experience. That is literally like thinking if I just polish my window better I will have a sea view instead of my neighbours ugly wall. Inner work is to polish to the point where you are faced with your neighbours wall and now you can make a clear decision, oh, it’s a wall! Can I live with that? Can I accept that? Or do I need to move? Do I have energy to move? How much does it really bother me? Etc etc. Now you can do the real work of changing the external environment because now you are looking at reality and not your perception of reality (my body is telling me its an ugly wall, but its not, it’s the seaside, I’m just not accepting enough).
I was told once by a loved one that I wasn’t a very good Reiki teacher because I couldn’t control my anger at this person. The hard thing to accept about this ridiculous statement is that I believed it, and internalized it as ‘my fault’ – in this example, I was responsible for my response (beating myself up) and also therefore clouding the truth (this person was simply being very manipulative). The purpose of inner work is to allow you to see clearly what reality actually is, and not so that you can manipulate a miraculous transformation.
Having said that, we have all also had some miraculous shifts actually happen! When I shifted a lot of my misconceptions around my parents I did genuinely see an intimacy and closeness that wasn’t present before, but when I look clearly, I see that my parents always loved me deeply and this closeness was because I moved closer, not because they changed one bit. This is why the 50/50 rule is so helpful, often we are the ones not giving to the relationship, so ensuring a balance is helpful before you ask the question ‘when is enough enough?’
This may be Tip 3, when you are working furiously on a relationship and its working, then you are the one moving closer, and you were the one out of balance. However, when nothing shifts and you have tried genuinely to shift things internally, then its probably the other person. And that is totally out of your control. Time to get clear, and accept. It’s a one sided affair, and is that OK with you?