Empathy is the ability to understand and vicariously experience the feelings of someone else. This skill is adaptive, helping you respond to another person's needs in healthy ways.
With the rise of support groups -- and now Internet chats and blogs -- patients sharing similar problems can easily seek out and find each other. And they do. So can a Healthy Survivor ever have too much empathy?
Empathy enhances your life when it opens up opportunities to add meaning and joy to hard times. Easing others' journeys by sharing insights and tips learned through hardship is life-affirming. Gallows humor can lift your spirits and energize you beyond the ability of any pep talk.
But if you keep feeling others' pain, you risk suffering the side effects, too: loss of appetite, motivation and energy. Too much sharing of others' sadness and fear can crowd out the hope and joy of your own life.
Since nowadays it is easier than ever to be connected to many people who are struggling or suffering, Healthy Survivors need to keep tabs on whether empathy is lifting them up or dragging them down.
Using the Serenity Prayer by Neihbuhr as a springboard, I wrote a prayer to help me use empathy wisely: Grant me the strength to support others with compassion, the courage to let others take over when empathy is pullling me down, and the wisdom to know the difference. Perhaps this little "Empathy Prayer" will be helpful to you.