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Welcome to the Uncensored Empath, a place for us to discuss highly sensitive energy, illness, healing, and transformation. My name is Sarah Small, and I’m a life and success coach for empaths, who want to create a thriving body, business, and life. Think of this podcast as your no-BS guide to navigating life, health, and entrepreneurship. You’ll get straight to the point, totally holistic tips from me, in real-time, as I navigate this healing and growth journey right beside you, This is a Soul Fire production.
Welcome to this episode of the Uncensored Empath podcast. And it’s another solo for you this week. I’m excited to be talking about a topic that I see so often, but I find that so many people are unaware of. And my intention and my hope for this episode is to bring a whole new level of awareness to the codependent empath. This specific archetype within how you’re impacting nature might show up in your life. And seeing it as something that can be very interrelated and connected to codependency.
So let’s begin by talking about what it means to be codependent on its own. And this is straight-up from Wikipedia. Let’s see what they have to say.
“Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.”
The roots of codependency and the theories behind this, route back to 1941 with German psychoanalyst, Karen Horney. She proposed that some people adopt what she termed a, “moving toward personality style to overcome their basic anxiety”. Which essentially meant that these people move towards others, by gaining their approval and affection, and subconsciously control them through their dependent style. They are unselfish, virtuous, martyr-like, faithful, and turn the other cheek despite personal humiliation. Approval from others is more important than respecting themselves. There’s a lot of self-sacrificing that shows up in the characteristics of the codependent.
And then, what’s really interesting is sometimes codependency is paired with more formal personality disorders that are diagnosed with a healthcare practitioner, like borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD. And so, if you have somebody in your life who has BPD, then, what they’re suggesting is that you’re likely to become paired up with that person because people with BPD tend to need the sense of worth by your validation. And if you’re the codependent one, they’re seeking this approval. And then, the codependent one slips into this caretaker role, but then, gives the person with BPD priority and focus on their problems, and their life, and their issues, versus your own issues.
The codependent pairs with the BPD person and blends into their model of the world, their landscape. And starts to feed off of, or play into the, again, lens the world of the person with borderline personality disorder, by enabling. And the same thing or similar thing happens again, with a pairing of a narcissist with a codependent. And sometimes even, codependents do pair up with a narcissist, which is very common. They’re called co-narcissists. What happens here is the narcissist gets the codependent to buy into their vision, and to again, see their model of the world. The codependent helps the narcissist’s desires become a reality, or to put the narcissism needs above their own. Codependents can provide the narcissist with an obedient and attentive audience, because codependents are really great at meeting all their people’s needs, versus their own needs.
So there’s this need to feel wanted from the codependent, and then, the narcissist needs to feel important and special. And therefore, they pair perfectly together. It’s not a healthy relationship, but it is a perfect pairing and that they feed off of each other’s needs, or habits, or behaviors.
And what I notice is that oftentimes that a codependent is rooted in, or comes from a dysfunctional or unstable family, or at least childhood was that. And there was the feeling of not being safe. Because within dysfunctional families, there’s this need for the child, this inner drive, this inner need for the child to attune to the parent’s needs and the parents’ feelings, instead of the other way around, their own needs and their own feelings. So, in that dysfunctional, more unstable childhood, somebody, maybe yourself, might develop codependent behaviors in order to attune to the needs of everyone else in the family versus your own.
And this is where I want to introduce an idea to all of you. Because what we just discussed is the codependent, but let’s bring empathy into this and the empath archetype as well. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. It’s like you’re able to literally feel the other person’s feelings or emotional pain. You are absorbing or sponging up those emotions, that energy, that physical sensation of the other person. And that’s really the skill of the empath. We can see it through many different lenses. We can see it through a lens that is negative. We can see it through a lens that is positive. There’s also the lens that it’s that ability shut off or shut down. But one of the skills of the empath is this attunement to other people’s energy.
And I was listening just this past week or so, to Teal Swan and a podcast she was on. And she said, what we’re calling empaths on this planet, are people who are raised in unsafe conditions. And the only way to stay safe in the childhood environment is by choosing a person in the room to attune to. And that person that you attuned to, in the room, is most likely to be the most dangerous, threatening, scary, fear-inducing person. Because this is all about safety and survival. Because the more that that person can attune to the unsafe person in the room, the more they can make adjustments within themself, to stay safe. So the empath becomes, or develops this natural habit then, to naturally walk into a room and attuned to the most dangerous, most threatening thing, or person in the room in order to stay safe.
So the codependent empath is the empath who was likely raised in unsafe or dysfunctional conditions, and then, felt the need to attune to the energy of others. And then, therefore began to rely on the approval of others to form their own identity. In other words, their identity is based on other people’s needs or other people’s big vision. And what better way to get on board with other people’s needs or vision than to be an energetic sponge to them. So it’s like you’re psychically reading their energy. And as you attune to them, you can read that energy better and, it’s easier to please them, or to feed into their truth, their vision, their reality.
So you may already have identified that there are some challenges that can really start to surface if this is the case or the role that you’re playing in your life. I’m going to go through some of these in detail. Here are some of the challenges that the codependent empath may face.
The first thing is a difficulty setting boundaries and limits. When you are people-pleasing, we sacrifice, we’re afraid to say, no, we are the yes, yes, yes, person. So there’s a difficulty setting boundaries and limits.
There’s also a difficulty in detaching from other’s energy and the ability to focus on your own. So, because you’re so tuned in and absorbed in other people’s energy, as a codependent empath, it’s really hard to then, probably, meditate for one, but also just to get quiet enough with yourself and detached enough from other people’s shit to focus on what is going on in your body, how do you feel?
The codependent empath also, often doesn’t know what they need. You don’t know what you want. You don’t know what you need because it’s so absorbed. The thoughts are so absorbed in somebody else’s needs and somebody else’s vision and reality.
So then, as a byproduct, it is also really hard for the codependent empath to ask for what they need, because they don’t know what that thing is. So then, the asking also feels, even if they did know what they needed, it still feels like this threat. Or it’s scary to ask for what they need, because there’s this inner belief, that it’s never supposed to be about me.
It also can feel extremely threatening for the codependent empath to share their negative emotions and their negative feelings. That feels like it’s just completely off-limits. And I relate to this. I have a past as the codependent empath, for sure. That’s why I’m talking about this today. And I just remember so often, all the time, as a little girl, it felt so threatening to share my negative emotions, because I felt like they were labeled as wrong or bad, or it was too much of a burden on other people. And I was not supposed to express any of that. Big no-no.
The codependent empath must also, or feels the need to also have control. To always maintain control. Again, it goes back to safety, but this control is mostly in the form of navigating a situation. So, when you walk into the room, the control that is felt is my empathic abilities. I have control over navigating other people’s emotions. So, if somebody is hard to read, that can be very irritating for the codependent empath, because you’re, Oh my gosh, I can’t read their energy. I don’t know how to respond to this person. I don’t know how to please them. The control is also in controlling somebody else’s feelings, or somebody else’s behaviors, by or through the way in which you act and you behave, or what you say.
The codependent empath also feels they cannot trust themselves. Their validation is completely external. It’s from the external world, especially if they’ve paired up or latched to that one person. Whereas I mentioned before, or paired with either someone with BPD or a narcissist. The codependent empath often experiences extreme confusion in making decisions. Because it goes back to not knowing what I need, not knowing how to ask for what I need, because I’m so absorbed in somebody else’s energy, that I don’t know how to make these decisions for myself.
Even if you’re, let’s say, a recovering or recovered codependent empath this could still be very challenging. Because even if you’re not absorbed in the other person’s energy anymore, it’s still is like a new newness, it’s unfamiliar, it’s uncharted territory to start making decisions for you, and based on what you want, versus somebody else. Or for the sole result of pleasing somebody else.
The codependent empath also loses themselves in others. I talked about the vision, the goals of the narcissist, let’s say. It doesn’t have to be a narcissist, but again, often it is. And it’s like, they’re strong in what they need. Their desire. Me, me, me, me, me, the world revolves around me, and you lose yourself in that narrative, in that story, if you identify as a codependent empath. Which then, goes back to what we just talked about. No, I can’t make decisions for myself because I was, up until now, maybe making these decisions based on somebody else’s life.
The codependent empath really has trouble with conflict and any relationships that may be going through a break-up, because it triggers immense fear. And more specifically, fear of abandonment. The codependent empath is terrified of being abandoned and left alone. And so, part of that fear of abandonment is the logical thinking of, well, if I just give, give, give, give more, then they’ll never leave me. And so, that’s a habit of the codependent empath as well, is I’m going to give, I’m going to give, I’m going to give, I’m going to give. I don’t care about myself, or my capacity or threshold to burn out. I’m just going to keep on giving.
The codependent empath is also hyper-responsible. And that hyper-responsibility plays into this facade of control as well. We think, well, I’m responsible for this person, and that person, and this outcome, and this thing over here. If I can just have a responsibility and be responsible for all of these things, then I also feel like I’m in control of all of these things. This person also has huge expectations for themselves. Often unrealistic, straight up unrealistic expectations. It plays into the perfectionist and feeling like they have to always be perfect. And the definition of that perfection is going to be different, based on who’s in their life, and who their codependent relationships are with.
And an empath also tends to give unsolicited advice. And that is because there’s this feeling, this need to fix other people, or fix other people’s problems. And so, they don’t think they’re giving unsolicited advice. They think that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. What a good girl does, which is help people, fix people, take away people’s pain. And, oftentimes that does then end up becoming unsolicited advice, and that need to fix other people’s problems.
The codependent empath also experiences really low self-esteem. So when you can, or it seems like you’re fixing other people and their problems, that can help boost self-esteem, to maybe find some sort of status quo, neutral zone. But in general, the codependent empath has always going to struggle with self-esteem. There’s also this resentment for how much they give. So they feel like they have to give, give give, fix, fix, fix, over-deliver, over-deliver.
But, along with that comes a resentment, because they’re exhausted. Because they’re not receiving as much as they’re giving, especially if it’s in a relationship with narcissists, or borderline personality disorder. Because that person may not be capable of giving that much back. And certainly, it’s not their priority to be giving that much back, or their desire to give back, because the world is about them. And you, as a codependent empath, are playing into that model, their model of the world. And giving, giving, giving, the resentment builds, and builds, and builds. But, it’s like your own worst enemy, because you’re choosing to continue to give, give, give.
The codependent Empath is also constantly seeking permission. And literally, probably saying, is this okay? Is that okay? Does it look okay? Is it okay if I do this? Should we do that? But is that okay with you? Is it okay with you? This constant wanting to please, and asking for permission, seeking that permission through questioning, questioning, question themselves.
So what I want you to remember is, these behaviors were likely developed out of safety and survival. And because it has become a huge part of your identity. If you’re relating to this. In order to break that cycle, there needs to be this reclamation of your own identity. This question of who am I? Who are you without all of that dependency on somebody else, without all of those things, without of all those patterns, behaviors in your life?
And when you sit and you truly think about this, honestly, it may feel like I don’t fucking know. Nobody? Question Mark? Who am I? I don’t know. That is everything. That is who I am. That’s what I’ve always known. But the truth is, that’s not all of you. You have your own identity. You can choose to have your own identity. You can choose to peel yourself away from that codependent, empathic behavior. Your identity is at the core of any change that you create in your life. The identity is who you are. And who you are, is up to you.
I want to take a quick moment for you to just check in with yourself. If it’s safe for you to close your eyes, maybe you close your eyes or you just bring your hands to your belly, or your heart. Take a deep breath. And I just want you to notice how your body’s feeling. We rarely stop to do this throughout the day. And for me, I’ve been doing this and reminding myself to do this a lot during quarantine, during social distancing. And as things re-open and then, close again, and all these rules and all these restrictions. And reminding myself to tap in, and just notice how I’m truly feeling.
And I’ve noticed in tapping into my own body, and listening to my needs and my feelings, that I’ve been really craving an outlet to talk. To talk about everything that’s been on my heart, and on my mind, and in my body. And my weekly sessions with my therapist from Better Help, have been so supportive, and so life changing, and so necessary right now. That I know that I have this one hour every week, plus messaging in between our calls to just express myself. And to do that, check in with my body, check in with my thoughts and notice what layers of grief are coming up? What stressors are coming up? How was I triggered this week? What family issues are coming back up to the surface, that are bringing up negative emotions?
And so I just want to give you all permission, if you haven’t already given yourself permission, to know that you are worthy and deserving of the support as well. And I’ve partnered up with Better Help to provide you accessible, affordable counseling. It’s not a crisis line. It’s not self-help. It’s professional counseling that is done online and allows you to have that outlet, that platform to get matched with a counselor, that’s going to be the best fit for you, and align with your values to be continuously supported.
So if this feels like a good fit for you, I want to give you 10% off your first month. Go to trybetterhelp.com/uncensoredempath. That’s try better H-E-L-P.com/uncensoredempath and get 10% off your first month of therapy.
Now, I really want to mention the struggles that the codependent empath may experience in business. So we talked about all these behaviors that are likely to be showing up and to resonate if you identify as a codependent empath. And maybe you’re just learning about this today, and you’re, oh shit, that is me. But because so many of my listeners are also entrepreneurs, coaches, wellness practitioners. I want you to consider how this could be showing up in your business. Because it doesn’t just isolate itself to relationships with narcissists, relationships with people with BPD, or any other relationships in your life. And instead, this can absolutely overflow into your business.
So what, how does it? And again, the reason I’m talking about this is, that I’ve seen this in myself and, it doesn’t have to be this way. I want to start with that. I’ve been there. I feel you, and everything can change.
So the first thing you might see showing up in your business is people-pleasing. That can mean giving discounts on everything, giving things away for free, somebody deeply disrespecting or offending you, and just letting them off scot-free. That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Oh, you can’t afford this? All right, here’s 50% off. People-pleasing in your business.
You may also beat yourself up when you don’t hit your goals. Well, I was one person away, so I still failed. I suck. I’m beating myself up when I don’t hit that goal. The codependent empath entrepreneurs, what we’re going to call this person. And that person also has immense expectations for themselves, unrealistic expectations for themselves around what they should be doing, or supposed to be doing, or need to be doing, to be enough for other people or to please other people.
They’re also always searching for the person who’s going to fix their problem, or get them to the next level, but this latching energy. And then, if that person doesn’t fix their problem, or get them to the next level, because hell they weren’t supposed to in the first place, it’s your responsibility. But when they feel they’ve let down by that person, then they’re going to be deeply hurt. They’re probably going to get very frustrated and angry. The codependent empath entrepreneur also likely has people in their community who adore their work and love everything about what they’re sharing. But don’t actually pay you, or don’t pay you what your true value and worth is. There’s also a constant fear that your clients are going to leave and abandon you. We talked about that fear of abandonment before, that shows up in your business. This constant fear of, well, what if they all disappeared tomorrow? What if they all hate me? What if they all leave? What if they all want refunds. A deep fear. And that is so startling and has such a big impact on your nervous system.
The codependent empath entrepreneur also often has a hard time defining their niche, and just deciding what they want to do, and who are they going to serve in their business, in their offers, in their services, because they want to help everyone. And they feel the safe game to play, is people-pleasing. Well, if I choose to only help this specific group of people, I’m going to offend others. I’m not going to be as liked. I wouldn’t be leaving people out, and I want as many people. I want everyone to like me. It feels threatening to narrow down and define who I want to help, and who I want to serve, because of this past and likely, trauma from the past, especially emotional trauma. And also, this habit you’ve learned. You’ve learned out of survival and safety.
There’s also this fear of saying the wrong thing or being called out, especially publicly for being wrong. So you post something, an opinion on Instagram and you get five people who are, I disagree or you’re wrong, or I think this, Ooh, does that feel threatening to your safety, to your worth, to your value? So that fear of saying the wrong thing also tends to hold the codependent empath entrepreneur back from even sharing themselves ever. It always feels just too much, too scary to really put yourself out there. And as we know, your business isn’t going to grow, until you do have something to say, and start saying it.
There’s also a constant over-giving that leads to burnout. And, Oh my gosh, do I see this within my own behavior and pattern of over-give, over-give, over-give because you want everyone to love you, and you want it to be more than enough. You want them to adore you, but that leads to burnout. And then, as we talked about before, there can be a deep resentment that comes, as a secondary effect.
The codependent empath entrepreneur is also likely to be answering clients at 2:00 a.m. And texting at dinner, feeling they have to constantly be available to their clients, especially their one-on-one clients. And there’s a lack of boundaries. There’s a lack of structure to me, as the business owner, versus me and my personal life.
So, holy hell. Who of you listening can relate? I’m so curious if this relates to you. But this is not meant to shame anyone, because like I said, I have been there. And I feel you so deeply sister, so, so fucking deeply. And I’m not here blaming you. My guess is that you’ve been through some shit. Some deep shit. And, you should just be so proud of yourself. Sometimes, just for coming out alive from that. But I’m curious if now, you can also see how much control and power that old situation and the behaviors that were developed from that old situation. How much control and power that still has over you? And again, if you go back and consider the root of this behavior, what aspects of your childhood were dysfunctional, unstable, threatening, fearful, traumatizing, and are you ready to heal? Not to forget, but to heal and release. Let go of those parts of the past, so that you can reclaim your identity, and stand up for yourself, and know your value and worth. And my guess is, that you’re really, really ready to change the way that you do business.
Because fuck, the current way is hard as hell. It makes you want to give up, maybe every day. But there’s also, a little fire burning within you that doesn’t want to give up. She doesn’t want to give up. She has something to share with the world. And right now, yeah, if feels unfair, that these behaviors have developed. But they’re not your destiny. They don’t have to be part of your identity anymore.
So here are a couple of ways you can begin to release the habits of the codependent empath. Especially, if a big light bulb has lit up, gone off today. And you’re going holy shit, this is everything I’ve been struggling with. Now what? What do I do? Well, I don’t want to leave you hanging. So here are a few ways to start releasing.
Number one, stop trying to fix things. Stop trying to fix things. I identify. This is something I talk about in therapy all the freaking time. Broken record with it. But I play this ‘fixer’ role, and I’m so good at the fixer role. And it’s so comfortable, and I have years, a lifetime of practice being the fixer. I got really damn good at it. But the first step is to stop trying to fix everything. Yeah, I know because I’m there, I’ve been there. It’s gonna feel weird to stop, but you can do it. I know you can do it. Stop trying to fix everything.
Number two, start to share your honest emotions. I used to label myself as the ‘fine girl’. Meaning, how are you, Sarah? Fine. Everything good today? Yeah. Are you okay? Yeah, I’m fine. Everything’s good. And inside you’re a shit storm. But it felt too scary to ever share that with anyone. To be, I’m not perfect. I’m struggling. I need help. I want to be loved. But this is step two, start to share your honest emotions. What I’ve found in that process? Is that people don’t leave you because you’re honest with your emotions. At least not the people who you want to keep in your life. That your emotions make you stronger, not weaker. That your emotional intelligence is invaluable. So start building it.
Number three, don’t ignore your pain. Don’t ignore your pain. So, there’s this numbness of the codependent empath, a numbing of what I want, what I need, the pain that’s showing up for me. Ooh. That’s not important. There are a person’s pain that’s more important. I’m okay, because somebody else in the world has it worse. Stop ignoring your pain. It’s okay to experience your pain. It’s okay to be in pain. We all experience pain as part of being human.
Number four, surround yourself with people who actually support you. Actually, support you. Love you, lift you up. Encourage you, allow you to be yourself, allow you to be honest with your emotions, and to show your pain. And who don’t need you’re fixing. Those people. Surround yourself with those people in your life.
Number five release responsibility for others. This was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me in my healing journey. The beginning, really, of my energy healing, that component of my journey. And I had an energy healer in a session. Tell me it is time to release responsibility for all these people in your life, especially your family members. Because I felt I was responsible for their happiness, their wellbeing, their health, their security, their joy, and it was exhausting. And I sacrificed myself over, and over, and over again. I kept my mouth shut, because their needs were always more important than mine.
Step five is to release that responsibility. The truth is, the ultimate truth is, you are only responsible for yourself. You are only responsible for yourself. This one took some practice for me. I had to keep catching myself when was I trying to take on all this extra responsibility?. I noticed it. Forgave myself. Gave myself grace, and I started to change that behavior.
Number six, finally. Reprogram your mind, your neural pathways, your belief systems. Again, this is deeply rooted for most of you listening, in a dysfunctional childhood, something you were born into. This is again, there’s no shame. There’s no judgment. There’s no blame. This is what you felt you had to do to stay safe. I know because I did this, because that’s what I felt I had to do. I felt I had to take on all this responsibility. I had to be the best empath in the room. To figure out who was the biggest threat. To be able to know how my parents were feeling and act accordingly. And that was programmed into my mind. But the beautiful thing about our brains is that we have neuroplasticity, and we can reprogram those beliefs. We can change. Our identity at the core level can shift. That identity of being ‘the fixer’, that I lived by for so long. Twenty-five years of my life, that changed. I don’t play. I don’t have to play the fixer role anymore, in my life. The beauty is if I ever want to use that ability, it still exists in my resource box. If I need to fix a problem for myself, but I don’t live out that archetype anymore.
So, your habits are stored. These beliefs are stored in the subconscious mind. And the awareness of these beliefs is certainly, the first step. And taking small actions like the ones I mentioned above, they start to build a ripple effect. But you also have to go a layer deeper and actually shift the habits. Because here’s the thing. The subconscious mind is always going to trump what your conscious mind tells it to do. Because it wants to keep you safe. So instead of just telling the conscious mind, this sucks, let’s change it. Oh my gosh, I just realized this thing, better change it today. Snap, snap let’s change.
Instead, we need to go a layer deeper and tap into the subconscious, where we can access your resources and your memories, and help the nervous system calm down. We cannot do this in an unregulated state, in a stress-the-fuck-out state. We have to calm down our nervous system. We have to get grounded. We have to get embodied, and then we can access these resources and memories. And we can change, on that core identity level. And we can start today.
So take four deep breaths with me right now. If you are committed to doing this work, take four deep breaths with me. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Three more. Even deeper. Now, repeat after me. I am safe. It is safe to be me. I’m only responsible for myself. It is safe to express my emotions. And notice how you feel. The breaths, automatically, down-regulate your nervous system, so that when you say these affirmations, they’re more likely to transcend the barrier between the conscious and subconscious, and actually be heard and actually feel true.
However, if you want to go way deeper and see miracle-style results. Then, I invite you to join us inside the Empath Leaders Membership. When you join, you become part of the Soul Family. Remember, I said one of the tips is surrounding yourself with people who truly love and support you. That’s what this container is for. And they’re constantly supporting each other to live a more fulfilling, impactful life that they love. And I’m here supporting you as well.
When you join, you will get access to three live, monthly calls that are also recorded. For breath work, for healing, and for coaching. It is truly incredible inside this container. And the value, for your investment, is ridiculous. It’s been said inside the membership, it’s ridiculous. Click the link in the show notes for more details. And then, I would be so honored. If you would tag me on social media, with what you learned in today’s episode. I cannot wait to hear from you, and what major light bulbs might’ve gone off for you. And how you are choosing to create some shift in your life, knowing what you know. I love you all. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace, and know how much change is possible. You can break the pattern, and you can create a new reality. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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August 19, 2020