Conscious Empathy – Stages of Maturity

People often think EQ development is for leaders who don’t have any empathy. EQ skills are also needed for leaders who have too much with poor boundaries. 

It is often the leaders who have too little and those that have too much that end up in a toxic tango. 

Below are three stages of development for an Empath: 

  1. Diffused – The Pleaser is an empath that is diffused with others (usually unconscious) where boundaries do not exist. They experience others emotions in their body as their own. Their sense of purpose is to exist for “the other” creating a familiar enmeshment (which is what it sounds like, getting mushed together). This empath feels too much of what is not theirs and ends up over-giving and over-functioning. They also please to ensure control of the situation and to secure connection including with an unhealthy person/system…often in hopes to fulfill their fantasy of making it better. Sadly, this weakens their inner self. They may have strong emotional reactions out of character to establish boundaries or connection when pleasing no longer works. 

    Developmental Support: Encourage empathy toward the self. This empath could be in severe pain/confusion and could benefit from additional support systems (i.e. therapy, CODA). 
  2. Slightly Differentiated – The Fixer. This empath can decipher the feelings that belong to oneself vs. others. The empath’s highly adaptable and problem-solving nature allows them to stay connected to adjust (and adapt to unhealthy connections/systems). They will up-level their responsibility to “fix” while suppressing their needs. This sets them up to squish their authentic voice and tolerate some disrespect. They my be rewarded for their empathetic adjustments, creativity and adaptability. Conversely, they may experience consequences for establishing boundaries. They can be seen as warm adaptable  leaders racking up personal costs (i.e. time, energy, health, resources) while trying to make it all work. 

    Developmental Support: Encourage strengthening boundaries and reviewing what is in their control.
  3. Securely Differentiated – The Conscious Empath. This empath has healthy boundaries clearly defining themselves and their feelings as separate from others. They are able to BE open-hearted with others without getting overtaken to fix, rescue or leave (collapse). Though they offer empathy they can accept limits (including the inability change others). They do not identify their self-worth from relationships or the approval of others. They are ok on their own and within a system because they are able to remain grounded in their vision and values. Solitude, self-knowledge and self- compassion enables them to relate while filtering unhealthy dynamics. Through engaging their shadow – they can begin to see and act with clarity.  

    Developmental support: Encourage on-going self reflection and creative use of their vision/gifts. 

Development is not cleanly linear… there can be a mixes and spirals. Shifting and developing takes time; the goal isn’t to get to the top – it is to experience acceptance, serenity and love. The keys to freedom.