December 14, 2017

When we need to Limit Empathy in order to Heal.

I was raised to see everyone empathically.

I was raised to believe that if you knew someone’s story, their entire story, you would love them.

And you know what? I still believe that.

I believe that no one causes harm intentionally— unless we are hurt and out of pain or anger. I believe that everyone wants to make the world a better place, wants to do good, and wants to help others.

But sometimes people fall short because of ignorance or mental illness. I do not mean to imply that mentally ill people will do nothing but cause harm; this is certainly not the case.

I believe that the person who hurt me the most did not intend to hurt me. He ended up hurting me because he could not question what he was doing. I believe that if he was able to comprehend what he did to me, he would feel terrible about it.

After saying this and as much as I believe all of this, there is still something I need to discuss.

When someone has hurt us—especially when the pain is still fresh—their intentions matter to us. But thinking about their intentions can also make the healing process much harder for us.

I have known many people who have been hurt by someone they love, someone they know and understand. Yet the survivor still does not want to come forward or confront their pain because they do not want to hurt their aggressor.

I have known many people who have been hurt by someone deeply—irrevocably. Yet they were so bombarded with questions like, “How could he have done anything? He is such a good guy!” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it; have you tried looking at it from his point of view?” that, eventually, they started to question themselves.

Maybe he is right; maybe I am being unfair. Maybe I made it all up in my head, maybe he didn’t really do anything wrong. Maybe this is somehow my fault.”

I believe that nobody is entirely evil and worthless. But when we cope with pain, we might need to forget that to a certain extent. We might need to see things as black or white in order to heal.

When all we can see is how hard it is for them, it becomes more difficult for us to move on. If we feel guilty, then we do not allow these emotions to run their course. If we keep thinking that we are the ones who acted wrong, and if we never show them that they did something bad, they will never change or grow.

In a perfect world, we would be able to understand that what they did to us was wrong. Instead, we believe that they acted badly because of a human fallacy. And someday, we may be able to come to that conclusion and find comfort in it. But when we are going through these messy emotions, and we yet have to heal, we may need to separate ourselves from them—to protect ourselves.

I’m not saying that we should completely see them as worthless human beings. I’m not saying that we can justify hurting others because we have suffered. After all, they remain human beings who deserve dignity and respect. But we are not doing anything wrong by separating ourselves from someone who has hurt us. We just need to heal.

And if hating them makes us realize that they did something wrong, then hate them. If hating them helps us get ourselves out of this bad situation, then hate them. We should not feel we are making a mistake by placing ourselves first.

Hating them will help us understand that, in the end, we did not deserve what happened. We are not being unfair by staying away from someone who has hurt us. We are not being selfish or cruel. We are giving ourselves the space we need to heal. And sometimes, to heal, we need to stay away from such people physically and emotionally.

Hopefully, someday, our pain might attenuate. We’ll be able to see things from their perspective. We’ll be able to forgive them, not for their sake, but for our own peace of mind. We’ll come to understand that they were not pure evil and that they did the best they could at the time. But for the time being, we need to protect ourselves to reach that glorious “someday.” 



Author: Ciara Hall
Image: @gypsieraleigh on Instagram
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy Editor Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson


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