Empathy means we understand a person’s feelings and can put ourselves in their shoes. Codependency is chronic neglect of ourselves. Here’s the differences:
Empathy allows us to be aware of and attuned to other people’s emotions and perspectives. When we say people lack empathy, it means they only have the ability to see things from their point of view.
When we’re empathetic, we can listen to what someone is sharing or feeling from a space of compassion or curiosity. We also have clear boundaries and an awareness that our role isn’t to fix other people’s issues.
Empathy allows people to be: seen, heard, and understood. It creates authentic, safe relationships where we can fully self express. It says: “I am here for you, but I am not here to change you.”
Many people confuse empathy for codependency. Codependency involves going into “rescuer” or “fixer” mode when someone shares their emotions.
Fixer mode looks like:
– giving unsolicited advice
– agreeing to help people at the cost of our own emotional wellness
– trying to rescue people from their own actions
– controlling or micromanaging people
When we’re in fixer mode, instead of understanding a person’s feelings, we try to change their situation. This comes from feeling uncomfortable or anxious with our own emotions.
We feel helpless, and in that helplessness we can make impulsive choices, over-extend ourselves, or agree to do things that create resentment. Codependency lacks boundaries.
A good sign that you’re experiencing codependency is that you feel: burnt out, “used,” taken for granted, or not appreciated.
If you’re someone who goes into fixer mode, practice “holding space” for other people without interjecting your own feelings. Ask: “Do you want me to just listen right now?”
If you notice the impulse to give advice or “fix” the situation, just breathe. Remind yourself that you are your own responsibility and that other people are fully capable of finding solutions.
If someone does directly ask for help or support, and that’s something we’re in a space to give, we can give that. If they don’t we can release our role of trying to rescue others.