The Link Between High Sensitivity, Empathy, and Codependency

a highly sensitive person experiences codependency

Codependency can begin in childhood, when HSP kids tune into the energy of their parents and adjust their own.

As a highly sensitive and empathic child, it can be very easy to unconsciously take on the role of parent if the parents themselves don’t have strong personal energetic boundaries, or if they are emotionally imbalanced or carry unresolved pain within themselves.

The child feels the emotions and inner life of their parents as if it were their own, and may believe that the wellbeing of their parents has to do with them — for example, if they could just be a little better, calmer, sweeter, or quiet, then their parents would love them. It may also be that the pain, worry, or fear of the caretakers feels as real as if it were the child’s own feelings. The only hope for the child to not have these emotions is to try to help their parents.

This is where codependency develops. The child begins to take care of their parents and tracks where they are mentally, emotionally, and energetically. 

For example, as soon as the parent comes home, the child begins to tune into the energy of the parent and adjust their own energy and state of being in order to not have to feel the emotions of their parents.

This is where the child begins to lose contact with their own feelings and inner life. Suddenly the focus is not on what the child needs, but the child is always looking at the external — how their parents are feeling — and then adapts accordingly.

This is often also how fatigue syndromes start and is strongly connected to people-pleasing. You have been so focused on the wellbeing of other people around you instead of your own needs, or you have tried to find your inner value externally from the environment by “performing” to fill up an inner emptiness.

If we’ve never been mirrored emotionally by our parents as children, it’s most likely that we continue our lives subconsciously seeking that validation or confirmation.

When the child begins to lose touch with their own energy and truth, the child loses contact with who she or he truly is.

Does this sound familiar? It might if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), because HSPs, like others, can struggle with codependency. Here’s what codependency looks like, and how you can start healing from it.

Replacing the Emptiness Inside

To replace the emptiness inside, the child might start to look for love in other people or places as they get older, because there is a sense of emptiness. Love relationships can be intense emotionally, and there can be a longing to be seen and loved by another person fully to experience that which was never experienced in childhood.

But everything we encounter in relationships are reflections of ourselves, which makes us frustrated. We feel like we’ve done everything right, making sure others feel good, but still we feel empty and not seen.

We do not yet understand that the solution lies within ourselves.

Other signs that we are trying to fill up a hole inside ourselves may be extremes of shopping, gambling or sex, obsessions, addictions, or similar behaviors that may be signs you are not in contact with yourself, and have lost touch with your own inner truth.

Codependent people may try to compensate for an emptiness they feel within themselves, but nothing outside can fill them — it just reinforces the feelings of emptiness and loneliness. In the end, things can go so far that we become aggressive or stay in unhealthy relationships, because that’s the only love we knew as children. Then it is an even greater warning signal that we need to return to ourselves and find love for ourselves from within. How we treat others is a direct reflection of how we feel inside.

Break the Cycle of Emotional Pain

The way back to ourselves often requires that we feel the emotions that resulted from losing contact with ourselves. It means sitting with the feelings of being abandoned, rejected, or not seen. We have to go to the place within ourselves that wasn’t heard, seen, or valued and give that place love.

It can help to talk about it with a coach or therapist, but sometimes that’s not enough. We need to release the emotional imprint of the pain that has been embodied in us so we can free up space and receive more divine love (which is unconditional love) — in other words, the truth of who we are and the love that we all seek.

To release the pain we may have stored within ourselves from childhood, we have to allow the emotions that may be lingering to be released through unconditional love, compassion, and presence. It’s important to give ourselves that which our parents never gave us as children in order to heal and not carry around the pain or pass it down to future generations. We don’t want to repeat the cycle in our own children. Someone needs to break the cycle of pain.

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How to Begin Healing From Codependency

Emotionally sensitive people have the ability to transcend emotional pain because they:

  • are emotionally aware of it
  • have enormous emotional inner strength
  • have access to their feelings, which means they can feel them and therefore release them

Connecting with the inner child as an adult and giving the child what it needs can help us heal tremendously. Learn to:

  • say no
  • spend time on your own learning about your own needs and desires
  • take responsibility for your own wellbeing
  • start a self-care routine where you focus on healing and loving yourself, filling your own cup, either through meditation, yoga, your favorite tea, a walk in nature, sitting in silence, buying yourself flowers, journaling, or practicing body-awareness: touching yourself lovingly and speaking to yourself kindly
  • practice healthy boundary setting
  • understand that you are not responsible for the healing and/or wellbeing of others
  • heal from the beliefs/thoughts/emotions that left you feeling like you needed to take care of others to be loved or safe
  • release the victim mentality and stand up for yourself and your own life 
  • connect with your inner child and let them know that it was never their fault that their caregivers couldn’t meet their needs
  • practice forgiveness, compassion, and letting go consciously 
  • receive help from someone you trust or who has expertise in the area
  • share how you feel to people who honor you and listen to you without judgment
  • see where you feel incomplete and love yourself so you don’t unconsciously seek love in the external
  • release behaviors, thoughts, habits, attitudes, situations, people, and places from your life that don’t serve you or the life you want to live
  • be grateful for what you’re going through and understand that it’s teaching you many things that you will carry with you and be able to use to help others

You Can Do It

Only we hold the key to our salvation, healing, and awakening. When you find the reason you were missing something, you may discover that who you were missing was yourself.

These steps can happen over time and may not be something you pay attention to before it becomes very painful.

Especially anger or aggression can be clear signs that we have unresolved emotions we need to sit with, feel, allow, and let go of.

We are all responsible for our own healing and the forgiveness of our parents. We all do our best based on our own level of awareness and ability at any given moment of time.

Forgiveness is another great tool to help us heal and free ourselves from the past, individually and collectively.

The more intense the feeling — the greater the call for our own inner love.

You can do it.

You are strong.

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