Sympathy – a Poison to the Body

In the last 8 months or so I have been looking at how sympathy has played out in my life, especially in my relationships with others.

But sympathy is a good thing, I hear you say with a puzzled look???

The more I unpack, feel, observe and be honest about how sympathy works its way in and through interactions, connections and relationships, the more I am understanding that sympathy is quite the opposite to what we have been sold and have believed it to be in life, and quite truthfully, how absolutely harming and poisoning it is for our bodies and for us to be in.

I feel people are deeply caring by nature but it seems we have somehow erroneously, perhaps irresponsibly, replaced understanding with sympathy.

For me, after the last few months, I see that true understanding comes from a place of observation, of care, of listening and most importantly, a space that offers true support and even evolution to take place. Understanding is confirming, yet sometimes it may not be what we always want to hear or feel. However, it usually comes with truth and love.

For myself, I see that I have used sympathy to avoid feeling what is happening around me with people I care for as a way of cushioning, or to make things better for the other. I now realise that the harm in this is that it doesn’t allow each person to feel what is going on for them, where they are at in-truth, to take responsibility for their part, or to work through and make change. Sympathy is also a kind of load from the other that we take on into our body, which is very difficult to heal and clear, and offers no evolution but keeps the other (and even ourselves) limited and exactly where they are.

As I have allowed myself to feel how I have used being in sympathy with family, with work relationships, with friends and so on, I have felt how it alters the quality of my being and the queasy residue that it has left in my body. I have also absolutely felt that there is nothing about sympathy that has served me or the other in-truth. When I have gone into sympathy with others, a part of me has taken on their issue or situation as a trying to ‘fix it’ for them or ‘save them’ from feeling the effects. Even though in the past I have thought I was helping by doing this, taking on another’s stuff is something that makes my body feel physically queasy (like sea or morning sickness), much like ingesting a food that I know is not good for me.

When we absorb another’s situation, circumstances or issues, we are taking that poison into our body, effectively ingesting it. I have learned that the person who creates or is part of the situation or issue is the person who actually knows how to undo it; even though outsiders may want to help, only the people involved can deal with it. Me being all of me and reading situations as they are and responding is the best and only true support I can give.

So with the awareness of these two words, sympathy and understanding. I am able to look at, in some detail, how and most importantly, why I have chosen sympathy over understanding. This is a big one for me and one that exposes how I have used and chosen sympathy in the past to not express, to hold back, to shut down, to not shine, to not stick out, to enjoin, to fit in, to not feel lonely, to not feel I am missing out and to not be shunned, rejected or disliked.

The reality is that it has all been at the expense of the one thing I (and we all) want most – Love. It’s been a way for me to avoid taking responsibility to reflect the love that I am, the pure heaven and divinity and all I am actually here and designed to reflect in just the uniqueness that only I can bring. It is with all these divinely designed, unique flavours, everyone playing their very needed role, that makes us all a one unified complete whole. I like to think of it as a spherical jigsaw puzzle – even one piece missing matters greatly.

Letting go of sympathy, has at times felt like ‘walking through mud’, as it has been on some levels quite ingrained and a repeated pattern and behaviour with people I have known for a long time.

What has supported me greatly in this process is developing a true quality that I can tangibly feel in my body and then marking how things, relationships, patterns and behaviours either do or don’t belong with that quality. I have connected to, developed and deepened, this known quality, my natural and true way of being through amazing supports such as allowing myself to surrender during Esoteric Yoga, Sacred Movement, the Gentle Breath Meditation and bringing presence to my daily activities such as walking and driving.

Today I define the truth of life from the known quality of love and truth that I have surrendered to, connected with and move with in my body. The more I honour myself in this way, the more I further appreciate the value of bringing understanding to relationships, and can see that there is no need to burdensomely hold the fort for others resulting in less and less place for the poison of sympathy to enter.

By Johanna Smith, Bachelor of Education (Major Special Needs, Minor Psychology), Graduate Certificate of Early Childhood, Studying Diploma of Counseling, Esoteric Complementary Health Practitioner, Woman, Teacher, Mother, Wife and Friend

Related Reading:
Being Nice
Nursing, me and Serge Benhayon
True Friendship: Serge the Friend

726 thoughts on “Sympathy – a Poison to the Body

  1. You can really see the lies at play here. We think we are helping someone when we are sympathetic but how can we when in truth nothing about sympathy is ever truly loving or caring of another?

  2. This is great to read especially as a dentist in elderly care, to not take it on and not compromise myself as it does not change anything if I do that. Only that I will feel less vital and able to deal with these situations.

  3. Your blog Johanna is a really great resource to come back to. I find sympathy is something that feels a little different to me depending on the situation or relationship, so I may not clock it immediately just that something feels off. I’m feeling that holding people as less comes with sympathy at times because we don’t see the essence of the person and their ability to work through their experience, just the situation and the reaction they are in.

  4. This is one we can constantly keep an eye on, it is so easy to drop into for the sake of being accepted and to make sure we have the seeming Love that we are desperately wanting but not calling out any emotion when it comes. Love is not emotional, Love is asking us to be all that we are, Love is deeply holding and not compromising on the magnitude of what Love is.

  5. Sympathy is like a glue that holds a miserable situation static and stagnating. There is no truth in it nor any true love.

  6. “I have learned that the person who creates or is part of the situation or issue is the person who actually knows how to undo it;” This brings a greater understanding to any situation, stops us wanting to fix what is not ours to fix. Sympathy is actually quite ugly but we don’t like to call it out because 1) it makes us feel good and keeps the status quo, and 2) it stops us expressing all that is there to be expressed. I know when I have felt or given sympathy there is a dishonesty in what is being said and the emotional outplay is felt strongly in the body.

  7. I feel the health professions are intellectually onto the fact that sympathy is not a healthy thing in our bodies and have steered towards the use of the words ‘empathy and compassion’ more in the last decade or so. However, when we don’t understand and are not taught about energy and how sympathy works, you can be using a different word but still being drained by being in sympathy. This is especially so when the expectation from most patients is for sympathy.

  8. Being sympathetic is one of the damaging things we can do to our body and how we know this is to observe how depleted it leaves us when we do it.

  9. Sympathy is a mutual agreement to play less, and it’s a contract we have with many, allowing us to not stand out and them too … I had a great experience of understanding rather than sympathy this week, a friend didn’t do sympathy with me at all, she just let me be and while it felt deeply uncomfortable I really got to see and feel where I was at and what I was choosing and I was left with a choice to continue choosing this or to choose differently … I would not have felt this so clearly if she had gone into sympathy with me, and that’s the trick we play, we look for sympathy as a way to compound where we are, to avoid taking the steps we need to take and those who play sympathy with us do so for various reasons, to be liked, to not stand out etc. It’s great to see and understand this more, thanks for this sharing.

  10. When we go into sympathy we dishonour the power of love and the reflection it offers by reducing its vibration to conform to the ill-vibration or situation at hand, which we have clocked and why it is we are choosing to reduce ourselves. This reductionism is an abuse and a dishonouring of who we are in essence which is felt in our bodies as the poison it is, and equally so a dishonouring of who we are going into to sympathy with, essentially serving no true purpose or evolution, bar enabling and condoning the continuation of playing small.

    1. Thanks Carola for your powerful comment, I notice when I don’t read a situation and understand what’s on offer for the person, such as an advance or healing, then I can subscribe to pictures of how I want life to be and then dip into sympathy.

  11. As I was reading this very necessary exposure of the poison which sympathy is, I suddenly came up with an analogy from my own experience. Sympathy to me can feel like being hugged by someone who is wearing a particularly cloying perfume which seems to infuse every part of you, your hair, your clothes and no matter what you do you can’t get rid of the unpleasant smell. It’s not a perfume you would choose to wear but are now being affected by, just like sympathy, someone else’s emotion, that has no place in or on your body either.

  12. This is a great blog that stops to make us think about an emotion we have all been taught is good, and when you look at it through fresh eyes you can really feel how you absorb the sorrow of others when you go into sympathy.

    1. Importantly we are yet to consider the effect that absorbing the emotions of others has on us. It has a much bigger effect that we could ever imagine.

      1. And maybe one day science will actually be able to measure this absorption process and we will recognise how unhealthy it is for us.

    2. Very true Suse – another great example of how the idea of ‘good’ actually quells the power of love in an attempt to diminish our expression of truth that is in fact our responsibility to reflect.

  13. It is great to return to this blog and be reminded of the evil of sympathy because until we can see through sympathy we are caught in its web.

  14. Great to expose the harm in taking on other people’s issues through sympathy, we are not wanting to observe the truth for the other person and what they need to learn and evolve from. When we are able to stay present with our body we are able to offer a quality of connection that brings the space and understanding that truly inspires and supports each other to evolve.

  15. When we learn to make our relationships about understanding there is so much more clarity and we can truly support each other. Sympathy lets us swim in the same waters up close and drowning with the very person we want to rescue.

  16. The use and abuse of sympathy is huge. I have been observing how We often hold this card, this emotion which is so good at provoking emotion in another, up our sleeve and play it when all else fails. I came across a book recently which is called ‘The Lady and Chocolate’ by Edward Monkton where chocolate tries to seduce a woman to eat said chocolate. She resists and resists but when chocolate finally says ” being eaten is the only reason for my existence’ and looks at her with an expression of utmost sorrow as a single tear fell to the floor and asks ” are you to deny me the reason for my existence?” This is too much for her and she gives in. Straight away after eating the chocolate she ‘ is overcome by feelings of pleasure more wonderful than she had known before’ the book tells us and goes on to say ‘ let ALL ladies know that is it is not THEY who need CHOCOLATE for happiness. It is CHOCOLATE that needs THEM. And, in eating, they are performing a very great and GENEROUS service indeed.’ It made me consider how we often think another person needs something from US, and yet in fact it is often WE who need something from them, and yet we don’t see this kind of sympathy as being poison to the body.

    1. Elaine that is such an interesting comment, thank you for sharing. Whatever way we look at it we are either circulating energies that are not true, or living the truth of our soul.

  17. Thanks Johanna for this, it’s so supportive each time I read through. I find my awareness of sympathy comes through in layers. Presently I’m seeing a long held pattern of feeling I have to do something when someone is in distress, instead of being in the simplicity of my presence (being not ‘doing’) and let that be what I offer into the situation. I noted too on my read through today the reasons you gave for why we might choose sympathy, lots of food for thought there.

  18. I have always equated sympathy with being loving and or caring, I have since realised just what a poison it is. At a gathering the other day I was listening to a lady next to me share her sad story, as she was talking I put my hand on her shoulder and in that moment I felt sick to my stomach, immediately the word sympathy came to me and I lifted me hand and the sick feeling left me.

  19. Great to share how sympathy feels in the body and how much we shut down towards ourselves and others when we let this in. It can certainly catch us out so being honest that it is not actually true or loving starts to allow us to see that there is no need to call it in.

  20. It is indeed a load we take on when we sympathise. It is a load that makes us smaller and heavier and that means we are actually not serving anyone as true serving of other people is when we take the next step so they can too, whenever they are ready, and not about staying comfortably stuck in something together.

  21. It seems a very valuable process of recognising how sympathy plays out in your body, so you can recognise it and actively choose it or not, rather than just allowing it to happen like a passenger in a sidecar.

  22. What I have learnt about sympathy for myself is that it is a big fat excuse to not get on with what is before me in life. It gives me an out to not be responsible for the (true) part I play in life, because there is always someone else’s problem to help fix.

  23. Have you ever said ‘yes’ when every part of your body is saying ‘no’, but we choose to say ‘yes’ purely out of sympathy? I have done this so many times and straight after I can feel the tension in my body for not honouring what I can feel and for allowing the poison of sympathy to enter. Now, I am a lot more aware of this feeling and I am more able to say ‘no’ by listening to my body.

  24. Anytime I go into sympathy, it feels yuk in my body and I recognise this well as I have gone into sympathy many, many times in my life. A few weeks ago I was appreciating myself for not going into sympathy. I was presented with a situation where I could have easily gone into sympathy, instead, I said a definite ‘No’ to the situation but the person I was dealing with kept on persisting and wanted my answer to be a ‘yes’. It went on for a while and I could feel how easily it was to just say yes because I started to feel sympathy for this person but as I was feeling the poison of sympathy starting to enter my thoughts and my body, I made a clear decision that it was an absolute no as I knew sympathy was at play. I could see how the other person was struggling with my answer but I stayed steady with saying no to this person because I did not want to play into the energy of sympathy. This felt true and supportive, and after the situation ended my body felt light as I was appreciating how I had dealt with it by not giving power to sympathy.

    1. That was a huge event Chan, to even have the awareness but to then action it and make the choice to not waver and hold your presence – thank you, inspiring to read! One thing I hadn’t realised til reading this is how sympathy confirms the person in the energy of the problem, but not being sympathetic and holding our soulful connection and presence confirms the person as something much greater by reflection.

  25. Sympathy does muddy the water for all involved, and like you say it doesn’t mean that letting go of sympathy means letting go of care and understanding but actually we could say by letting go of that we can truly love and honour everyone…

  26. I agree Johanna, we build a connection to love and truth in ourselves and make note of that quality and let it become our way or foundation, and then from there we have something to refer to that shows us what is true and what is not. I’m also examining sympathy and it truly is poisonous, one of the reasons being it enjoins us into the problem and our body then absorbs the energy of the other person’s issue. I’m learning more and more to live from the love and truth within me, which means expressing what needs to be said as a truth to support the person in their evolution. Sympathy is a socially accepted way to be with people but neither party grows from understanding, truth, or love when it’s present. Love and truth empowers but sympathy is disempowering for both.

  27. There also feels like a great deal of pleasing in sympathy. Pleasing is purely for the benefit of self. We can feel good from it and it also means we do not have to face the rath of not being liked or even hated by another. I feel we adopt this way of being in avoidance of jealousy and judgement, two of the biggest forces out there that circulate in most conversations hidden in what we say but felt to the bone of our being. But in truth of course it comes back to the simple truth of being responsible by being who we are. A choice we have in every single moment

  28. True care doesn’t have an ounce of emotion in it, and that includes sympathy. When something’s up in our lives and we have a situation to deal with, what supports us the most is having someone to understand us, reflecting a steadiness back to us so that we remember that whatever situation is playing out is not bigger than who we are, and not someone to jump in the well with us so that we both drown in it.

  29. I hadn’t truly understood how patronising sympathy was till I was on the receiving end of it when I didn’t want to be. I felt it capped me and made me feel like I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to work my way out of the situation I was in. I know full well the person sympathising with me did not mean to make me feel that way but that is what I received. Since then I just ask if someone needs support and ask what support they are looking for rather than presuming anything.

    1. It’s something I recently did also, ask the person in my life how I could support them, and the answer was “I just need your understanding”. We can assume what’s needed or take an action to help out, but often people just want our loving presence and acceptance whilst they work through whatever is going on.

      1. Thank you for sharing Melinda, the more we share these examples the more potential to ask and respect each other rather than jump in and ‘fix’

  30. Sympathy is such a killer and yet we can use it so often as a way to fit in, to be seen to support and all we do is further enmesh both ourselves and the other with it. To offer a truth to another is to simply be ourselves.

    1. I agree Monica, I used to use sympathy as a way to be liked. Now, I can recognise it and have become a lot more aware of this when it starts to play out and I have a choice to then say no to it.

      1. I do and have done the same thing I have allowed myself to think that being nice and sympathic helps others, and essentially gets them to like me. But really all it does it is add further fuel to where someone is at, confirming them in it rather than saying hey you are absolute love this is not you at all and so they get to see where they are at and so can pull themselves out of the mud.

  31. At one of my first Universal Medicine workshops a role play exercise helped me deepen my understanding of the true nature of love.

    In one scenario my partner in the exercise with the support of the Gentle Breath Meditation and the explanation offered by Serge Benhayon established a steadiness of loving presence in her own body. She then connected with me.
    In the other scenario my partner was to reach out and give me love. This one I was familiar with, and quite proud of having dedicated much of my life to ‘helping’ and ‘rescuing’ people.

    Yet – now feeling the impact of the two scenarios one after another, it was clear how the first one was definitely equal, supportive, inspiring and empowering, and in contrast how horrible, patronizing, manipulating and belittling the second one felt! I had never spotted that so powerfully before.

    Sympathy falls in the same camp. It may tick the boxes, yet there is no equality, no inspiration, no empowering. It is definitely a trickster.

    1. There is such a simplicity in just being ourselves and bringing our loving presence to others, when we go into the “doing part”, rescuing, sympathising, taking things on, getting involved, etc, we can lose ourselves and the simplicity of our being and all the power it brings. That’s what I’m learning at the moment, being love or doing love (which is an ideal and false love). And yes, like the exercise you experienced Golnaz there is a very big difference energetically between being true love and going into the doing of emotional love, love feels amazing for both, and the emotional ‘doing’ version of love is absolute poison no matter how much we say it is “good”. It feels terrible to experience. Although we can know the difference it takes time to change the entrenched patterns and live the truth.

  32. I certainly have used sympathy to avoid my responsibility to live the love that I am and only make love about family. With using sympathy it is impossible to observe what in truth is happening and then there is also no understanding which made me back then a very frustrated person. Now I am building my relationship with my body and my qualities and to not go below what I know love to be and offers, all of us, no sympathy needed.

  33. Sympathy is an important topic to visit and revisit. It definitely affects our own wellbeing when we sympathise with another and will affect our own health eventually. If ever I have had conversations with others about sympathy, it’s so ingrained into how we are that we can only imagine that if we are not sympathising we must be being awful to a person, but that’s not true. As you say if we are observing and providing understanding and are not personally making someone feel better by taking on their emotion, or whatever it may be, they then get to feel their own choices and make a much more informed choice in relation to that.

    1. I like your point about sympathy making someone feel better, like a bandaid, instead of letting people feel their choices so they can be more informed about their next choice. Not only is sympathy like an energetic poison, we need to see how it’s played out in the larger cycles of humankind generation after generation and prevented any true and much needed change. In sympathy we enable people to stay where they are, if not regress, instead of supporting them to grow and evolve with understanding and the truth.

  34. Sympathy is like drinking flavoured/sugary water instead of pure water, and just as sugary water is harmful for the body so too is sympathy.

  35. ‘I see that true understanding comes from a place of observation, of care, of listening and most importantly, a space that offers true support and even evolution to take place.’ When we observe and are absolutely honest so no judgement, belief or ideal is able to influence us in what we see and feel, we cannot but understand where we and others are coming from, where we ourselves and they are in their lives and how perfectly this is designed to learn exactly what we need to learn.

  36. I can relate to this not wanting to leave others behind or be alone etc. But when I walk in and with my inner qualities even if I am physically alone I feel so amazing. Walking/being with others who may be bogged down by their ‘stuff’/issues/problems at their pace makes me feel anxious whereas I have believed that I have to be with them at all costs. I am starting to learn that thats a lie.

  37. When we go into Sympathy and don’t take responsibility as to what is there to be understood, we miss out on the learning there is for us, and the pattern will continue until we take responsibility and break the cycle.

  38. ‘I have learned that the person who creates or is part of the situation or issue is the person who actually knows how to undo it’. This really struck me, how arrogant am I to think I know what someone else needs and it is true we are equipped to deal with any situation we have created and will evolve from dealing with it ourselves.

  39. What I am discovering is that as I heal and clear myself of the ideals and beliefs within my body the sympathy I had for other people is falling away which is amazing as I can be myself and not get caught up in their situation or emotions. This has been a great learning for me to be with other people and not get caught up in the outplay of their choices. Going into sympathy doesn’t help anyone.

    1. I have found the same thing as well. The more I deal with my stuff and what is going on for me then the more I stand with the love and truth that I am and so the more I can be this for others and the incessant need for acceptance from them drops away as I am already accepting myself. Then what I offer them is love not some tangled up needy version wanting them to accept and essentially need me.

  40. I love what you have written here as this is something I am feeling more and more in that true understanding is not laced with any part of ‘what we want or what we want to hear’ making it on any level about ourselves but instead a willingness to know the true truth ‘Understanding is confirming, yet sometimes it may not be what we always want to hear or feel. However, it usually comes with truth and love.’

  41. That expression you use, holding the fort for others hits the nail on the head and I can feel how that’s what happens when sympathy is at play, and really the truth being that we don’t truly want to feel where another is at and what they have chosen, and I’m noticing that this too is something I’m very familiar with and looking out at the world and seeing the mess we’re all in, sympathy is the last thing we need. For in fact we need to truly see where we’re all at and bring our understanding to bear so we can all begin to live in a way that is more true to who we are. So now I see how my sympathy is a comfort blanket which smothers both me and another and stops all of us from truly seeing our choices and their impacts, and from the knowing that we can choose another way.

    1. We don’t realise the power of our reflection to inspire another from how we live. We are taught that it’s ‘good’ to help, to get involved, and to even place others before ourselves in sacrifice. None of this helps us or another to make changes and begin to live a more loving life. There are so many beliefs and ideals about how to help others, but the truth is we are here to return to love and to living from our soul, and though we may change the outer life unless the quality of energy we live from changes, nothing truly changes. We may not realise the power of reflecting the quality of energy we live from.

  42. Ah yes Johanna that is a good one that sympathy ‘and offers no evolution but keeps the other (and even ourselves) limited and exactly where they are.’ – If we go into sympathy it means we too don’t have to be all of who we are so it suits us to a tee to go there so we have others around us to make us feel ok for the choices we are making.

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