Love Letters to Humans (no. 95) — on Empathy and the Disobedience of Emotional Boundaries

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is not an obligation to make out with other people’s emotions. Just because you can doesn’t mean you must.

When we’ve learned that empathy is synonymous with disappearing our personhood in the wake of someone else’s big feelings, of course it can feel mean, bad, or wrong to have emotional boundaries.

When we’ve been conditioned to nurture, caretake, and people-please as a cornerstone of our identity, of course it can feel disobedient to make room to have our own feelings instead of taking on the feelings and energy of someone who is in emotional distress.

We come by it honestly—we live in contexts and cultures that expect or demand emotional labor based on the bodies we inhabit and the identities we hold. Some of us were raised in families where we learned brilliantly & early on to place the emotional needs of others before our own, where bypassing our own feelings and prioritizing other people’s made us “good” and “nice”—and good and nice meant surviving childhood.

And when we’re ready for something more, different (disobedient) decisions are available to us. It is gloriously possible to take care of your emotional and energetic boundaries without being an asshole. I can’t promise that you won’t break some rules doing it, or that rule-breaking is without risk & consequences.

Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys start on June 5th. Registration starts with a conversation. Let’s talk. 🧡