Emotional Sponges: People with an Emotional Overload

29 May, 2020
Do you think that you're an overly empathetic person and that this sometimes causes you unnecessary suffering? If so, you may be an emotional sponge.

Some people are naturally sensitive, while others, in certain circumstances, become extremely perceptive and vulnerable. In both cases, they behave like “emotional sponges”, easily absorbing the emotions that surround them.

In principle, the reality of being emotional sponges gives them a certain advantage over other people, as it makes them highly perceptive. However, it’s also a factor that can make them become very emotionally overloaded. Because of this, it isn’t uncommon for them to end up falling victim to extreme tension and constant stress, which are very difficult to dissipate.

People who are emotional sponges end up becoming overwhelmed very easily. Thus, what should be a virtue becomes a burden. Unfortunately, it’s also common for other people to take advantage of their empathy and receptiveness, thus overburdening them further.

People who are emotional sponges.

The characteristics of emotional sponges

People who are “emotional sponges” have some characteristics that make them stand out above the rest. In general, they’re highly receptive to other people’s emotional conditions. In addition:

  • They’re very intuitive. They don’t need anyone to tell them how they’re feeling. They can easily sense if people are feeling good or not.
  • These people are excessively empathetic. Not only are they able to put themselves in other people’s shoes but they do so in an extreme way. As a result, they feel other people’s emotions as if they’re their own.
  • They feel responsible for other people’s well-being. In particular, they believe that they should help other people who aren’t feeling good. In fact, they feel really annoyed with themselves if they don’t.
  • They look for solutions to other people’s problems. Their excessive empathy and appropriation of other people’s pain mean make them spend a lot of time thinking about how to solve other people’s problems.
  • They’re often overwhelmed by other people’s emotions. It’s very difficult for emotional sponges to feel good if they know that other people are suffering. This is because they literally assimilate other people’s negative emotions.
  • They attract toxic people. It’s easy for them to end up surrounded by people full of problems or those who seek to emotionally exploit others.
  • They prioritize others. They act as if they have to undermine their own well-being in order to increase other people’s.

Emotional regulators

People who are “emotional sponges” can get hurt due to their over-sensitivity, empathy, and solidarity. From a young age, they probably got used to taking on other people’s problems. Thus, others expect them to understand and help, simply because they’re willing to do so.

The problem is that, without noticing it, these sensitive people end up forgetting about themselves. They’re driven most of the time by other people’s selfish desires. Thus, others may only use or recognize them when they help them.

Therefore, their extreme sensitivity and empathy lead them to adopt the role of eternal “emotional regulators”. The price of this can be very high because they can even reach the point of becoming invisible to themselves and potential victims of emotional abuse.

A sad woman.

A blurred identity

An overly-sensitive person’s identity can be blurred because of the significant influence other people can have on their emotions. We’re going to use an example to illustrate this better.

A mother tells her son that he’s insensitive because he doesn’t call her often. However, if you analyze the situation, you may realize that things are exactly the opposite of what the mother is saying. Perhaps she’s insensitive to her son, blaming him for her own limitations. This type of behavior is a defense mechanism called projective identification.

In short, emotional sponges should become aware of how exposed they are to toxic behavior. Then, they need to learn how to manage their feelings of guilt, reflect on them, and not allow them to govern their actions. Finally, they need to learn how to value their own feelings and set boundaries whenever necessary.

de Beijl, K. Z. (2016). Personas Altamente Sensibles: Descubre si lo eres y aprende a gestionar el día a día en tus relaciones, el trabajo, con tus hijos…. La Esfera de los Libros.