One of the blocks to a willingness to give empathy is the fear and/or experience of being held hostage by the idea that you should keep giving it long after your desire and energy to do so has faded. Somewhere in the middle your natural desire to listen with compassion gives way to other needs (food, rest, play, mutuality, it could be anything).
For example, let's say you are listening to someone with empathy for some amount of time and you notice you are hungry and starting to fade. Here you are at a cross roads. If you have not taken on the job of being responsible for this person's feelings and needs and you can articulate your caring for the other while taking care of yourself, you might say something like this:
"I am noticing that I feel caring for you and also noticing that I am hungry and starting to fade. I need to get some food. I am wondering if this has been helpful and if there is anything I can do before I go get something to eat?"
On other hand, if you take on the job of getting this person out of suffering or hold the belief that you will only be loved if you give unconditionally, you will likely ignore your own needs. You may say things to yourself like:
"This person really needs me."
"It would be selfish to stop listening right now."
"They really will be hurt if I say I can't listen anymore."
"It's my job as a caring person (friend, partner, daughter, etc.) to listen."
"A compassionate person would keep listening."
These are the words of the part of you that puts you in empathy hostage. A place where you start to feel resentful or guilty instead of compassionate. In the end these painful experiences have you avoiding times when you could give empathy freely.
This week notice when you are listening more than you really want to. Experiment with interrupting to help the other person connect with both your caring for them and your desire to tend to other needs to take care of yourself.
*click here for a list of feelings and universal needs and an empathy guide. http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.php