Friday, October 10, 2014

Being a True Empath: We FEEL...

We're all familiar with empathy; it's the ability to put ones self in someone else's position, imagine how they are feeling, identify with what they're experiencing, so that we can better understand them. Empathy is something most people are born with, it's an innate ability we all have, like the sense of smell, or a conscience. A few people in society have no sense of empathy, and these people are typically categorized as Narcissists, or in the worst case, Sociopaths. I wouldn't want to live without empathy, I can only feel that it would be a very narrow view of the world, worrying only about yourself, not caring about how other people feel.

Empathy is a beautiful trait and it helps us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; empathy creates bridges of understanding through helping us to see beyond our own feelings, and allowing ourselves to get a sense of how someone else is truly feeling, being, and operating.

What I want to discuss here is not typical empathy. I know we're all familiar with empathy; what I want to talk about is being a true Empath. The term is not recognized in a literal sense by the dictionary, and in fact my first experiences of hearing the word came from watching Star Trek, TNG, through the character of Deana Troi. Yes, I'm going to appeal to your inner geek now, so bear with me as I indulge a little of my own Treki roots.  Troi, an alien being from another planet, works on the ship as the ships counselor, and her gift of true empathy allows her to not only imagine what another person feels, but to rather literally take on those feelings, so that she is actually experiencing and feeling what another is feeling.

I have met many empaths in my life, and we are all by and large the same type of people; we are vastly sensitive, often emotionally charged and passionate in our expressions of those emotions. We tend to be introverts at many points in our lives, as we can find large groups of people daunting. While society would deem us anti-social, in truth we are just hiding from the onslaught of emotional intensity around us, because we haven't yet learned to detach, and identify what is "our own", as opposed to what others are exuding.

Our lives seem to rotate around difficult experiences, which while experiencing them can feel so frightening, intense, overwhelming and unfair, but in retrospect we can all see that what ever we have endured, has been an opportunity for us to learn how to better live with our empathy in a balanced and unattached way.

How Does it Feel to be an Empath?

As a spiritualist, I generally avoid trying to speak for others. But when it comes to being an Empath, I know I can speak for all other Empaths in regards to how it feels to be so in tune with the energetic emotional frequencies of other people.

The short and simple is, if asked how it feels to be an Empath, my answer is: I feel.

Please understand that when I say I feel, I literally mean it. I don't simply imagine how another feels, I feel how they feel. Sometimes the extent of this feeling is so profound that I can get washed away in the other persons plight, becoming physically and psychologically reactive to how they are feeling. If a dear friend or loved one is hurt by someone else, I not only feel the pain they feel, the confusion, the chaos of sweeping between betrayal, sorrow, rejection, confusion, I also take that upon myself as it then becomes part of my reality. I am no longer sad for my friend, or sad with my friend, I am sad as though the pain my friend is experiencing is my own.

This is a beautiful gift much of the time; being able to put ones self directly into the reality of another person, so that you completely understand exactly how they feel, on multiple levels of emotions, physiology, psychology. And yet it can also seem and feel like a curse to Empaths, when dealing with feelings others display that relate to anger, rage, hatred, bigotry, depression etc.

The excessively negative emotions of people can be a real drain on an Empath. Many of us tend to become skillful athletes in light of this bombardment of the negativity of others, and skillfully learn to run from those situations. It can at times seem as though we are having a tantrum, or being chickens, as we just duck out completely and disown the situation, knowing we are about to be compelled into a turbulent emotional conflagration that we don't have control over. And that in truth is the crux of it; we don't have control over it, as we have not mastered detachment, and differentiation between what is "mine" versus what is "theirs".

Learning to detach is a lesson that often takes years, decades. It requires an Empath to acknowledge that they are not sufficiently handling the emotional onslaught around them.  The Empath needs to recognize that they are becoming emotionally volatile or fragile, and that they are not seeing clearly, as they are not centered. And then each day there after requires the Empath to be determined, self-aware, while being aware of external situations, people, experiences, and watching for signs that they are being "sucked into" the drama of others.

How Do You Know?

If having read this far you're not sure if you're an Empath, or not, let me clarify in great depth so that you'll really understand what an Empath experiences. I will work through analogy if I can, though as you may know I am pretty bad at that kind of parallel story-weaving. Just be patient with me, I will get there ;)

Imagine you are sitting in an empty room, on a chair. Then the door opens and in walks someone you know, someone who is very central and important in your life, and imagine they are angry. Imagine the rage rolling off them, their eyes blazing, chest heaving in anger, body twitching with agitation. Typical empathy has you stand up and ask "What's wrong??"

A true Empath begins to feel angry immediately, as their blood pressure rises, their breathing accelerates, the feel their chest tighten and their throat close into a lump. Instead of getting up and asking "Whats wrong?" the deeply attuned Empath doesn't need to ask what's wrong, they know everything is wrong. They feel it, the rage is now engulfing them too, their body has responded to the emotional download they're receiving, and now they are agitated, amped up, and being passionate and often irrational they burst from their seat, go to their loved one in a protective attempt to shelter them, and demand to know "What happened!"

On an energetic level, the Empath feels the feelings of others in waves of undulating warmth, heat, coolness and pressure as it rises within the body. It is actually rising in the spiritual Auric body, the chakras, yet it is felt vividly on the skin, in the organs, through the lungs, chest, throat, and head. The Empath does not care at this point about who or how or why as they are already embroiled in the rage coming off their loved one, they bypass the desire to know what is wrong, and hear what has led to this; they are already prepared to act, jump to action, without the facts, as they are feeling exactly as their loved one is feeling.

If you feel with that kind of intensity, depth, vastness and often uncontrolled turbulence, then you are an Empath too. If you can watch a movie, and not just cry because it was a beautiful movie, but actually feel as though you have lived the experience of the characters, identify so closely with them and their stories that you now feel as though it's a part of your own history and truth, then you are an Empath.

And if you are a true Empath, let me first give you a big energetic hug, feel my warmth, as I take you in my arms and cradle your head in my hand, and whisper into your ear "it's going to be okay..."

Learning To Detach and Center

Let me start by saying I am still working on this, daily, in earnest, as my deep empathy can still after 42 years of life drag me so deeply into the experience of others that I "lose" myself. But I work at it, daily, consciously, because I know that most of the things I feel aren't really coming from me. I know myself enough to know that who I am, when emptied of the feelings of all others, is fairly quiet, peaceful, and content. When I still myself, ground out, find center, and remove the heavy weight of energy I've absorbed during the day or week, I re-connect with who I really am.

And you can do this too my sweet sweet friend.

It begins with self-aware accountability. You must be willing in this moment to acknowledge that there is a small part of you that has somehow become "addicted" to your empathic receptivity. You have learned to become a hero to those around you, a problem solver, a "go-to" for all your friends and family, as they know when they come to you for understanding, they're going to get it, and a whole lot more! They will get validation, support, sympathy, and encouragement from someone who truly "gets them". This has either taught you to feel good when helping others through your ability to feel as they feel, or has taught you to avoid others and become isolated as it's just easier, or safer for you.

From one Empath to another, I want to tell you it can get better, but first you have to get over yourself, literally my friend, because you've taken on far too much from others, have been a fixer and manager and co-partner to too many others, and have likely spent more time focusing on "them" than on you. That is not a healthy way to live, and when you hit a low, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, because us true Empaths hit the lows often enough. How do you expect yourself to keep taking on more and more and more of the heavy emotional energy of others, without becoming overloaded, and eventually cracking under pressure?? So just recognize it now, see it as a part of your cycle, and know you can change it. Yes - you can change your self.

It begins with those acknowledgements, and then it continues with determined self-aware observation.

How Does Observing Help??

If the oath of the Empath is "I feel", then the oath of the balanced Empath is "I observe".

As I often tell my clients, and friends and family, being an Empath is like being in a hurricane. The storm is the emotions of everyone around us in the world. Those emotions rage, spin out of control, create havoc and can lead to ruin. And yet, the Empath can choose to step into the eye of the storm. The eye of the storm is the calm center, and from this place of center, you can look in all directions and observe the storm, and yet remain calm within the neutrality of observational detachment, and not get blown away.

Get familiar with finding the eye - or "Center". Center is essential to human beings, no matter who they are, if they're Empaths, spiritualists or not. Center is balance. And when balanced in our own Center, we can see the storms raging around us in the world, and feel for them, care compassionately, and yet stay calm, think rationally, accept that some people are creating the storm on their own and do not need your help in making it rage harder.

So Empath, my sweet too-deeply feeling soul-kin, I urge you to find your own center, and each day as you wake, make it a point to affirm that "today I will observe, and breathe, and not react without first being neutral, sensible, and unattached to the feelings of all others."

This will be an ongoing lesson in your life, as you cannot expect yourself to change overnight. I have been consciously working at Empathy detachment for about 15 years now. Some days are better than others. Some days I forget, and get embroiled in the drama around me, or create enough of my own to get lost in. And yet the next day I can wake with clarity and review yesterdays behaviors, see how I let my Empathy get tossed around in the storm, own it, be accountable for my own part in it, then strive towards again finding Center, neutrality, and focusing on what is "mine", and only "mine".

Use your Empathy in positive ways, to help others find affirmation, hope, direction, and resolve. Do not use your Empathy to feel sorry for others, or help them add bricks to their wall of shame. Practise this, every day, in every way, and if you fall down, get back up dust yourself off, and continue on without a need or desire to put yourself down.

I am an Empath; I feel. Intensely, deeply, vividly, painfully, blissfully, wholly and fully. And I wish you the most blessed of experiences with your own Empathy. As always, I am here to talk to you, should you wish to talk about this further, or just need a friend.

1 comment :

  1. Love your stuff, Dee~ This is the best writing I've seen on being an Empath. ❤


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