Growing up as an empath, was challenging at times. Mostly because I didn’t know there were other people capable of feeling the emotions of others, and sharing them so deeply. I felt alone, was often ignored, or told I felt too much, or get over it. But even then, how was I to know how sensitive I was without having a frame of reference? For me, empathy is as real as seeds growing in a garden — tangible in form and subtle in the way they grow.
Now, with our world shifting and changing into spiritual sacred realms of living and being, we are awakening to our transpersonal selves. I’m celebrating as many moments as possible! It is my intention to assist and guide people on their spiritual paths so they feel acknowledged in their transpersonal experiences, as well as validated in their sensitive natures. Because for many of us who are bridge builders, pioneers in our fields, and simply amazing human beings walking our spiritual paths, it is paramount for us to help one another so we don’t have to struggle as much as we once did. It’s vital for us to create connections together as sensitive spiritual beings embarking on a transformative sacred revolution for ourselves, humanity, and the earth.
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How would you define empathy? Please share your experience of empathy by taking this short 10 question survey.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of Empathy:
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
Eek! Projection. I find the first definition of Empathy according to Merriam-Webster incorrect. Mainly because it’s describing the defense mechanism of projection instead of empathy. I’m fully aware of how projections place blame onto another person, and create victim seeking behavior. It’s something I did quite often in my twenties. Until I built awareness about projections, and learned how to come back to my center during times of anger and stress. To own those difficult emotions for myself, see myself as I am, and the other as they are, and then respond to the conflict from an empowered place.
There is a fine distinction between projection and empathy.
Especially when we are untrained in recognizing the defense mechanism of projecting our emotions vs. the actual felt sensation of another person’s emotions within the body, mind, or energy field. To become clear about the meaning of projection, click here for a thorough article.
Vicarious, really? In my opinion, the second definition is more to the point, except for the use of the word vicariously. Mainly because current science has shown the use of mirror neurons as a way for babies and parents to connect, and even dogs and rats to feel empathetic toward their young. Therefore empathy is not an “imaginative vicarious” experience of another person's feelings. It’s felt directly in our minds, bodies, and hearts.
Empathy, for me, is the sensitive ability to feel another person’s emotions, thoughts, and/or energy, and being fully present with that person in a state of connection.
Is this Mine or Yours? As an empath, it has taken me many years to learn whether what I was feeling was my own or belonged to another person. Over the years, I’ve come to understand the importance of boundaries. I’ve learned about energetic and psychic boundaries from Boulder Psychic Institute as well as mental, emotional, and transpersonal boundaries in the Masters studies in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University.
In my studies at Naropa, learned about the direct sensations of a client’s emotions vs. my own. Because being empathetic, and learning how to tune into another person is a necessary requirement for guiding people on their journeys. For example, in one session, I felt a constriction in my heart as a small stone of grief that arose during a conversation with a client. Acknowledging my client’s sadness helped me to feel compassion toward her life experience while also shifting the energy back to her. In naming the energy out right to her, she was able to also acknowledge it, cry, and let a bit of the grief go.
For a practice on 4 Steps in Distinguishing Emotions — Mine or Yours? click here.
Empathy is not Sympathy. There are a few ways to misconstrue empathy. One way was discussed above about projection. Another way is when we become misguided martyrs trying to fix our friend’s anger or grief. But this is not empathy. It is sympathy. It is a twisted form of trying to fix or comfort someone so we feel better about ourselves. For a short, fun, true to life animated video about empathy vs. sympathy, watch this popular Ted Talks presenter Brené Brown’s version.
Healing and Healers. As I’ve learned more about empathy over the years, I’ve found that many people, including some healers, don’t always experience empathy. The difficulty with certain forms of “healing” is there is a “fix it” mentality which leaves little room for empathy. Just this past week, I was receiving a healing session, and describing my challenging week to a practitioner about my beautiful friend’s death, holding space for his beloved’s grief, feeling sad myself, and receiving a dream visit from him as he was crossing over to the other side.
When sharing my grief and experiences with the practitioner, I wanted to feel received by her, supported in my sadness, and acknowledged in my experiences. Instead, I felt alone and misunderstood about my transpersonal experiences because she took on the “fix it” sympathy mentality. She told me to realize we were all One, and focus on the feeling I was experiencing rather than focusing on another person’s feelings.
Yes, it’s true the best practice, especially when being an empath, is to come back to center. To focus on what is occurring within my body, within my heart, and go from there. And, being an empath as well as a transpersonally inclined person also means building a very subtle awareness of how another person’s emotions, thoughts, shadows, or fears arise within me. Noticing how it occurs. For in doing so, I can feel it, have compassion, acknowledge the feeling in the other, and release it. Giving them permission to feel it, express it, and move through it themselves.
For a practice on Centering, click here.
Oneness is the state of the universe vibrating each cell as an individual musical instrument in orchestral symphony.
The Oneness Bypass. This above story was told to demonstrate the necessity of empathy in working with people on their transpersonal journeys. Bypassing emotions through the guise of Oneness is not as helpful as it seems. Especially as a healer, guide, or teacher. The answer is Both And. We are of the Oneness, and are also alive as individual human beings for Oneness to express itself through us. In being human, we must learn about boundaries of all types: physical, mental, emotional, psychic, energetic, and spiritual. Because to be always a “yes” to everyone or always in a state of “Oneness” is an illusion. It confuses the universe and your wisest self about what you truly wish to manifest in your life. Misguiding you to play an instrument that isn’t yours to play. And also creates and stimulates unhealthy relationships.
For a practice on Working with Energetic Boundaries, click here.
On the sacred path, it’s important to experience Oneness. When you’re in nature, fully open to the scent of the pine trees, the song of the chickadees, and wisdom of the stones, Oneness is accessible, soaking in the essence of the earth as you. Or when you’re with a beloved or a group of friends, and have made an agreement to create a love field together, to experience the Oneness of love together, that also is beautiful. Then, each person, at some point will need to come back to their lives. To cook a meal, do the laundry, and go to work. That’s the nature of being human. We acknowledge the wisdom of Oneness in all things, and then get down to business to work with our truest selves, as a specific part of Oneness, to share our gifts with the world.
Please share your experience of empathy by taking this short 10 question survey. When I have received at least 20-35 surveys, I will share the discovery of Understanding Empathy with you in “Letters from a Mystic.” Share the survey with friends and family too!