Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Reik(1949) describes four stages of the empathy process:
1. Identification – projecting self into the other
2. Incorporation – interjecting the other into self
3. Reverberation – interplaying of own and other experience
4. Detachment – withdrawal from subjective involvement and recourse to use of methods of reason.
This process involves the negotiation of communicative goals between two participants. Empathy will be effectuated to the degree that the participators' goals are mutually achieved.
It is important to note that the communicative acts that occur between doctors and patients, teachers and students, parents and children, counselors and patients, religious leaders and congregation, constitute a special set of interactions characterized by an asymmetry of participant roles and responsibilities. What this means is that, by their position and/or title, one of the participants is placed in a higher place than the other.
How do these types of relationships differ from that of the Empath, when they are interacting with another on an Empathic level? The largest difference here can be found within the level in which an Empath places themselves in, in respect to the other person. The connection is not asymmetric in design, and instead is one of equality, where in the Empath stands toe to toe and eye to eye with the other person. It is a form of peer counseling, instead of one of condescention, where in the doctor, parent, religious leader, or counselor listens to the problems of a patient with empathetic detachment.
The Process Of Empathy
1. Identification is something we've been over in a number of different blogs. But it is necessary to go over it here, as well, simply to further the understanding of the Empathic Process.
Identification is a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides. In its slighter form, Identification involves seeing oneself in another. But in this case, Identification means taking in something from the other and being affected/changed by what is taken in - it is an incorporation.
2. Incorporation is the process by which the Empath takes in the other person's experiences and feels them as though they were his/her own. This is the process of literally 'walking a mile in another person's shoes' or 'seeing through another person's eyes'.
On a side note, the first two steps of this process are used to form emotional bonds with others, to quicken,deepen and facilitate the Empathic Process.
3. Reverberation is the internal comparative analysis of shared or similar experiences between the Empath and the other participant used in order to find a correlation between the two, so that relating to the other person, despite any differences, is made all the easier.
4. Detachment occurs when the Empath disengages from the emotional connection that was formed at the start of the Empathic Process. This is a very necessary step that can not be overlooked. Otherwise the Empath will begin to carry around other people's baggage, as well as their own. And this can lead to an overwhelming feeling akin to drowning or sufficating.
So thats about it for this blog. I merely wanted to briefly go over this particular process, because I found it facinating. I hope it has offered you a bit of food for thought.
Monday, April 27, 2009
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself.
An Empath is a person who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. In the paranormal and in some works of science fiction and fantasy, empathy is a paranormal or psychic ability to sense the emotions of others. It is distinguished from telepathy, which allows one to perceive thoughts as well. Occasionally, Empaths are also able to project their own emotions, or to affect the emotions of others.
1. a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep
2. an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream
a. a visionary creation of the imagination : daydream
b. a state of mind marked by abstraction or release from reality
c. an object seen in a dreamlike state
A Dreamwalker is one who works with and within the dream to understand, to create, to heal, to meet with elderhearts, to journey this realm (out of body), to work with other worlds and realms, to teach, … to be one with the ultimate ONE.
A Lucid Dream, also known as conscious dream, is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that they are dreaming. When the dreamer is lucid, they can actively participate in and often manipulate the imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can be extremely real and vivid depending on a person's level of self awareness during the lucid dream.
Prophetic Dreams, also referred to as precognitive dreams, are believed to be a form of extra-sensory perception (ESP) in which a person is said to perceive information about places or events through paranormal means before they actually happen.
An Omen is an occurrence or phenomenon believed to portend a future event. An Omen Reader is one who interprets dreams, and signs of synchronicity, omens, in the outer waking world.
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which are casually unrelated occurring together in a supposedly meaningful manner. In order to count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.
A Metaphor is language that directly connects seemingly unrelated subjects. It is a figure of speech that connects two or more things.
Now that we have taken a look into the different meanings of the terms listed above, what we need to do now is see how they all come together, like puzzle pieces which make up a much larger picture.
So how do we bring these seemingly random ideas together into one single boiling pot, and produce a cohesive idea that encompasses them all?
An Empath, more than most people, is somewhat like a radio receiver in that they are able to tune into and receive most intuitive information that is being sent out by others, who would be like a radio transmitter. The Empath is particularly hardwired to pick up on the emotional currents that are being sent out by others. And whether it is a learned behavior or a genetic predisposition, is of less importance than the fact that they do it at all.
Quite a bit of this intuitive information, that is being thrown their way, is taken in and interpreted in such a way that the Empath can readily and easily relate to it. This happens at the unconscious level most of the time, so it seems to the Empath that the information is coming out of thin air because there is no rational thought process involved at the conscious level.
All the same, though, this process involves the use of interpretation and metaphors. This occurs when the intuitive information taken into the Empath at the unconscious level is interpreted. It is generally compared to a similar situation that has occurred within the Empath's life, allowing the Empath to identify and empathize with the person, who is sending out the intuitive information, they are focused on. So a similar experience within the Empath's life, can literally become a metaphor for understanding the other person's perspective, emotions, and thought processes.
There are many different types of dreams, and they can be categorized into several different types. The regular dream, which is a series of images and emotions which are pulled from experiences had in the waking world and thrown into the dream state of the unconscious mind, usually in a woven mesh that is hard to interpret on its surface, is one type.
Another is the lucid dream, which occurs when one retains a sense of conscious control within the dream state. This means that the mind doesn't simply flow with the dream's procession, and instead has use of its cognitive processes, because it holds onto its self awareness outside of the dreamscape.
A third type is the prophetic dream, which has the potential to foretell future events. But this type of dream is highly open to interpretation. And it can become even more muddled when one hears of an event occurring that seems to go hand in hand with their dream. The mind then interprets the dream through any possible correlation between it and the event that has happened, and deems it prophetic. But post-cognition is not prophetic, because the interpretation of the dream's metaphors occurs after an event coming into fruition.
Before we move on to the next type of dream, I want to bring these a bit more into focus first.
When awake, most people exhibit brain wave patterns that can be classified into two types of waves, beta and alpha. Beta waves are those associated with day to day wakefulness. During periods of relaxation, while still awake, our brain waves become slower, increase in amplitude and become more synchronous. These types of waves are called alpha waves. The first stage of sleep is characterized by theta waves, which are even slower in frequency and greater in amplitude than alpha waves. During a normal nights sleep a sleeper passes from the theta waves to the delta waves. Delta waves are the slowest and highest amplitude brain waves.
That being said, the next type of dream is that which occurs when we are awake, called the daydream. A Daydream is: a dreamlike musing or fantasy while awake, especially of the fulfillment of wishes or hopes. This type of dream occurs in the self aware state of consciousness and is based less on metaphor than it is on wish fulfillment. So it is relatively straight forward in its design, because the daydreamer keeps conscious reigns on the flow of the dream.
A Symbol is a word, phrase, image, icon or some other thing that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention. Symbols are used to represent complex esoteric relationships, ethereal concepts or something invisible and intangible. Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships. Symbology is the study or interpretation of symbols or symbolism. In essence, symbols are a type of metaphor, used to offer a simple explanation about someone or something that another person can easily relate to.
As within dreams, symbols, also called omens, can be found in the waking world. The discovery of such a connection, between two seemingly unassociated things, people, or events, is called synchronicity. This is done when the mind searches for meaningful answers outside of the its societal norm, where the rules for interpretation of such things are explicit.
An example of synchronicity would be an experience I had when I was a teenager. I was outside smoking a cigarette (yeah I know, bad for me..lol) and a bird landed right next to a window in our living room. It then rose up and flew behind the house. Not a minute later I saw my mother standing in the window looking at me with her death glare. Needless to say, I got punished. But beyond that, my mind interpreted that bird's actions as a warning......'Run, cause your about to get in trouble.' And had I followed the bird behind the house, I wouldn't have gotten into trouble. Or maybe I would have. Who is to say at this point?
So now that we've been through each individually and have brought them into a more singular focus, do you think you understand the correlation which binds all of these things together? Whether on the conscious level or the unconscious level, its all about metaphor, symbology and interpretation.
Empaths, who are like radio receivers, are especially prone to these things, whether it is through dreams or omens discovered in the waking world. The only difference between the two, for an Empath, is the level of conscious thought that goes into the process of interpreting such symbols.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Lightworker: An individual who's primary focus and intention is to work on improving the WORLD first, and who's reasoning is that by helping THE WORLD he will be able to make a positive change in his own life.
Darkworker: An individual who's primary focus and intention is to work on improving HIMSELF first, and who's reasoning is that by helping HIMSELF he will be able to make a positive change in the world.
Polarization: 1. the action of polarizing or state of being or becoming polarized. 2. a : division into two opposites b : concentration about opposing extremes of groups or interests formerly ranged on a continuum.
Duality: 1. The state of having two natures 2. a situation or nature that has two states or parts that are complementary or opposed to each other. 3. being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses.
Emotional Polarization: A distinct preference toward one or more types of emotions (love, romance, friendship, altruism, kindness, empathy, joy, etc.). While at the same time, it is a ostrization of opposing and/or conflicting emotions (anger, fear, guilt, regret, shame, sorrow, resentment, etc.). A good example of this would be someone deemed 'Emo'. This type of person leans toward sorrow and depression, while shunning lighter emotions such as joy and excitement.
The general assumption about Lightworkers and Darkworkers would be: one is good and one is evil. It seems the most reasonable and plausible explanation, on the surface that is. But in truth, one must ask themselves one question:
Now in saying this, I am not talking about those who would seek to hurt and/or abuse others, manipulate others, or use them for their own personal needs and then throw them out like a used tissue. There is real evil in the world, which is undeniable. And this is not offered up in order to advocate that type of person and/or their behavior. So if this has ticked you off, please put your pitchforks away and keep reading. It will all come full circle by the end.
There are two main archetypes behind the terms Lightworker and Darkworker, the Angel and the Demon. They are dual facets of a single whole.
People with Angels Archetypes are messengers and rescuers; companions, guardians of miracles. They are also servants of the greater good, serving the outward world in a helping capacity. Some people with an Angel Archetype may not physically serve, but instead serve to inspire others through word, instead of deed. Another term for this type of archetype is called the Human Angel. They are thought to be living beings of Light and messengers of the Divine.
From a biblical perspective, the Demon/Devil Archetype is frequently associated with Satan or Lucifer, but the Devil or Demon Archetype should be considered as a unique archetype, separate from its dark association with Satan or Lucifer. This is because archetypes are offered up as a metaphor of the human psyche, rather than in a religious context.
The Devil Figure archetype is a common villainous figure that appears in both contemporary and traditional works. The analysis of this character often reveals how a society perceives the origin of evil. So within this archetype resides all of those emotions we deem bad or dark, because this is what we are taught by the society we dwell in, from our forays into debauchery to those hidden emotions we are ashamed of. As well, this is where we tend to hide our true faces away from the world, because we are taught that conformity is the better part of valor.
As a child, we were raised to view the world in a certain perspective, one that conforms to the ideals and beliefs of both parents and society alike. This is that giving is always best, and that to think of oneself is selfish, prideful, sinful, and evil. So we set our own needs on the back burner, hiding them away beneath terms like 'my beast', 'my dark side', 'skeletons in my closet', and many others. These things become such a taboo that we become utterly paralyzed at the idea of opening that closet to see what is there, beneath the surface of our own ego.
We've come full circle in this discussion. And the most basic truth of all of this is very simple to grasp. When we choose to polarize toward one distinctive type, be it toward the light or toward the dark, it does not erase the other parts within us. Within each of us, like within the yin yang symbol, resides a little bit of each. And only through the cultivation of balancing both of these sides do we find peace of both mind and heart.
So remember this when you offer your hand out to another person. You matter as much as they do. And there is no sin in thinking of yourself, as much as you do others, despite what society, your religion, and the world at large might tell you otherwise. Your path to inner peace must always begin with you, from within yourself, and extend outward toward others. Otherwise the foundation upon which you stand can easily crumble at the first sign of a problem.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Here are Some Definitions Of Love:
- A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
- A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.
- Sexual passion.
- Sexual intercourse.
- A love affair.
- An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
- A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
- An expression of one's affection: Send him my love.
- A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language.
- The object of such an enthusiasm
And here is a Definition Of Unconditional Love, as defined by Wikipedia. Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of one's actions or beliefs. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast, unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. It has also been used in a religious context to describe God's love for humankind through the forgiveness of Christ.
And a few more necessary definitions:
Condition is a premise upon which the fulfillment of an agreement depend. In this case, Conditional Love, as compared to Unconditional Love, comes with strings of expectation attached, though this is not a bad type of love, when it is balanced.
And finally, Expectation is defined as:
Now that we have looked at some definitions (I know its always the driest part of the discussions), lets look at what it means in the context of being an Empath. To do this we must look at some of the fatal mistakes Empaths make when they come upon the emotion of Unconditional Love, or what they mistake as Unconditional Love.
Fatal Mistake #1
- Unconditional Love is altruistic, which means it always begins with other people. Its true that Unconditional Love is altruistic. But in reality, Unconditional Love must start with self (self love and acceptance of self) and work its way outward toward others, or it is simply offered to stroke one's own dwindling ego.
Fatal Mistake #2
- For there to be Unconditional Love, I must give of myself until it hurts or there is nothing left of me to give. This is a fatalistic mentality, and not altruistic in nature. It rises out of the need to be needed. It stems from the perception that there is nothing worthwhile about self and about the life, or lack there of, of self to recommend them to others. So their value is measured in what they can offer to others.
Fatal Mistake #3
- Offering others Unconditional Love, has given me new found purpose in my life. This too is a mistake. Why, you ask? Finding your purpose solely in helping others, without first healing the self, is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. When a person fails to show the proper appreciation that is expected for this seemingly altruistic act of kindness and benevolence, it will rip the giver's ego to shreds. It can bring rise to feelings of anger, inadequacy, and false superiority. "How dare they not realize what I have done for them, after I've put so much time and effort into helping them out of the kindness of my heart. I didn't ask for anything in return, and I didn't even get a single word of thanks." Do you see how ironic that statement is? Its also very telling, isn't it?
Fatal Mistake #4
- In order to offer others Unconditional Love, I must set aside all of my beliefs and feelings, denying all of who I am to care for others. Unconditional love doesn't come and go on the whims of personal prejudices and feelings. It simply is. It is constant and true, despite all of the things which can cloud our perception and judgment. It will not ask of you , what you do not ask of others when you offer them Unconditional Love. It will not ask you to change or deny yourself, just as you do not ask others to change or to deny themselves when you offer them this kind of love.
Fatal Mistake #5
-Only a truly enlightened being can offer others Unconditional Love. So this is what I must strive to be. Big mistake here. Anyone can give another person Unconditional Love, whether enlightened or not. It can come in the more basic form of tolerance for others diverse beliefs and ideas. And it can rise to heights beyond that, in the forms of true love and acceptance, despite any perceived differences. Enlightenment is a noble thing to strive for in the long run, but in the here and now, Unconditional Love can still be offered simply by stretching out a hand to the person next to you and smiling.
Fatal Mistake #6
-Unconditional Dedication IS Unconditional Love. Unconditional Dedication refers to an act of the will irrespective of feelings. This can rise in someone who is a Caregiver or Caretaker for another person. In this instance, a person may consider they have a duty to stay with the other person and care for them, despite their own feelings of exhaustion, bitterness, and resentment. While Unconditional Love refers to an act of the feelings irrespective of will.
Fatal Mistake #7
- Emotional Burnout is a necessary and expected evil of Unconditional Love. This mistake hearkens back to many of the previous mistakes: giving till it hurts, setting aside consideration of one's own emotional well being for the sake of others, self sacrifice, martyrdom. It implies that one must suffer and walk through the bowels of Hell itself simply to offer others love. But one must ask themselves, is this really love, if it hurts this much? It can also bring rise to feelings of resentment and bitterness, for their own sufferings as compared to those they offer this form of love to. It can cause one to go from a mask of benevolence to one of cynicism in a single heartbeat. So this is a very tricky one to watch out for, because it is often times hard to pull oneself out of the muck of this mistake.
Unconditional Love & Empathy
Now that you know some of the mistakes we, as Empaths, are prone to make when we offer help to others, one must ask themselves what real Unconditional Love is. Simply put, it is the act of caring for others, without condition, expectation, or a need for praise and/or thanks. It simply is what it is, despite the differences and flaws we perceive in ourselves and others. It is constant and real, and promotes healing, growth, and a sense of oneness for both the giver and the receiver. And it, is what true empathy is all about.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I’ve always believed that Empathy, whether claimed by an Empath or simply someone offering a shoulder to another person in their time of need, was a multidimensional process that existed on any number of levels. From mirror neurons to the higher spiritual development which rises out of the multilateral self awareness of an Empath, its purpose was to show us how we all connect with one another. It is the ultimate gift of unity, and within that awe inspiring truth, are lessons which ground, humble, temper, and lift us all up.
But the truest potential of an Empath is not in what one can do, whether one can heal with reiki or with words, if one can see another person’s perspective or a multitude of them at any single given moment. Its not even about whether one is overwhelmed by or detached from the emotions they pick up from other people.
Its truest potential…….and its truest gift is grounded in simplicity. And it can be exemplified in one single statement. ‘You are not alone.’ That is the most basic truth of the gift of Empathy, for both the Empath and the one being offered support.
Its not about being spiritual, one way or another. Its not about being religious. Its not even about being self aware. It is simply a feeling of connection, love, and support that is shared between two people or a multitude. Your truest and greatest potential is as simple and as complex as that.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Empathy is the capability to share and understand another's emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes," or in some way experience what the other person is feeling.
Emotional contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. It is a process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioral attitudes.
So Empathy is the ability to stand in one's own perspective, while at the same time, possessing the ability to shift perspectives and see through another person's eyes, as it were. It is a process of understanding and sharing the emotions of another person from a dual perspective with a multilateral self-awareness.
While Emotional Contagion is much more of an automatic process, rather than a conscious one, which relies on non-verbal communication and even, at times, telecommunication (ie., online emails, forums and chats). People who catch this type of 'social virus' tend to mimic the facial expressions, vocal expressions, postures, and instrumental behaviors of those around them, and thereby “catch” another person's emotions as a consequence of such facial, vocal, and postural feedback.
The Process Of Empathy
The process of Empathy includes 6 different pieces, which often times overlap one another and can be quite confusing to differentiate between. These six pieces can be put into two categories. One is the cognitive level and the other is the emotional level. Within the scope of the cognitive level, the three pieces are: theory of the mind, perspective taking, and cognitive empathy. On the emotional level, the three pieces are: identification, emotional contagion, and 'true empathy'.
What we are going to do here is look at each facet of the empathic process in a little bit more detail. And explore what makes each piece unique in its own right, as well as, a integral part of the empathic process as a whole.
The Cognitive Level
1. Theory Of Mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own. In a 2001 research paper, Simon Baron-Cohen describes Theory of Mind as "...being able to infer the full range of mental states (beliefs, desires, intentions, imagination, emotions, etc.) that cause action. In brief, having a theory of mind is to be able to reflect on the contents of one's own and other's minds."
The process is illustrated in the picture to the left. Sally has a ball. She puts it into her basket and leaves. The other person, Ann, sees Sally with the ball and watches as she puts the ball away in her basket. She wishes to have the ball, so she takes it and puts it away in her box, when Ann is gone. And when Ann returns, she is left with the question of where her ball is. Someone who has a full grasp of Theory of Mind will immediately know that Sally will look where she last left the ball, and upon the discovery that it is missing, she will begin looking for other places it might be.
2. Perspective Taking is the ability to see things from a point of view other than one’s own. In this description, there are a number of different traits. The first is a person recognizing that the self and others can have different thoughts and feelings. The second is a person understanding that different perspectives may occur because individual people are privy to different information. The third is when a person can see through another person's eyes and view their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from the other person's perspective. They also recognize that others can do the same. The fourth is when a person can step away from a one on one situation and imagine how both parties are viewed from a third party perspective. And the last occurs when a person understands that third-party perspective taking can be manipulated by a system of cultural and/or social values.
In the picture to the right, one looks at the top picture and sees what? A bird with a man in its beak? But when the picture is flipped over, and it is viewed upside down, the picture changes. What do you see in the second picture? A large island with trees in the place of the bird's feet? And a man in a boat, reeling in a huge fish, by the island? This is perspective taking. The perspective you see with depends on which direction you look at the picture from. It is much the same, when one sees through another person's eyes, or walks a mile in another person's shoes. You retain your original perspective, but add to that one that differs based on the other person's perspective. In other words, it is a broadening of your own perspective to accommodate the views of others.
3. Cognitive Empathy is having a consciousness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them, which requires the consciousness of our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions of long-standing thought or belief. This trait correlates with the ability to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, and with the ability to imagine our being similarly deceived in a case-at-hand.
To elaborate, it is the literal process of putting oneself into the shoes of another person and seeing their experiences through their own eyes, through the act of imagining and the process of visualization. An example would be if you have ever read a true account of someone else's suffering, or a trauma they have experienced in their lives, in explicit detail, and you literally place yourself, in a first person perspective, in that person's shoes and feel their suffering right along with them.
The Emotional Level
1. There are several definitions for Identification. Emotional identification is defined as a heightened form of emotional contagion in which the another person's emotions are taken as one's own. Empathic identification is defined as the process to predict people's behavior by using faculty of empathy.
Identification is a process through which a person absorbs and incorporates facets of others, assimilating this information to produce their own identity. This happens consciously when a person perceives a correlation between someone else's experiences and their own. However, unconscious dimensions of identification are far more important, influencing the development of our personalities and our interactions with others in subtle and powerful ways that lie beyond our conscious awareness. For example, I might identify with my mother, on an unconscious level, in her partiality to more intellectual/cerebral pursuits, rather than taking a decided interest in more athletic pursuits. This could result in a strong preference, on my part, for academic study over exercise, sports, and other athletic pursuits.
Another prime example of identification would be the Jungian archetype of the Wounded Healer. The Wounded Healer may have suffered a trauma, like physical, emotional, psychological, and/or sexual abuse in their past. Because of the pain that they suffered in their own lives, they begin to focus outwardly toward other people in an attempt to offer support to others who have suffered. And upon meeting another person who has suffered this same, or similar trauma, the Wounded Healer begins to identify with the other person because of their shared experience and the emotions which flow out of that experience. This is what makes a victim of rape and/or domestic violence an exceptional peer counselor and advocate for other victims of rape and/or domestic violence.
2. True Empathy involves truly listening for the other person’s positive intention or "hope", beyond false presumptions which can arise in a momentary judgment call. Hopes are the universal positive qualities and values that motivate our behavior. For example, we hope to connect with others and be understood by them. We also hope to have the freedom of our own thoughts and feelings.
True Empathy is an act of altruism, as well. It does not seek accolades, awards or thanks. It is genuinely offered, with the purpose of reaching out to another person and helping them, without the expectation of receiving anything in return.
3. Here is where we come full circle, in that we come back to the term Emotional Contagion. So we will only look at it here very briefly since we've already given a good definition of it at the beginning of this discussion. Emotional contagion refers to an emotional state in an observer as a direct result of perceiving the state in another. Emotional contagion includes the spreading of all forms of emotion from one individual to another (e.g. the spreading of joy or distress through a crowd). As stated above, it is an automatic and unconscious process, rather than a conscious one, that tends to mimic the facial expressions, vocal expressions, postures, and instrumental behaviors of those around them, and thereby “catch” another person's emotions as a consequence of such facial, vocal, and postural feedback.
Both Empathy and Emotional Contagion are based on social-emotional linkage. This bond, or link, is how one person is connected to another in both an emotional way and a social venue. So it would include everything from the parent/child bond to the leader/subordinate bond to any type of peer bond. It is how each individual interacts with others from infancy into adulthood. And it is strongly based upon the social and cultural venue we all believe we belong to and how we fit into the hierarchy of that social structure.
Emotional Contagion Vs. Empathy
Now that we understand the differences and similarities of the ideas of Emotional Contagion and Empathy, it is important to understand what brings this discussion up. Emotional Contagion is a part of Empathy, but by itself it is not Empathy. It is based on a mob and/or hive mentality which sweeps through a crowd like a sudden torrential storm. And in the first instant of perception, our unconscious mind judges everything we encounter as good or bad. We are consciously unaware that the judgment has been made and it could very well be wrong, particularly if it is based off of a current of Emotional Contagion.
The judgment, however, forces our senses to find corroborating evidence to support its assumptions. And our unconscious mind will play a game of selection in what information it takes notice of, finding negative information to support a negative assumption and vice versa, while excluding all information that might prove the assumption wrong.
Knowing that this happens, that we are easily, and without realizing, mistaken about other people and situations, we can learn to overcome our negative assumptions of people and situations. This is what takes us from one of the pieces of empathy into the truest and most complete forms of it.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The questions, unspoken, and yet, poignantly there all the same; do I make sense? am I crazy? can you relate to this at all? Will you reach out to me, even if it is with a smile, a nod or a single word?
Its hard to admit that we have these needs, particularly in a world that teaches privacy above all else. And with the added possibilities of being wounded in the process, being used, or being rebuffed, we pull ourselves even tighter into our shells. And there we imagine we are safe, all the while we sit alone stewing in our own rising needs which push at our temples demanding release. And even then, we try to look away.
So whether you are an Empath or not, whether you are hyper-sensitive or not, whether you know it at the conscious level or not, you are not alone. It doesn't matter what you've done in your life, or failed to do. It does not matter who you think you are or what you are. You are still not alone.
Before we move further, lets look at some definitions:
- Empathy is: the capability to share and understand another's emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes," or in some way experience what the other person is feeling.
- A wound is (in the case of this discussion): 1. an injury to the feelings. 2. a state of physical or mental suffering.
- A healer is: 1. one that heals or attempts to heal. 2. a person skilled in a particular type of therapy. 3. a people who treat illness or suffering by calling forth divine help or by attempting to control the body with the mind and spirit. Since prehistoric times healers have used such techniques as anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, and prayer.
- An archetype is: 1. the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies. 2. an inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual.
Lets weave all of these things together, so that we understand what this discussion is truly about. What we are focusing on here is a healer that is empathic. The empathic healer is also emotionally wounded and/or scarred (stemming from any number of reasons and experiences). So in this case the metaphor of the 'wounded healer', who is empathic, is the archetype we are going to look at in more depth.
Archetypes are metaphors, which we, as human beings, can relate to. There are archetypes for how we relate to others, archetypes for stories, and archetypes to describe the various parts of our psyches. The reason why archetypes work so well, in relation to the human mind, is that the unconscious mind is hardwired for metaphor (ie. dreams).
Have you ever had a dream, of say an animal who was fierce, strong, and dominant? Did this seem to frighten you, because in your waking world, that creature is the complete opposite of who you believe yourself to be? This type of archetype, or metaphor, is what Carl Jung would call the Shadow, or a hidden part of yourself that is primal and uncontrolled, thus rejected most of the time.
Carl Jung continues on in his theory of archetypes, to broaden the scope from the internal faceted archetypes to the external archetypes of how we each relate to one another. So here we will list the different types of archetypes, as noted by Carl Jung, and look at them in a little bit of detail.
The Internal Faceted Archetypes:
1. The Shadow derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns were limited to survival and reproduction, and when we weren't self-conscious. It is the "dark side" of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of is often stored there. In reality though, the Shadow is amoral; neither good or bad, just like animals. It is also the easiest of the archetypes for most people to experience. Because beyond animals, we tend to see our own 'dark side' in others, projecting ourselves on to them in the form of 'enemies' or 'villians'.
2. The Anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men (ie., the complete grouping of archetypes within the psyche). The Animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. Together, they are referred to as syzygy (ie., yin and yang), which is also known as the divine couple. The Anima can be represented by a young girl, a witch, a mother, or any other number of ways. The Animus can be represented by a wise old man, a sorcerer, or any number of other ways.
3. The Self, for Jung, is the God image. Human self and divine self are incapable of distinction. All is Spirit. Images of Spirit abound. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and is symbolized by the circle, the cross, and the mandala figures that Jung was fond of painting. The personifications that best represent self are Christ and Buddha, two people who many believe achieved perfection.
The External Archetypes:
The archetypes which stem out of the main categories, as described by Jung, are used to describe our interaction with others in the external world and in stories, so we are able to relate better to the characters being portrayed. Here is a list of some of those archetypes:
1. The Syzygy ~ Divine Couple, King & Queen
2. The Child ~ Tommy Pickles from Rugrats
3. The Superman ~ the Omnipotent
4. The Hero ~ Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker
5. The Great Mother ~ Good Mother, Terrible Mother ~ Glinda, Good Witch of the North
6. The Wise Old Man ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf, Albus Dumbledore
7. The Trickster or Ape ~ Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny, Loki, Eris (goddess of discord)
Here is another list, which you might find familiar if you try to match them up with characters in a story. Take Cinderella, for instance.
1. Mother ~ Fairy Godmother
2. Father ~ King or Absentee Father of Cinderella
3. Hero ~ The Prince
4. Warrior ~ The Prince
5. Martyr ~ Cinderella
6. Villain ~ The Stepmother, two stepsisters
7. Victim ~ Cinderella
8. Maiden ~ Cinderella
The Totemic Archetype
There is another archetypal form, which is much more primitive in nature, when compared with the more psychological view of Jung's archetypes. It stems out of the more primitive communal tribes of Native America, and in the spiritual beliefs of Shamanism.
Shamanism is: A complex pattern of diverse rites and beliefs, shamanism is a tribal religion in societies without a literary tradition. Healing is one function of the shaman and the most important along with prophecy. The shaman uses mystical powers to journey to other worlds or realities and communicate with spirits in order to bring about a balance between the physical and spiritual worlds.
The Totemic Archetype is a metaphor of you, represented usually by an animal, a plant, a mythical creature, a human, or even an inanimate object. Most people, who practice a earth based or animistic religion, go in search of their spirit guides. The spirit guide has a two fold purpose. One is that of guide, protector, companion, teacher and confidant. The other is that the guide is a metaphor of you, or a facet of you. And in that metaphor it carries a message from which you can learn more about yourself and your purpose here in this reality. Here is an example:
The Bear Totem
Taken from this website: http://healing.about.com/b/2009/04/02/bear-medicine.htm
"Bears in general teach us to slow down and reserve our energies. Bear medicine also has to do with awakening from within. Bear teaches us that life's answers are no further than your own subconscious. There is no need to look outside of yourself when bear is nearby. Bears are also climbers and can teach us how to reach new heights. Bears love honey and teach us to appreciate the sweetness life offers. "
The reason for this long winded explanation, is so that you begin to understand exactly what an archetype is, before we begin to bring you into this equation, as an Empath. The next stage of this discussion will explore in more detail that of the Wounded Healer Archetype, as it pertains to all of us as Empaths.
The Wounded Healer
Here we return to our original questions. Are you empathic? Are you a healer? Do you work in a helping/healing industry, like nursing or therapy? Are you a counselor, by nature, whether or not you work professionally as one? And have you suffered mental, physical, and emotional anguish, of varying degrees, throughout the span of your lifetime? Of course, one does not have to be empathic to be a healer, a counselor, or a wounded healer. All of these types of jobs require that those who work in this helping/healing field be empathetic, if not empathic.
As Empaths, we naturally have the ability to feel what others feel, walk a mile in their shoes and see through their eyes. So chances are you do what you do because you wish to help other people while using your gift of empathy. You are compassionate, caring, loving, giving, and generally selfless. You are a natural caregiver, nurturer, and confidant.
But at the same time, the things and events that helped to produce an Empath out of you, are also the things that make you a Wounded Healer. What is offered up here is one supposition, and will not apply to everyone. But whether or not it applies to you personally or not, it will help bring into focus what connects the two ideas of an Empath and a Wounded Healer.
If you suffered psychological and physical abuse as a child, you learned at a young age how to gauge the possible reactions which stem out of your own actions. This was done to placate the one who was abusive to you. It began as a form of protecting yourself.
In later years, these same skills continued to evolve, until they encompass your entire personality. Things that could stem out of these skills, are being passive aggressive, a people pleaser, an individual with low self esteem and/or no self worth, a martyr, and a perpetual victim. It can also take the form of empathy, in which the Empath is constantly overwhelmed by others emotionally until the point where they do not know where they end and other people begin.
But I digress, all of the suffering that helped shape your empathic personality, also turned you into a Wounded Healer. What this means is that when you meet someone who has suffered the same kind of abuse and/or trauma as you, or a similar form of abuse and/or trauma, you begin to relate to them on a much deeper level than you normally would with others, even as an Empath.
Carl Jung, the psychiatrist, stated this phenomenon that may take place between the patient and the analyst, "The psychiatrist, through the nature of his profession, is consciously aware of his own personal wounds. However, these wounds may be activated in certain situations especially if his patient's wounds are similar to his own."
A clear example of a Wounded Healer is a woman who was the victim of rape in her past. If she has chosen to work with other victims of rape, she will understand what they are going through on a level, a person who had not been raped can not understand, because of their shared experiences and emotions. This does not mean a person who has not suffered such a thing will have no understanding of the other person's suffering. Its simply a difference in the level of understanding between the victim's advocate and the victim, as they relate to a victim of this nature.
Your pain, your suffering, and all of the sorrows that you have been through (whatever it may be)....those become the lessons that you teach best because those are the things that you have learned first hand. This is what the metaphor of the Wounded Healer means. And when you add to that an empathic nature, you have a person, with an amazing gift.
But even as you learn to heal yourself, the scars of all of those old wounds still remain as a reminder of what you suffered. And because of that, the lesson is always there to offer to others who are in need of it.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
What is burnout, when one looks at it through an empathic context? To understand that, first we must understand what exactly burnout is. There are several definitions of burnout, but this is the definition we need to focus on for this discussion: Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress or dissipation.
In an empathic context, based off of this very limited definition, Empathic Burnout happens when an Empath suffers from emotional and/or physical exhaustion, due to the long term stress of taking on the emotions of others. Burnout can cause significant physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage to people. So you, as an Empath, must be aware of the symptoms, characteristics, and traits that foretell the onset of this kind of burnout.
Signs & Symptoms of Emotional & Empathic Burnout
Some of the signs and symptoms of empathic/emotional burnout are physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, shame, doubt, cynicism, callousness, failure, helplessness and crisis. The primary damage of burnout is emotional, though.
If it is left untreated, burnout can evolve in a very destructive way. It can first cause loss of motivation, ideals, and hope. It can then promote helplessness and hopelessness. This can lead to detachment and depression. And in the end, it may cause one to believe life is not worth living.
Detachment from all sides of ones life is a big part of burnout. It can affect a person's work life, causing them to withdraw from responsibilities, procrastinate, skip work and/or come in late and leave early. Emotional burnout can also affect a person's personal life, making them push away from all of their intimate relationships, effectively isolating themselves from their support system.
Empathic Burnout Vs. Emotional Burnout
What must be realized here, when we separate Empathic Burnout from Emotional Burnout, is that when an Empath burns out, it stems from a very particular cause (with possible secondary causes, as well). Empathic Burnout stems more from the weight of other people's emotions shifting through them, than any other form of stress. Though the addition of excessive stress, on top of the weight of others emotions, can also be a contributing factor. The difference between the two types of burnout, is in the focus of the major cause of the burnout.
For an Empath, burnout will take on the context of drowning in a dark sea of people's emotions. The shifting waves and currents pulling them under over and over again, as they struggle to keep their heads above water.
In this case, the burnout rises out of the struggle merely to survive intact. So even the thought of thriving, seems like a hopeless dream to reach for, much less strive toward. Thoughts of personal joy, pride in achievement, and self esteem can become nonexistent, as well. This can happen until the point where being an Empath, and doing what we do with others, becomes a chore we do because we do not have a choice. And what seems like a blessing to some, becomes a constant curse to others, like a punishment for some unknown past transgression. And more to the point, it becomes an act of giving yourself away, as a martyr, instead of helping others to heal, with both the Empath and the one being helped, finding balance.
Ways Of Coping With Empathic/Emotional Burnout
Here are some coping tips and techniques. Some of these ways of coping with burnout will apply more to a work environment than a home environment, while others will be the reverse. Some may or may not apply to and/or work for you. So as always, take what works for you and leave the rest to the ether. ^_^
1. Develop a realistic picture of yourself - know what you're feeling and why.
2. Set realistic goals for yourself.
3. Recognize the symptoms of stress and burnout.
4. Ask for help when it's needed.
5. Develop a structural and personal support system.
6. Retain hope.
7. Develop a detached concern for recipients of your efforts.
8. Maintain an active personal social life outside of work.
9. Take time-outs when you need them.
10. Maintain a regimen of proper nutrition and physical exercise.
11. Develop a sense of organizational involvement.
12. Be willing to accept counseling when needed.
13. Develop self-therapies such as meditation, biofeedback, or relaxation response.
14. Accentuate the positive.
15. Be informed of the expectations, scope of responsibilities, opportunity for advancement, supervision, job description, workload, evaluation criteria, benefits and salary of a job before accepting it.
16. Identify goals and evaluate accordingly both at home and on the job.
17. Maintain personal growth both at home and on the job.
18. Seek out helpful supervision for your work both at home and on the job.
19. Develop an active outside life with a variety of interests.
20. Personalize your work and home environment with meaningful pictures, objects, colors, etc.
21. Feel comfortable with yourself, set limits for yourself and know how far to become involved with family and colleagues.
22. Encourage and practice good communication skills.
23. Provide for flexible working conditions.
24. Seek out encouragement for trying new ideas.
25. Find your own "decompression techniques'' such as activities like meditation or exercise that relieve tension and put you into a more relaxed state.
26. Don't just air gripes, but look for solutions.
27. Slow down.
28. Set limits and realize that you are not omnipotent and/or superhuman. You do not have to be all things to and for all people.
This discussion is not meant to diagnose, replace, or treat depression or thoughts of suicide. If you are in need, please seek out help with a licensed professional and get the help that you need.
Emotional Burnout Links
http://www.livestrong.com/article/14719-preventing-burnout/ (burnout quiz included)
http://www.sarbc.org/ciss8.html (burnout quiz)
http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/counsel/downloads/StressBurnout.pdf (pdf format)
http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200603/200603_020_burnout.cfm (burnout checklist included)
Friday, April 10, 2009
Its kind of an oxymoron to imagine an Empath feeling lonely, at least on the surface. Its a topic that tends to be skimmed over with very little discussion. Its a part of our lives we tend not to wish to share with anyone out of fear of judgment. But its also a very real issue for many of us, as well.
So here I wish to ask, are you lonely? Are you reclusive? Are you agoraphobic? Do you feel isolated from the world around you, no matter how many people stand around you, both stranger and friend/family?
All of these things make us feel as though we are different. It makes us feel set apart from the world we were born into. It changes our perspective to such a degree, that everything from the world around us to the face we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror, seems foreign.
What forces our loneliness to evolve into such behaviors as isolating oneself from others both mentally and physically, refusing deep and meaningful relationships and interactions with others, and even reach the point of being afraid to leave their own house? What turns a single feeling, into something that holds a visceral grip of fear over all of an Empath's life?
In asking these questions, I must also ask myself these questions, as well. Because even for me, there have been times when I shunned personal contact with others, and learned to prefer the indirect contact of the internet. It was less invasive and much easier to maintain a viable distance from others here. Where as, in person it could become so overwhelming to be around others that I would have panic attacks.
This is one of the hardest topics for an Empath to discuss, because it does not just ask about your loneliness. It also focuses on your interpersonal relationships. There are different types of interpersonal relationships, so to clarify, we are talking about our most intimate relationships or lack there of (ie., lover, best friend, and even family members).
Sadly, there is no cure all for this issue. It takes a long time to be able to work your way back into society and live a relatively normal life, after you've begun to isolate yourself from others. It takes recognizing and accepting your true self, a prominent wish to overcome your own fears, and a desire to begin living your own life once more, instead of simply surviving through it (with the constant threat of sinking and drowning hanging over your head like a sharpened blade).
That road, for us, begins with a single word, Empath, and everything that stems out of that word. From there we begin reevaluating our lives, both past and present, in order to understand if this is really what we are and what we have been suffering from since the beginnings of our lives. We look at traits, definitions, explanations, and different perspectives to try and understand, what has been a mysterious puzzle for us up until the actual recognition that arises out of the realization of the word Empath.
The next step, is to seek out others of like mind, so that you can get an affirmation that this truly exists. In so doing, you gain two things you did not have before: validation of your beliefs and the realization that you are not alone.
Know that there is always hope for all of us, even for those that become reclusive and isolated. Know that you are not alone in this issue. We all suffer from that sense of loneliness and seeing the world as a foreign place in which we do not belong. Knowing that is one of the first steps you will take in learning to heal yourself.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
But let me digress a bit here, and offer up two definitions of fear, and some of the types of fear that can rise out of us. Fear has a number of definitions. One of them is this: A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger. Another is this: Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power. Needless to say, the definition of fear we will focus on in this blog, is the first definition, and what it has to do with each of us in turn.
There are a number of different types of fear, but before we venture into the infinite depths of that topic, we should look at one more thing, the root of fear (despite what type of fear it is). Here is a great quote I found at Tharpa.com "The cause of all fear is self-grasping ignorance, and all the delusions, such as selfishness, attachment and anger, arise from that ignorance,as well as all the unskillful actions motivated by those delusions."
Essentially what this means, is that when we imagine ourselves and the external world, that resides all around us, as a reality independent of our inner perception, we end up living in ignorance of our own selfishness and needs. Another way to put it is that we take all of the things that terrify us, such as the truth of ourselves and the reality around us, and bury it in a box, so we do not have to face the truth bound within that box. We live in denial and practice avoidance at all costs, all for the singular purpose to remain in a life of ignorance. But ignorance of this type, most certainly is not bliss. In fact, it tends to leave its bearer immobilized and unable to move forward in their life. And because it is a wound that can not heal, because it is not acknowledged and given the chance to do so, it can fester within people, causing emotions such as bitterness, envy, anger, and/or depression. It can leave one feeling as though there is something missing within themselves, an insatiable hole that nothing can fill. And here, it can be perceived as emptiness.
There a great many types of fear, so here we will only go over a few, which, more often than not, we all suffer from at some point in our lives.
The first type is a paradox which most Empaths tend to be able to relate to well. It is the fear of intimacy and the fear of rejection. Both of these types of fear, stem from the same place, and generally end up with the same results, as well. The root of these fears is that of a threat to ones self image and a lack of self worth.
The fear of rejection makes us afraid to be assertive in our interpersonal relations with others, which results in a need to please, placate, and heal others, even when it is beyond our limits to do so. This is done because we have a very fragile self image that is based upon the good opinions of others, instead of self evaluated worth. So rejection, in the case of this type of fear, would be a threat to our self image.
Fear of intimacy, at its roots, stems from the very same place the fear of rejection does. Because we only share an external mask of our true selves, which is carefully cultivated to express the type of person we want people to believe we are, with most people, there is a great deal of underlying fear when we allow anyone to step to close. This is hinged partially on the fear of rejection, upon their discovery of who we truly are beneath the mask. As Empaths, we have the added bonus of fear of being overwhelmed by all of the emotions that come with an intimate relationship, be it family, friends, and/or lovers.
The last one we will cover here is the fear of selfishness. From a very young age most people have had the need for piety and altruism thrust upon themselves. They have been taught selfishness is wrong and pride is a sin. And while its true that to much of either of these, can do more damage than good, when they are tempered with things like piety, humility, and altruism, balance is born. The fear of selfishness is the denial of true self to cultivate the mask of ego we share with the world. But in its own paradox, the fear of selfishness can bring forth things like prejudice and hate which are born out of the embittered illusion of piety, altruism, and tolerance. In other words, the fear of selfishness, can push a person into becoming self serving, with a superficial covering of those better qualities, and an innate ability to rationalize away those people and situations which do not measure worthy enough to be helped.
Here is a more in depth list of fear types. It was taken from this page:
- being bad, corrupt, evil, defective
- being controlled by others
- being deprived
- being harmed
- being incapable
- being of no value, worthless
- being unloved
- being useless
- diminishment, decline
- doing wrong
- hurting others
- incorrect decisions
- invasion of boundaries
- looking stupid
- loss of connection
- material loss
- no identity
- personal insignificance
- public speaking
- support, guidance
- truth, God, duty, being oneself
Healing The Fear
Healing one's own fears can take......well as long as it takes, if we are honest. It could be hours, days, months, or even years. But that does not negate the positive aspects that rise out of both the healing of your fears, and the journey to achieve that healing. It is a worthwhile endeavor for you, and the people you surround yourself with and are close to.
The first step one must take to heal their own fear (and before they can help others heal their own fears) is to acknowledge your fears. They are a part of you, even if you choose not to show them to the world. And denying them does nothing more than hurt yourself. We all have limits, some of which are set forth by those fears we tend to deny. So when we hit a roadblock, and can not move forward, we have no understanding of why we keep hitting the same wall, no matter how much time passes.
The second step is learning to embrace your own emotions, even the darker emotions. When we deny those darker emotions, we also deny the reasons for those emotions. Anger, self loathing, depression, shame, envy, bitterness, jealousy.....and the list could go on and on. When you learn to embrace the emotions, even the ones cast in shadow, you are learning to embrace yourself in your totality, both good and bad.
The last step, is probably one of the hardest, even compared to the first two steps. It is learning to forgive (be it yourself or another person) and let go of the negative attachments which bind us to the past and will not let us step into a healthy future. Forgive.......and let go of those burdens you've carried all these years in the form of guilt, shame,resentment and self loathing. The only one that can do this.....is you.
Fear & The Empath
So the question becomes, what does this have to do with you as both a person and an Empath? Well, it has a dual affect, actually. When you stop rationalizing, hiding, and denying all of your fears (which is not to assume you have any of these at all) you gain the ability to understand yourself better. And in so doing, you also gain a level of balance you did not have before. As well, in understanding your own fears, you begin to learn what motivates other people's fears, what holds them back in life, and what keeps them from reaching their own innate potential. You may even find that that is the key to helping others, as it was when you did it for yourself.
As an Empath, imagine the depths this will add to your own perception and your perception of others, as you work with others in healing.