Friday, July 3, 2009

The Language Of Empathy

Have you ever experience synchronicity, much less wondered what the heck it was, and wondered what it could all possibly mean? Could the universe really be sending you a message? How about trying to understand a metaphor? Ever looked at an optical illusion and wondered what the point was? What about interpreting dreams? Ever wondered what they really mean, if they contain important messages from spirit, reveal premonitions and/or are prophetic, or give you clues to your own past lives? Have you ever tried to read the online course by Jad Alexander, The Book Of Storms: Lesson In Dreamtongue, and wondered what it all meant and how it relates to being an Empath?

Really, what do any of these things have to do with being an Empath? Well that's what we are going to look at in this discussion. So lets start off with some basic definitions to get the ball rolling, and from there we will look at what all of these things have to do with having an Empathic nature.

The Definitions

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.

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.

A Metaphor is language that directly connects seemingly unrelated subjects. It is a figure of speech that connects two or more things.

A Symbol is something such as an object, picture, written word, sound, or particular mark that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention.

Symbology is the study or interpretation of symbols or symbolism.

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.

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.

Optical Illusion (also called a visual illusion) is characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality. The information gathered by the eye is processed in the brain to give a percept that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source. There are three main types: literal optical illusions that create images that are different from the objects that make them, physiological ones that are the effects on the eyes and brain of excessive stimulation of a specific type (brightness, tilt, color, movement), and cognitive illusions where the eye and brain make unconscious inferences.

Linguistics is the study of the nature, structure, and variation of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, and pragmatics.

Linguistic Empathy is the ability to share another person's perspective, or 'see through their eyes', through the linguistic patterns of their speech, the symbols and/or metaphors they use, and the emotion imbued in the words, symbols/metaphors, and linguistic patterns of their speech.

Empathic Listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and trust. It enabling the listener to receive and accurately interpret the speaker's message, and then provide an appropriate response. It is also called active listening or reflective listening.

Intelligence is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.

Emotional Intelligence is describes an ability, capacity, skill or a self-perceived ability, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.

Interpersonal Skills are all the behaviors and feelings that exist within all of us that influence our interactions with others.

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through the sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world, and it also plays a key role in the learning process.

A Point Of View is the perspective from which a speaker or writer tells a story or presents information.

1. a technique of depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface. Compare aerial perspective, linear perspective.
2. a picture employing this technique, esp. one in which it is prominent: an architect's perspective of a house.
3. a visible scene, esp. one extending to a distance; vista: a perspective on the main axis of an estate.
4. the state of existing in space before the eye: The elevations look all right, but the building's composition is a failure in perspective.
5. the state of one's ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.
6. the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship: Your data is admirably detailed but it lacks perspective.
7. a mental view or prospect: the dismal perspective of terminally ill patients.

Understanding The Purpose Of This Discussion

Yeah, I know the definitions section could rival a Webster's Dictionary, but all of those definitions serve an important purpose and they all have much in common when we talk about the language of Empathy. So lets look at how all of these things connect to one another and how they connect to the gift of Empathy. And lets look at why understanding all of them and being able to utilize all of them plays a large role in being an Empath.

In this section, as a sort of lesson in how all of these things work, I'm going to offer some examples of a few of the definitions found above. This is by no means a complete list of any one type listed above, but simply a practical reference to understand how some of these ideas work.

Examples Of Metaphors

* "Between the lower east side tenements the sky is a snotty handkerchief."
(Marge Piercy, "The Butt of Winter")
- In basic terms, this is saying that the sky is covered in clouds by comparing it to a snotty handkerchief. It pulls a feeling of disgust out of the reader and implies that the weather was unpleasant.

* "The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner."
(Cynthia Ozick, "Rosa")
- This compares the heat of the street to a furnace and the heat of the sun to an executioner. Basically, it says that was a sweltering day that made one feel as though they were going to die of the heat.

* "But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill."
(William Sharp, "The Lonely Hunter")
- Comparing the heart to a lonely hunter implies that the heart is empty and alone.

* "Men's words are bullets, that their enemies take up and make use of against them."
(George Savile, Maxims of State)
- This implies that a man's enemies will take that person's words and twist them to use against that person.

* "The rain came down in long knitting needles."
(Enid Bagnold, National Velvet)
- This compares the droplets of rain to knitting needles which implies that the rain was falling hard and fast, and could hurt the skin if it touched it.

Examples Of Symbols

Examples Of Dream Symbols

PEOPLE : Every person that appears in a dream is supposed to represent an aspect of one's Self, and not actually be about that other person at all; rather, it is a quality or characteristic about that person that your dream is focusing on, and how it applies to YOU. Try to think about what aspect(s) this could be. It can be something you admire and wish to emulate and incorporate into your own personality, or it could be a more negative characteristic that you may dislike intensely in your waking life, but which is telling you something about yourself and your beliefs, judgements, & attitude. It could be a call to alter your thinking in some manner, in order to be more open-minded and accepting of this aspect in their and your own personality, because it is hampering your spiritual growth & making life harder for yourself. The other person in your dream is always mirroring something back to you about YOURSELF. Try to discover what that something is, and go from there. Once you get it through your head that the other person's appearance in your dream is NOT about them, but really about YOU, then you will get much more successful interpreting your own dreams. This takes constant reinforcing--I still find myself wanting to think it's about that other person instead of me. The only exception I know of is if the dream is precognitive.

FLYING : usually represents freedom from the physical body, as we experience in sleep & while dreaming where we don't use our physical bodies but instead use our mental & spiritual bodies to experience our dreams. It's one of the first things people attempt to do when they gain control of their dreams and start lucid dreaming. Everybody seems to have a natural inclination to want to fly, unless that is changed by a fear of flying due to a frightening incident in their waking lives. Flying = freedom; either a desire for freedom, an "escape" from restraints in your physical life (like a mini-vacation for the mind) or any number of possiblities. Tie it in with the context of your dream...what were you doing in your dream besides flying? How did it make you feel? etc. Also, the type of flying I'm referring to, here, is the person flying on their own without an airplane or any aircraft at all. That would be a different symbol dealing with spiritual awareness, among other things.

CAR or VEHICLE : This is supposed to symbolize you in your waking life, in your physical body. Your physical body is used by the soul pretty much like we use a's driven for awhile and we give it gas/nourishment & repairs as needed until it stops running, and then we go back home. Pay attention to your car, which symbolizes your VESSEL/physical body. Are you behind the wheel, or is someone else in control? You want to be in charge of your life, naturally. What is the color & condition of this vehicle? Do you seem to be driving it the right way, on a safe road in good condition, or is the road rocky, winding, or suddenly ends at a cliff? That would signal you need redirection. The bigger the vehicle, the more energy you may be successfully using for your daily lessons, depending on the context of your dream. Note all clues as to how you are faring, and make adjustments accordingly.

HOUSE : You drive a car, but typically you LIVE in a house/apartment. Dreams about a HOUSE symbolize a larger aspect of your Self, and the aspects of Self which make the whole. Each room is said to symbolize a different aspect of your Self.


PINK : the color of love in all it's forms. Often used to show healing through love.
RED : passion, anger.
BLACK : the unconscious mind; void; death of the old.
GREY : fear, confusion.
WHITE : truth, "coming clean", purity; can also be symbolic of death & new beginnings.
GREEN : healing, growth, newness.
BLUE : spirituality; could be a metaphor for "being blue".
YELLOW : peacefulness, hope (as in "sunny disposition"); could be a cowardice metaphor.


ONE : unity, completeness.
TWO : balance of yin-yang principles, or male/female energies-either it's needed or it's achieved.
THREE : (common dream symbol) the trinity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit; the 3 principles uniting in harmony, as in body-mind-spirit harmony. This dream has an important spiritual message for you--pay attention!
FIVE : changes!

Examples Of Optical Illusions

Some Optical Illusions play on one's perspective.
Do you see the diverse perspectives in this one?

Some optical illusions use visual metaphors.
Can you see the fists in each window
as humans in the fetal position?

Some optical illusions transform words into other words.
Can you see how 'evil' turns into 'good' here?

Some optical illusions use the spelling of words incorrectly.
One can see this in this optical illusion.

Some optical illusions use word repetition.
Can you see whats wrong with this image?
The word 'the' is used twice in it.

Some optical illusions use color and words to confuse the brain.
In this optical illusion the idea is to say the color
of the word instead of the word itself. Give it a try.

Examples of Synchronicity

* You are suffering with financial difficulties, yet money for basic expenses such as rent, food, and utilities, always manifests. You begin to trust this. At first you thank the universe or god, then you realize you create this abundance. You are learning to watch how you manifest and why, watching yourself from outside the box.

* You have just received your last check from unemployment when suddenly a job comes along.

* You walk into a book store not knowing what to buy, and the book you need falls from a shelf and practically hits you over the head.

* You have been feeling ill with no clear diagnosis. You meet someone who knows a doctor or healer with the answers. All physical problems stem from emotional issues. Your soul will point out the patterns and hopefully the solutions. When the person is ready to heal, the doctor will be there. That person will often show up by synchronicity. This all stems from various levels of depression and self-sabotage stemming from one's DNA or life experiences that have worn them down. When you are confused and in emotional pain, you either have trouble manifesting synchronicities or they are major learning lessons.

* There is a sudden relocation which seems to be for one reason, but later you find much more than you bargained for as the synchronicities rapid occur as if a domino effect. For example, you relocate for a new job, then, as if by synchronicity, someone 'special' comes into your life. You and that person have attracted each other for experience, as all life is nothing more than that. In another case, the energies of the area hold something transformational for you, which is perhaps the reason your soul created the move in the first place.

* You finally end a bad relationship and immediately another partner comes into your life as if by synchronicity.

* You drive to a place where parking is "next to impossible" and someone pulls out of a parking spot or it is waiting for you.

The Language Of Empathy

Now that we've seen the definitions and some examples of some of these things, we come to the part of this discussion where we connect all of these singular and different concepts into one cohesive idea, which we will call The Language Of Empathy.

When we think of the mind, we think of intellect. We think in terms of analytical thought processes which are basically a step by step how-to guide that the mind creates to explain things it encounters in life. Alot of the time the mind will use metaphors and symbols to help exemplify this thought process, because comparative analysis through identification and association with things the mind is already familiar with speed up the analytical thought process.

A wonderful example of this can be found in the archetype of the Wounded Healer. Basically this is a person who has suffered some form of abuse/trauma which allows them to identify with others who have gone through the same or a similar type of abuse and trauma. They do this by taking the other person's pain and issues and associate it with their own similar experiences. By doing this they have a deeper insight into the other person's suffering that someone, who has not experienced similar issues, might.

The mind has many levels, which are separated into the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. One way that these two levels communicate with one another is through dreams. A dream is a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep. A good way to think of a dream is that the mind takes bits and pieces of your daily life and reweaves them into a story that has a moral and a lesson buried somewhere within it. Each piece within a dream is a visual metaphor which helps weave a multifaceted story together. On the surface it seems extremely random, but beneath the surface one will find issues one is currently going through in their waking lives.

Odd coincidences, or synchronicity, can be found in the waking world as well, if one is open to the concept. Seemingly random information will simply appear in front of you which might offer you messages, answers, or directions from the 'universe'. This usually occurs through some sort of visual metaphor, omen, or symbol, which to anyone else would go unnoticed. But to the person that it seems to be meant for, who is going through a specific issue, it comes as a blessing from the 'beyond'.

Metaphors and symbols are also used in writing and visual art. Writers use metaphor to help people better understand a situation they are describing. Some languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, are all do written in symbolic pictures use to represent words.
Painters use metaphors such as colors to express an emotion or a particular meaning.

Optical illusions are a great visual way of developing the skill of understanding metaphors and symbols. They offer a simple shifting of perspective which teaches the mind to see beyond the surface of things to what lays beneath it.

So what do all of these things have to do with Empathy? Intellect and the analytical thought processes of the mind are important part of developing ones Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Skills. Emotional Intelligence is described as
an ability, capacity, skill or a self-perceived ability, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups. While Interpersonal skills are defined as all the behaviors and feelings that exist within all of us that influence our interactions with others. Why not try testing your Interpersonal Skills and see where you are at?

Interpersonal Skills Assessment

Determine the personal relevance of each statement to how you see yourself right now.

How Often do You...

* seek approval and affirmation from others, and I am afraid of criticism.
* guess at what normal behavior is, and I usually feel as if I am different from other people.
* isolate myself from and am afraid of people in authority roles.
* am not able to appreciate my own accomplishments and good deeds.
* tend to have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
* get frightened or stressed when I am in the company of an angry person.
* order to avoid a conflict, I find it easier to lie than tell the truth.
* have judged myself harshly. I am my own worst critic, and I am harder on myself than I am on others.
* feel that I am being taken advantage of by individuals and society in general; I often feel victimized.
* take myself very seriously, and I view all of relationships just as seriously.
* have problems developing and maintaining intimate relationships.
* feel guilty when I stand up for myself or take care of my needs first, instead of giving in or taking care of others’ needs first.
* feel responsible for others and find it easier to have concern for others that for myself.
* become impulsive and act too quickly, before considering other actions or possible consequences.
* have difficulty in being able to feel or to express feelings; I feel out of touch with my feelings.

If You found yourself Identifying with a number of this statements, you could likely benefit from working on your interpersonal skills.

Because the mind uses metaphors and symbols to understand the things it encounters in the external waking world, this also applies to the emotions it encounters, as implied in the example of the Wounded Healer archetype. So lets take a quick look at the Empathic Process to remind ourselves how this is applied to the the gift of Empathy.

The Empathic Process

The Empathic Process can first be broken down into two categories; Emotional and Cognitive Empathy.

Emotional Empathy occurs when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious. This kind of Empathy makes someone well-attuned to another person’s inner emotional world.

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.

The Cognitive Level

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."

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.

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.

The Emotional Level

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.

True Empathy is basically another name for Emotional Empathy, in that it occurs when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious. This kind of Empathy makes someone well-attuned to another person’s inner emotional world.

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.

The Language Of Empathy (Cont.)

Is all of this beginning to make a bit more sense? Basically what we are saying is that the language of Empathy is Linguistic Empathy. And that what an Empath does is take the metaphors and symbols, as well as a wide range of other linguistic patterns, a person offers up as they speak or write about their problems, along with the emotions that these metaphors and symbols are imbued with, and interprets them through association and identification. Of course, this is only one level of a multi-leveled process. But it is an extremely important level to understand about what you do.

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