Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Empath's Gift Of Love

There are a number of different kinds of love, from the love of friends to more passionate love to altruistic types of love. So lets look at a list of the 6 types of love, as defined by several Greek terms. But understand, you do not have to truly comprehend the different Greek terms to understand the different types of Love.
Six Types of Love
In a classic book titled Colors of Love (1973), J. A. Lee defined six varieties of relationship that might be labeled love.
  • Eros is romantic, passionate, love. In this type of relationship, love is life's most important thing. Lee said a search for physical beauty or an ideal type also typifies this type of love.
  • Ludus is a game-playing or uncommitted love. Lying is part of the game. A person who pursues ludic love may have many conquests but remains uncommitted.
  • Storge (STORE-gay) is a slow developing, friendship-based loved. People with this type of relationship like to participate in activities together. Often storge results in a long-term relationship in which sex might not be very intense or passionate.
  • Pragma is a pragmatic, practical, mutually beneficial relationship. It may be somewhat unromantic. A person who leans toward this type of relationship may look for a partner at work or where the person is spending time. Sex is likely to be seen as a technical matter needed for producing children, if they are desired.
  • Mania is an obsessive or possessive love, jealous and extreme. A person in love this way is likely to do something crazy or silly, such as stalking. The movie Fatal Attraction was about this type.
  • Agape (a-GOP-aye) is a gentle, caring, giving type of love, brotherly love, not concerned with the self. It is relatively rare. Mother Theresa showed this kind of love for impoverished people.
Now that we've seen the different types of love, let's focus this discussion and orient it toward Empaths. We are going to focus on the type of love called Agape, which is a more altruistic, brotherly type of love where in one is compassionate, understanding, and loving toward other people who are deemed 'in need'. For an Empath, what this means is a compassionate love focused toward someone who is, in general, in emotional distress or pain (or suffering from another heightened emotion which might draw the attention of an Empath), and who is dealing with emotional issues that need resolution, validation, and support.

Please note, though, that this does not necessarily encompass every Empath. This only speaks to the general potential for and capability of Empathy every Empath possesses, whether they choose to utilize it or not. Offering Empathy and being an Empath can often be two different things. Being an Empath is the capacity to feel what others feel and share in their emotions/emotional states as though they were their own. Where as, Empathy is the actual offering of compassionate understanding to another person, which is more often than not, a conscious choice rather than a hypersensitive trait.

The point here is to realize that most Empaths, while being able to experience any and all types of love, are fully capable of offering this kind of compassionate love to others, if they choose to. And this skill increases when an Empath becomes more aware of themselves and others and has healthy self esteem and a healthy sense of their own self worth.

So to put it another way, the more an Empath works on their own personal issues and finds resolution for them, the more aware of themselves, others and the potential for the gifts they become. And the more aware they are, the more capable they are of offering compassionate love to others, without the need for accolades of any kind like thanks or praise. It is not an act of codependency, but one of true altruism and love.

Once an Empath finds some resolution or peace with their own issues, those issues can be used to empathize with others, who have suffered similar situations and/or circumstances, on a deeper level which results in a more compassionate encounter between the Empath and the person who is suffering.

But even then, it is still a choice to willingly open yourself and empathize with another human being, whether you are capable of doing it or not. Let me show you some images, that you might find a little harrowing, but will explain what I mean.

This image, which is offered as a drawing instead of the real thing in order to lessen the impact of your emotional response, will cause one of two reactions within a person, Empath or not. The first is that the person will believe themselves to sensitive to gaze upon this image for to long. And then they will turn away from it quickly or scroll down beyond it, to escape it.

The second reaction is that a person will look at it, feel the pain of the person being depicted (drawing or not), and empathize with it. Perhaps they might even cry, because it reminds them of a similar moment in their own lives. They may even get angry, defensive for the woman, and want to reach out to her, even though she is depicted as a drawing.

This is an image of New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina hit it. It doesn't depict any human beings. But it does display the devastating destruction that was wrought on the city in the aftermath of the hurricane. It shows you how many homes were destroyed beyond repair. It shows you how many lives were permanently altered and left in ruin, despite recovery efforts of many wonderful and kind hearted people.

This image particularly affects me personally because I had family down there when Hurricane Katrina hit, and it altered their lives forever. And it pained me deeply to see them suffer so much because of it.

The point of viewing things like this is to show you something important. Often altruistic and compassionate love is like these pictures, because it asks you to willingly step into another person's suffering....their darkness, in order to help them find some peace or just to offer a small bit of comfort.

And saying that you are to sensitive to do it, because it bothers you on some level because of your own issues, fears, phobias, and what not, is not altruistic and/or compassionate love. It is the refusal to acknowledge another person's pain while setting your own suffering aside for a little while in order to offer them comfort.

What most who do this don't realize is that when you offer support to those in need, you are indirectly helping yourself, as well. Because one gains the realization that they are not alone in their own personal suffering. And that is a very precious and powerful thing to realize.

So give it some thought. It's important enough to truly give consideration to.

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