For me, Empathy is a hard topic (but then again, every topic I’ve written on has been hard at the beginning). I guess I find it difficult because I’ve only really just started working with my Empathic skills about 2 years ago – but they have seemed to have improved in leaps and bounds since then. A book I read by Karla McLaren called “The Language of Emotions” was what made me first realise I have Empathy… because, well, everyone does!
Empathy vs. empathy
There are two types of empathy-
1. empathy: sympathy. “Intellectual identification with or experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Every human being possess’ empathy – it is how we’ve been able to structure ourselves socially and communicate to one another.
2. Empathy (ie. Being Empathic): It’s “the ability to actually, physically, feeling the emotions of others”. It can’t be turned off, it can only be managed.
(click here to read a great blog written on this subject by bonesofaphoenix on tumblr).
I’m an Empath and have been for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only just recently put a name to it. Previously I thought that I had something wrong with me as I would usually be able to pick up on things that others hadn’t told me about or be so invested in someone else’s emotional life that I would get submerged and would lose track of my own emotions. Once I started studying Bach Flowers I realised that I had a deep connection to emotions and went looking for more information – that’s when I came across Karla McLaren’s book.
Exercises to Help Manage Empathy
McLaren’s book mostly talks about emotions and what they’re trying to tell you, she is a very skilled Empath herself, but it doesn’t talk much about Empathy – only her own experiences with it in the Introduction. A few of the exercises in there have been able to help me control my Empathic skills. I can now distinguish between my own and others’… I can also lessen the waves that I used to experience by using visualisation techniques. I’ve also been practicing holding space for people to unload which I’ve found works very well.
1. Grounding Yourself: – Sit or stand comfortably and breathe into your belly. Imagine you are gathering light and warmth into your belly and as you breath out imagine that your breath (and the light/warmth) is traveling down through your body and into the Earth.
– In particular I like to imagine big, thick tree roots extending themselves from my body. McLaren talks about ‘grounding the circuit’ of emotions – they ‘neutralise’ once Earth absorbs them.
2. Defining Your Boundaries
– Get comfortable and Ground yourself.
– Now stand up and reach your arms straight out to either side of you (or imagine you’re doing this).
– Imagine that you fingertips are touching the edges of a lighted bubble that emcompasses your private, personal space. – Stretch your arms above your head and in front of you. Feel how far your personal boundary is from your body. It should be an arm’s length away from you at all points; ever under the ground.
– Now imagine this ‘bubble’ (it can be made out of anything you want) is a very bright colour, a clear sound or distinct movement. Make it really obvious and yours, in whatever way you want.
– I like to imagine a bright blue fire boundary that glows brighter whenever I breath in. I maintain it everyday but do a big ‘clean’ at yoga whilst meditating.
3. Burning Contacts
– Ground yourself and light your boundary.
– Imagine yourself rolling out a big piece of paper or parchment then put whatever you want onto it. Any emotions that are bothering you, things people have said, things that have happened… just express yourself.
– Remember that you can do or say whatever you want on this parchment as you are inside your Boundary and you are protected.
– I tend to just spill my mind onto this. At the beginning it was harder and sometimes all these emotions would come forward (and sometimes they weren’t my own) but now it’s easier. Once I’ve filled up as many of these sheets of parchments as I want, I get out a cool bow and arrow then light up my boundary so it’s burning red hot. I then tie the parchment to the arrow and shoot it out of my boundary. It catches on fire or explodes in the sky (depending on the intensity of the emotion).
I found this information extremely helpful when I was first feeling my way around Empathy but I would highly recommend reading The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren as there is heaps more information regarding these exercises and the theories behind it.