My Own Experience as an Empath–beyond the bullshit: Part 3

Inserting ‘empath’ or ‘highly sensitive people’ into your favorite search engine and the resultant 7 million bits of information floating in the ether can lead to hyper vigilance, overwhelming irritation, and the desire to never leave the house again.

About eleven years ago, when I was searching for words that would explain my experiences, I Googled the word ‘empath’ and I knew, just knew, that nothing I was reading was true. The lot of us are repeatedly labeled as introverts, overwhelmed by everything, taking on other people’s emotions as our own; are always ill and intuitive, constantly fatigued, addicts or mentally ill, have their feelings easily hurt; are creative, love nature and animals, like adventure freedom and travel, know another’s emotions, are lucid dreamers intolerant to narcissism (except when they are drawn to them) and can’t tolerate violence, will not buy antiques and be moody. Lists and clickbait seemed gathered to further isolation and to perpetuate fear of being psychic or unique and to, without evidence, connect empath to paranormal experience to cheap horror-movie witchery. None of which are actually connected to the truth of the matter. I just didn’t understand how it was I was knowing what I was.

To help bring you to my understanding of things now, I need to be clear on how I’m defining things. For my purposes here, the definition of empathy is this:  the capacity to understand what another is feeling by feeling it. It’s basis is from the Greek empatheia, ‘feeling into’ another, not taking a perspective from another person’s shoes. I really like Theodore Lipps’ definition, too. In 1903, he was trying to find a word to express the sense an audience shares with a performer, in this case, the collective gasp as a high-wire acrobat steps out on the wire and called it an “inner participation of a foreign experience”, a sense of ‘feeling myself in him’. His notion of “projecting oneself onto the object of perception” is directly connected to my idea that most empaths don’t know that they’re actually projecting onto someone else their own feelings, not feeling what another is actually feeling. Vastly different experiences but entwined physiological and emotional responses.

Also, for clarity, the definition of an empath in these pages is an individual who has the capacity to feel–not just another person, mind you–using all sensory processes, many or all energies that others cannot see; both potential and kinetic.  An empowered and healthy empath–the goal I’m striving to get you to– also feels the emotions and physicality of others and responds to those energies appropriately. The last twelve words are key to this definition because these are the people this is for. Those who can physically and emotionally feel others and appropriately respond. This definition is based on bioelectromagnetics, nanomedicine, photosynthesis, psychology, sociology, and universal themes found in spirituality.

The energies I refer to above include magnetic, sonic, gravitational, chemical, thermal and electric—all of which are environmental and also associated with ours and another’s emotional (and physical) state. They’re included on purpose and connected to the idea that emotion is a sense (referring here to Katherine Piel Kauffman’s work) and that “empathy occurs when we suspend our single-minded focus of attain and instead adopt a double-minded focus. And it follows that ”empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to response to their thoughts and to respond with an appropriate emotion.” (see Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Science of Evil) As we move through this exploration, you will see how and why I push the response to include appropriate action as well as emotion.

Knowing what I know now, I can identify myself as an empath far back into my early childhood. However, the language available to an adult to describe what they experience is vastly different than that of a toddler, tween and teen.

I only learned in my late thirties that the childhood episodes of violent vomiting and equally violent headaches as well as other uncomfortable contortions were my body’s way of understanding (or not) and processing as best it could energies I was being affected by. Until then, I was just feeling things as I felt them and working under the assumption that everyone else did, too, perhaps without the intermittent projectile vomiting.

The intensities of my experiences as a young person were compounded by two things; one that I was glaringly aware of and another that I hadn’t the foggiest about.

The first was an awareness that my family was not normal (not that I knew exactly what that was, mind you) and that something was not right. I grew up in an especially abusive household that I began attempting to escape via suicide when I was four years-old. No one could escape my mother’s wrath. The time in our family was spent divided into thirds; one third of the time was being in her crosshairs, one third of the time was spent waiting to see in which direction she was aiming, and one third of the time was spent trying to be something that resembled normal.

Looking back it is hard to how much of knowing when my brother or I were going to be beaten was connected to my empathic and precognitive nature or if there were patterns that I was accustomed to and could read. And, maybe, it was an all together different sense that traumatized children develop as a survival mechanism.

It is, however, now clear that those physiological responses I experienced were connected to my mother’s own energy. There were times when I would be ill and she, a physician, would identify it as ‘psychosomatic’. What I internalized then was that she was telling me I was faking it, that what I was in the midst of was not real. How could my real not be real? (Which took on a different meaning in the community.) Little did she or I understand my ‘somatic’ was connected to her ‘psycho’.

The physical, mental and emotional abuse—and the impacts on those physical, mental and emotional bodily systems—were also compounded by my empathic nature as well as synesthesia. For those who aren’t familiar with the phenomenon, synesthesia is most simply defined as ‘cross-wiring’ of the physical senses, where involuntary and automatic associations between multiple physical senses occur. Some examples of it include people seeing numbers or letters and hearing music as colors. For those who see letters as colors, it’s been reported that vowels have different tones than consonants. Youtube is filled with videos of people ‘painting’ music and the like. There are many recognized forms of the phenomenon and the types I have now are, as far as I can tell, the same I experienced as a child. I experience what is called auditory-tactile, visual-tactile, misphonia and mirror-touch synesthesia.

The first two are fairly easy to understand; sound and things seen visually are connected to touch. So, as a child verbal abuse was not just verbal and art was not just art. I was not just hearing vitriol, I was feeling it physically; words do cut, sometimes quite literally. When I looked at art, it was soothing or sharp. That’s oversimplifying it but may give you an idea of what it is like. Mirror-touch synesthesia is similar to that of the auditory-tactile. The difference is, using childhood experiences again, that when my brother was being hit, I was being hit as well. I can’t say with certainty any more that my perceived protection of my brother then wasn’t simple self-preservation. Misphonia is similar to auditory-tactile synesthesia however, rather than there being a touch-related association, it is one of negative emotion. Essentially, for those with it, sound can trigger negative emotion. It’s not entirely unlike how we respond to fingernails on a chalkboard and, blessedly, it is the one I’ve grown out of. Now, many sounds open me into tangible, tactile experience of God.

There’s not yet definitive scientific explanation as to how synesthesia develops and, looking back, we can’t know if the abuse was a trigger for my brain’s mechanisms to interpret what was happening or if it was a natural state, connected to genetic predisposition, I was born with that exacerbated responses to the abuse. Whether it’s the chicken or the egg, this way of experiencing the world has also opened my understanding to how the non-medical healing I do works and how experiencing the world as an empath can be understood.

 

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Undoing Some Empath Bullshit

 See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” ~ Buddha

One of the reasons I began the empath myth-busting task was that as I worked with people struggling how to navigate this way of being, I began to realize that their distinct experiences, fears, and the responses to the fears they’d adopted, were not unique, not occasionally similar but were damn-near identical. The latter were mostly tied to ‘I’m too literal, I can’t possibly be psychic’ and the myths one stumbles upon when googling ‘what is an empath’. Before the Fuckery became my life, I was well into writing a book demystifying all things empath-related. Since that book may not come to fruition, I’m going to bring the drafts here and expand on them as we go.

Another reason I chose to dive into it is because I’ve known since the first time I facilitated the healing work, the first day of my only class, I’ve known that it isn’t ‘just’ a ‘spiritual gift’. It, indeed, may be a gift but it is beyond spirit in that it is observable, measurable, and replicable. Similar effects on physiological and psychological systems can be reproduced by technology. If science could measure the energy that moves from my hands and the physiological response of the client I’m working with…..Actually science can, the tools and technology exist. The previous sentence should probably read ‘If science would…’  Traditional ‘energy’ medicines have been doing this same thing for a long time and have been long studied around the globe.  Does that change it’s often perceived and described spiritual or ‘Divine nature’? Nope. That’s like trying to separate daylight from the sun. It is all of that; divine and holy and inexplicable and measurable and replicable, even by objects associated with what we identify as tangible and far removed from ‘spiritual’ like electrodes or acupuncture needles. I’ll share more on that if there’s interest in it but, for now, let’s come back to the object of my attention–the empath.

For eons, the capacity for feeling the way empaths reportedly do has also been called a ‘psychic’ or ‘spiritual’ gift. It’s not. There’s magnificence to how we’re individually wired and universally interconnected but it’s not magic. Energetic, though? Absolutely!

I feel the need to state here that I’m taking us down the science-trail not to diminish the powerful, often spiritual, nature of energetic work. I’m steeped in it, led by it (or rather, it’s got me by the nose pulling me along like Toucan Sam), believe in it, and am alive because of it. I have visions of the future,  speak in ‘tongues’ in ceremony and have been prophesied. People I work with experience the Christed heart merge with theirs, out of body experiences and, as one man put it, “I just met God.” I work with Ancestors, angels, invisible animals and plants, and other beings every day. I’ve seen them, am touched by them, have great respect for and receive responsibilities from them. They are those with whom I have the most intimate relationships with. However, it is time to put to rest the fears that have led most of us away from these kinds of relationships. I want to demystify the things that frighten people into disconnection from themselves and their communities. It’s time for truths that offer new explanations and stories and room for growth of our greatest potential–our relationship with each other.

Before we explore some research together, I want to create something of a framework that begins with a story. The complaints I receive from empaths I initiate work with remind me of one traditional Buddha story. Sakyamuni was born into a royal and wealthy family who, at the time of his birth, received a prophesy that he was born to be either a great spiritual leader or a great warrior. His parents attempted to prevent the former and cultivate the latter by keeping him ‘protected’ from the larger world. He was reportedly confined within the castle walls while the lame, sick, homeless and dead were banished from within sight of those same walls. All of this to keep young Saky from being aware of and responding to those suffering around him, to be compassionate toward them. Then, like any self-respecting youngster who felt confined, he snuck out.  His initial exposure to the realities of the world from which he’d been protected, and his courage to walk away from the throne, have brought us some of the greatest teachings.

For me, the ‘feeling too much’ and ‘anxiety’ that is nearly universal to those empaths I’ve been connected to is directly connected to their deepest ownfineself, trying to sneak out. To emerge, engage, and respond. And not knowing what the fuck to do about it.

As we meander this together, through story and science, I’ll share what to do about it to make life more fluid, satisfying, sane and hearted.  One blog post at a time. Join me. Ask questions. Do the homework. Bitch about it. But be curious and invite some of the questions I offer into your own life.

If you are new to my empath myth-busting, start here:  Myths of Being an Empath, Some Empaths are just Ath-holes, Traits of an Empath and The Importance of Being an Empath.  The most recent is here: Empath Bullshit

The Love Lobotomy

“In a society at war with man and nature, a religion of peace and love might be fantasized into creed, rituals & otherworlds while it’s professed adherent continue to live [in a way that doesn’t support it]. ~ Jim Corbett (Goatwalking)

“Everything is Love” is a mantra that’s begun to grate on my nerves.  It’s achieved a cult-like status with millions of people, variations shared ad nauseum, memeified with pretty pictures via social media.  It’s surpassed ‘group think’ guided by a guru (or two) and segued into a something resembling mass hypnosis & contagious complacency. Except the behaviors we exhibit in oversharing online are not mimicked in the physical, public space.

Second-hand thought (see Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead for a good definition & description), is, essentially “thought based not on direct sensory experience but on assumptions, teachings passed down by others.” It’s a lot like sensory deprivation.  Intentionally, albeit not consciously by the consumer, stunting our vision and growth.  We lose creativity, the knowing of real connection, openness, access to all that surrounds us–like a lobotomy.

To me, the notion that “Everything is Love” is nothing more than a panacea–a proverbial pill–that inhibits real exploration of self and the world, an experience of the interconnectedness of things within and without us.  Especially in this New Age/transmodern melange of metaphysics, self-help and spiritualit-y & -isms framed loosely by interconnectedness, by being One.

I mean, we all want to acknowledge being connected to things that feel and appear loving, loveable, lovely.  However, the notion of being connected to infanticide, fear, rage, paraphilias, betrayals, massacres, starvation, torture, other forms of cruelty (never mind recognizing our responsibility for and in response to those things) or perceived negative behaviors & actions with which the world turns isn’t our cup of tea.

To me, the over-simplistic notion that every thing (think about it: there are somewhere between 3 and 100 millions species–the specific is certainly arguable amongst most scientists–but there are about 4000 species of aphids alone) is any one thing is what contributes to what I call contagious complacency.

All of life and the myriad of systems that create and move it are intricate, inter-related and so complex that most cannot ‘see’ or sense it, much less grasp it intellectually or logically.  I don’t understand the need or desire to simply things in such a manner.  I know that slicing and dicing things into smaller bits makes them more digestible but when ease of digestion is passed as universal truth and eaten up, well…

There is no shortcut.  There may never be a way to describe the wholeness of life but to ignore the dirty, nasty, funky, skunky, for the light and airy (or ambiguously defined ‘love’ that’s not that love) does the every one and thing a great disservice.

Love is a magnificent foundation for every being. I’d say it is the foundation from whence we begin, initially as much of us as star dust.But it requires more action than ‘share’ or ‘like’. Rather than being shelved in a personal museum, love requires conscious engagement, even if it is with or for ourselves. That matters, too.

Don’t send love. Love. Create it, nurture it. Say it!  Say it to yourself! Practice in front of the mirror until you’re comfortable with. Accept it when it comes your way-without judging it’s deliverer or your perceived unworthiness. It doesn’t need to be held tenderly or meticulously folded into a small corner of your world, our world. It is a powerful force beyond your fear of feeling. You’ll never understand the Everything or the One without it.

 

“Empath Bullshit”

“Empath Bullshit”

That’s the Google search that brings the most people to this blog. I’ve addressed some of the bullshit that’s out there about the nature of being an empath, I try to assure folks that having the capacity to feel the emotional energies of others is real. It is real, it is purposeful, and has little to do with one’s beliefs, identification as literal, logical, psychic or spiritual.

 

It is the most visceral expression of our interconnected nature and the presence of love.

It seems important to put this out there again:

There is so much craptastic stuff that’s being cut & pasted into ‘facts’ about what being a psychic empath is & how to be one that I decided to address it rather than keep bitching about it.  The myth-based framework   perpetuates the misplaced ideal of empath as an overly sensitive soul, unable to move through the world without fear, hiding behind barriers to others and other, frankly, cowardly crap.

Once we move past the fluff-n-stuff we can get to the nitty gritty of what being an empath is all about.  And the significant roles we play in leading & guiding others.Although empaths have the capacity to do so, being an empath is about a whole lot more than feeling other people’s emotions & other energies.  It is about our connection to others, about engaging with others openly & honestly.  However, it’s even deeper than that.  Before we can connect and engage with others at something more than a superficial level, we first must be able to do that with ourselves.  Accept that responsibility first, then accept the responsibility for others.

Because that’s what this stuff is about.   Being an empath is about others, about what we emit & how we transmit as much as the manner in which we receive.   We’re not meant to feel others for the sake of the feeling alone.  And, usually, the gift of ’empath’ isn’t a stand alone.  It’s more often than not accompanied by a purpose, passion, job, direction, gift, talent, desire that allows us to turn that ‘feeling’ into life-changing connection to a person or group of people.  That‘s what this is about.

To be an empath, an empowered one–one that comes from a place of strength, compassion, knowing & readiness for action (which sometimes means not acting at all)–takes the willingness & capacity to know ourselves intimately.  To recognize aspects of ourselves that we’re often not comfortable doing–particularly those aspects that are related to emotion.  Almost always, those emotions we’re not comfortable with are grounded in relationship to another person or a group of people.   For many that has been coupled with being taught or teaching themselves not to express those emotions and there has developed a fear of both.  And it’s time to get past that.  This is where the rubber not only hits the road but moves and creates change for individuals and communities.

There’s always been a mystery connected to psychic phenomena.  Ideas of what it means to be an empath have been as twisted as many other things related to the unseen and unknowable.  But, in my experience & knowing, past all the bullshit and blather, the role of an empath is very simple: it is about truly connecting with other people and creating change within ourselves and for others in our own unique way.  When you choose to do so, your world will open up in ways you’ve never had the capacity to even imagine.

Afraid to feel?

Does it feel foolish to you, impossible even, that your ‘feeling too much’ isn’t that at all?

Can you, even the tiniest of moments between the fear, understand that when you truly recognize what it is you’re feeling and from whence it comes, you’ll know it is the highest expression of love there is?

That is what being an empath is–the highest expression of love there is. The capacity, without a word being said, to say, “I feel your pain”.

Can you wrap your head, maybe even your heart, around the notion that you’ve been bestowed the honor of someone, likely without any awareness, is trusting you with their deepest hidden.

Their pain is not your memory nor will your memory relive the moments that bore it.

Feel it. Cry it. Shout at it. Love it. Love you.

Feel them. Cry for them. Shout at them “I love you”.

Love them.

Be not afraid.

Oceans of Love

It often feels impossible to describe the love contained within me. Even when I cannot give it words, it frightens people. They seem to be confused that the course of love would somehow find them beyond their beliefs or behaviors, that they would be missed or their cry for help would be unheard, and that kind of love would just appear, even unbidden.

It courses through every fiber of my being, slips from the pores into the spaces between grains of sand, dances on the wind, drops roots under lake beds, and glides through tears to the waters everywhere. The enormity of it is staggering, even to me, sometimes because I don’t control it. I just am.

It is uncontainable, unstoppable and touchable, visceral, thick power and peace.

It means I feel it all and am given the blessing of knowing the pain and the benediction brought by beauty, the lies beneath the scars, and the truths of the heart.

In moments of deepest despair, it is the buoy and the life raft. For all of us.

For this, I was made.

For you, I was made.

You are so loved.

Be not afraid.

Speak Now or Forever…

The weight of this sad time we must obey

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

The oldest hath borne most, we that are young

Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

~ King Lear Scene 5, Act 3

 

Oh, my love. In the midst of despair I only heard “Don’t say anything to anyone. I cannot tell anyone who you are or why you are here. You must keep you mouth shut, not even share your prayers with anyone. When you give your prints in a sweat, hold your tongue. Do not say what you are praying for or who you are to be working with. Say nothing. Hold everything inside.”

Behind those words were deeply held fears passed down to you by those who ‘taught these things’. There was a time, not as long ago as many may think, that holding everything inside is what kept individuals alive and communities intact; when the threat of the ‘savage’ accessing the powers that be and to Be as they were meant to meant death for those who spoke allowed, sang and danced with the rhythm of the heart of all that is.

Those who taught you these things were taught by others who tried desperately to erase your families from their own identities, histories, stories and, for some, existence.

However, we face something very similar now and to not speak truths of things; truths of things of spirit, the spirit of nature and nature of spirit, and our relationship with all those things. To hold our tongue still and heart closed will continue the process of losing identity, history, story, and, yes, for some, existence.

For two years, I’ve not known what to say when the Ancestors and Others who walk with me have shouted, “SPEAK!” with an occasional, more gentle, “Speak, child. Speak.”  I’ve asked again and again, “What would you have me say?” not in such a gentle way. Now I know.

Now I will hold neither my tongue nor my heart. There is no turning back. When They ask me to go find those disappeared at the hands of others and being disappeared because their sight and their voices, too, are being blinded and shuttered, I will. I will find them to bring them home; some to their families and some to their own hearts, their own nature. I will speak so their truths may be heard.

I will be quiet no more and ask you, my kind sir, do the same for we must do this together. No one of us can do this alone. We were never meant to.

In Telling the Holiness, I wrote :

In the Apache tradition, storytelling is to ‘tell the holiness’.  The myths that speak to the holy are “performed only by medicine men and women for the purposes of enlightenment and instruction.”

We may have finally come to the time where many  realize that storytelling isn’t only for medicine-people to tell; the truths of all things holy come from each of us, as much as we draw breath our own stories give us life.

In the time before we were not separate from ourselves and the places we stood upon and looked up into, we were a people so connected to the earth that the earth took our pain in the same manner it gave us life.  Absorbed it like a rare rain in the desert and held onto it like it was holding onto their dear lives. At one point, back in our time, we were each those people.  And, now they are mere remnants of our fabric; tossed and hidden away when not murdered from existence, removed from the collective conscious except when it appears to serve our romantic nature or reliance on greed.

I listen to those struggling to maintain communities in a good way fight to keep parking lots from plowing over medicines. My heart breaks when I’ve brought a 40 year old man back to his tribe but the 15 year old sitting next to him is desperate to escape “because I can’t be me here. I’m not safe. I’m not ready to kill myself, though. Yet.”

And in the places where we have shoved those people who represent the past that we have collectively deemed unworthy of our attention, we die along with them. As they bleed the interest in life, the earth withholds it–for them and for us. There’s no need to feed & give life if life is no longer lived in the manner it was made to support.  And this is repeated around the globe, again and again, even as we struggle to manipulate natural and created systems to feed our futures.  This cycle will be repeated as if a contagion until we vanish.

Like those before us who were starved of connection to their sacred places & spaces, we disconnect even further from each other.  Some run in any number of ways to escape, some escape to feel free yet yearn to come home.  Those who have walked before and those now.

I have felt the lost.   I have held their hearts in my hand and I have stood in the spaces where the ancients realized all that is was no longer; that relationship with the ground, that relationship with each other, the ties that bind us as a people, that relationship between spaces below and above; the very representations of all that is home.

To walk onto home and feel the defeat between the highs and to hear the kindness of strangers turn to meanness to kin who aren’t enough of any measure to be accepted by family or community, reveals that same lostness, but not of the Ancestors but in the hearts of those beating now. “How can I be me if I can’t be seen?” “All this talk about spirits, why am I called crazy for seeing these things?” “I can’t tell anyone the trees speak to me.” “I could just die.”

Oh, love. Please stay. I hear you. I’m coming. I feel you. I’m coming.