That Whole Empath Thing

With thanks to Jade, who shared – this article.  We ~ she and i ~ have had this conversation before about being an empath ~ she is, and she often says i am and other people have said that too.  When i read the articles about it, i always start out going, “yes, yes,” and then about halfway through, i’m like, “Um, no.”

I’d just think, “That’s too “over-the-top,” no.  That’s not me.

Then Jade shares this article with me, and it says:

For several years, one of the most important tasks I had was to help young therapists in training to use their empathic skills differently. To build empathic muscle and emotional resilience. To transform a liability into a strength.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the key secrets here.

So, first, here is the bad news. It’s where we have to start. It’s going to be a shock to some, but we need to begin at the beginning: empaths are not empathising at all; they are actually identifying.

I repeat, empaths are not empathising, they are identifying.

To explain what I mean, imagine you have someone drowning out in the middle of a lake. If you’re identifying, you’re so overcome by what it would be like if you were the person drowning that before you know it you’ve jumped in too, even though you can’t swim, and now there are two people drowning instead of one.

If you’re a tuned in, canny empath with muscle, you’re observing what’s going on with enormous understanding and compassion, you feel the other’s fear and panic, you hold it inside you long enough to transmute it through the sheer power of loving intention and you breathe out calm and your belief and strength and knowledge that this person can swim.

You don’t jump in; you stay on the shore, talking them through, hearing, noticing, showing you get it, making sure they know they’re not alone. And that these feelings threatening to drown them can be survived.

There’s nothing new or magical about this. It’s what tuned-in mothers and fathers do for their babies all the time. Watch carefully and you’ll see it happening. You’ll see a baby fraught with fear or rage or frustration become miraculously soothed because a parent is showing that these feeling can be survived and managed. The parent takes those feelings into their own body, holds them a while, and then gives them back to the baby in a processed and manageable form.

And this is the crucial bit for us to understand if we’re going to become true empaths rather than identifiers—if we’re going to become empaths with muscle who can make a difference.

And i thought, “O!!”  That’s what i do!!  That’s what i do at work and with people i love and friends and sometimes with people i just run into at the grocery or something.  Yes.

Not all the time, you know, sometimes i struggle with it, but that’s what i mostly do.

Then the article says:

Supposing we were to do the following: we begin to process and transmute the energy we receive, rather than merely absorb it.

I would suggest that what the world needs, and I am talking spiritually here now, as well as emotionally and psychically, is not more “empaths,” but more “transmuters.”

I’m talking lightworker talk here.

We know, many of us, that everything is light, and that we are beings of light. We know that the only difference between one expression or manifestation of light and another is the frequency at which it vibrates.

Feelings are light energy vibrating. When we absorb, temporarily hold and process, and then re-release energy which has been soothed by our attention and empathic understanding, we change that energy’s vibration. And once you’ve discovered to bring calm attention to another’s out of control vibration, you can become amazingly effective at transmuting energy in that way.

It’s what tuned-in parents do, and what skillful therapists do.

It’s what empaths with muscle do when they have become lightworkers.

And that is what i do.  When i can take care of myself ~ when i do take care of myself ~ it’s ok, it doesn’t drain me, i can manage it.  But i really need to take care of myself.

Then ~ while i’m still absorbing all this ~ Jade says something like, “Well, that explains the movies, doesn’t it?”   And i think, “It does?  How does it  ~~ oh!”

Cause i think ~ and i don’t know if this is what Jade meant or not ~ but here’s what i think.  When i watch a movie, all those feelings are coming at me, but i can’t do anything with them.  My ability to hold them and process them gets overwhelmed pretty quickly and then i’m just drowning.

i used to say it.  i used to say, “when i’m doing therapy with somebody and they’re telling me about their sexual abuse, i can listen and sort of “go there” with them, and help them hold that, and then come back, and it doesn’t bother me in the same way because it helps them.  i’m doing it for a reason.  But if i have to try to do that with a movie, it doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t help anybody, and it’s just too much.”

Yep. i used to say that.

So this doesn’t change anything, except i can quit trying to make sense of all this empath stuff.  Now i know how it works and where i fit.  And it’s not kinky, so i don’t know why i’m putting it here… but still.  Here i am.

Thanks, Jade.

3 thoughts on “That Whole Empath Thing

  1. a sub's missives

    I’m very glad you shared this article and your thoughts. I feel like I absorb people’s energy too and it can be tiring and draining and discouraging when they are negative and it feels like I get sucked in. Friends like to call me an empath too, but I’m not sure I really am or if I’m just a very keen observer of body language/facial expressions and can’t help but mentally process it and overthink it.

    1. sofia Post author

      Cool – I’m so glad you liked it, and if it was helpful, even better if you think it was helpful. I really think the key is to work on ways to process it and learn ways to not be drained by other people’s feelings. You know?

      Thanks for commenting!!

  2. jadescastle

    This article found a way to put the words together that i had thought for years about you. i think you hold space beautifully, and that your work is sacred. The movie thing….there isn’t a reason to hold space, and you are drowning in the empathy you feel. That being said, i’ve practiced holding space through watching documentaries because that is real emotion, with real trauma, and it’s a safe way to practice.

    when i say i’m an empath, i mean it in exactly the way the article describes. i’ve had to learn to separate myself from the illness and misery of total strangers. Sometimes, a person is seeking a teachable moment and i’m put in their path. This happens a few times a month.
    Anyhow, i’m just seeing this post because i’m buried in school and all.


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