Empathy 101

 

Mantis is My Hero

If you haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, you need to. Two words: Fleetwood Mac. That is all.

If you haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, you need to. Two words: Fleetwood Mac. That is all.

Caveat: Long read. It's less of a blog and more of an empathy course...

Not gonna lie. Mantis is da bomb.com. She is the first superhero on the big screen to have empathy as an actual superpower. If you don't know who Mantis is, and aren't as nerdy as I am, she's a prevalent character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I'm genuinely excited about her character for 2 reasons:

  1. She has all of the abilities an advanced empath would have.
  2. Her character is an inspiration for empaths.

As someone who's been empathic as long as I can remember, it's refreshing to see this ability interpreted as a superpower more than a curse. I myself have traversed the interwebs only to find articles mostly on how to tell if you're an empath, or how to cope with it—not really any on how to harness it or increase it.

Another reason I'm writing this is because clients and friends alike keep asking me how to deal with their empathy on an overwhelming scale. So, I'll not only go into detail on what empathy is, why we have it and the signs of empathy (along with external links), but also the pros, cons and empathic hygiene. I also fully intend to come out with an Empathy 201 blog/course at a later date that goes into more detail.

Ok. So What is Empathy?

Well, from my research there are two definitions. One is used by psychologists, while the other is more prevalent amongst spiritualists.

The psychological definition of empathy defines it in regards to emotional intelligence—The ability to understand what others are feeling within their own frame of reference. It's the ability to gauge the emotions of others and "step into their shoes" so to speak.

The spiritual definition of empathy is having the ability to sense other people's energy and take on the feelings of others as their own. An empath is often times energetically influenced by people around them (even if they can't see the person). They can take on another person's dreams, emotions, physical pains and even mood swings. 

The difference between the two terms is their origins. The psychological term relates to how well one person can psychologically understand another on an emotional scale (which can be a learned trait), while the spiritualist term is more energetically-based (and is an inherent gift that manifests both naturally and with discipline). In this blog we'll go into detail on the spiritualist meaning of empathy.

Signs You're an Empath 

Here's a list of the traits that most empaths have in common. If you find yourself saying "that sounds like me" to a majority of items on this list—then chances are, you're an empath too! 

Caveat: I'm not a psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor. Some traits may also be signs of potential psychological issues. I leave that to your best judgement—so if you feel you may need help, then please seek out a professional.

  1. You can feel the emotions of others regardless to proximity. They can be the person in the cubicle next to you or a good friend in another state.
  2. You always have an uncanny way of telling how others really feel, even if they put on a mask. You can know how they're feeling even if you don't see them or hear them at all. You just know.
  3. Being highly sensitive either physically, emotionally or both. This can include foods, music and having emotions that run deep. You may bruise easily or have odd skin allergies. You may have even been called "too sensitive" because of these feelings.
  4. You love nature. Nature energizes you and you feel at home when out in nature—whether it's camping, walking in the park or simply just being outside. 
  5. Crowds drain you. Especially after being around people for a period of time.
  6. You're introvert or lean introvert. This one is huge amongst empaths that I've seen. Usually the stronger the empath, the more introvert they are.
  7. You crave solitude. Being alone recharges you and helps you focus both mentally and emotionally.
  8. Animals love you and are drawn to you (because they can sense empaths).
  9. People say you're a great listener and find it easy to talk to you.
  10. You are drawn to help people through teaching, counseling or healing.
  11. It pains you or discomforts you to come into physical contact with others.
  12. You always know how the people closest to you feel.
  13. You can tell when someone is lying to you.
  14. You can tell if someone likes you or has feelings for you—and maybe even how much.
  15. You get reliable gut "feelings" about people—you know good people from bad people when you see them.
  16. Perfect strangers walk up to you and start talking to you about their personal problems.
  17. You get odd mood swings when you're in crowds more so than when you're at home.
  18. You get odd physical pains (such as headaches or cramps) in crowds more so than when you're at home.
  19. You get stressed or anxious when you have to go to the grocery store or places where large groups of people congregate.
  20. Anxiety attacks happen primarily around groups of people (versus when you're by yourself).
  21. You drink or use other drugs because it "numbs" you—you know it "helps" you deal with being around people for extended periods of time. Caveat: Imbibing to cope with empathy is never the best solution. Please read the empathic hygiene section on healthier ways to do so.
  22. You loathe liars. You can not only tell a liar when you see one, but you have a very low tolerance for them.
  23. You actively remove yourself from drama and drama queens—because they drain you. You can tell a drama queen from a mile away and they always leave you feeling drained after you've been around them for any period of time.
  24. You have weight issues. Many empaths have weight gain or weight problems because they're subconsciously creating a physical shield against others due to their hypersensitivity.
  25. You're a people pleaser. It's hard to say "no" when you know it will bring someone else joy—even if it hurts you.
  26. You have an unshakable drive to help/serve others.
  27. When you're having a conversation with someone, especially if it is emotional or deep, you have a hard time discerning where your emotions stop and the other person's emotions begin.
  28. You can always see both sides of the argument—which can even make arguing difficult because you forget your emotional position!
  29. You're creative and a creative thinker.
  30. People find it easy to tell you deep, personal stuff.
  31. You make friends VERY easily, but don't feel close to a majority of them as it tends to mostly be the friend talking and you listening.
  32. Music, inspiring quotes, movies and other creative outlets have a tendency to provoke deep emotions within you.
  33. When you touch someone, you can feel their emotions with a deep and almost indescribable understanding.
  34. You dislike horror movies or movies with excessive yelling or violence.
  35. You tend to be drawn to people who are suffering. It's not uncommon to find empaths in a toxic or enabling relationship.
  36. You avoid being "in the way" of others or asking for help because you're afraid you will be a burden to them.

What Being an Empath is Like

It's easy to forget the energetic aspect of life when you're in "work mode" or doing daily chores—but the empathy never really stops. Even I forget that sometimes. Touching people is difficult, and sometimes even painful—so big crowds (regardless of the amount of shielding I do) can be a challenge. I usually have to mentally prepare myself before going into a grocery store.

Perhaps the biggest issue in overcoming being an empath (for me at least) is finding friends that are energizing. Those are the people you can have deep, meaningful conversations with that spark your drive (versus the people who just want to talk about their problems). There are plenty of people out there who want the empath to be their friend—but only so the empath is there to listen more so than have a mutual relationship. Discovering friends with a deep zest for life that actually listen can be an absolute treasure of a find.

On the same token, it's a privilege to see the humanity in every individual I encounter. Just about everyone feels and has some goodness in their hearts. Being able to see that is a gift and a blessing. Helping people foster this spark through empathy is also a privilege. Touching someone and allowing that deep, emotional connection to establish with them, sometimes just for a moment, is also a gift—even if it's painful sometimes. The best way I can describe it is it restores my faith in humanity—being able to feel the humanity in another. Being momentarily a part of the humanity in another.

Pros & Cons

Pros of Being an Empath:

Here's a list of the positive attributes of being an empath. Please don't abuse your gifts. Karma can (and will) be a real bitch if you use them for selfish reasons. Always ask for a sign from God to use your empathic gifts with others, and if you are going to do heavy empathic work on an individual, their verbal consent is mandatory. Always remember: just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

  • Automatically knowing the emotional mood of a crowd (and have the ability to sway it).
  • You can easily gain the trust of people .
  • The ability to sense the types of connections people have with the the ones they're close to (both good and bad).
  • You can change the emotions of another person .
  • You can tell when someone is lying.
  • The ability to see into another person's emotional memories—what their memories are (especially the emotionally charged ones).
  • The ability to see into another person's home.
  • The ability to see into another person's soul—you can see the good, the bad and the potential in their hearts.
  • The ability to sense other psychics, intuitives, psionics and basically anyone who knows and is aware of energy on one level or another. More advanced empaths can sense the degree in which the abilities others have, and possibly even latent abilities.
  • The ability to change the emotional state of a crowd.
  • The ability to alleviate the pain in others by taking it on as your own (but don't do this—just send it into the ground).

Cons of Being an Empath:

Here's a list of the negative attributes of being an empath. I put these out there as a sort-of caveat for those wishing to increase their empathic gifts. Be prepared to deal with these issues on a higher level if you intend to increase your spiritual gifts.

  • Intimacy can be difficult—touching others is something an empath may subconsciously or actively try to avoid.
  • Feeling drained after being in a group for a long period of time.
  • Getting headaches, emotions or pains out of the blue that aren't the empath's own.
  • Being drained around certain individuals (usually energy vampires or bad people in general)
  • Going weeks without being alone for an extended period of time can increase anxiety, fatigue, mood swings and even depression in some highly sensitive empaths.
  • Knowing things about others that you don't want to know because they touched you (i.e., that they like you, hate you, or a bad childhood memory).
  • Having difficulty focusing in large crowds.
  • You get fed up with your lower-vibrating (energy) friends. Fast. This happens a lot with people who experienced an empathic "boost" later in life. You become much less tolerant to those around you that aren't your "true" friends.
  • A subconscious tendency to take on the moods of others. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the circumstances. I put it under "cons" because if you're not consciously guarding yourself empathically, you can subconsciously be emotionally swayed by others very easily.

Empathic Hygiene

Just like brushing your teeth or putting on deodorant, empathy requires hygiene too. We try to remember to use deodorant and brush our teeth every day—so should that mentality flow into taking care of our energetic selves and our empathic gifts. To not only increase your abilities, but also be a healthy empath, you must know and practice these three things: Cutting Cords, Grounding, and Shielding.

Cutting Cords

Cutting cords is probably the most important thing any empath should know regarding their gifts. This is because cords are what make up empathy. Every time you come into contact with someone on any level, you are connecting to them via an invisible energetic tether. You do this (subconsciously) with everyone you are near, touch or even make eye contact with every day (to one degree or another). You will also tend to have very strong cord connections with the people you're closest to. 

Cutting these cords is necessary for the well-being of every empath—otherwise, we'll be continuously bogged down with the emotional energy of all the people we have ever come into contact with. Often times we can have both good and bad cords connected to the same person—so it's helpful to understand the difference between the types of cords before cutting them (don't throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak).

An exercise I like to do on a daily basis is what I like to call the "guillotine" method. I imagine a guillotine "slicing away" at the negative cords I have with others. Works like a charm every time. Other methods include praying for Archangel Michael to clear the energy away, the "plucking" method (where you "pluck" the cord out of you), and just plain standing with your back to a tree. Trees are amazing about taking our negative energy and grounding it.

The trick is visualization. Visualization is key to understanding and utilizing energy—and empathy.

Grounding

Walking barefoot outside in the grass or dirt is also a great way to ground.

Walking barefoot outside in the grass or dirt is also a great way to ground.

Grounding is necessary to stay focused and also a great way to remove toxic energy from the body. It helps us center ourselves here in the physical world. I ground all the time—especially before and after every reading I do. Many religions and even some forms of martial arts (such as qigong exercises in Tai Chi) incorporate grounding into their practices.

Grounding, in summary, is connecting to Mother Earth—putting your energy in the earth, so to speak. Grounding is an excellent way to reduce stress, anxiety and helps bring balance to your body's energy. I'll often times recommend grounding to a client that I see is unfocused, afraid or "fuzzy brained". There are a number of ways to ground, but my favorite method is what I call the "roots" method.

The roots method goes like this: You can be sitting or standing—it doesn't matter. Just begin to imagine roots growing out of your feet and into the ground. You can be 30 stories high—just imagine your feet growing roots that sink into the ground. It may take time, especially if this is your first try, but you'll feel a "shift" when you've successfully grounded your energy.

Then imagine all of the negative energy in your body just falling into the ground. The earth can take whatever energy you throw at her—and she transmutes it into good energy. 

Stones can also be an excellent method for grounding. Sometimes I'll recommend darker stones to clients who need assistance with grounding. Good stones for grounding include smokey quartz, black tourmaline, hematite, nuumite, shungite and obsidian. Darker brown/black stones in general tend to be great for grounding, protection, and even transmuting negative energy into positive energy. If you're interested in using stones to assist in grounding, I would recommend going to your local metaphysical shop and picking up a few of the aforementioned stones and see what resonates with you. One of them will just "feel right" when you hold it.

And finally, another excellent way to ground is to take a salt bath. Salt baths rock and can become highly addictive! I recommend this to a majority of my empathic clients. It's excellent for extracting toxic energy and calming the mind. I do this probably about twice a month. It's a great way to "reset" the energetic body if you're feeling tired or drained. Not to mention, it helps with softening the skin and muscle aches if you use epsom salts. The only down side is you'll probably need to clean out your bathtub first.

Shielding

Shielding, simply put, is an energetic term for blocking the energy of others. It's a great way to protect yourself, much like you protect your feet by wearing shoes when you go outside. It acts as a barrier against the "raw" emotions of others.

There are probably a thousand methods to shield—ranging from simple to advanced. For the sake of this blog/course (being a "101" blog/course) I'll keep it simple. I may write on the more advanced ways to shield at a later date. 

I wonder what the MPG is on that thing.

I wonder what the MPG is on that thing.

Shielding, as with other ways to harness energy (empathic or otherwise) requires "feeling" and visualization. A great method of shielding I recommend for clients is the "Glenda the Good Witch" bubble. If you've seen the Wizard of Oz, you probably remember the scene where Glenda the Good Witch in all of her splendor floated down to the good citizens of Munchkin Land in a beautiful rainbow bubble. 

Well, like Glenda, imagine yourself in this beautiful rainbow bubble—filled with light and peace. Imagine it surrounding you from front to back, head to toe. Visualize it growing a thick, impermeable shell—and tell it to last all day. I recommend shielding every day–especially if you will be around other people. This shield will help keep you from establishing unnecessary or unwanted empathic cords with others and vice versa. 

When you shield (and do so often) you'll notice an improvement in your energy and ability to be around others for longer periods of time without growing tired quickly.

Increasing Your Empathy

So after all that reading you still want to increase your empathy, eh?

Well, there are several methods to do so. The first being meditation. Yeah, I know. None of us really have the time for that. But we make time for the things we want, and meditation is the best way to increase your abilities overall. This is because meditation helps you become more aware of your energy and sense it better because it forces you to inflect.

Porcupines.

Yes, porcupines. I see empathy and the empathic abilities of others as porcupines. It's like a thousand tendrils spilling out of a person—with many of them connecting to the tendrils of another. Visualize your tendrils—your porcupine needles—growing. If that is difficult, inflect on your relationships with others. watch how that shifts your mentality and thought patterns. This is what empathy feels like. It's that shift because you're "honing" in on that person. You can even practice with a friend that's interested in increasing their empathy as well. Focus on connecting to each other and notice the shift. That's the energetic shift of empathy. Just be sure to always cut the cord after you're done with the exercise. 

Another method is to work with a friend and guess how they're feeling without looking at their face or body language. Try standing with your back to them and feel what their emotions are. Then turn around and see. Take turns putting yourself into different emotional states (with your backs turned) and get a feel for their emotions.

In Conclusion

The key to increasing empathy isn't power or energy per se—it's discernment. It's the ability to keenly understand the energy around you, and how it works. 

Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. I strongly recommend reading my previous blog post on the ethics of being psychic.

Please use your superpowers for good. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

Good Luck!