Originally published on Eagle Song October 27, 2015.
I began writing this article exactly two months ago. I set it aside for awhile, but since then, new insight has come forward to lend itself to greater understanding. Here is the original portion of the article from August 27th:
I had one of those Universal “Oh, duh!” moments today about an idea that feels so important I can’t believe it hadn’t consciously occurred to me before. Or rather, it probably has, but never in such an obvious way that highlighted its perfect truth.
My day today was full of experiences which contributed toward a feeling of hypersensitivity–I had a fantastic long run this morning in which I felt strong and present in my entire body, I enjoyed a very expansive meeting with a client, and I drank a lot of tea (a somewhat psychedelic pu’er) while talking for hours with a friend about communication, connection, Spirituality, interpersonal dynamics, etc. All in all, by the time I got home this evening, I was in a heightened state of awareness and receptivity.
So when I discovered that an acquaintance of mine had taken her life a few days ago and witnessed the outpouring of grief from those close to her, I felt myself immediately get swept into an intensely emotional space. I recognized my natural empathic response and started the process of identifying “What is mine? What is not mine?” in regards to the cascade of feelings. Like always, as soon as I put a name to “I am channeling the collective consciousness of grief on behalf of all of these people,” I felt better. I have spent many years practicing emotional and energetic boundaries so I don’t take on other people’s stuff.
And yet, it occurred to me that maybe having solid emotional and energetic boundaries is only part of what it means to use empathy in a healthy and constructive way. As soon as I delved into this thought spiral, I felt a deep resonance with the idea that someone who has practiced grounded and self-aware empathy will be able to use their gift to move and transmute massive amounts of energy on behalf of others.
This is where the “Oh, duh!” moment occurred. In fact, now that I think about it, a few examples immediately come to mind where I have done mass-consciousness-level healing in the last year by channeling the wounds of the collective through empathy.
Let’s look at the layers of understanding around empathy (and here I use “sadness” as an example, but it could be anything):
- Unconsciousness: I have feelings! Sometimes I feel sad and I’m not sure why.
- Awareness: Other people have feelings! I feel sad when other people feel sad.
- Identification: That feeling of sadness does not belong to me.
- Separation: I am holding my emotional and energetic boundary so I can witness your sadness in compassion, but not feel it myself.
- ***HEALING*** (this is the new idea): I recognize the sadness and wounding of this individual or collective group of beings and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.
When I tuned in to Spirit for any guidance on the subject, I received confirmation in a big way. Yes, this is part of the purpose of empathy.
That is where I left the article at the time. Fast forward to this morning (October 27th), when a close friend of mine tells me about a profound healing experience she had over the weekend. This healing allowed her to release the energy of shame around sexuality that she had been holding onto since her childhood. She told me about what it felt like to process this shame for herself and to let it go, and then went on to describe how she felt the sexual shame of all women flowing through her to be transmuted and released in the same way.
I told her the ideas I had about “Advanced Empathy” and how someone practiced in holding their personal boundaries could move a step beyond the separation and allow the energy to flow through them to offer healing for the benefit of all. She was intrigued by the idea and agreed wholeheartedly, I remembered this forgotten article, and here we are.
Let me note that I call this idea “Advanced Empathy” for a reason. Both my friend and I are extremely practiced healers who have spent years cultivating healthy boundaries and learning how to safely move powerful energies. Most empathic people, when they discover that their capacity for empathy makes them susceptible to the feelings of others around them, take steps to learn how to protect themselves from being overwhelmed (Separation: #4 on the list above). This is both a totally reasonable and completely necessary tool for forming constructive boundaries. I remember learning in my late teens and early twenties that having solid energetic boundaries was the only way for me to comfortably live in the world.
But what is the true purpose of empathy? Humans evolved as a cooperative species in which the survival of the group depended on each individual feeling connected to the community, cared for and invested in the well-being of others in the tribe. We’ve moved beyond some of the nitty-gritty aspects of survival, but still, feeling other peoples’ emotions is essential to the human experience. It is when a person doesn’t have empathy for other beings that they are capable of unkindness, inflicting pain, cruelty, murder or genocide. The purpose of empathy, then, has to do with not only sensing the feelings of other people, but with using it as a means of connection and healing, rather than as a cause for separation.
And it is only through “Advanced Empathy” that we can go about healing some of the massive wounds that exist in the collective consciousness. When I learned about my acquaintance who ended her life, I used empathy to offer healing not only to her, but to all those who grieved for her passing. And really, to all those who needed help moving the energy of grief. When my friend experienced her healing and release of sexual shame, then felt the energy of the sexual shame of all women moving through her, she was using empathy to heal the feminine collective consciousness. When I channeled Joan of Arc a few months ago and felt the energy ripping through me, I was offering healing by holding empathy and transmuting the wounds of all those who had suffered, who had lived in fear or who had been killed for revealing who they really were. That’s another story in itself, but there’s the short version for now.
Where do we go from here? Learning healthy and constructive boundaries is always a good thing. People who can hold a safe energetic container and who have practiced a high degree of self-awareness will be in a great position to take empathy to the next level. There are so many wounds that exist in the collective consciousness, and the more that we can transmute this energy into healing, the better. The times I have worked with channeling empathy for healing of the collective, it was pulled out of me unconsciously. My personal goal is to move into a place of conscious empowerment around empathy, when I can use my healthy, grounded boundaries and say, “I recognize the wounding of the collective consciousness and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.”