Psychic Self Defense – part 1
by Jane Sherry with Curtis Lang
One of the most frequent questions we are asked as Reiki Teacher Practitioners and purveyors of fine crystals is, "How can I protect myself? I'm always picking up on other people! I feel so much interference I can barely function from day to day. And the more spiritual work I do, the more I pick up!"
Many people experience subtle energy and emotional energies in their environment in ways which prevent them from being optimally functional in their daily lives.
People often ask us, "How can I clear myself after … ?" Fill in the blank: after an argument with a child or other loved one, after a rough day at work, after being yelled at on the highway by a road rage freak, after a clerk yelled at you while shopping, or even after simply being around someone else who is in a bad mood.
Do you ever feel overly impacted by the emotional turmoil around you at home, work or out in the world? Do you ever feel overly impacted by the moods of your loved ones?
Do you have trouble relating to the emotions you are feeling sometimes, as if they weren't your own? Do you feel that sometimes when you walk into a room, your energy changes to reflect whatever's going on around you? Do you pick up or experience the emotions of characters on television and movies, in the news or newspapers?
You may be what is called an empath, someone who experiences clairsentience, or the ability to pick up the emotions of others. This ability has been referred to as a "paranormal" ability, which implies that the person with that ability is someone whose experience is outside what is considered normal, but in fact, empathy is a perfectly normal ability which each of us may experience in varying degrees.
Empathy is defined as the ability to perceive, recognize and feel the emotions of others, even when they are not explicitly communicated. In the 1880s, German psychologist Theodore Lipps coined the term "einfuhlung" (literally, "in-feeling") to describe the emotional resonance with another's feelings.
Even more simply stated, empathy is the ability to "put oneself in another's shoes." When we feel what another feels, we experience empathy.
Empathy is the forerunner of compassion, and therefore a potentially very positive experience. However there is a danger involved in the empathic experience we should all understand. When we experience what another feels as if it is our own feeling, we unconsciously identify ourselves with the other person. There is no distance between us. Thus, we open ourselves to a false experience of shared suffering.
It is very easy for empathy to cause us to mistakenly take on the burdens of another in this way. We may feel fear, anger, doubt, panic or despair when we empathize with another person, and if we lack discernment, we may lose ourselves in these vicarious emotions.
This is how we can become attached to the other person's emotional dilemma. On a subtle level, we allow the energetic cord of light that connects us to the other person, and which carries emotional messages back and forth, to become attached or embedded into our own energy field, or aura. This can create a situation which drains you of energy. The other person may actually receive energy from you, feeling better every time you mistakenly take on their emotions.
From this point on, until we consciously remove the energetic hooks and cords that connect us to the other people, their negative emotions will unconsciously be transmitted to us through the energetic circuit that has been created. We will feel what they feel, and we will unconsciously continue to identify their emotions as our own.
This is how empathy becomes emotional attachment, and how emotional attachment leads to unconscious identification with the suffering of others.
Discernment provides an antidote to this danger. Empaths must take on the burden of sorting through their emotions, and begin to see the difference between what they are picking up from others and what they are feeling in relation to their own life.
When the empath becomes conscious of the source of the emotion, aware of the person with whom they are resonating, then the emotional charge will dissipate. This is a strong signal that the empath had identified the true source of the emotion. So the cultivation of discernment is essential for the mental and emotional health of all those blessed with empathic abilities.
The development of compassion is also essential to the healthy empathic personality. When we recognize that the other person's feelings relate to their own unique experience, and when we also realize that we have had similar feelings in a similar situation, when we recognize that the other person's feelings represent what we might call a universal human response, then the resulting feeling of sympathy triggers intimate identification with that person without the burden of unconscious identification with the other's emotions.
We feel at one with that person and we consciously allow ourselves to take on their feelings as our own. Then our hearts open, and we experience what is known as compassion.
This is how the path of empathy prompts us to develop our spiritual practice which rests upon a foundation of discernment and compassion. There is nothing mysterious, occult, paranormal or extraordinary about this process of spiritual, emotional and mental evolution.
In fact, the empathic experience, which is often referred to as extrasensory perception, is not really extraordinary at all. Empathic awareness is within the range of perceptions that most of us experience at one time or another in our lives.
It is true that empathic awareness is increased during certain expanded states of awareness, brought on by intensified emotions, such as when we fall in love, during emergencies or when we perceive threats against our loved ones. During these times, our ability to feel what the other person feels is also heightened, just as the mother's ability to pick up on the thoughts and feelings of her child is heightened above and beyond her normal empathic abilities which she demonstrates with other people.
Mothers or not, we all have the ability to see things from another's person's perspective, and, to some extent, to will ourselves to feel what they feel as well. When physicians demonstrate an empathic ability to feel what the patient feels, and to make them more comfortable in a difficult situation, this empathic ability is called "bedside manner."
Of course, the physician must be sure not to fall into the "sympathy trap." If the physician identifies consciously with the patient, then this reinforces the unconscious identification that facilitates empathic response, and the physician could, over time, be overwhelmed with the suffering of the patient, especially if the patient is in a critical condition, or in a very painful course of illness.
Thus the ability to remain objective is critical if we are to utilize our empathic abilities for our best and highest good and for the best and highest good of all those around us. If we can maintain a conscious awareness of our empathic experiences, and distinguish between our own emotions and the emotions of others, we can learn a great deal about ourselves and about all those around us.
The conscious exercise of empathy will lead us to a deep and true understanding of those with whom we have contact in this world, and we will begin to develop a reputation as someone who has compassion, someone who understands others, and someone who can be trusted in difficult situations to do the right thing.
Of course, it is always difficult to maintain the conscious awareness of empathic experiences. There is no doubt that this involves the exercise of tremendous discernment over a long period of time. Discernment helps us distinguish between our own emotions and the emotions of others.
Eventually we learn to pinpoint accurately the source of what might otherwise appear to be free-floating negative emotions occluding our energy field, our minds and our hearts. Then we find we have the ability to see clearly into the hearts of others. Don't be discouraged if you have not yet achieved this difficult balancing act in your life. It took me years to make progress toward the elusive goal of empathic equilibrium.
When I was in my twenties, I referred to myself as a "sponge" because I picked up so many of the feelings and emotions of those around me. Growing up as an empath was very difficult and often confusing, as I was unaware of why I so often felt the way that I did.
When I was very young, my mother and father were constantly telling me I was "too sensitive" and in my adolescent years, that refrain turned into an admonition to work as a volunteer in a hospital, so I could stop "feeling sorry" for myself.
This ability is what encouraged me to become what I call a "seeker," someone who has sought symbolic meaning in the feelings, signs and events around me. I have always looked not only for personal meaning in the events in life, but also for greater meaning in the context of those events.
And more specifically, my empathic experiences drove me to seek and learn, over the course of several decades, a variety of techniques which have assisted me in exercising discernment, learning to recognize the source of emotions I pick up from others, building my auric strength and shielding myself from over empathizing with people and events in my life and in our world.
Modern day physics has gone to great lengths to explicate how we are all interconnected, however, many of us do not actually believe that we are each thoroughly woven together physically, emotionally and psychically. In America, the land of the cowboy, which worships at the altar of individual achievement and individual freedom, it is almost cultural heresy to speak the truth that we are all energetically connected. Those of us in the grip of rational materialist thinking would never want to admit that we could "pick up" energy from someone else by proximity or by thinking about them or having them think about us.
Most of us find it hard to believe, that in fact, there is really no such thing as a separate individual. We are interconnected with one another at an unconscious level, as Carl Jung explained with his concept of the shared "collective unconscious," which provides all human beings with the shared storehouse of archetypes that people our dreams, our art, our philosophies, our religious experiences, and our mythologies worldwide.
This radical concept of Unity Consciousness is at the heart of the great spiritual teachings of both the East and West, from yoga to Goddess worship to animistic shamanism to Buddhism to Greek philosophy to Christianity, which says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Most spiritual practices are designed help us to overcome the minds' quaint notion, that we are, each of us, separate—separate from our Higher Selves, from one another or from the Intelligent Spirit which informs and manifests our Universe.
Most spiritual practices are designed to help us become increasingly aware of the web of life, of our connections with others, and of our own unique identity, which is a reflection of the Unity within which we live our seemingly separate lives.
These spiritual traditions tell us to stay centered in our own Self, to remain connected to Source, grounded, and alert to Present Moment Awareness. It all sounds deceptively simple. Many practices in our daily lives can contribute to this heightened state of awareness.
In Part II of Psychic Self Defense, we will address some of the techniques which have assisted me in exercising discernment, learning to recognize the source of emotions I pick up from others, building my auric strength and shielding myself from over empathizing with people and events in my life and in our world.
These are techniques we can perform easily with virtually no expense or fancy workshops or special initiations. You will find you can establish a set of hygienic energy practices to assist you in becoming more consciously empathic, more compassionate, more loving, and more effective in your relationships as a result.
by Jane Sherry with Curtis Lang
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