As stated in lesson one, first and foremost is knowing ones own mind and emotional state. This is critical, as otherwise you cannot be 100% certain if what you are feeling, is or is Not your own. So that being the case, a few practical ways to get to that understanding. In the current day parlance, this is often called your "emotional intelligence".
Keller once said "We do not see things as they are. We see things as we
meaning, is not just what we feel, it's what we think that also matters.
So first off, lets understand a few basic realities about the thing we
It's a plain fact, that what we "feel" influences how we think. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, if what we are "feeling" is something outside of our own life events, we could very well react to, and make life choices, based on something that is not our own.
We are at the doctors office, sitting there in that silly paper gown, waiting for the doctor. Suddenly, we feel fear and embarrassment. Now, if this is not your normal reaction to being in this position, and you are not aware of your own thoughts, and are picking up someone else's fears, you could very well develop your own feelings of embarrassment and fear in this situation, and start avoiding your doctor on account of it. Know your own thoughts, and feelings so you can identify what is, and is not your own thoughts.
Emotions control your body response:
We are present when an accident happens, now, if we just "feel" their shock and pain, our mind will react with as much bodily distress as if we are the ones injured, and we will therefore, tend to become just as incapacitated as they are ... or we can empathize with it, and use that inner knowledge to help them, without being overwhelmed ourselves, by events outside ourselves. Gain some distance from events, to prevent being traumatized, but not so much as to leave you disconnected, at a time when that intuitive understanding, could be a very helpful use of your empathy.
Just as an FYI, we have,
in our brain, literally, things called mirror neurons, which means we can
see an event and feel that event, in exacts, a direct duplication, ( yeah,
they finally have proved what we have always known : ) ...
but knowing this is useful, as such knowledge helps you to accept that,
Yes you ARE feeling it, literally. Bone fide proof for empathy, at a brain level, that is measurable.
Emotions are influenced by our beliefs:
Re: the statement of Helen Keller, "We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are." What this means is, if we believe for example, that to be in the presence of an "angry" person is to experience hurt, and we feel this way due to someone who abused us in the past, we are walking around with the notion that to feel anger is "bad", or something to be afraid of. Neither of course is the case, as anger is a normal, and very common human emotional state and we must realize we are allowing our thoughts to color our perception of the events.
As we think, so we are, our thoughts control our reality, so it is just as imperative to fully understand what we believe, and why we believe it. This can mean quite a bit of "soul" searching, with the help of a competent professional if need be, but understand, that what we "perceive" about a thing, is often more real to us, than reality. An Empath must be well versed in their own beliefs and perceptions.
Emotional reactions are not things that just happen:
Other than automatic reactions, that insure our survival ( fight or flight responses) your emotional state is always something you can control. This one is hard to accept, as emotional states just seem to ... happen ! Well to a point, they do, but how we react to them however, is entirely and totally up to us. This is what we can, and must control most of the time. We need the ability to step back from our emotions, and freeze the moment ... and look at it totally dispassionately, and to hold on to that moment as long as you have to, but do not just "react" blindly.
You need a perspective that is not emotionally blinded, either your own, or from outside influences, and once you have that, you can often see ways of handling whatever the situation is, that got your emotions all riled up to start with.
Most negative emotions are based on fear:
Lots of these, and most of them are not even on a conscious level. Fears of being alone, unknowns, ridicule, financial worries, aging, death, and so on, and so on ... the list is almost endless, and is as individual as you are, and these "fears" effect how we think and thereby, what we do. But in order to overcome these fears, you have to be aware of them, which means you have to first admit you even have the fears to begin with.
No outside event can change these feelings, you can be with someone, and still feel alone, you can have lots of money, but still worry over funds ... so it's not events, it's what we think and feel, and therefore fear, that we must face and overcome. This of course, is especially helpful if you are trying to help someone else deal with their negative emotional state, to know that you need to look for and find, what is their fear ?
Feel your emotions, do not just analyze them:
We are very often, afraid of our feelings. We are taught in society that to show strong emotions, is a sign of weakness or loss of control. We apologize if we "break down" and cry. Listen to your thoughts, feel your feelings, you have them for a reason. Write them down if that helps, keep a diary of feelings for a while, and figure out your own thought patterns.
Don't pre-judge them as you write them up, by that I mean don't hesitate to write down the "little" things, all the petty thoughts and minor hurts that we tend to hide, even from ourselves, as they are too "small" to worry about.
Nothing is too small, all those little hurts are more to blame for any negative emotional state we find ourselves in than the "big" issues. We can often handle the big stuff, but shove the annoyances, under the mental rug, where they have a nasty habit of becoming monsters, does an event like "Columbine" ring a bell ? This kind of emotional gunny sacking is not only damaging, it can be downright dangerous, as when that sack full of "petty" hurts blows up, generally, someone's gonna get hurt.
Detail what you feel, and use real words, don't generalize saying.. oh.. I'm feeling Sad today, figure out exactly why you are sad. ( Sadness is another mask for anger by the way, and anger is just another way to say ... I am afraid ... so we are back to identifying fears again ) Is it the weather, your spouse, the kids, money issues, health issues, what is at the root of your fears ?
One of the easiest ways to get at the root of your emotionality is to find a quite place, and just be for a while, meditate, and let the mind run, emotions and all. Let the mind within talk to you, as you will often find out a great deal more about yourself this way, than any analytical process you could do. As a Neil Diamond song said once, "don't think ... feel".
Emotional changes, tracking down the source:
As before, it all starts with knowing your own mind, and your state of emotions at all times. Then comes recognition ... the point when you know something has changed. Look back in the mind, what were you thinking just prior to the state you now find yourself in ? Are they related ? If your current "feelings" and your most recent thought process, are not related, you can just about assume the thought is not your own.
Note when this sudden event took place, where were you ? What were you doing ? Were you thinking of someone in particular? ( In which case you may have a combination of empathy and clairvoyance going on, as it might well be "that" persons feelings your feeling )
Once you have tracked it down, and have figured out ... no, this was not me, take a mental snap shot of that event, so that the next time it happens, you will be quicker to notice it and follow it. This takes practice as you might assume, but it can be done.
As stated in lesson one, shielding for an Empath is imperative, and here are a few basic reasons why you need to and how to do it.
First off, the world can be a very hostile place and for an Empath, overt or even covert hostility can be painful and even damaging, so first things first.
Calmness: Work on creating a centered space in the mind of calmness, certitude, at ease with yourself. To be alert and aware, does NOT mean to be tense as a tick. If you are tense, you tend to break rather than bend when things happen. The way of the uncarved block, so said the Tao, is the state you want, you are not pre-disposed to anything, but are ready for anything.
Make a safe haven inside your head, which is yet another mental exercise, which is not, as is commonly believed, a bolt hole to jump into ... no, rather it is a pond of calm and collectiveness, that you can tap into at need, and sort of, wash the whole situation in this bath of soothing calmness. It becomes a habit, it really does, of when things start to stress up, to reach into the pond and pour calmness all over it, until the situation is brought down to a level where it can be handled. Think ... the negative emotions coming my way, are fire, the logical defense, is still deep water.
Learn to see life spikes, when things just took a jump for the roof, be aware of the emotional temperature around you, at all times. Emotional conflicts are major drains for anyone, but especially for an Empath. Pick your battles, focus on things you feel you can really DO something about.
Control your reaction, breathe
deeply, and let that action trigger your shielding and your calmness (
it's a well known fact, that when we are under stress we tend to hold our
breath, so just the simple act of breathing can take things down a major
notch, and be an automatic cue to the mind of, bring on the water, and
put out this emotional fire )
Beware of Emotional contagion:
This is one of the prime dangers for anyone, but especially for an Empath. Emotional contagion is when we become "infected" by the emotions and moods of others. For most people, this can only happen when they see or hear others, for an Empath, you can get this way, from people across town !
Hall marks of emotional contagion
Emotional contagion happens fast, it's like the shift that happens in a school of fish, the fish in the middle of the school, might not be able to see what made the lead fish, shift position, but everybody moves over anyway. This is contagion. The obvious danger here of course is, you could easily react to something you cannot even see, or that you don't fully understand.
This is especially true of contagion from people who are the closest to you, your spouse, parents, children etc. It's like you are lot more likely to catch a cold, if a family member has it, so too with emotional contagion.
Partly, this is because you have a better understanding of their personalities, and can therefore "read" their mood better, however, your own nearest and dearest, are your largest contributors to emotional contagion, so be aware of it, as it is ten times more likely to happen with them, as it is with outsiders.
Your own self confidence, and control will help you prevent this kind of emotional take over ... if your a reclusive introvert, who blinks owlishly at the light of day, and avoids others like the plague, your are a lot more likely to be overwhelmed by the emotions of others, as you are more vulnerable to them, than your more out spoken counterparts, who spend a lot of time interacting with others.
You have to get tougher, get out there and experience others, get used to them, learn to handle them, and you will not find yourself overwhelmed by them. If you are never among them, every time you stick your head out, it's going to feel like you are being run over by a freight train. Take it slowly, work your way out there, to where you can walk in a crowd with calmness, but it will never happen, unless you do some desensitization work and get used to it.
Notice how you feel around different people. Does a certain party make you feel distressed all the time ? Or create other strong emotional states? Figure out if its related to contagion, or something else ? I mean, it's not contagion if they appear happy go lucky, and all this does is irritate you ! At that point you have to ask yourself why their apparent happy state, creates an opposite reaction in you ?
( My favorite "good morning" all smiles and grins, to which I say... yeah right, the only thing good to say about most mornings, is I am not there to see them and if I am forced to be there to see them, the last thing I want is some die hard morning person bustling around with vim, vigor and vitality ,telling me what a lovely morning it is, when all I want ... is to go back to bed ! ) So our perceptions again, do matter, regardless of another's possibility to infect us with their mood.
Emotional Empathy is not always a good thing:
The flip side of the force, several things, one, too much empathy, without managing it, leads to major burnout. The average "life expectancy" in the helping professions, is 5-10 years, max ... before they burn out. Most often due to the fact, that most of those who go into the helping trades, tend to rate high on the empathic scale, but unless they are under control of their empathy, they quite literally, can fry.
This effect is well known, so we get told to have "professional detachment" which is good, but ... warning ... you can go too far with this, and become out and out indifferent to others, or worse, develop sociothopathic behaviors.
A evil Empath you say ? Yep ... your Marquee De Sade type of person, has a high degree of Empathy, it is how they know exactly what to say or do to hurt the worst ! These persons are completely detached from any sharing of feeling with their victim, but yet, they can read them, perfectly.
Emotional states on auto pilot:
Yet another risk factor, automatic thoughts. These are things that we tend to short cut, and get ahead of ourselves, going into distressed reactions, before we have had a chance to saddle up our brains and really think about it. Most prejudice is like this, it's an emotional reaction, based on a pre judgmental thought, that often has nothing whatsoever to do with the current situation.
Monitor your thoughts, always, always, ask yourself, "why did I do that ? Think that ?" if you cannot immediately give a detailed, logical and rational answer to that question, you have thoughts that are working on auto pilot, that you need to get a handle on. This is particularly so, if you are reacting to thoughts coming from outside yourself.
Do not just accept emotional reactions as valid, without being positive of where they came from, and what lead up to them. Drag the mind away from it's emotional state for a moment and go "ok, just had response A, where the heck did A come from?" and send the brain off on a seek and find mission. There is always a thread to a first thought, things just don't "happen" in your head without rhyme or reason, there is a logical progression, and with practice you can, and must seek out these threads of thought, in order to honestly "know your own mind".
Lesson three, the Dark side and relationship issues