Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Emotions and the subtle skill of Empathy

When I was young, I read about a comic character named Raven. I think it was a DC character. Back in the stories I read, this character was dark and serious (just like me) but also had an empathic nature and ability to heal others by taking on their pain.

I found this to be very alluring and began to practice this empathic ability. Observing people is a big part of the training. You have to learn the subtle signs of posture, voice, facial expressions as well as the unseen signs in order to determine the best way to empathize and help someone.

The difficulty arises from humans natural defense mechanism, denial. You can see someone is upset and yet when you attempt to help and ask what is wrong, they SNAP "I'm fine!".

The fact that they SNAP at you is an obvious indication that they are lying even if you hadn't read the other signs properly. The problem is that this denial is negative feedback for an em path. We can't hone our skill if people are dishonest.

So most learn to keep quiet and use their skill in more subtle manipulations. After as many years as I've been practicing it, my skin has toughened enough that I reach out in a direct way and take the "SNAP" when it happens. I may have to take some time to recover but I find the direct approach brings the issue out quickly so it can be dealt with quickly. Ever read "Celestine Prophecy" by James Redfield?

The point is that we have developed our emotions as part of our evolution. They ALL have their use. Denying them is not healthy or constructive. Determining their function and reacting well to them is a much better way to deal with them (for everyone involved!).

For me, anger is still very much a challenge. The old type-A personality is loud and typically over-reacts when angry. But I recognize that anger helps me remember lessons I learn. It burns events into my brain. If I can just live long enough to sift through the event to determine what I should have learned.

Right now, I'm experiencing anger over the fact that even my family won't be honest with me. I've worked hard at being the social worker and trying to lead discussions in a way that helps them be honest and they just won't do it.

They use "justification" as their defense for lying. "They don't want to hurt my feelings" is their justification. They have no defense for the hurt I express to them on learning that they have hurt me by lying. They are so use to lying that they can't see that their desire NOT to hurt me has FAILED.

In reality, it's their own feelings they are protecting. They know the truth would have been uncomfortable to say and hard to hear so they justify their lie. And the em path has to let their intuition lead them to the truth in other ways.

We all lie so casually in such subtle ways throughout our day that most of us are in denial about doing it. I'll admit I still do it. Often to avoid an uneasy truth. I often lie to avoid confrontation (this includes that subtle "lie of omission"). But if someone says they really want the truth, I will give it to them or tell them I would rather not say anything.

For a while, I tried being honest all the time but people are offended by much of what I think. I realize that's my character flaw. But I've found it's better to keep quiet. Most people aren't up for a true dose of honesty or a healthy debate when they disagree.

So now I process my emotions and analysis of others through my diary and occasionally a blog. I am careful not to play analyst too often, especially with strangers because I often walk away doubting my abilities and feeling I've not helped much like my hero Raven always did.

It's so much easier when you can just touch someone and suck all their hurt away. I haven't honed that skill yet, for touch is even harder to use in empathy. Most just aren't ready for that level of intimate healing. Plus, I've still got lots of work to do on my other empathic skills.

So instead I try to remain quietly in the shadows until approached. Those that seek me out are the ones that recognize what I do and are the most open to my help. Plus I get to hone my skills of observation as I wait...

Loran the Shadow

No comments:

Post a Comment