The mirror reflects in reverse, a perfectly backwards representation of the self. Some people avoid their reflection, ashamed of the imperfections it reveals while others become enamored with what they see, using it to feed their empty ego. Others see nothing more than what is really there (good or bad) and are content.
If you’re an empath, then you probably already know where I’m going with this metaphor. You can be confronting for other people without meaning to be and sometimes they react in very negative ways. You may also be unflinchingly honest, not because you’re trying to stir up trouble, but because you’re always seeking the truth.
Empaths crave knowledge and truth simply because they already know things without knowing how they have this understanding and they need to confirm it somehow. Of course, other people are always hiding their dirty laundry and would rather not help an empath brother out by letting them know what is real and what isn’t. Therein lies the conflict.
The Lakota tribe of America had a special place for these kinds of people. They were called Heyoka, which meant the sacred clown, and they were given special privileges and protection within the tribe for being themselves.
In the tradition of choosing a shaman for the tribe, a Heyoka had to fulfill certain criteria first: they were always born breach, did most things backwards in some way like speaking or writing, often displayed characteristics of dyslexia, and most importantly received visions of the thunder beings of the west such as Thunderbird. They could predict storms and were witty satirists who undid pompous grandstanding within the tribe.
They were given the special privilege of calling important people out on their shit and no one was allowed to harm them, no matter how annoying they could be.
Oh to be a Heyoka…
In our society that kind of bald-faced honesty will land you in a Twitter battle, or get you blocked on Facebook, or you might find yourself stabbed in the neck. Whatever the consequences, there is invariably fallout.
Regular people can’t handle that shit. They don’t want to be confronted with their shortcomings or reminded of their foibles and an empath with cut straight through to their deepest and darkest self in no time.
So what is the role of an empath in this day, age and western culture?
First of all, what is an empath? Essentially an empath is someone who can pick up on fields of energy emitted by others and glean information which regular people can’t from those energy fields. They are at times pre-cognitive, clairvoyant and capable of catching other people’s moods without meaning to. The line between where an empath ends and other people begin is so blurred and indistinct, they often can’t tell themselves.
A lot of empaths are also classed as Highly Sensitive People (HSP) which is a genetic trait found in 20% of the population. Their brains are wired differently to over-process external stimuli which makes them easily over-stimulated, exhausted, confused and frustrated.
Being an empath is a rough situation: you have an overwhelming need to engage and contribute, yet find it detrimental to your health and well-being. You want to help people, but often find them taking advantage of you.
What is the point of being an empath if you can’t use it for something good? How do you find guidance and acceptance is a culture wired against you?
The first step is to cut yourself some slack. You’re born this way, there’s nothing actually wrong with you, it’s just different from most people. Stop apologising for being you. Other people need to put on their big boy/girl panties and grow up.
The second step is to learn how to separate and control your empathy to gain perspective from other people’s emotions. Self-care and emotional management is vital. A great resource to start this process is a book called The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff. As a psychologist, doctor and an empath she has developed some great techniques for managing stress and disengaging from external stimuli while also developing your abilities. I’ve found it invaluable for myself.
Once you’ve learned to manage your abilities without squashing the crap out of them, you can choose how you want to use them.
Are you a natural healer who somehow knows what is wrong without diagnostic tools? Maybe you’re a born leader who can inspire people to aim for great heights and get behind a worthy project. Or perhaps you know exactly how to teach others what they need to know in ways they can easily understand.
Empaths are very versatile people with incredible vision of possibilities others can’t actually imagine. Playing to your strengths is what life is all about. If you have a talent, use it. Stop hiding that light under a bushel.
All the best. Peace /|\