Be the Light in the Darkness


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I feel like many of the people who follow this blog are spiritually minded, empathic, lightworkers, healers and peace loving people. I like to think that you read my posts to look for insight into life and living as a better person. I try to share my own experiences in exploring spiritual growth and self-awareness. I occasionally get a bit ranty about social injustice, but for the most part it has been an introspective journey.

Now, I suspect that many people who think (or feel) like I do have hit a wall. The state of the world and the blooming of racism, hatred and social injustice has left a huge, painful hole in our heart. Those of us who are extremely empathic may literally feel the effects physically. We are at a loss for what to do.

I have historically tried not to be too political on this blog (ranty bits aside), but this may mark a change in that policy. Not so much to argue which party is better or worse, but because I feel that the time has come to stop being a quiet supporter of human rights and become a more vocal supporter. It is one thing to simply believe. It is another to do.

water-drop-384649_640I think that part of the problem is that most of us who are highly sensitive, loving people tend to try to avoid negativity as much as possible. We avoid it because of its effect on us physically and mentally. (Not to mention, people might notice us!) We try to spread peace quietly and unobtrusively, but we don’t want to cause too much fuss, not ripple the water too much. Certainly not make any waves.

Unfortunately, it would seem to me that the time has come to break out of our comfort zones and start making sure that EVERYONE knows that we stand up for peace, social justice, and humanity. Too many politicians take for granted the words of a vocal few ignorant, hateful people whose ideals match their own. We need to make Humanity the new political party. We need to do our parts to not let the last 150 years of civil rights and social justice backslide any further than they already have.

What can we do? Find the niche that speaks to you. Write about it. Call your government representatives. Counter messages of hate and disenfranchisement with those of love and inclusion. Learn more about religions that are different than yours and speak up to defend them when you hear someone speak disparagingly about them. Come up with ready responses to hate speech, racism, bigotry and intolerance. Be an example.

How can we protect ourselves from the emotional and physical impact this is bound to have on us? I have written a few things on this you can refer back to, and I’ll try to share more helpful information going forward. Meanwhile, you can check out this post:

I feel like one of the important things to try to remember when we’re working to counter intolerance is to not let ourselves drop to their level. It’s so easy to feel defensive and argumentative, to let hateful words spark our own hateful responses. Rise up. Try to keep your words calm and rational. This is why I recommend having some prepared responses for certain situations, it allows you the opportunity to step back and respond rationally, with less emotion. Don’t be condescending.

Do your research. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet (even things you agree with). If you’re going to share educational information or statistics, make sure they’re accurate, maybe go one step further and provide resources. Be the smart one.

candle-1338927_640For my first step forward into the darkness, I will be attempting to use this blog to bring awareness to social issues and hopefully sharing some ideas for what spiritually minded, empathic people can do to help. Additionally, I will continue to try to encourage and support you with guidance on self-awareness and spiritual growth. It’s time to step out of the shadows and do our parts to bring light into the darkness. Be the beautiful lightworkers you are.

What Ruins Your Christmas?


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A little while ago, I overheard a conversation between two people about holiday shopping. They were lamenting the running around and deciding what to get and how much they were spending and THEN getting it all wrapped up and ready to go. One of them commented at the end of the conversation, “It really almost ruins Christmas, you know?” The other person solemnly agreed. I was left speechless.

I know it’s likely that they weren’t even considering the words they used, and technically they did say “almost”. However, those of you who’ve read more than a few of my posts know that I regular comment about the words we choose to use. In this case, maybe the words don’t directly affect the health and well-being of the person using them, but then again, maybe they do.

Are they taking for granted the fact that they have time and money to run around holiday shopping for family and friends? Are they grateful for the fact that they have family and friends to shop for? Do they think about the fact that there are people out there who don’t have a festive tree set up in their homes, and who haven’t done any Christmas shopping because it’s all they can do to afford food?

What “ruins” a holiday for someone, particularly Christmas? A difficult shopping schedule? Or putting away the special ornament you bought for the baby that was never born? Too many family members to buy presents for? Or wondering what to do with the gift you bought for your father who just passed away? Too much prep work for Christmas dinner? Or wondering if you’ll have anything to eat on Christmas Day?

Don’t forget that other big holiday we just celebrated that maybe sometimes gets lost in perusing glossy store ads and early morning “doorbusting” shopping sprees. Once the leftovers are gone and Black Friday passes, it is still the season to be thankful.

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40 Days of Good News


Dandelion fluffI have been so distressed about all the ugliness and hate in the news lately. The political stupidity, the hateful people, the ignorance, the cruelty. With my particularly level of empathy, I find all of this negatively affects me heavily.
I am not traditionally a “religious” person, but I am supremely spiritual, so I’m going to take advantage of this Christian season of Lent to try to shine a little “Good News” in the world. For the next 40 days, I will try to write or share one positive post a day. I hope that it helps those of you who, like me, are feeling discouraged and distressed by the state of the world.
I don’t intend this to draw attention away from the bad things happening. I believe that all of these things need to be made public and need to be addressed. I just also believe that maybe some of us need to be reminded of the good things that happen around us, too.
I hope this series helps spread a little love and light in the world, and perhaps heals you as it heals me.
Peace & Love,
Tricia

Walking the Line


balanceOne of the things that I don’t always see addressed when I read about building self-confidence is finding the balance of self-confidence somewhere between no confidence at all and overinflated ego. I know that one of the things I worry about when I find the self-confidence to say out loud, “I’m good at that” is, do I sound confident or do I sound like an egomaniac?

Granted, the fact that I worry about it probably means that I will tend not to get too overinflated, but I think that people who are tentative about their own value, and working up to healthy levels of self-confidence may find themselves underselling their talent for fear of looking egotistical. You might say, “I have pretty good luck training dogs”, when in reality, you’re a highly skilled, successful dog trainer. You might tell someone, “I don’t have any professional training, but I take halfway decent photos if you need some,” when you actually take beautiful photos, training or no.

Highly sensitive people tend to be acutely attuned to the opinions and reactions of others, and may worry about offending people, or coming across as a “know it all.” It’s some of this sensitivity that tends to lend itself to encouraging us to downplay our confidence and talents. We may not be aware of it, but we may picking up on the person’s jealousy, or perhaps their own self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy. It can be difficult to separate out others’ feelings from our own, and also to not put so much stock in their emotions and reactions.

In addition, while it may in fact seem like the opposite is true, people who over exaggerate their own value, hype their talents, brag, and belittle the value of others are more than likely operating out of just as much poor self-confidence as the rest of us. An egotistical person can be a bit like a skunk, a whole lot of show, a big stink, and a hope that you’ll be distracted and not notice their weak spots.

finding balanceA confident, balanced person is able to feel comfortable saying that they’re good at something without the need to show off, brag, or otherwise make a big fuss about it. Part of my own sensitivity, I think, is that I can tell intuitively when someone is feeling frantic about their own lack of confidence, as much as I can when they are quietly stewing in it, and it tends to put me off.

If you are also sensitive, you might feel put off or repelled by these people. If you further investigate the source of what you are feeling, you might sense a certain frenetic, frantic energy behind their words and actions. A sense that they are over explaining their worth. They (inadvertently or on purpose) belittle or trash talk yours or someone else’s work. (Which of course only serves to squash your fledgling confidence).

So then, the goal is to find a way to be opening and accepting of your own worth. You should be willing to share it (calmly and honestly), and refrain from shouting it out to anyone who’ll listen, loudly proclaiming your greatness and causing sensitive people to want to avoid being around you (further diminishing your self-confidence).

Well, how the heck do we do that? As I have often mentioned in this blog, the answer lies in part in being self-aware, paying attention to the words we use and the things we say about ourselves and others. Keep it simple. When people complement you about something, all you need to do is say thank you.

When someone says they need help with dog training and you know how to help, say “I have experience with that, I can help”. Offer references if you don’t feel comfortable explaining your skill level. If someone says they need help taking photos and you know you can do it, you can simply say, “I would love to take some photos for you.” And again, if you’re not so confident yet to say just how good a photographer you are, you can always direct them to samples of your work. No need to say “Oh my GOD, don’t use HIM, he’s SO expensive, and blah, blah, blah!” Over exaggerating yourself, particularly at the expense of others, is a big turn off, particularly if the person you’re speaking with is also sensitive to such things.

Walking the PathI find this all particularly interesting/challenging as a person who does a lot of things that require the ability to self-promote. Art, writing, even healing and psychic work require you to put yourself out there in order to actually work and earn a living. Which of course puts you out there to the opinions and criticisms of others, and requires a huge leap of self-confidence. Yet, you don’t want to come across as so egotistical and filled with hot air that you turn people off and lose their interest in your work entirely.

I suppose that like someone who loves dessert, you can choose to eat cake and cookies every day, or completely deprive yourself. Or you can find a healthy point in between, where you can eat the things you love occasionally without gaining 100 pounds. Like everything in life, be it food, finances, or self-confidence, it’s all about finding balance.

May you find your own balance and make it safely (and sanely) across the wobbly suspension bridge of life…

I Feel Your Pain: All About Empathy


Water LilyEmpathy is defined as identifying or vicariously experiencing the thoughts, feelings and attitudes of another. It is sometimes confused with sympathy, which is more of a feeling of compassion, particularly towards someone in sorrow or trouble. In a sense you need some degree of empathy in order to feel the compassion or sympathy. Of course there are instances where empathy is ignored, suppressed or maybe even missing altogether, in some people, particularly those with certain mental disorders.

It’s recognizing and responding to emotions that make us human; makes us a little bit easier to live with. Maybe even makes it possible to create a society, live in a community.

Some people take this natural empathy and kick it up a notch. They are acutely aware of the emotions around them, oftentimes without really realizing that is what is happening. They may experience these emotions and believe they are their own, or feel responsible for them. These people are known as empaths; also sometimes referred to as psychic empaths or intuitive empaths.

Dr. Judith Orloff, assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, wrote an article on her site that I found compelling and kind of brought me back to the roots of my own life as an empath. Her article, Are You An Emotional Empath? helps empaths recognize their own traits and gives a wonderful list of suggestions for dealing with the effects.

Here is an excerpt; the quiz that she shares on determining if you are an emotional empath:

QUIZ: AM I AN EMPATH?

Ask yourself:

  • Have I been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive?
  • If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
  • Are my feelings easily hurt?
  • Am I emotionally drained by crowds, require time alone to revive?
  • Do my nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
  • Do I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please?
  • Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
  • Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?

If you answer “yes” to 1-3 of these questions, you’re at least part empath. Responding “yes” to more than 3 indicates that you’ve found your emotional type.

Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them. Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships.

I have to admit that even the things on that list I might answer no to right now, Deer Creek SunsetI have experienced at least a few times in my life. Looking back, I know that I grew up an empath. At least I can most see it in my teenage years, when you’re already dealing with hormones and your sense of identity and self-esteem. It’s a classic case of I wish I knew then what I know now, and even now, I find that I need a reminder.

I have struggled with this for as far back as I can recall. Mostly I remember it as feeling very strongly when someone was sad or angry. My brain translates that into something that I am somehow responsible for. I think that it varies on whether I would feel as though I somehow caused the emotion, or was supposed to somehow be responsible for resolving the emotion.

It can be overwhelming, even painful, not understanding where it’s coming from or how to manage it. Or maybe forgetting to manage it, as in my case.

Elise Lebeau has an interesting website that chronicles her experiences growing up an empath as well as going into all kinds of technical details about the physiology of thought and how we send and receive information. In summarizing how this works with empathy she says;

Let’s take an example to make this more concrete: When someone is angry, there’s all kind of electrical and chemical reactions happening in their body (sweating, getting flustered, faster heart beat). All these changes trigger mild electrical currents that create a magnetic field around their physical body.

As an Empath, you are able to scan this magnetic information to “read” their state of mind: this person is angry. Although the pattern changes from one person to the next, Empaths are able to interpret it and translate it…

Although we are all born Empaths, most of us learn to ignore the information we pick up from other people through their magnetic field. And there’s a very good reason for that…imagine for a moment: every thought, every emotion, from every one on earth is currently generating magnetic information.

As an Empath, you can pick up on all of this! The sheer volume of information is staggering.

cotton grassExperiencing this unchecked for long periods of time, even years, is not without its side effects. It can be the source of unexplained fatigue, mood swings, depression. If you are unaware you are picking up everyone else’s negative emotional baggage, it can build up to the point of causing physical symptoms, from blockages in the flow of energy in your body to physical pain and disease.

On the positive side, it has the potential to be a wonderful gift. If you can understand that what you are perceiving is not your own, not your responsibility, you can take steps to protect yourself and learn how to use it productively. Many empaths are drawn to healing, healthcare and counseling. It can be a positive tool in psychic and spiritual counseling; helping others see the source of their pain, helping them sort out conflicting emotions.

It wasn’t until I went to college and met my friend and teacher Ruthanne Marble, that I began to see what was going on with me. I understood by that point the term empath. In my years of practicing psychically, being an empath has helped me to see where people are coming from. I have always been a good listener, people confide in me. I am drawn to people who are in trouble.

Then I entered a period of a lot of personal trial. Beginning with the impact of a move to another state and a demanding job, then escalating with the addition of my husband’s mental health breakdown and diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, three miscarriages and all the baggage that entails. wooden stairsFor a time it was a struggle to get out of bed some days. And while I am excellent at talking with other people about their problems, I am horrible about talking about my own.

For two years I did very little psychic work, healing or counseling. I realize now that you get what you give, and that for me that is sort of an outlet. While this was all going on, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I was pretty much just getting pummeled with emotions. From my own, to my husband’s to the stress and emotions from work and my coworkers. I was not protecting myself and it was catching up with me.

I didn’t recognize this really, until I was inspired to write this post.

One of the side effects that comes up when one researches empaths is the feeling of having the weight of the world on your shoulders. The combination of all of it was taking it’s physical toll on me. Dr. Orloff writes:

The trademark of empaths is that they know where you’re coming from. Some can do this without taking on people’s feelings. However, for better or worse, others, like myself and many of my patients, can become angst-sucking sponges. This often overrides the sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish…

Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting…

As a subconscious defense, they may gain weight as a buffer…  (hmm really??)

When empaths absorb the impact of stressful emotions, it can trigger panic attacks, depression, food, sex and drug binges, and a plethora of physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis from fatigue to agoraphobia.

Beaver Lake SunsetThe good news is, empaths don’t have to walk around in a cloud of everyone else’s emotions every day of their lives. Like any gift, it can be controlled. Empaths can learn to recognize what they are feeling is not their own. They can learn to protect themselves.

If you think that you fit this description, you can learn how to control and work with your empathic abilities. If you can find a spiritual teacher, that is a good place to start. Finding someone who can help you clear and balance your energy and learn to shield yourself will make a world of difference in how you feel.

Elise Lebeau’s site offers an Empath Survival Program with a series of tools, techniques and visualizations for learning to “dial down” the emotions and becoming a functioning empath. Dr. Orloff’s site offers techniques for centering yourself and finding balance in the types of situations you find overwhelming. Lisa Campion is a psychic, spiritual counselor and energy healer whose site has great information on visualization techniques for cleansing your energy, shielding yourself and grounding.

PoppyLearning to recognize and work with empathic abilities means you don’t have to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Suddenly that inexplicable feeling of sadness actually has an explanation, and a resolution. If you are looking for someone to talk to about empathy, trust your intuition, for several reasons. As always, the internet is just as full of useless or even harmful information as it is beneficial.

It is important to understand that while there are many wonderful light workers out there, there are also well meaning people who do not really understand what they are doing. There are also, unfortunately, unscrupulous people who are not keeping your best interest at heart. Lastly, it is possible for some of the symptoms associated with being an empath to be related to other mental health concerns. If your thoughts and feelings are concerning or frightening you, please seek professional assistance.

If you would like to talk with me about being empathic, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to commiserate, discuss techniques for working with it, or help you find a spiritual teacher near you.