If you’re an empathetic person you’re probably having a tough time of late. A recent Gallup poll that surveyed 155,000 people in 140 different countries revealed that we are becoming sadder and angrier than ever before. This isn’t great for society and it isn’t great for empathetic people either. Being sensitive to the feelings of others and really feeling their pain, sounds like an honourable thing, but geez, it’s can be uncomfortable, and at times debilitating. Which begs us to ask the question, is empathy a good thing? If we experience the feeling of pain when others are in pain then aren’t we self-perpetuating more pain?
This is where compassion comes in. Compassion is where we understand that someone is in pain, and we feel love for that person or people, and our energy level doesn’t deteriorate. Compassion isn’t an emotion, it’s a state. Emotions are when we react to other people and circumstances. Compassion is a state that holds itself regardless of how someone else is feeling. Empathy is when you feel someone’s pain; compassion is when you feel love for someone in pain. It’s easy for us to sit and suffer alongside those that are suffering, in fact, it’s almost expected of us through our conditioning. Quite often the person in pain will want their partner or friend to also feel their pain so that there is a better connection. However, does that really help the healing, and support progress out of that state for all involved? Could Mother Theresa or Fred Hollows have done their work if they were emotionally affected each day by the people they cared for?
Compassion and empathy are very close to each other; they are both a sense of awareness about others and their state of well-being. But for empaths, one thing we have to be careful about is how much we allow that to deteriorate our own state. This requires mindfulness and practice to simply hold space for that person or group of people, to acknowledge where they are, and with grace, love and warmth, simply be there for them. This then becomes a guiding light and foundation of support for them, to release what needs to release, to feel what they need to feel, and be ok knowing its not causing suffering for you also. On the flip side, when its our turn to go through a challenging time, (and they will surely come), knowing we can lean on solid, unwavering support, someone who is going to be able to hold space for us and not fill us with guilt that we have turned their life into emotional turmoil, will be a welcome relief.
So how do we switch empathy to compassion? This is a process that requires some initial practise until you become more skilled in it if it’s not something you are familiar with. Check in with what your feeling body (read emotional state) is doing and mindfully elevate it to love. Love is the quality and essence of compassion. So pause and ask yourself, am I being pulled into their energetic frequency? Am I synching into their emotional state? Then from that unemotional place of pure love, simply Be there. Just Be. Give yourself the right to just Be. It will, in the end, be better for you and your health, and more importantly, be better for them also.