Empathy: Is it bad for you?

By Patti Wilson, M.A., M.Ed.

Today we feature the valuable insights of one of our long-serving practitioners, Patti Wilson, who worked as a university teacher and a psychotherapist for 25 years. As often happens, experiences, insights, curiosity, and a strong desire to be more effective in helping people, drew Patti beyond that world and into one which utilizes inner “knowings”. We call this intuition, and Patti has a highly-developed intuitive ability.

This article takes you into an awareness of the pros and cons of empathy and its effect on our health and happiness. For more depth, on October 1st, Patti is holding a workshop with practical and caring guidance. You can expect humor and healthy snacks too! See bottom of article for more details. Now to Patti’s article. Enjoy! – Deb Martn

Are You Too Sensitive?

How often have you been told that you are “too sensitive”? Have you suffered because of empathizing with a friend or animal who is suffering? Do you wonder if there is a true benefit to all your sensitivity and empathy?

Empathy is like Goldilock’s porridge: you want it not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Learning to manage your empathy in a way that brings benefits for you as well as others is a laudable goal, and it can be learned. It can be toned down or expanded, turned on and turned off at will, once you learn how to take control of this trait.

If you are still reading, you likely relate to this topic, and perhaps struggle with your empathic nature. Let’s first consider what empathy really is. Empathy is the ability to FEEL another person’s feelings, while knowing that these emotions are not your own. It’s like you temporarily borrow someone else’s experience! You can see how empathy is therefore extremely valuable in understanding others, building intimate relationships, having compassion and wanting to help others or resolve conflict. Empathy is one of the purest expressions of love.

When Empathy Affects Your Quality of Life
The trick sometimes is in knowing that you are absorbing another’s feelings, and that they are not actually your own emotions. Have you ever been around someone who is depressed or anxious, and maybe didn’t make the connection that that’s why you too were starting to feel sad, irritable or impatient for no reason; and that perhaps you were simply absorbing the other person’s feelings? Extreme empathy can lead you to be so sensitive to others’ feelings that you lose your personal emotional boundaries, and don’t have control over your own emotional state. I had a colleague once who could not attend a yoga class or a dinner party without getting overwhelmed feeling the emotions of the people around her. This is not good!

A person with this type of extreme empathy is often referred to as an empath. As with all our abilities, with practice empathy can get stronger. I was always very sensitive and empathic as a psychotherapist, and after many years in my practice, I began knowing how my clients felt before they even told me their stories. I had crossed over from being empathic to being an empath: someone who absorbs and internalizes the energy of another. Interestingly, as this ability grew, I was able to not only know my clients’ feelings but also their stories, often before anything was even shared. This was the beginning of my development as a psychic and medium (empaths are a form of psychic ability). These new gifts would never have developed had I not been empathic to begin with.

Manage Your Empathy for the Better
While this journey was thrilling for me, it might sound very overwhelming or scary to others! I was fortunate in that I had a good working knowledge of psychological boundaries as a psychotherapist, and I quickly taught myself how to work with energy and set psychic and spiritual boundaries as well. This is a skill set that I continue to teach my “Spiritual Coach” clients to this day. Ideally you do not want to shut off your empathic gifts or avoid people and situations in order to prevent a bad case of overwhelm. Instead, you can learn to be in control and manage your gift of empathy. You can decide when, where and with whom you will allow this absorption of another’s emotional energy, and maybe most importantly, how and when to clear it, as we never want to carry around another person’s emotions.

These skills are all learnable. I work with people who want to use their empathy in positive ways, especially in learning to create emotional intimacy, as well as manage differences and conflicts with others. Empathic people are naturally good at communication, mediation and negotiation, and can usually readily learn these useful life skills to improve personal and professional relationships.

I also work with highly sensitive people who want to get control of their runaway empathy, and perhaps even learn to strengthen their empathy and bring their gifts to help create a better world.

Being empathic can have its challenges; however, if these challenges are met, it can also be a powerful gift to help you create the life you desire.

Patti Wilson, M.A., M.Ed. is an intuitive counselor, Theta Healing practitioner and psychic medium. She combines her traditional experience as a psychotherapist and university teacher with her powerful spiritual gifts to offer a unique and rapid healing and development process. Her company is called “The Spiritual Coach”.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

“Empathy: Make It Work for You”. This workshop is structured to help you learn more about managing your empathic tendencies and develop skills including:
• Reigning in Runaway Empathy
• Empathic Communication for Managing Disputes
• Empathy for Spiritual Development

When: Sunday, October 23, 2022
Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Lotus Blossom Clinic
Cost: $60
Healthy Snacks Provided

Serving the Greater Fort Myers area with Natural and Holistic Medicine, including Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, Science-backed Food as Medicine, Energy & Transformational Sessions…and Community Classes & Events both Virtual and In-Person.