Empathy is a term that’s been going around a lot lately, along with its side-effect, emotional sponge. I can explain this phenomenon best by a personal experience.
This will be blend of metaphysical and psychological investigation. Keep reading!
I recently got into the morning practice of clearing my energy. The results are so amazing, that for hours to follow, I continue to feel very light and peaceful. You can read about the 5 ways I maintain my mood, everyday.
But one morning, I made the mistake of checking my phone too soon.
I had received a message from an anxious and flustered friend, that was dealing with a problem. Though my friend is sensible and was only bouncing the problem to get a second opinion, I immediately felt heavier. I was annoyed and angry too, now.
I became an emotional sponge. In other words, I was so empathic towards the person’s problems, I absorbed some of their emotions. And then, made them my own!
I immediately became alert and stirred by what had happened, because the dip in energy level was significant. So this time, it didn’t go undetected. And, I was able to look at it from a more conscious and critical view.
This is where psychology pops in to say hello! We have just experienced a sign of an unhealthy Emotional Boundary.
In being the good listener, I am holding TOO much space. And as a consequence, it is getting into my own space. But why did this happen in the first place?
There’s a phenomenon called Mirror Neurons. In countless science experiments conducted around human behavior, they’ve observed things like:
- If someone simply watches the other person dip their hand in cold water, the temperature of their own hand becomes cooler;
- When one friend leans to the side, another involuntarily mimics them;
Infact, the other day, my husband told me how he experienced sadness the whole day because I had told him I was feeling sad. Cute! But also, problematic. As empaths, we are constantly trying to protect our energy and build the ‘dont care’ muscle. To no avail. Because we do care, that’s second nature to us!
Ofcourse I never write without solutions, so here it comes.
In dealing with other people’s problems, we need to create a safe space for ourselves to comfortably listen from.
Like visualizing yourself in an impermeable bubble of Divine Light.
Or imagining an object placed between you and the listener, that becomes the emotional sponge in your place.
We don’t need to lock ourselves away from the world or try to ‘not care’. We infact need to remind ourselves mentally that we can remain detached and still help others.
Detachment being the key word, lets walk our way back to the spiritual side.
Detachment means to be able to hear a problem, and then foresee a better outcome. Without being shaken by the problem itself.
It means operating from a higher frequency of thought.
This, thus, means always choosing a higher frequency until it becomes second nature – that I am AWARE I am able to make this choice freely and voluntarily every time.
What are these frequencies I am talking about?
I love the Nicheren Buddhism philosophy that suggests, each being holds 10 different states of mind within themselves. These are called the Ten Worlds.
Our behavior fluctuates between each of these states. Well, it fluctuates as long as we are unconscious and operating on auto-pilot. But we can choose the frequency by repeatedly staying aware and growing gentle in our ‘reaction’ in situations.
The Ten Worlds are, in ascending order of the degree of free will, compassion and happiness one feels, the worlds of: (1) hell, (2) hungry spirits, (3) animals, (4) asuras, (5) human beings (6) heavenly beings, (7) voice-hearers, (8) cause-awakened ones, (9) bodhisattvas, and (10) Buddhas.As explained on the Sokka Gakkai website
Operating from higher frequencies becomes our way to experience detachment.
But is compassion even possible, if we are detached?
True compassion can be understood when we hear stories of enlightened Masters such as the Buddha that would become teary-eyed in seeing another’s pain, in seeing the plight of the world around.
Compassion may not necessarily mean attachment – it means sometimes, to be able to experience the emotion by letting it pass through you. What does that mean? It means not holding back, understanding that is a byproduct of humanness and simply holding the space for yourself to process the emotion out of your system.
Yet at the same time, we are staying rooted in the knowing, that we are not the emotions we are experiencing and that we are holding space for another person to share their load.
This led me to think – is THIS why we feel better when we share our problems? Because we literally share our problem?
I don’t want this talk about emotional sponge to scare the empaths of the world. I want all this to empower you, by showing you that yes, you are a being of great capacity, that has immense love and care. The skills that you need to work on now, are detachment and healthy emotional boundaries.
All the empaths reading this, give me a holler and let me know if this changes things for you! 🙂
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