A brilliant new resource for empaths.

As empaths we need all the resources and knowledge at our disposal to stay healthy and learn about the dynamics of emotions and energy exchange, that is why I was so pleased to come across the new book by medical doctor and empathic wise woman Christine Northrup : Dodging Energy Vampires : An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.  

Dodging

It is already confirming a lot of things I have experienced and explains well the biological changes in stress hormones that we produce in relationship to being in toxic or draining relationships with others when we are very open to love and care as empaths and most especially those of us who never got a lot of emotional needs met in a healthy way in our families of origin.

I am just going to share a bit of it in this post to help readers.  This extract concerns how empaths in believing they should always work to help, heal or show support to others often stay stuck in detrimental relationships which cause us not only psychic and psychological pain but also increasing ill health or susceptibility to auto immune difficulties, weight gain and/or loss and other diseases.

If you’re in a relationship with an energy vampire, the question is: Why don’t you get out?  Why don’t you speak up and protect yourself?

As I mentioned, many empaths do get out. They see the problems and ditch the vampire pronto.  But for those who don’t there are two main reasons.  First, you are naturally compassionate and caring, so you may simply miss the red flags.  That can happen if you’re not paying full attention to your intuition and the circumstances surrounding you.  And second, your wounds have created in you a powerful desire to be accepted and an overwhelming belief that you shouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings.  And for old soul empaths, there is a third things that keeps us stuck:  We truly believe that our love and caring can heal other people – in this case, the vampire.  And although we may see the red flags, we believe that things will be different with us – that those other people who hurt the vampire just didn’t have the skill and compassion that we have.

While our initial response to the inevitable ill treatment of us in anger, hurt, and disappointment , we quickly squelch these natural feelings and replace them with guilt – something we learned to do in the past, either way far back in another lifetime or in childhood.  Or, more likely, both.

We make the mistake of thinking that energy vampires are as sensitive as we are.  We don’t want to risk hurting their feelings, so in order to protect them and their feelings – and because we are so good at solving problems in all the other areas of our lives – we keep giving them our energy and draining ourselves rather than risk standing up to them, standing up for ourselves, and owning how angry, hurt, and disappointed we really feel.  And then ending the relationship.

….trying to convince them to get help and to change their ways…..is a dead end street.. because they don’t change.  What has to change in every single relationship with an energy vampire is you.

The lack of self worth and need to be accepted and need to be loved that many of us have makes us a perfect target for energy vampires and the darker parts of human nature.  (This what we most need to work to change in order to heal the toxic pattern.)

Christine goes on to explain also how the Buddhist concept of sending love to those who hurt, angered or betrayed us is also not useful for empaths, something that has bothered me in the past when I have read up on Buddism and also when I was in AA.  The appropriate response to these kind of feelings should not be to work harder to forgive those who upset, distress or abuse us or don’t want to change or seek a true spritual or psychological solution or healing.  Really who we should be loving and praying and caring for is ourselves and those other kind, supportive, emotionally healthy people in our life who actually give to us rather than drain our energy or suck away our life’s blood continually.

Holding to our boundary?

I guess every victim of emotional neglect or abuse has a struggle knowing what’s what, who is really harmful and better not to be around.  Feeling anxious when we receive a call from one of our ‘triggers’ can be a trigger, but due to our past holes in development we don’t alway feel we have the right not to take the call.  I just read a post on unconditional love and part of me thought, yeah, I am not sure that I believe in that any more.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt or trying to be stronger or a bigger person is what a Good Guy with the feeling we dont have a right to legitimate needs or boundaries is taught to do by conditioning.

When love is absent and real care and empathy, where do we go?  What we experience is a terrible numbness, emptiness or void, a soul pain that often is not understood intellectually but since our body is really the home of our soul, somewhere inside our bodies know and yet for a child in this situation what can we do.  When we cannot leave physically, we choose a form of dissociation, its something I have been thinking a lot about while reading writer Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography.   Many of us escape into books or tv or we start to write from a young age.  Like me Jeanette never had her boundaries respected, her adoptive mother violated them and read her diaries, she threw out and burned all of her books.  Jeanette wrote in the quote I posted yesterday that she learned early on that anything could be taken, and the only thing that could not was her what was inside, her capacity to express and to create.  For some of us, however, if our insides are invalidated and we are told we are bad or selfish it can be hard to hold onto the internal reality, too.

The abuser who wants control over us wants to destroy our reality as well as our understanding of them as a perpetrator so they turn it around on us, we are the ones who are selfish or too vulnerable or too sensitive for just feeling normal feelings that any caring emotionally connected person would.  I had a commenter on one of my blogs yesterday tell me that feelings will get us in trouble, yes if we dont know how to use them as internal messaging systems and I dont think the person really got the jist of the post.   This does not apply to feeling ‘bad’ which is a feeling that may be grown by thoughts that we are incompetent in some way when really that is just a form of depression or an introjected voice talking to us inside our heads.

Dissociation for many of us was a way to survive trauma.  It was a way of preserving the inner self, the problem comes when we turn self protection and externalised fear into global concepts where we feel the entire world is bad and not to be trusted.  As survivors we will always be wary and we need good boundaries.  We need to know what hurt us was valid and not just all in our imagination as we will often be told by gaslighters.  We need to trust our feelings not fear them and then put them to good use.   We may also not ever need to forgive certain abuse and this need to forgive may be something that is forced on us by moralistic people.   Abuse is not okay, its not okay to trammel a sensitive person and lead them to believe their reality is skewed when they are trying to be who they are and express their true and real selves.   I had to leave one Al Anon group when two members told me I was not allowed to express anger over my Mum’s abandonment of me as a child.  While I know my Mum went through something similar she never allowed herself to be angry at her own mother and as a result she never had good emotional awareness or strong boundaries later in life.  The pain meds she was on in the end ruined the last years of her life.

I have watched two siblings struggle with anger and self assertion.  I have seen them cut down when they were trying to break free but also I have seen them become manic with the unresolved fear and anxiety we all absorbed in our family home was not contained or made sense of in therapy only treated medically with a cocktail of drugs.  I’ll be damned if I will shut up about it.  I makes me angry and so, so sad.  My living sister is not able to be emotionally and assertively present in any way these days and she is collapsed as a person.  In the end she could not break out of her feeling wounded prison.   It makes me cry,  especially leading up the anniversary of my older sister’s death which occured on Easter Sunday in 2014.

Knowing who we are.  Holding to our boundary.  Knowing what we feel makes perfect sense these things can only come out of the long hard painstaking work of emotional recovery and these things are not given to us we have to earn our right to boundaries over and over again and we struggle so remorsefully with self doubt as our ego strength was never encouraged.  As children we were not helped to develop a heathy ego or good boundaries, in fact we were conversely actively stymied in our emotional education and so we have work extra hard now.  And we cannot afford to open once again to emotional invalidation from those who would try to convince us our boundaries are wrong or there is something wrong with us for protesting neglect, abuse or betrayal, that it is wrong to have an ego and that we should come to love everyone unconditionally.  Yes hurt people hurt people and we can have compassion but if that means we lose our own passion for rigourous emotional health and self care that kind of over compassion can be dangerous.

Teach me to care and not to care (too much)!

It’s not easy for me to even write the above headliner for this post.  I feel that at all times I need to have compassion for others and that it may be my responsibility to do something to make things better, after all isn’t that what open hearted, caring people do?  That said I know when I get into trouble by being over concerned for another person’s suffering.  It then affects me a lot and makes it harder for me to live my life, I may also feel that if I don’t show enough empathy or compassion I am being mean or may lose connection or love when really I may just be trying to draw a boundary between not over giving and my own needs.

In the early days of my last relationship a lot of it was given over to hearing all about the pain of my ex’s past failed relationship with a girlfriend who went into a psychosis.  I am not entirely clear but I am sure drugs of some kind were involved at the time.  I was abstinent then for over 13 years of sobriety and knowing I was a sober person in recovery attracted him to me, while we were together he tried to ‘pretend’ he wasn’t in to drinking or drugging though I would never put that kind of pressure on a relationship ever as my ex husband drank moderately throughout all the 11 years of our marrage.  I had alarm bells go off when he was down playing not only this last person he was in relationship with as well as his ex wife, saying all kinds of things about her and how she let him down which turned out to be all untrue when I found out the real story a few months after our relationship ended.  Toward the end I also heard he had been drinking and drugging behind my back and then trying to blame me for putting pressure on him NOT To which I NEVER did.

Anyway, all throughout the relationship I was often pressured to give up my boundary if I was to gain his love.  He made it clear early on that his needs came first.   I was to keep in line and support him as he needed it and it was made clear that if I got ‘over emotional’ I would be shut out, sometimes for days or weeks at a time.  Sadly I was starting to grieve so many of my earlier losses just before I met him and that relationship gave me an opportunity to lift the lid on a lot of pain that I was then shamed and blamed for.   I was told that I must do therapy but it was out of the question for him….

Long story short I ended up giving myself away to be loved and in the end losing myself along the way while unconsciously blaming myself for not measuring up.  And now that I am thinking of trying to have a relationship again a lot of this is rearing its head…..I have a lot of fears based on past things he said to me that still dog me even though several therapists have pointed out to me that they were not reasonable nor true.

This time around I know I need to take care of me and keep my boundaries strong.   I can be compassionate but not fall for sob stories, even after that last relationship I got scammed on internet sites twice for not large sums of money (but considerable ones).  I ended up putting a boundary in place with the first guy and was foolish to trust the second one when he said it was just a loan to cover an over extension that would be paid back in a few weeks. It was just another lesson in a different form.

Anyway it was while thinking of this issue that I just picked up Bev Aisbett’s book on 30 Days 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety and it opened to page 158 of Day 23 entitled “None of Your Beeswax” a chapter devoted to the dangers of people pleasing (which she points out is very common to people experiencing anxiety, in her words “especially if LITTLE YOU is seeing others as having POWER over you”).

if you’re trying to keep everyone happy (usually at your own expense) then you’re either letting people wander all over your space, doing what they like in YOUR territory, or you’re jumping the fence to fix their broken tape or dig up their weeds while they LET YOU.

RESCUING is another form of people pleasing.  It means you spend a lot of time worrying about others’ problems, advising them, jumping in to help them if you think they aren’t up to doing things themselves.

While all this sounds NOBLE it can, in fact, be a big factor in keeping your OVERWHELMED and ANXIOUS.  That is because you’re not only trying to meet your own needs (if at all) but you are also second guessing the needs of OTHERS.

Freeing yourself from wobbly boundaries is the undertanding that you can’t really SAVE anyone; nor is it your job.  It is also the understanding that what others do is not yours to TAKE ON BOARD, nor CONTROL.

The only way for a person to solve his or her problem is first to OWN it and take RESPONSIBILITY for it.  Not everyone one WILL do that but basically, if it’s not YOUR problem, it’s not yours to SOLVE.

The only thing you have CONTROL over is how you RESPOND to their behavior.

When you spend less time worrying about what someone ELSE is doing, you have more time to get you sorted

According to Aisbett a key clue to the fact we may have lost a boundary or over run it is : feelings of resentment during or after an interaction.  When working with boundaries we also need to be honest about when reactions are coming out of a fear of disapproval from someone.  We need to be fearless and honest in stating our limit about what we need and don’t need as well and this can be threatening or triggering if we fear abandonment due to past issues.

As I look back to my difficult relationship with my ex I can now see he had no problem with setting his own boundaries and I am sure I had lesson in this regard.  A failure of empathy though is an issue which can be damaging.

We can show empathy to someone without feeling like we need to fix or solve things for them.  Showing empathy actually has been proved to increase the production of feel good hormones such as oxytocin.  But when empathy becomes over care, over concern and over giving, it soon becomes problematic and may come from a refusal at times to take care of our own life.  It may also be a strong contributing factor to anxiety.

A head’s up on intuitive empathy.

I just wanted to write this post to help and inform any followers or readers who know or feel they may be empaths (and this often applies to the Highly Sensitive amongst us, although according to Elaine Aron there is a difference between HSP’s and empaths) out there.  I just listened to a very good two CD set by psychiatrist and energy worker, Judith Orloff on positive energy practices for what she calls intuitive empaths.

I truly do believe that we were all born with intuition.  I believe as babies and children we were open and aware to energies out there and felt by osmosis things in the environment which entered us way before we found words to make meaning or sense of them.

If you read some books on borderline personality disorder they make the claim that people who end up with this kind of diagnosis or way of being in the world were actually more highly wired or keyed in emotionally to shadow stuff and then if that kind of sensitivity is coupled with a cold, rejecting or emotionally invalidating or discounting environment the capacity to self soothe and respond in a positive way is lost as well an appreciation of the self and within the self for the degree of sensitivity and attunement we do have.  We can then get wounded or hurt in such ways and more deeply and when these wounds and hurts are not treated with compassion and care.  Without self knowledge and self protective boundaries our behaviour and responses in later life can become problematic.  There can also be a tendency to seek self soothing through the use of addictions or other destructive behaviours as ways of coping with overload.

Being wounded as a highly sensitive person though is not what I started out to address in this post. What I wanted to share is that how as an intuitive and empathic person you are open all of the time to signals in the environment as well as energies that other just may not be.  If you are empathic, your energy naturally goes out in love and care towards others and then you can become subject to energy vampires or those who pull on your energy in ways that may not be healthy for you.  If you are conditioned to over ride the body feelings that let you know you are losing your boundary or absorbing difficult emotions from others it can be counterproductive as well as bad for both your physical and emotional health to be around those who are not taking care of their own energy.

Judith Orloff shares in her work about how as a child she was naturally open to feeling things and seeing things and her mother’s response was to shut her down or tell her she got things wrong or should not feel or see what she was.  Slowly she came to awareness of how such responses actually sent her away from her own gifts.  She now works as a therapist with people who so often struggle and over ride their own intuition and get prayed upon or put down by those who do not really fully appreciate the truth of who they are.

For anyone who may be interested here is the link to Judith Orloff and the mentioned CD.

PEP Jo.jpg

As intuitive empaths ecognising when our energy is getting sucked on or when we are carrying other people’s stuff is very important to not only our emotional and psychological health but to our physical health as well.  Having strategies to deal in effective ways is also important and some of these are explored on these 2 CDs by Judith.

 

Letting go of numb

The following extract comes from Tara Brach’s book True Refuge : Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.  Interestingly it concerns a woman who Tara was working with in therapy who as a young child had her long hair cut off by her mother as it was too much bother. I was sharing in a post a few days ago how this also happened to me and the trauma of it was felt when I went to the hairdresser late last week following my Mum’s death.   The woman in question, Jane, had also had her mother die a few years before the time she was seeing Tara.  In therapy she was sharing how the pain of this event had awakened in her heart through intense feelings of fear, felt as a claw “pulling and tearing at my heart”.  What followed was an outburst of anger towards her mother for subjecting Jane to this ordeal.

The anger soon turned into deep sadness as Tara worked with Jane encouraging her to feel the pain and grief deeply in her body, and in time it transformed into peace.  Jane had reached some deeply powerful realisations as a result.

Brach writes the following in her book :

Carl Jung wrote, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.”  The outer domain of our unlived life includes all the places where we’ve held back from pursuing and manifesting our potential – in education and career, in relationships and creativity.  But it is the inner domain of our unlived life that sets this suffering in motion.  Here we find raw sensations, the longings and hurts, the passions and fears that we have not allowed ourselves to feel. When we pull away from the energetic basis of our experience, we turn away from the truth of what is.  We make a terrible bargain.  When we separate from the felt sense of our pain, we also separate from the visceral experience of love that allows for true intimacy with others.  We cut ourselves off from the sensory aliveness that connects us with the natural world.  When there is unlived life, we can’t take good care of ourselves, our children, our world.

The feelings you are trying to ignore are like a screaming child who has been sent to her room.  You can put earplugs in and barricade yourself in the farthest end of the house, but the body and the unconscious mind don’t forget.  Maybe you feel tension or guilt.  Maybe…. you are baffled by intimacy or haunted by a sense of meaninglessness. Maybe you fixate on all the things you need to get done.  You can’t live in a spontaneous way because your body and mind are still reacting to the presence of your distressed child.  Everythingy ou do to ignore her, including becoming numb, only strengthens your link with her.  Your very felt sense of who you are …is fused with the experience of pushing away a central part of your life or running from it.

In shutting down the passion, hurt and pain she had experienced as a young girl whose precious hair was butchered, Jane had locked herself into a numb and anxious fragment of who she was.  Yet something in her was calling her to live more fully.  By beginning to contact her body’s experience, by touching ground, she was opening the door to what she had been running from.

Traumas of this kind may seem inconsequential, but really they are not.  Something was done to us we didn’t want or need and had no power over and feelings do remain.   The true self in Jane probably loved her long hair,  it wasn’t all just about ego and looking a certain way, hair does hold our power and is connected to our heads which are such a vital part of our being. To be subjected to something that upset us and then to be laughed at for reacting (as Jane was) leaves a scar and a powerful subliminal message.  Going numb to it does not mean the feelings go away, they need to be dealt with, with compassion and sensitivity.

Sweet Solace

AB

Sweet solace

Is like a soft blanket of velvet you wrap around me

When my being is pierced

By a terrible pain

That won’t stay outside of my skin

They say to me

Put on your armour

And take care not to feel so much

Yes, I can see some wisdom in that

But does it not also mean

Closing down a part of my soul

That longs to stay open

Or steming a tidal flow from the heart

That needs to flow?

Instead

Sweet solace says

I see you

I hear you

I feel you

This hurt is real

Here is some healing balm

Given from my soul to yours

Salve to soothe your wounds

And help you find rest

Solace you are so sweet

So thank you

You who gave me

The gift of this comfort

At such a dark and deeply painful time

Making myself wrong : taking on other’s burdens, some reflections.

I wrote this post late last night after working through some of the events of the past week.

think I tend to take on a lot of responsibility for situations I did not cause.  Someone pointed this out to me in a comment on another post.  That when we care and know pain and can feel it deeply there really is no insulation that we have from other’s pain. The best we can do is make a decision with our minds to detach from it and be realistic about the limits of our involvement.

In this current situation that I have been sharing about over past weeks there is a long history going back to 1980 when critical events took place in my family.   I make sense of a lot through astrological cycles and when I look to current transits I see what is being triggered at the moment but so much of it was way outside of my control, never the less the ricochet effects deeply affected me.   I was at that stage coming out of my own motor vehicle trauma when the trauma befell my sister and I was about to embark on studies that got aborted and then I got no counselling to help me and was very much on my own in the coming years after my father died.

When I got sober in 1993 I had all of this trauma still locked up inside me.  I tried my best to come to terms with it but I was not helped by my partner nor family and at that point I see I would have been best to make a complete break away, but I needed some kind of support.  Today I was clear with my sister that I could not go to the hospital with my Mum in the ambulance and that I could not go to the hospital tonight either.  My three hours there on Monday night set me back big time on Tuesday.   I don’t want to go under again and if I am going to continue to make progress it really is time to start setting some boundaries.

To be honest as much as I loved my nephew’s company, staying up late while he was drinking and smoking a lot was not something thats good for me.  I had a lot of cleaning up to do yesterday and we had torrential rain while they were here.  When he left he hadnt cleaned anything up.  There were his dirty dishes in the sink and outside a dish full to the brim of cigarette buts with rain water in them.  I cleaned it all up yesterday and finally feel that I have my space back.  I am glad to be able to have my sanctuary here back, as its where I recharge myself.   Now I just need to work to keep at bay critical thoughts and keep practicing self care.

On that note I went to the library this afternoon and a book was waiting I ordered in called Finding True Refuge,  I don’t know if any of you have read the author Tara Brach’s earlier book Radical Acceptance, I  read it quite a few years ago and got a lot out of it, in it she talks a lot about shame and how she came face to face with her own on her spiritual path.  In this one she speaks about cultivating a loving kindness meditation practice where we seek refuge within, in the silent interior spaces of our heart.   I already got a lot out of the first 30 pages I read this afternoon.

The idea of seeking and finding a refuge within appeals to me.  It is what I feel in that nourishing, nurturing, alone time of solitude when I touch base with a source of peace that lives beyond all the traumatic events others seem to keep bringing into my life.  I am aware that on an astrological level Saturn and healthy mature adult boundaries and protections are an antidote to all my strong Neptunian tendency to be overly empathic and compassionate.  With Jupiter magnifying Neptune in Scorpio’s influence lately (by transit) I was also warned in another reading/interpretation by astrologer Leah Whitehorse that what people are saying or projecting may not be totally true or based on reality.   I need to keep a mindful watch over my own energy frequency now.   I was starting to feel happiness and contentment and experiencing solid sleep before my nephew’s visit last week.

I got a lot out of the visit but it also made me aware that as an empath I can and do take on other people’ s struggle and suffering at times.  My therapist suggested this week that when I get full to the brim with it, I try to discharge that energy by grounding, putting my feet on the earth and letting it flow down out and away from me.  Last week after each afternoon walk I was taking off first one shoe and then the other to place each bare feet on the ground to earth myself and settle my energy.

Its interesting to me that I got breast cancer just a few months after my older sister was diagnosed.  When I think of the amount of trauma we both went through from 2005 – 2015 when we were both diagnosed it doesnt surprise me.  Tbere is an element of strong enmeshment in our stories.

Anyway I will keep working to have better boundaries and become more aware when I feel the saviour archetype is overpowering me.   I should not make myself responsible for what others have to bear.  At the same time I need to be aware of their boundaries as well.   I notice that so often what I give is not so often reciprocated.   I dont give to get but when you do have a giving heart its so important to keep a balance.  If we give more than we get back it can tend to make us ill or drained.   This is something I need to keep a really close watch on in myself.