As a self proclaimed empath and highly sensitive person, I have met many challenges on the road in a less than sensitive world. My hope in sharing is so that others like myself do not feel so alone. The work that I do with my fellows is more about finding comfort in being seen by those that can. When an empath is properly mirrored and affirmed we stop blaming the “experiencer”. Like most empaths, we feel deeply and we feel what others are feeling in our bodies. Even if an empath struggles with embodiment due to trauma or over intellectualizing, there is still a visceral experience that can convince an uninformed empath that they are the problem.
One of the most common reports I hear from clients is that they tend to feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood by those that they care for. Many, unfortunately, are surrounded by those that do not have the same sensibilities but tend to reap the benefits more from the empath’s presence. It is important to note, that not everyone can mirror an empath which is why these feelings are ever so prevalent. The good news is, that other empaths can mirror empaths like no other. To further support this notion, there are studies that correlate the amount of mirroring neurons to the ability to express accurate empathy. Perhaps, this would explain why graduates from my empath coursework report finally feeling a sense of connection with others that understand what it is like to feel more than one’s own senses.
An example of empath mirroring would be going to the grocery store and the person behind you in the check out line begins to tell you their life story and starts off by saying “I have no idea why I am telling you this…”.In addition, your friends and family seek counsel and comfort from you when they are struggling despite their inability to return the favor and you feel like you ought to start charging for services. This, in all sincerity, is partly why I chose to go back to grad school for counseling psychology as a second career.
For those that get to be in the presence of a mirroring empath gain access to seeing themselves in favorable light. This is why the troubled Narcissist who has no sense of self albeit grandiose in demeanor, loves the reflection they see in an uninformed empath’s rosy glasses. This natural optimism helps the empath to see the best in some of humanity’s most deeply wounded. Although this is not a crime in and of itself to love unconditionally, it proves to be quite problematic in an empath’s life when they find themselves in the dragon’s lair, fighting off the very beast they sought to love.
So what is a compassionate person to do? Do you continue to be the sacrificial lamb? Do you continue to put your emotional needs aside without reciprocity? I think not. The trick here is to remember that if you are in fact reflective and when you emit as strongly as you feel, you have the power illuminate. Please do not confuse this with codependent programming that purports you are here to fix or change anyone! This is merely to say that if you mirror what is already on the ground level, you too will become a doormat. With careful self reflection (and your own truama work), one can say the thing you never got to hear from those you so desperately seek affirmative from, only to find that you are the loving person you have been looking for all along. When you cease to engage in this dynamic, the other is left to their own devices to grow, struggle, and hopefully gain from their own ability to mirror themselves more accurately and if not, it cannot be helped.
Written by Stacey Cohen, MA, LPC
One of the joys of being an entrepreneur is being able to create my own content and offerings. As a therapist in a field that gives little support to those that help others, I have always wanted to create programs that facilitated healing for the people on the front lines in the mental health and helping professions. The irony of such a desire, is that many energetically sensitive healers, are resistant to getting their own help due to becoming slowly overtime, desensitized by the medical model that purports to be empirically tested and most effective. Granted, big pharma has banked on these statistics but the human need of autonomy may be dismissed. Ironically enough, there is also a shadow side to the healing profession that does not talk about the shame of seeking help as a therapist. The people you may be going to for help could see you as competition on one hand and on the other, may know someone who could potentially hire and refer you. Some of the thoughts a healer might experience might be, “what if they judge me for my dirty laundry?!” “What if they too discredit or minimize my abilities like everyone else has?”
I have always been a strong supporter of the belief that it is important to do your own inner work so that you can be a more effective therapist and coach. Yet, after years of firing many of the therapists I have worked with at some point or another, I had to dig deep to decide what was the truth of the matter. One reason, was that these well meaning therapists did not know what an empath was and had neglected to address this as a primary focus for healing. I was also not given tools for coping with large amounts of energy and emotion (energy in motion) coming at me from others. Most of the time, it was the symptoms that got all the spotlight at the expense of the “experiencer”.
Traditional individual psychology is based on individualism from a predominantly male North Eastern European background with heavy hitting players such as Freud, Fritz Pearls, and C.G, Jung that tells the “experiencer” that they are projecting rejected parts of themselves due to a lack of individuation. With much respect to the forefathers of my beloved profession, I call a bold order for reformation to update the data.
These types of theories are great for people who struggle with lack of responsibility, struggle with denial as a coping mechanism, and have a poor to low sense of self. People struggling with addiction and those with chronic depression, those stuck in learned hopelessness tend to benefit greatly from this work. However, for the empath, addictive behaviors are reported to stem from learned helplessness from lack of mirroring the energetically sensitive’s abilities and sensibilities. The contrary approach of projection only further traumatizes the empath who needs to be seen, acknowledged, and heard with affirming and non-judgmental eyes for once in their life. An empath’s ability to empathize other people’s struggle, demonstrates the existence of self and Higher Self within the empath. To the uninformed empath, knowing who’s pain they are feeling is paramount. What individualistic psychology does not account for is that the empath feels others people’s feelings inside their very own body which makes the multiplicity tough to address with single focused interventions.
As an avid attendee in the spirituality community, I started to develop some considerable disdain for a common statement that implied the nature of Unity in Consciousness. What I heard over and over again by what appeared to be well-meaning people as they deflected a compliment from another stating, “I am but a mere reflection of you!”. To be fair, I suspect that this false sense of humility is paved with “good” intent, all in the name of “Oneness.” A true paradoxical conundrum at best when trying to raise the frequency by sharing care, light, love, and acknowledgment that every soul needs to evolve. One of my favorite speakers and Love Revolution leaders, Matt Kahn shares that this mentality is like “spiritual narcissism” which I tend to agree with him on. Yet, if that is the case, then most people’s feelings get spiritually bi-passed and shut down when offering the love that the spirituality movement purports is about.
Most of the time when I was seeking emotional and energetic support in my history, I was told, you are smart enough, capable enough, strong enough, and wise enough. Yet, what was troubling me was never addressed. Granted, I too did not know what an empath was, with no understanding of this to share this crucial bit of information with my provider. Please know that I wanted to share what I was experiencing as an energetically sensitive person but felt I would be directed to someone who would dismiss my experience as delusional or minimize my feelings of overwhelm of other people’s energy as projections. This only furthered my healing journey and searched for a spec of common reflection. It was not until I started to take more time away from both of these communities did I start to feel the reprieve I was seeking. This, in fact, is how I came to develop the empath programs that I am now facilitating.
What most people in and out of the field do not know is that empaths are the greatest mirrors on the planet. Yup, you heard me right! I claimed my seat! We have an intrinsic internal mechanism (extra mirroring neurons) that has the ability to shine back on others their reflection of self. We are shiny and full of light so that people can see themselves more clearly. Hence, why true narcissists and people with personality disorders whose self is either non-existent or broken flock to us. As I continue facilitating groups for empaths and work individually with fellow sojourners, I continuously see the power of proper reflection and the gifts of positive unconditional regard. Those that do not have this trait, have little to no ability to do so because they will always benefit from an empaths light. What an empath needs is respite from being a helper with no return. Sacred reciprocity is one of my favorite terms that illuminates the phenomenon of getting empaths together in one place. No one person leaves empty or drained. We all drink from the well and leave full. This is the magic that I am hoping to offer to the healing communities at large. My hope is that my format and tools offered will be one of many formats in the future that continues to allow being a healer as a sustainable professional and avocational choice. I plan on doing this work for a very long time and wish the same for you if you so choose. Blessings and prosperity to you all.
Please stay tuned for more offerings for empaths, HSPs, and those on the neurodivergent spectrum!
Stacey Cohen, MA, LPC