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A typical cold winter morning in the Cape Winelands. No snow on the mountains, we're having a warm spell.

A typical cold winter morning in the Cape Winelands. No snow on the mountains, we’re having a warm spell.

Waking up this morning to fresh crisp air, the only sound is the birds and the rustling of leaves in the trees…bliss! I am on a well needed week away from home in the Cape Winelands. While I am away from the usual distractions and business of Cape Town; I have the time and head space to think deeper and clearer.

There has been more discussion and research following my last post, I am finding that the label “empath” is not something that I would want to wear on a badge. Not that it is some terrible thing, hardly that; but I find that although I was so relieved to finally put a name to my experiences, I am not so keen to be labelled and confined to a set definition.

From what I have read about this topic, I have simplified the definition for my self and made it easier to explain; being an empath simply means I am more sensitive to people’s emotions and pain – which then makes it easier for me to help them or to intercede for them – since I experience their experience  on a personal level instead of from a detached position. Although it does have the potential to complicate my role as a counsellor, the term ‘mindfulness’ is a great help here.

Perhaps an illustration from my counsellor training days would make it even easier to understand;

empathy: when you come across someone stuck in a ditch, you throw them a rope and help them come out

sympathy: when you come across someone stuck in a ditch, you jump in with them and try to figure out how to get out together

Counsellors should ideally not be sympathetic, rather empathetic. However, for an empath, the decision is not conscious, you are thrown into ditches with random people and you experience some or all of what they experience with them, without them even knowing it. Some experience the physical  pain of others, some emotional, some spiritual. whatever the case, the experience is unpleasant and often unwelcome.

Reading the stories of Christian empaths and how they deal with this trait has shown me a simple and effective way forward. Prayer. Being made by God means that He is the only one who knows me intricately, in complete detail, I mean He still has my blueprint (probably). So committing this to Him is my best – and only option.

The process is simple; identify what the emotion is. Then identify if this emotion has anything to do with me or anything I am currently dealing with. If it is completely foreign – which is relatively easier to tell if one really thinks about it- then I pray for whoever it is that is really experiencing that emotion. Here’s an example; I was in a bus on the way to the retreat on Sunday afternoon. I had been to church, my sister dropped me off at the bus station and I was truly looking forward to the trip. I didn’t have any particular thoughts going through my mind, besides watching the scenery outside the window. There was music playing, love songs from the 80’s and 90’s, songs that I enjoy listening to which made the ride even better. Out of nowhere, I start feeling really sad, I mean really sad to the point of tears.

Normally, I would have started asking myself why I want so badly to cry, whats wrong with me now, I’m going to the most beautiful relaxing place for a whole week, taking time off to de-stress, why do I want to cry? Instead, I started to pray for whoever was in that bus that was on the verge of tears, the feeling of loss and regret kept coming up so I prayed for comfort into those areas and asked God to speak to that person. The music might have brought up memories for someone and made them regret a decision made, I don’t know – and don’t need to know the reason. Needless to say, after that prayer I went back to happily enjoying the music.

I suppose this empath business is really just a way to enhance intercession/praying for others. Prayer becomes so much more meaningful when you are able to discern what the other person is going through (although this is never a strict requirement for interceding), you pray as if you are praying for yourself  – I guess that’s the whole point.

I have actually stopped reading more on this, I am content with my understanding for now. There is a lot more about it that goes into new age beliefs that I am not interested in knowing. My guidance comes from my Creator, and the Holy Spirit – who actually gives the gift of discernment, insight, wisdom and understanding – is the one to talk to about such things. I’m grateful for this platform where sharing leads to learning and growth; but the source of ultimate wisdom remains God.

Remain blessed and highly favoured.

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