About 5 years ago, when I thought I'd figured it all out in the realm of owning a healing practice, a client who I adore to this day said to me:
You are not an empathetic person!
I had no idea how to respond to her, I really thought I was doing a great job of being there for her, supporting her, loving her, offering an opportunity for healing and expansion. With a little bit of thought I responded that I was offering my absolute best for every session and really wanting to help people move toward comprehensive healing.
But I felt some defensiveness boiling inside of me and I also felt some guilt.
I found myself in contrast, in order to be a great healer do I have to feel and experience what my clients are feeling in order to truly help them? Or is it okay that I hear them and feel for them but don't share their experience? I had experienced and worked with my own hurt, pain and trauma.
When I really thought about it, I didn't want to feel their pain, I didn't want to experience the trauma they had.
I resolved myself to being okay with this part of me. I'm not an empath. Cool. Moving on. I would see an article every now and again about empaths. And that same little stream of guilt would flood in. I started to think, I have to find a way to be a little more gentle with myself and with others. And I did, but I couldn't quite put the words to what was happening.
Years later, I am reminded of this conversation as I listen to a podcast where the host is talking about a profound difference between being empathetic and compassionate and that that difference was that with empathy comes a choice to share the emotion of the experience someone else is sharing. But with compassion, one remains present and is supportive but does not take on the experience.
The contrast I felt within myself was not that I wasn't empathetic, but that I wasn't allowing myself to be compassionate. I wasn't trusting my inner guidance in saying its okay to feel for someone, but it's also okay NOT to feel what they're feeling.
Being able to differentiate these two emotions was key for me.
It allowed me to maintain my truth, which is that I can only be offering the best to others when I am at my best and being at my best means not being an empath, but it does mean offering authentic compassion.
This is an emotional choice that feels healthy to me and feels light.
I want to offer you this question: