The Arachnid: Potentials Of Perception

•October 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

It was a cool balmy spring day as Emily sat with her friend, Robert, in a couple of overstuffed mix-matched chairs, drinking coffee and talking.  It was their weekly ritual to stake out a place for themselves around lunch time at the local coffee shop.  Sunlight streamed into the tiny shop through its floor to ceiling windows, glinting off the glass tabletop between Emily and Robert.  The sudden flash of light instantly reminded her that she had something she desperately wanted to talk to Robert about.  Reaching over, Emily caught her friend’s attention by waving her hand excitedly in his face.  Seeing him look up from his coffee mug, she started relating her story to him.

 

Emily had a strange dream a few nights before which she jokingly called her whirlwind into wonderland.  She said that it started off with her walking through a forest where she came upon a wide open field filled with what looked like dark blue grass.  As she got closer, she noticed that it wasn’t grass at all.  The field was filled with iridescent indigo flames which rose out of shards of broken glass littering the landscape.  Suddenly, Emily noted that there was a bear next to her, nudging her forward with its nose.  It was as though, the bear had randomly come out of nowhere in order to get her to step into the field of glass and flames.  So, she made the choice to move forward.

 

Heart pounding and drenched in fear, Emily took her first tentative steps into the field.  To her amazement, as she placed one foot in front of the other, she was neither burned nor cut by the obstacles in her path.  Because of this realization, her footsteps quickened and became more confident.  Before she realized it, she was close to the center of the field and could look into its heart, where she discovered a gigantic boulder.

 

Emily stood, lost in thought, causing her to effectively miss the shadows which had started passing over her head.  One particular shadow began to grow larger and larger, as though something were descending from the sky.  And as the shadow grew in size, it finally drew Emily’s eyes skyward where she was confronted with the most terrifying thing she had ever seen.  She found herself looking up into the numerous eyes of a humongous black spider with an hour glass on its back, as it descended from the heavens and landed on the boulder.

 

At that point, Emily transformed into a small brown spider and climbed on the back of the larger creature.  The larger spider turned and crawled up a thin silvery thread that stretched down from the sky.  In a single moment, Emily found herself surrounded by darkness.  And as the darkness stretched out into infinity, she saw other thin silvery threads cascading in every possible direction.  Where each glistening thread met another, they became connected by a small shimmering gemstone.  Just as there were gemstones everywhere, she also discovered other smaller spiders, moving around the infinite chaos of the web, in every shape, size, and color imaginable.  In that moment, even in a dream, she felt a sense of wondrous understanding she had never known before.

 

When she was done talking, Emily asked Robert what he thought it meant.  He laughed, smiled, and sipped his coffee, before looking at her and shaking his head to indicate his indecision.  And finally he told her, “I don’t know.  But whatever else, Em, lay off the scary movies before bed from now on.”

 

Much like Emily, it is common for people to attempt to interpret their world through archetypes, symbols, and metaphors.  This is done in order to find a way to explain and explore the unknown in a way that is easily navigated by the person doing the interpreting.  Contrariwise, there are also people like Robert, who dismiss the interpretation process when it touches upon issues they do not wish to deal with, like arachnophobia.

 

The spider archetype has a long history in the annals of western civilization.  It is traditionally associated with a creator, the fates, a teacher, a destroyer, a trickster or infinity. When some of these associations are combined with the idea that an estimated eighteen percent of men and fifty five percent of women, in western society, experience moderate to extreme levels of fear toward spiders, the idea of the spider can be construed as a conceptual metaphor within many western cultures. In that metaphor, the spider is depicted as something that is viewed with fear and is ultimately reviled.

 

The meaning of this metaphor shifts dramatically when a person moves outside of the narrow scope of western civilization, and begins to understand how other cultures and religions perceive something as small and insignificant as a spider.  Native American tribes, such as the Hopi and the Cherokee, view the spider with reverence, telling parables of her herculean feats and giving her names like Spider Woman or Grandmother Spider.  In other cultures, there are Goddesses dedicated to weaving, since weaving was such a staple of society, such as Neith of Egypt, Athena of Greece, and Minerva of Rome.  Even in religions like Buddhism and Islam, the spider is offered respect through stories where the spider interacts with religious figures of note.

 

Through the expansion of awareness about this one metaphor, from the singular view point of western civilization to that of a more broad based worldly perception, a door is opened.  This door can potentially lead to the development of cultural empathy, where in, a person begins to understand, and even identify with, the feelings, thoughts, and/or behaviors of people from other cultures and religions.  This is only one baby step among many to reach that point, though.  It is also one which can easily become marred or tainted by perceptual filters like religiosity, racism, gender bias or even something as simple as disgust for a spider.

 

Perceptual filters occur when people view the world through a narrowed lens, thus limiting their perception of the external world in some aspect.   There are both positive and negative types of perceptual filters, and this is not a wholly negative thing.  It becomes a hindrance to things like the development of cultural empathy, when one person projects their personal feelings, ideas, biases and beliefs onto the way they perceive and interact with others.   A good representation of this harkens back to slavery in the United States, where in, white slave owners believed themselves better than the slaves that they claimed as property and used indiscriminately as labor.

 

These beliefs were often rationalized and justified through religion.  An example of this kind of justification can be found in the Bible in Genesis 9:25-27, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave’. ”   The purpose of this quote is to act as a foundation for the rationalization of slavery by associating it with the word of God, which to most Christians is incontestable.

 

When a person’s perceptual filters are tainted, their perception of certain aspects of reality can become skewed.  This is true not just in respect to cultural empathy, but also to a person’s ability to interpret external stimuli through the association of personal experience and knowledge.    It can range from an inability to read/interpret emotional and societal cues during social interactions to a rush to judge, based on prejudices, biases, and beliefs, to seemingly overinflated, irrational fears like arachnophobia.

 

Despite the potentiality for misinterpretation, archetypes, metaphors and symbols, much like the spider, stand as gateways or stepping stones along the journey to broaden perception and expand awareness.  It can help the human mind stretch out beyond its self-imposed boundaries and explore all of the things that are waiting to be discovered in the dark unknown.  One small metaphor can act as a catalyst; just as a spider’s web glistening in the morning light can stop you in your tracks and force you to appreciate its simple glory.

 

As for Emily, if she were to delve into her dreams and explore, in depth, some of the metaphors and symbols that permeate her dreamscape, she would probably discover the ability to interpret her own dreams, instead of requiring someone else’s input.  Thus she would begin to learn more and more about herself, and by extension, the world around her.  Robert, on the other hand, exhibited a predilection toward avoidance when confronted with Emily’s dream of the gigantic spider.  Instead of offering any genuine thoughts or advice, he jumped straight into fight or flight mode, colored with sarcasm, and deftly avoided any serious discussion.  If he, instead, had chosen to enter into the discussion seriously, he would have discovered that his initial fears, which brought him to the point of being flippant with Emily, were a gross overestimation.  As well, he might have come to understand that the spider of Emily’s dream was purely metaphoric and represented something esoteric in nature.   In the end, he would have discovered reality is a much larger place than the world he perceives through the tainted perceptual filters of arachnophobia.

 

Abuse: A Memory Lost To Time

•October 17, 2012 • 1 Comment

           
There was a time in my life, which dwells far into my history, even as it feels as though it were only yesterday.  I was fresh out of high school and just out of a horribly turbulent and abusive relationship.  But despite my escape, it still ate away at everything positive I saw inside myself.  It eroded my self-esteem and stymied my dreams, dropping the last shreds of hope I had into a chaotic abyss that I subsequently lost myself in.  During that bleak time in my life, while I drowned in a sea of overwhelming emotions and confusion, I rediscovered something I had lost.  It came in the guise of a child, shining like a beacon in the darkness.  That sliver of gently illuminated hope offered me a reason to go on living and a reason to push forward in my life, instead of just lying in the muck as I was so used to doing.

Being 18 is a hard age for anyone fresh out of high school.  Tack on bouts of depression, the changes one’s life takes on after graduation, and the need to rebel against those we call family, and you have a simmering pot chocked full of potential possibilities, both negative and positive.  That’s about where my life was at that point, except mine had derailed and stagnated after having survived an abusive relationship.  The doctors eventually called it PTSD.  I called it Hell.

I can remember one day, after coming back home, while sitting in my parent’s warm inviting den, with its wooden parquet floors, oversized couches, and an old style wood encased television, that was more furniture than anything else.  I just sat there, lost in contemplation, while my parents and my brother were at work, remembering in photo flashes, what happened to me, as tears streamed down my face without my realizing it.

I saw myself starving for days on end, sometimes for three to four at a time.  I felt, once more, the gnawing hunger that clawed at my belly, as a constant reminder and companion.  And I remembered the thirst that went hand in hand with the loss of eating on a regular basis.  Then I relived the horror of desperation that cried out inside me, which prompted me to walk toward our air conditioning unit and open it up.

            It was often frozen over, because of how cold my boyfriend, Paul, liked to keep the temperature in the house.  So, many times, it would be covered in a layer of ice.  And it was there, in that place, that I found my means of survival.  Can you imagine it, quenching your constant thirst by licking a sheet of dirt encrusted ice from your frozen air conditioning unit just to keep living one more day?  And at the same time, you silently suffer the pangs of ongoing hunger’s malnutrition without shedding a tear or whispering a word to anyone.

By the time death had started to settle in, my pride had been stripped away from me, amongst a plethora of other things one needs to survive in this world.  Paul had left me demoralized to the point of being something almost not human.  I was consumed with abject terror and screeching pain; and the only thing I knew to do was await my inevitable end, which couldn’t come swiftly enough.  Ironically, this was a preferable choice than going to my parents and admitting what had been happening to me. 

Admitting I had been abused physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically would have made it real.  It would have meant that I had failed; failed in my relationship and failed as an intelligent, independent woman.  It would have meant that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was or as strong, as I used to watch all those LMN movies about abused women and compared myself to them.  I can remember chuckling and thinking to myself, “I’ll never let that happen to me.  I’ll never be like them.  I’ll fight back or leave before I ever let anything like that happen to me.”  Admitting it ultimately meant, at least in my skewed perception, that the glaring truth, which scared me more than anything else on the planet, would have emerged. It would mean that I really was a total and complete failure in this life.  And that no one would ever love me or find any worth in me again, just like Paul would croon to me, in deeply affectionate tones, over and over again, as we laid in bed at night.

From romance, with a man who wore gaudy outdated 80’s clothing and imagined himself to be one of the greatest martial artists in the world, to abuse of all kinds at his hands, to escape from that death sentence wrapped up in the promise of a romantic forever, to survival, even if only in its most basic form at first; that is the journey I walked in less than nine months of my life.  After escaping, though, I barely survived, even as I was nurtured at home amongst those who loved me.  This was because I was still a victim in my own mind.  So, despite finding a way out of my physical bonds, I could find no escape from the cage of my own making.

Life stretched out endlessly for me, with seemingly no hope and no reprieve. Until one day, I took a pregnancy test and it came up positive.  For many people this would have seemed like a death sentence or something equally negative, but for me it was something quite the opposite.  This child was a gift and a blessing because, despite my own suffering, my lack of self-esteem and my heart wrenching depression, she gave me a reason to rise in the morning and a reason to keep pushing through my day.  She became a tiny sliver of hope, which grew exponentially day by day.

I sat there that day, lost in a haze of remembrance, in the brightly lit den of my parent’s genial and inviting home.  I recall feeling my body wracked with chills, which flowed over me like waves of icy water.  Then as I felt myself being pulled back to reality, I can remember feeling such a gentle warmth enshroud me, that I was filled with an overwhelming and resplendent love.  And it was then I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I was not alone anymore.

If you take away nothing else from this essay, remember how it made you feel.  Remember, so that you know the signs when you come face to face with them.  Remember, so that you are able to reach out a hand to someone else and remind them when they are in need.  Remember, so that if one day the person who needs reminding is you, you will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are not alone and that there is hope.

Perspective Ramblings: The Fall Of Man

•July 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I have watched, over the few years I’ve been alive, the suffering people go through.  And often, to often if I may say so, I’ve found myself wondering what’s the point.  Why do people get sick?  Why do people suffer at the hands of other people….abuses so numerous that it would take to many blogs to list.  Why do people wither away slowly, only to find their last moments engulfed in an unending fear of the unknown?

I’ve watched as men have risen to astounding heights. I’ve watched technological marvels, one after another in succession, parade across the world stage…making life that much easier for those who can afford it.  I’ve watched as friends and loved ones found passionate love…and in turn…a modicum of joy in their lives.

Four Horsemen
By: Mark Wilkinson

And at the same time as all of those great and marvelous things, I’ve watched atrocities beyond belief.  I’ve seen men of great potential stumble and fall. I’ve seen women of unending strength collapse in on themselves, because of the burdens they bear.  I’ve seen so many brought to the end of their days, before their time.

The fall of man, which seems such an esoteric idea….one that is far fetched, far removed and oft times associated with war, famine, pestilence, and death, is closer than we imagine.  It’s violent and chaotic potential resides beneath a thin layer of order we weave for ourselves in order to substantiate our sense of security.

A job equates to security because it means one has money to pay for a home, food, and other necessities of life.  An education equates to better job opportunities which means the potential for higher income…which means better homes, food, and a higher standard of living.  Marriage equates to a certain kind of security, all its own, in that one does not have to face the world alone and with the additional income, one can concentrate on having a family or enjoying life more.

All of these things have purpose, important purpose at that, if one wishes to survive in this world in any kind of comfort.  But they do nothing in helping us cope with the onslaught of things which can cause us to crumple to our knees and surrender. They merely postpone the inevitable by distracting us from facing what lays just beneath the surface of our ordered and patterned lives.

That inevitable realization is that Hell really does exist on Earth. And it resides in the hearts of every man and woman alive. It is the place we all fear to tread.  It is a place inside us where we hide our shame, our embarrassment, our guilt, our fears, our insecurities, and our true feelings.  And it is a place that can be visited upon us because of life changing events, inconsequential things, or for no reason at all.

The only thing that needs to happen is for that thin layer of security to crack just a little.  You lose your job.  You get a divorce.  You become the victim of a violent crime.  You get told, by someone, that you don’t measure up in some way.  From the worst things in life to the most mundane, these things have a way of working their way into your psyche, past your defenses, and affecting you at the deepest levels.

It leaves one feeling as though they are the only person in the world….so alone…so empty…..so broken….so removed from everyone else that no one can touch you, much less understand your suffering.  And it hurts so much that it wells up like a fist in your chest that claws at your insides and pounds at your walls, demanding to not only be heard, but to be acknowledged.  It brings you to your knees because it is so palpable.  It grips your insides, making it hard to catch your breath, as panic floods your body with no where to run.

And even as these feelings ebb and flow, rising and churning like waves in the ocean, they cling to you as you go about your daily life.  They are a daily reminder of what hangs over your head. This is, in one form or another, depression…..a morose sadness which enshrouds your life…everything that you do and say.  It mars and stunts all moments of potential happiness and edges them in shades of gray.  So it is difficult to offer up genuine happiness without effort and a definitive smile without forcing it.

This goes on until finally all your body, mind, and soul cries out for is an end to the pain….an end to the suffering…and an end to this existence……

Drowning in the Shadowland



I walk in shadow, hidden from the light of day and

I bear the burden of other’s pain and it consumes me.

I am drowning in the murky depths of the Shadowland

and I am lost in its dark currents.

Where is there sanctuary from the crashing waves

that rush to press down ever harder on my spirit essence

stealing my breath and severing any

lifeline of hope that touches me?

Where is there solace upon which I can

rest my weary form and weep away the pain?


The Gods cast their nets,

in search of nectar and ambrosia,

down into the dark abyss and find only me,

barren and exposed to their wrath without censure.

Darkness abounds as I huddle alone in my prison.

The storm rages, churning the silence and solitude

that vibrate through my solitary cell.

I am drowning in the shadowland

where silent screams are unheard

and beauty has no form, no shape.

I am bound, chained, and entangled,

in the web of my own dark heart.


My options are few and my choices unclear,

but still I will not let go of this world, of this pain,

of this burden that sinks me deeper into the quicksand

that is so prevalent in my life.

I will not end my battle, defeated and crushed,

only to suffer it again on the morrow.

I will carry this weight that has no form,

and I will survive.

And as I drown in the shadowlands

I will find light in its depths and

life beneath its murky currents.

And I will live to see tomorrow’s dawn

rise anew in all its glory.


The hardest thing, I believe, is the struggle to stand up again and start moving forward.  People often times believe that the hardest part is the fall into depression and the potential for ending one’s life.  But the fall, despite its hardships, is the easy part, in reality.  The hardest part comes with the decision to stay alive, struggle forward  and go on living.  Each step forward is hard won, because of the hardship it is to take that one step forward at a time, particularly when everything inside you cries out to stop, give up, and let go of the pain.  The hardest part in all of this…is living.  And it’s an ever present battle uphill….but what a beautiful battle it is.




Empaths & Sexuality: A Look At Empath Sexual Dysfunction

•April 21, 2012 • 3 Comments

Let’s talk about sexuality and being an Empath/Highly Sensitive Person.  This is an issue we all suffer from, in one way or another, and yet tend to be to afraid, nervous, anxiety ridden, or embittered to talk about.  And it’s one that is extremely important when it comes to being able to have healthy relationships and a healthy self esteem.

So first let’s look at some of the issues Empaths have to contend with and some of the different types of sexual behaviors that Empaths tend to exhibit.  Perhaps you will find yourself somewhere in here.  And perhaps you will learn a little bit more about yourself, in the process.  But remember, whatever is written here is not the end all be all of information.  There will be types of sexuality, situations and behaviors, that won’t be mentioned or focused on in as much depth as you might like.  But it doesn’t mean to deny or neglect those things, it’s simply that I can only put so much into one blog, even on this topic.

Empath Issues Which Affect Sexuality

1. Past Abuse ~
 Issues of past abuse can reek havoc on an Empath’s ability to connect with others at a deeply intimate and physical level.  When speaking of sexual abuse, it can cause them to shy away from sexuality on the whole and lean toward celibacy.  It can also cause them to push toward sexuality as their defining factor, leading to promiscuity.  It can also take a different tract, which causes the Empath to be less interested in sex, unable to become aroused, and/or unable to reach orgasm.  And for some people, it can also bring on flashbacks of previous sexual abuse. Mind you, these are not all of the issues that can arise from past sexual abuse, whether the person is male or female.  This is only a short list of potentials.

Past physical and psychological/emotional abuse can also wreak havoc on an Empath’s sexual life. And because these issues are often untreated in many people, it can bring issues with trusting, low self esteem/self worth, depression and many others that can play a part in one’s sexual dysfunction.

For more detailed information on this very important issue, please take a look at the topic of The Abused Empath.  You’ll find a much more complete list of what Empath’s have to contend with in their lives due to physical, psychological/emotional, and sexual abuse.

2. Hypersensitivity ~
Many Empaths are hypersensitive.  What this means is they can be born with one or both emotional hypersensitivity and physical hypersensitivity. Some Empaths, unlike those born with this hypersensitivity, develop it later on in life due to external influences such as abuse, neglect, stress, social/cultural pressures, and so on. When combined with the Empath’s tendencies toward strong emotional responses, this can wreak havoc on an Empath’s ability to preform sexually and the level of levels of intimacy they can achieve with their partners.

3. Physical Causes and Illness~
Illness plays a big role in a person’s ability to preform sexually.  Many illnesses can cause sexual dysfunction such as an inability to become aroused, stay aroused, or reach orgasm.  Medicinenet.com lists some of the physical causes of an inability to preform as: Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause sexual problems. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases, hormonal imbalances, menopause, chronic diseases such as kidney disease or liver failure, and alcoholism and drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.


4. Narcissism and Mental Illness~
Many Empaths are plagued with different types of mental disorders from social anxiety disorders (for more on this topic, please check out Empaths: Hypersensitivity, Anxiety & Coping) to different types of mental illnesses.  All of these, despite what type one might suffer from, can affect an Empath’s ability to perform sexually and interact with their intimate partners. And the medications, often used as treatment, can often play a role in one’s sexual dysfunction, as well.

Another issue which can harm a Empath is when one is in close contact with a Narcissist as a family member, friend or even one’s romantic partner (for more information on this topic, please check out Profile of a Narcissist & Narcissism Symptoms).  Close contact with a Narcissist can cause low self esteem, low self worth, feelings of intense guilt and/or shame, depression and many other issues, which can lead an Empath to have an inability to perform sexually or connect with their partners on a deeper level.

5. Other Psychological Issues~
Medicinenet.com lists some other psychological issues that can affect sexuality as:  work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma.

Types Of Sexuality

 1. Submission
     ~ During the act of submission a person relinquishes control, in a sexual context, to their partner during intimate encounters.  Carried to an even deeper extreme, a person can pass control to another for a large percentage of their day-to-day life.
     ~ For Empaths, this can become a patterned behavior, both sexually and in everyday life, because of an Empath’s need to sooth and heal others, their deep seeded need for peace in their relationships, and their feelings of inadequacy.  This can ultimately translate into a submissive personality, particularly during intimate encounters.
    ~ It is interesting to note that while Submission does not always lead to a predilection toward BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism), it often accompanies it.  A need to reenact feelings of shame and submission and be disciplined/punished and a need to feel pain, sometimes for sexual gratification, also go hand in hand with Submission at times.  But this is all about the level of Submission a person feels inclined toward and does not speak to everyone’s preferences.

2. Promiscuity
     ~ Promiscuity, in human sexual behavior, refers to the practice of casual sex with multiple sexual partners.
     ~ For Empaths, this can become a patterned behavior that is expressed because of a lack of self worth, in order to find some kind of validation of their worth.  The Empath goes out searching for validation in a way which grants them both a modicum of control in their lives, by choosing their partners, and validation of their worth, based on compliments they receive during the sexual encounters.  These things can become almost addictive, where in the Empath bases their entire self worth on sexual aspects of their personalities, ultimately defining themselves through that tainted perception of themselves.

3. Sexual Symbiosis
     ~ Sexual Symbiosis is a little more difficult to describe.  Symbiosis can be defined, in this case, as the coming together of two people who live in a mutually beneficial relationship.  In the case of sexuality, it is one where two people come together and share in the mutually pleasurable act of orgasm, without pushing away from the physical sensations or emotional tidal waves that rise out of the act.
    ~ This is a very hard state to reach for an Empath, because a majority of Empaths tend to be highly emotional, in their own right, and highly sensitive to the emotional undercurrents of those around them, particularly their romantic partners in both an every day sense and in a more intimate sense.  Taking on the physical sensations and emotional currents of their own sexual gratification and that of their partner can be a mind blowing experience which can completely overwhelm an Empath and leave them in a shattered state, by its completion.  This is a state that many Empaths avoid at all costs, preferring instead, a more vicarious sexual interaction focused more on the act of giving than receiving.

4.Vicarious Sexuality
     ~ Vicarious sexuality, as we mentioned briefly in Sexual Symbiosis, can allude to several different levels of indirect sexuality.  These range from the viewing of pornographic material, to voyeurism, which is the spying on or actual viewing of others participating in sexual acts, to a more direct tract.  The more direct tract mentioned, is that of a preference toward giving, rather than receiving, or how shall I say it, preforming sexual acts on others instead of having it done to them.  This is done so that the person  who prefers vicarious sexuality can feel their own pleasure through viewing their partner’s pleasure.  And the more their partner feels, the more emboldened they become to continue.
     ~ Empaths tend to lean toward this type of sexuality, preferring to feel their intimacy vicariously through their partners because sexual congress can become so emotionally and physically intense.  And because they also tend to feel the pleasures of both themselves and their partners at the same time.

5. Asexuality/Celibacy
     ~ Asexuality, in its broadest sense, is the lack of sexual attraction to others or the lack of interest in sex. It may also be considered a lack of a sexual orientation.  Celibacy refers to a state of being unmarried, or a state of abstinence from sexual intercourse or the abstention by vow from marriage. The term celibacy refers to refraining from any romantic relationships, particularly marriage.
    ~ In this case, the Empath, because of whatever psychological issues which plague them, leans toward a celibate lifestyle and can come to define themselves as asexual as an explanation for the celibacy.  Or they could potentially embrace the idea of celibacy for a higher spiritual calling, as in becoming a Nun/Priest or in the attainment of Enlightenment.

Empathic Sexual Dysfunction

 When we talk about Empaths, sex, and sexual dysfunction, it is a very touchy subject for most people because it touches on private issues that can cause deep embarrassment and shame if they were brought out into the open.  Who wants others to know that you have issues in the bedroom? Or that you delight in certain types of sex play and fetishes? Or that you have issues connecting, on a deeper level, with your partners?  Or that you are celibate/promiscuous for whatever reason?

Many of these issues, as embarrassing as they are and as vulnerable as they leave us feeling toward ridicule, speak to deeper issues at play inside us, some of which we may not even be aware of at the conscious level. And just like the shame and embarrassment we associate with having our sexual issues and preferences known to the world, these to can leave us feeling naked and open to the world at large, open to ridicule and derision.

But even though we tend not to talk openly about these issues with other people on a regular basis, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t become more aware of our own preferences and the underlying reasons for those preferences, as well as, the issues that might cause us to have some kind of sexual dysfunction.  It is important to become more aware of these things not just for your own good mental health, but also for the health of your intimate relationships, despite the shame/embarrassment you might associate with these things.

So to that end, I must offer this to each of you.  This blog is not offered to upset anyone, offend, judge or shame anyone in any way.  It is offered in the hopes that you discover something about yourself, even if you do not find that any of this information fits you perfectly, and your issues.  Because the more you learn about yourself, the better you are able to cope with issues that arise in your life and not shove them to the side, out of guilt, shame, and/or embarrassment.

But I digress, when Empaths, who are, in general, highly emotive and highly sensitive toward those around them, combine these factors with intimacy and sex, it can become a situation where in they suffer such sensory overload they begin to avoid it at all costs or they begin to define their own value based on those experiences (ie. how well they preform sexually).

So consider all of this, whether you do it openly or in private.  Contemplate these things and look at your sexuality with a critical eye, instead of one bound in shame and avoidance.  And don’t judge yourself to harshly.  Whether you realize it or not, everyone has sexual preferences and issues they don’t talk about with others.  All you have to do is look at the other people walking down the street to realize you aren’t alone.

So think about it….

For more information on these issues, try these links:

Sexual Fetishism
Sexual Dysfunction
Celibacy
CDC’s Sexual Health Page
Healthy Sexuality (PDF)
Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN)

Empathy In Excess

•March 3, 2012 • 5 Comments

A dear friend of mine recently showed me a question someone had posted on the internet, asking a very interesting question about Empaths.  Does excessive empathy, or more to the point  being an Empath, mean that you will be lonely for the rest of your life because you give more and/or feel more than other people? This is a complex question, so lets explore it a bit.

The Initial Feelings

As Empaths or HSPs, we can often feel as though we give more, do more, love more, feel more, and/or sense more than other people.  It almost feels like everyone around you is going through some kind of sensory deprivation and they don’t even realize it.  It’s as though no one recognizes the depths to which love can go or how much one word can truly wound the heart.

Friends seem to feel as though you know them inside and out, while you feel as though they are talking to a stranger.  It is as though, no matter how long they’ve known you or how close you are, they just don’t quite get it.  So there is always this distance that you feel you have to compensate for in order to keep some form of balance in the relationship.

Perhaps you even feel taken advantage of by most of the people you call friend.  It’s as though anyone who knows you remotely, because who can really ever know the true depths of your deepest emotional self, takes advantage of the fact that you give so much so openly and so willingly to all of those you care for.  So you end up feeling used and abused, even amongst your closest friends.  It can leave you feeling bitter and angry.  It can make you question why you are so different from others.

And then there are those people, probably some of whom you love the most in life,  who end up walking away from you because they say things like they feel inadequate compared to you.  They tell you they just can’t love you the way they love them.  And it leaves you broken hearted, wondering why god put you here and if you will ever know real happiness.

Romantic relationships are equally as difficult.  You find common ground with someone and fall in love.  You give, as you always have, while expecting some semblance of the same level from your partner; the heightened passion, the touchy feelly love, and the near obsessive need to be in each other’s pocket.  In other words, you carry the expectation of their boundaries blurring as much as yours to the point of not knowing where you end and they begin.  And when they don’t, it again leaves you broken and wondering if all you will ever truly know is loneliness.

It’s like standing in the world and at the same time being utterly separate from it at the same time.  You are set apart from the world by the gift, or curse depending on how you see it, of being emotionally hypersensitive and highly emotive.

In the end, all of these cumulative experiences make you feel like you’ve ‘settled’ for less than you deserve all your life.  They make you wonder if you will ever find someone like yourself, who you can be a soulmate (romantically) or a kindred spirit (friendship wise) to.  It makes you doubt.  It makes you question.  And it hurts so deeply, that the loneliness echoes through you like a black void.

It doesn’t matter who you are, because you know what I’m talking about to one degree or another.  You understand the underlying emotions I speak of which rise out of those experiences: the disappointment, the sadness and depression, the bitterness and resentment, the anger, the hate, and the unending loneliness that screams and claws at you from the inside out.

Perception and Self Concept

Let’s talk about perception and self concept and what this has to do with your experiences and emotions now.  Perception is defined two ways: 1. The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. 2. The state of being or process of becoming aware of something in such a way. While self concept is defined as: The mental image or perception that one has of oneself.

In the case of this discussion, we are talking about the journey you’ve walked in order to develop how you perceive yourself.  Your experiences, both good and bad, shape how you view yourself, as much as how you view the world, the people in it, and the role you play in the bigger picture of things.  Your self concept is based on your perception which in turn is based on your experiences and the emotions that rise out of those experiences.  And those experiences can cloud your judgement, even at the best of times, and dictate how you will react to other people and situations.

Now, if we travel back to the initial feelings, what we discover is that we feel set apart from the world, even as we go about our daily lives within the world.  We feel different.  Some feel like they are lesser than others for those differences.  Some feel like they are better than others for those differences.  Both of these, though, are based on how you perceive the ability to empathize with others…feel their pain and share in their suffering….as it pertains to you.  Is it a gift or a curse?  Is it the bane of your existence, something that holds you down, binding you to loneliness and being misunderstood?  Or is it something positive that you can utilize in productive ways to enhance not just your own life, but the lives of others, as well?

But again, all of this is based on your own self concept.  All of this is drawn out of your own perception.  And perception….well….it doesn’t always tell the truth, does it?  It can be clouded or skewed.  And it can lead you to perceive things one way, while at the same time, halting you from perceiving things in other equally valid ways.

To make this point, I want to tell you a story about something that happened in the last year of my life.  About a year ago I was left feeling very betrayed by someone I was extremely close to.  It was a difficult and very painful time in my life.  So I turned to two of my very dearest friends for support.  One gave me what I needed, even while dealing with her own issues, and the other didn’t.  He shut down on me and closed me out.  Because of this we grew very distant.

In my own pain, I could have shut him out completely.  I could have blamed him for not giving me the support I deserved and had always given to him in full measure.  I could have asked him the question, why does it seem like I love you more and am willing to give so much more than you are for me?  Heck, I could have even displaced or transferred my own anguish over the lose of the first friend onto him and handed him the blame.  In my moments of weakness, any of those things was plausible. I could have taken all of my pain out on him and then walked away. But I didn’t.

I didn’t do these things because before my issues arose, I had watched him suffer from a very deep depression which left him extremely vulnerable and wounded.  I had walked with him through it and supported him time and time again.  I not only knew about, but also understood, the depths of his suffering.  So even as he shut me out, when I needed him, I could not turn away from him completely.  Instead I distanced myself from him emotionally so that I could heal.

I wasn’t sure if our friendship would ever come back from that whole again.  But it has, and for that I am ever grateful.  The friendship meant more to me….that person meant more to me….than my pain.  And because of this, even in my darkest moments, and even when I didn’t want to, I forced myself to see from his perception.  I forced myself to understand of what he was capable of offering me at that time, given everything he was going through.  And ultimately I realized I would never forgive him….because there was never really anything to forgive.

The point of this example is to show you where empathy truly comes into play here.  Empathy comes in numerous different forms.  There is the type that Empaths have, which is a kind of intuitive emotional empathy, where in you feel much of what others feel right along side them.  And then there is cognitive empathy, where in one  consciously chooses to rise above one’s own personal perceptions and judgments, issues and experiences, to step into another person’s perception in order to understand, on a more rational level, something we probably couldn’t see before.  It’s a leap of faith that doesn’t allow for you to stay in your shell or your comfort zone.  And if you are open to it, it can be a harsh does of reality sometimes.

Empathy In Excess

When an Empath, or anyone for that matter, gets to caught up in their own self concepts, of who they are and what they are, about what rights and gifts they have, they lose the one thing that makes them so uniquely human; the ability to empathize with others.  When you are to stuck in your own head, it can become a foreign idea to you to step out of your own comfort zone and view things through another person’s eyes, particularly if someone is bring an issue up in your intimate relationships that might pertain to you.

So ask yourselves something?  If empathy in excess within you relationships is causing people to leave you, push away from you, or feel inadequate….is there always something wrong with them alone?  Is it that they are never good enough and you are settling?  Or could you be overcompensating for issues you might have in your own life that you do not wish to face head on?  Or could it be some of both, perchance?

Friendship and love aren’t about pleasing others so they stick around, secretly leaving you feeling drained and that the only way you feel worthwhile is when you give.  Your worth isn’t based on how much you help the next person that comes along. Friendship and love are about caring, empathy and compromise.  But to much of anything, even empathy, is never a good thing for your own health, your own mental health and the longevity of your relationships.  So think about it for a moment…and see what you find inside yourselves.

Side note:
After letting my friend, from the example, read this blog before publishing it….he told me that I left him sounding like the person who was inadequate.  And I told him something to the effect of, “Never that, love. You weren’t capable of offering me that because of your own issues.  It’s not that you didn’t want to because even then you hated seeing me in pain.  So I will never tell you I forgive you because there is nothing to forgive.  And it’s because of you, and whats been hanging over our heads unsaid, that I am able to learn what I did and write what I wrote.  So thank you.”

10 Tips To Being More Assertive

•January 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

While reading a blog I discovered this list of tips to help one be more assertive without being aggressive.  I felt they were really worthy of reposting here.Below are 10 tips that can help you be more assertive.  Enjoy!

10 Tips To Be More Assertive

  1. Meet the person at their level – standing, sitting etc.
  2. Speak at a similar volume to the other person, if you are trying to make a point, then it is ok to speak slightly louder – just don’t overdo it. If you are both shouting then it’s probably not going to be a great conversation – postpone it until you have both calmed down.
  3. If you are not clear about what you want to say or achieve by this conversation then politely request it be undertaken at a later time or date.
  4. If you can, spend some time thinking about a positive outcome for you both, before you meet with the person. Otherwise use no.3 above and use the time in between to do this. It is important not to spend too long thinking about all the possible outcomes, simply be open to the possibility of a positive outcome for both parties.
  5. If you need some extra confidence, then think about your body language: steepling is a great way to feel confident… press only the tips of your fingers together in a kind of prayer position – thumb to thumb, index finger to index finger etc. There are other variations of this that you will easily find in a google search.
  6. Feelings are really important – most people are capable of spotting when they are beginning to feel angry, so be aware of how you are feeling. If you notice yourself becoming angry, aggressive or even despondent, then remember you have the option to stop the conversation and continue at another time. Sometimes the clue is that your words don’t come out easily – like there is something stopping you explain yourself clearly. If you can relax and continue then that’s fantastic.
  7. Saying No – if you are asked to do something that is in the future, a quick way to know your true answer is to consider what you would say if it was happening now (supposing you have the time free). For other questions or requests, remember that there is no benefit in doing something for someone if you do not have the time or skills to complete it. People respect you far more for saying a polite “I’d love to help you but I really don’t have time right now, if I get done here I’ll come and help”, than they do if you say Yes all the time and then don’t have time to deliver on your promises. Remember that people take the line of least resistance, if they find someone who will always say yes, then that person goes top of the list for everything. Think of people you know who do that and then consider what your feelings about them are… Do you want people to think that way of you?
  8. Find someone who you see as Assertive and then begin to think about what it is they do that makes them come across as assertive. How do they sound, what do they say, how do they stand, etc. If appropriate, ask them what they think about it.
  9. Start small and gain experience – maybe you could simply ask someone who you would not normally if they can get you a coffee from the machine etc. Small triumphs along the way are really helpful, especially if you don’t want to jump in at the deep end and go and ask your boss for a raise just yet!
  10. Celebrate how far you have come – becoming assertive takes time and balance, so celebrate the achievements and the journey you have undertaken to date. Continue this process and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – if necessary you can apologise! Often the truth will help you gain the person’s trust and respect, so tell them you are learning to be assertive and any feedback is much appreciated – good or bad. You may even find you make allies in people you wouldn’t have normally turned to for help.

The Empathy Of Nothing

•October 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“I am nothing.  I am nobody.  I am garbage.  I am a waste of space.  The air that I breath is wasted and would be better spent on someone more worthy than I.  My very existence has no purpose….no meaning…other than to be a burden upon others.”

It’s comments like these that repel people.  It smacks of low self esteem and low self worth, doesn’t it?  These are the words, often whispered in the voices of those who have cut us down verbally before, that repeat, almost like a mantra, in our heads in order to hold us back.

The ironic thing about this is upon hearing these comments, whether from someone else’s lips or from our own brains, our survival skills kick in.  A kind of flight or fight response ensues, in which we deny it emphatically and jump to our own defense.  And in so doing, we seek to convince ourselves of it’s untruth, much more than others, because the simple accusation laid to bear is enough to crack the safe box of reality we wrap ourselves in, where we deny any flaws or issues we might have.  It hides the question that no one, not even those considered to have high self esteem, wishes to face.  What if those whispers are right?

So instead of answering that question, in the here and now, people can (and often do) spend lifetimes searching for what they feel is missing in their lives and never find it.  Often, in that endless search, they will find ‘things’ to fill the hole they feel dwells within themselves.  This, to some extent, is where addictive behaviors come from.  Addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and so many others are but a few of the more extreme versions of addictive behaviors used as a salve upon the wound no one seems to be able to heal totally.

Divine Purpose

Another extreme, though, begs to be looked at because it has direct bearing on Empaths.  It begins when people start to search for their purpose through a title like Empath.  The term Empath, instead of meaning simply someone who is hypersensitive to the emotions and emotional states of those around them, has begun to take on much more supernatural/spiritual connotations, particularly where one’s purpose is concerned.

I’ve read many different ideas about this particular extreme.  One site wrote that Empaths are the meek who shall inherit the Earth, as the bible stated.  Another person said that Empaths have a divine purpose to lead the human race into a new era of spirituality and peace.  Another said that Empaths are the next evolutionary stage of the human race.  And still others were known to equate Empaths with lightworkers, who according to the new age movement, are supposed to be people oriented with the ‘light’ who are saviors, of a sort, who help others….healers, if you will.

 Empaths are the meek, the healers, the spiritual leaders, saviors, and/or evolutionary stages.  On one hand, these notions can lift someone up extremely high, giving them a sense of purpose and a drive to do outreach. It can inspire great works of altruism in people who might otherwise never have realized what they are capable of doing.  And these, in every sense of the word, are absolutely beautiful things.

But at the same time, think about the ideal that is being set on the shoulders of these people.  They have a divine purpose to be spiritual leaders to usher in a new age of man.  This has the power to separate people, who are already suffering from social anxiety issues,  from the whole of society, thus robbing them of their support system of friends and family.  It has the power to drive people away from their current lives and realities, while leaning them toward the preferred ideas that they are spiritual adepts with great purpose.  They are special and unique, not part of the ‘normal’ human race.  This ideal gives supposed understanding into what has always made them feel so different and apart from society as a whole.

But these answers do not address a person’s real issues.  They do not allow for real growth, spiritual or otherwise, because once you imagine yourself at the top of the mountain, standing at it’s peak looking down at others still climbing, where is there to go?  Where is there to go when you stand at the pinnacle and the precipice?

When one stand at that point, or imagine one stands at it, the hopelessness can return.  So one turns to altruism, burying themselves in helping others.  And in so doing, one can run the risk of losing themselves even more than they already have, because this is what makes you, as a person, worthwhile.  This and this alone.  And your worth is only proven by the next person you are able to help.

Imagine the crash and burn someone can potentially suffer if they discover themselves burned out and broken from giving so much of themselves, in order to prove their own worth, that there is nothing left but a hallow husk.

And all of this, because one is afraid to face one simple question: “What if those whispers are right?”

The Dyadic Facets Of Nothingness

“I am nothing.  I am nobody.  I am garbage.  I am a waste of space.  The air that I breath is wasted and would be better spent on someone more worthy than I.  My very existence has no purpose….no meaning…other than to be a burden upon others.”

It’s still just as harsh to read now, as it was at the beginning of this blog.  It makes you cringe inside just a little bit, because it niggles at the question in your mind, based on your doubts and your fears.

There is no set equation for self esteem or the building of it.  There is no right way or wrong way, to my knowledge.  Nor am I writing these to offer you a step by step plan toward that end.  What I can offer each of you instead, through this blog, is a shift in perception that can potentially help you stop the flight or fight response that is aroused every time you contemplate being nothing.

Instead of fighting to prove your worth when you hear derogatory comments like those above, be it from yourself or others, try accepting it.  And then try imagining that those comments are but one side of a coin in which you are nothing and equally all things.  See that if your life has no purpose, then it has the greatest purpose you can imagine.  And that if nothing matters in this lifetime, then even the smallest of gestures matters in untold numbers of way.

It is extremely humbling to accept the idea of being ‘nothing’.  It is painful and goes against everything we have learned since the cradle.  It smacks of giving up and accepting yourself as a failure.  And it can drive a person into a great depression, a dark night of the soul, where in you doubt and question all of your long held ideas, feelings and beliefs.  And it can be the beginning of a long journey and potentially one of great healing for yourself, where, along the way you discover that the hole inside yourself was always…..just an illusion.

And here is the interesting part of all of this, it all starts with one small shift in perception.  It all starts with saying to yourself, the one thing you would never rationally say, “I am nothing.”.  Through that darkness we call nothing lays a portal waiting to take you where you need to go in order to heal.  It’s all up to you, though, when and if you are ready to face the unknown within yourself and for the first time in your life, get to know the real you…good, bad, and hairy alike.  Think about it.

Namaste