The Skill of Empathy

There’s something within our humanity that longs for our stories and experiences to be heard, seen, and felt by others (especially the gritty ones that often leave us feeling shame and guilt).

We fill this longing in different ways.

Sometimes it’s a conversation between two friends, perhaps it’s through therapy or coaching, or even within intentional sharing containers.

What we are really seeking is something I call Active Empathy.

This flavor of empathy is proactive and comes with a desire to meet us halfway in our experience, regardless if it’s what we think, how we feel, or what our body has to say about it.

For some, Active Empathy is second nature. But for most of us, it’s a muscle that could use some work.

The ability and capacity to sit with uncomfortable emotions (both another person’s and our own) and the willingness to support the process or processing of hard stuff isn’t easy.

The reason many of us are hesitant to step into Active Empathy (as opposed to Active Reaction), is because a part of us is afraid that by letting another person’s experience impact us, it will somehow leave us less than or that we’ll lose part of ourselves.

This is wise. Without clear intention and a sound Inner Relationship, it would be easy to lose ourselves in the stories and swirl of another.

So what to do?

The answer lies in having a clear distinction between what is mine, what’s me, or my emotions vs that of the other person.

The tricky part is, for most of us our sense of Inner vs Outer has never been intentionally distinguished.

This often leaves us unsure how much to step in, how much to support to give, and to know when too much is too much.

What we find is how our ability & capacity to support others in stable, grounded ways is proportionate to how sound those experiences are within our Inner Relationship.

Trees that stretch wide and bear fruit do so because their roots are deep & sound.

What I’ve found is the more familiar with my essence, energy, or being’ness, the more empathy and presence I am able to offer to another’s emotions and expressions.

So how do we become more connected and familiar with our essence?

The simplest invitation is to begin a practice (yes this requires doing more than once!) of sitting with ourselves, with the intention of becoming familiar with our felt sensations.

I like calling this, “Soaking In Our Essence.”

Practically, this looks like sitting in silence with hands on the body and allowing ourselves to sense or feel whatever appears to be our essence.

Often this shows up as a felt sense, a warmth, or something that feels like home.

And sometimes, there may be nothing simply because it’s been a while since we’ve turned our inner light towards ourselves.

Over time, we develop an Inner Trust that allows us to enhance, expand, and (this is key) contain our essence.

We begin to notice how someone else’s emotions really do feel different from our own.

We begin to be able to stand fully with someone’s experience and not collapse into their expression or the situation.

Through this, we engage our Active Empathy. We find we can truly Be with someone, without having to fix or judge the depths of another’s Darkness nor to shrink or deny their Light.

As we do the work of solidifying our energies and grounding our essence, we become more of service & benefit to others, without losing ourselves along the way.


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