A Guide for the Intuitive Introvert for Enjoying Relationships and a Life’s Work
Elaine La Joie
I am an Empath who has been working as a coach, mentor, and shaman for about ten years. Most of my clients are also Empaths. I decided to write this book when I realized that I repeated the same concepts and materials to my clients, and those clients usually used their new knowledge for great improvement in their lives. Since Empaths tend to love books on self-improvement, writing one of my own seemed like the next right step, especially since not all Empaths have access to their own personal shaman.
My teachers have included other Empaths, like Sonia Choquette and Julia Cameron, plus shaman teachers like Alberto Villoldo, Linda Fitch, Debra Grace, Greta Holmes, and Marv Harwood. If you’ve enjoyed Sonia Choquette’s and Julia Cameron’s work, you will most likely find this book useful. The shaman likes to get to the deep, nitty-gritty, and sometimes painfully messy work and release it. So, some of the work in this book may not feel inspirational or particularly easy to read. But, if you are an Empath, you probably aren’t afraid of dealing with the darker emotional states, and in fact you may be relieved to hear how one Empath overcame obstacles particular to Empaths.
Empaths have the ability to feel the emotions and physical sensations of others, especially our loved ones. In extreme cases, Empaths can develop the same personality traits and physical symptoms of the people to whom they are closest. This ability in the Empath is usually unconscious and therefore uncontrolled. While there are great resources describing how to manage the physical and psychic phenomena that come with being Empathic, (see the resources section at the back of the book) what I will focus on is the Empath in Relationship.
More than anything, Empaths want to have close, loving, bonded, rewarding relationships, and most Empaths want this with a Life Partner. But for many Empaths, the area of Relationship is either difficult or dissatisfying, precisely because we tend to tune in to what the other person needs and then lose ourselves in the process—in other words, we lose that relationship with ourselves as we relate to others. As we come into right relationship with ourselves, old ways of being that did not fit our true selves fall away. Relationships centered around old roles and rules either end or evolve, and new relationships based on our rediscovered selves take their place.
While our goal may be to create wonderful relationships, this journey of healing enough to be ready for such connections can make us wish we had never started the process. It is my hope that by following the stories of a typical Empaths in creating the lives that they really wanted, this book will serve as a guide for Empaths who want to understand their relationships and their own hidden motivations. The personal healing work involved can be intense, but it is worth it. May this book help you on your own personal journey.
WHAT IS AN EMPATH?
One way of describing an Empath is the ability of someone to feel the emotional, mental, and physical symptoms of people around the Empath, especially those that the Empath loves, as if those emotions and sensations originated in the Empath. The untrained Empath literally cannot tell the difference between her emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations and those of another. An Empath can easily absorb the emotions of others, and in some cases, she can be overtaken by the physical symptoms of others. Without skill, the Empath can become very ill. Some Empaths are so sensitive that they cannot take public transportation and must avoid large groups of people or feel completely overwhelmed by what most people consider normal stimuli.
Empaths who work with me learn how to manage their Empathy so they can be at choice about how much they want to open to others. They learn how to Observe, not Absorb, as my teacher Sonia Choquette says. They also learn techniques to shake off excess energy and how to protect themselves during overwhelming situations.
Honoring the Empath’s sensitivity is the first step in healing. This very sensitivity is the reason that Empaths make natural healers, artists, and intuitives. Empaths can also make great performers, literally channeling their roles. It is this ability to role-play and to respond that can get Empaths into trouble in their relationships; Empaths can confuse a performance or a role with their essential selves.
In such cases Empaths can use their sensitivity to collude with the group instead of honor their individuality. The Empath can be easily caught up in drama because she is so psychically in tune with everyone around her. The ability of the Empath to enmesh herself with others can lead the Empath to waste her life supporting others without her understanding how she became the anchor for their emotional support.
THE MYTHIC REALITY: ARCHETYPES
My discussion of the Empath, especially within relationships, hinges on understanding the archetypal nature of the human experience. Archetypes are forces that are common to all human beings—they are part of the collective consciousness. The Empath can be described as an archetype. When we understand ourselves as archetype, we can understand our behavior in a less personalized way. Knowing the other archetypes with which Empaths tend to interact also helps us understand our relationships and how those predictably will unfold. In this book I’ll discuss several archetypes that have been described in detail through the Enneagram, although no previous knowledge of the Enneagram is necessary.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it describes the motivations of nine major Archetypes. I like using the Enneagram rather than other personality type systems because the Enneagram focuses on belief systems and motivation rather than on behavior. In shamanic work, as we will see later, we create our world through the lens of our beliefs. If we can gain insight into our hidden belief system, we can create more effectively lives that we love and enjoy. The Enneagram, as described by Riso and Hudson, also touches on the levels of mental and emotional health of each of the archetypes, and on what happens to each archetype as we become more aware of our motivations. The Classic Empath is most closely related to the Four on the Enneagram.
In addition, I’ll also discuss in detail the archetypal nature of the Drama Triangle of Disempowerment, with its archetypes of Victim, Rescuer, and Bully. Empaths, because we are so responsive, and because we usually have been victimized in childhood, tend to get caught on the Drama Triangle. I have found in my practice that understanding the Drama Triangle and the Empath as archetype are extremely helpful for my clients in living a life free of the pitfalls of these archetypal forces.
THE MYTHIC REALITY: SHAMANIC WORK AND THE SACRED
I will use examples from my life and my clients’, including discussion of shamanic energywork as I proceed. Some shamanic knowledge has similar concepts as psychology, such as the Drama Triangle and the discussion on projection. However, I am a shaman, so those readers with a psychology background may notice differences in descriptions. The shaman works at the level of the Soul’s Journey, where Myth and Archetype (the experience of the Collective) reside.
As my teacher, Alberto Villoldo describes, we can think of reality as composed of four basic levels: the Literal level (physical body, what we could see, feel, and touch), the Symbolic level (emotional and mental mind), the Mythic level (soul’s journey, archetypes, and the Sacred), and the Energetic level (energetic cords, subtle vibrations).
Teaching my clients to move into the Sacred, or the Mythic level can bring lasting change for many Empaths, who tend to create problems for themselves on the Emotional level. If you are reading this book, you probably are an Empath that hasn’t had much success solving problems at the Symbolic level (mental mind and emotions); you might have become sick at the Literal level (the physical body) with various chronic physical ailments. Stepping into the Mythic plane and understanding archetypal forces may help ease suffering that in many cases is unnecessary.
When we step into the Mythic realm, we are stepping into an overview of the situation at hand. From the Mythic level we discover that archetypal forces run more of our literal lives than we realize. This also means that by understanding the archetypal nature of relationships, we can apply knowledge of the archetypes, especially those on the Drama Triangle, to many situations at the Literal and Symbolic levels of our lives.
On the Literal level nothing much may look amiss when a friend who is only five years younger than us tells us he thinks of us as he Big Sis. On the Symbolic level as Empaths we may get a weird vibe but reason with ourselves that we should feel honored to be thought of as Family. But by looking from the Mythic level we may see that our friend is trapped in the Victim Role as the Improperly Mothered Child and is projecting his old wounds onto us—we feel weird because we are expected to Mother him—we’ve been placed in the Role of Rescuer because his power to feel good about himself has been given over to us, and we may not be interested in playing that role. At the Energetic level we may see cords from our friend to us that pinch, bind and even drain us of our energy.
At the Mythic level, we can learn that most of Life is not personal (and Empaths tend to take everything personally.) Knowing that not much is personal can give us freedom to choose to engage or not to engage a relationship or a situation and therefore make it personal to us. If we understand our Enneagram type, including the blindspots of the typical Empath, we can look at how the archetype is running us at the Symbolic level (our emotions and thoughts) and at the Literal level (physical illness or even weight gain). Suddenly Life can become less confusing and more about changing habits and behavior rather than feeling stuck and confused. We can keep the gifts of our Enneagram Archetype and be wary of the deeper blindspots. Life becomes a practice of self-mastery instead of simply unconsciously living out a few archetypal forces.
In modern Western Society, we have left much of the honoring of the Mythic experience behind. The Mythic level is not only the place of the archetypes, but it is also the realm of the Soul or the Heart. When we leave this reality out of our lives, Empaths tend to become disconnected from our hearts and stuck in the Emotional/Mental realm. If problems arise at the Emotional/Mental realm, then Empaths can become physically ill as well as we try to process this heavy energy through the physical body. When the Empath learns how to live consciously from the Mythic level, problems at the Emotional plane can be solved at the Mythic plane instead of processed at the Physical plane.
Since the Mythic plane of consciousness does not have a “mental mind” it can be hard for us Westerners to figure out how it works enough to trust that it does work. If we don’t know how it works, we might tend to dismiss it as silly. Instead of trying to figure out the Mythic realm, in this book I’ll go straight to my personal experience and those of my clients to show the changes that can happen when we treat our entire life as Sacred by living from the Mythic level. When we can see our lives from the universal instead of the personal, the Empath suddenly has more choice and more freedom.
Once we become comfortable living our lives from the Mythic Realm, we can clean up old wounds and the unhappy beliefs that arose from those wounds. The shaman addresses problems rooted at both the Energetic and the Mythic planes. For many of my clients once the root problem is cleared at the Energetic and Mythic, they can move into what they want to create in their lives instead of living out the same relationship pattern or remaining blocked in their creativity.
I’ll cover different examples of shamanic energywork, including Soul Retrieval, Extractions, and Underworld Work and how once my clients are able to change their hidden belief system, they are able to change their lives. When the wounds that led to the faulty beliefs are cleared, we are free to embark on a life of creativity and discovery. We are free to explore the gifts of the Empath: the ability to form deep connections and to enjoy extraordinary creativity. In turn, the Empath brings gifts to the rest of humanity in the form of healthy relationships, supportive community, and inspiring works of art.
THE EMPATH IN RELATIONSHIP:
Much of these ebooks cover how the Empath tends to relate to others within a family system, a partnership, and a best friendship. Most Empaths want these relationships to be warm, intimate, and bonded. However, for many Empaths these relationships tend to be painful and confusing. I will cover the typical wounds from childhood that the Empath tends to endure, along with the typical original family system in which Empaths learned their original beliefs and were thus set up into particular double-binds. If the Empath isn’t careful, she tends to recreate those relationships in adulthood.
Empaths usually want a soulmate relationship with a partner, but instead can create a series of broken partnerships after which she ends up isolated. I’ll go over the most common pitfalls of the most common pairings of Empaths to other Enneagram archetypes. Empaths make wonderful best friends, but sometimes those relationships disintegrate. We’ll cover the most common reasons why our friendships do not work out. And finally, Empaths crave community, but tend to fall into groups in which they become drained by the roles assigned to them. We’ll look at a family’s hidden belief system, and how the Empath tends to respond to these subtle cues and expectations of the group. Most importantly, I’ll show how the Empath can escape from these traps, fix up current relationships or let them go, and create new healthy relationships without fearing the past unhappy outcomes.
THE EMPATH AS CREATIVE BEING:
The beginning of this book shows us how we create what we don’t want. I will also cover how we can create what we do want, and how that creation process is happening all the time, even though we may not know it. I will also cover some of the most confusing patterns and feelings that arise in the creation process as the Empath embarks on her journey of self-discovery and creativity, some of which are particular to Empaths. Empath’s have the inner push to create, and yet we fear loss, especially loss of happiness.
Once we understand the creation process and its requirement to enlist Death as an ally, we are able to move forward despite the discomforts of creativity. We allow ourselves to be available more often to experience creativity’s joys. When we have a handle on our core beliefs system so that we can manifest the relationships and the creative life that we really want, we are what I call The Fulfilled Empath. I hope this book will help you on your journey into manifesting that life.