Empath vs. Empathy-What’s The Difference?

Today I am interviewing Julianna Muthu, Shamanic Counselor, Energy Healer and Mystic. It is through Julianna that I have gathered some of the information in my soon-to-be-published book, “My Spirit, My Journey-A Beginners Guide: How To Discover, Decide, And Delight In Your Spiritual Journey”.

Julianna Muthu

Julianna, tell us about your first memory of empathic feelings.

Great question.  Before I even answer that, I think its important to clarify the difference between “empathy” and being an “empath”.  Thanks to Caroline Van Kimmenade for her clear articulation.

When we experience empathy, we are able to “relate” to the experience or situation of another.    As an empath, we shift into more psychic experiences called clairsentience – “clear feeling.”  An empath senses or feels the information she receives, rather than thinks her way through.

The clearest experience I had of understanding myself  as one who feels the emotions of others was when I was having dinner with a friend who was sharing about a recent breakup. I felt a pain in my heart that I was clear was her pain, not mine. Or, at least, my interpretation of her pain.

We must be very discerning in our interpretations of our feelings as empaths;  My body will speak to me in a way that has meaning for me that I have had to discover.  It is important to be very careful about interpreting what we are feeling, and putting that on another person. Just because my heart was hurting, didn’t necessarily mean that my friend’s heart was hurting,  it may only mean there is high probability that some part of her was hurting about this breakup. What I can say for sure is I experienced a pain in my heart that wasn’t mine.

So you were able to tell right away that it wasn’t your feeling, it was hers?

Yes.

Did it take you by surprise?

It really did. In fact, I think had I not had some previous awareness through reading or listening to other people or some basic understanding that this was possible, I think I would have thought I was having a heart attack.

It was pretty heavy?

It was momentary, but it was sharp and intense. I think I could have gone into a place of fear if I hadn’t had some understanding of what was occurring.

“I couldn’t differentiate what was mine and what was somebody else’s.”

It was the very first clear experience I had of feeling something that  was not mine.  I had grown up in a family with a lot of people so there was just so much happening, I couldn’t differentiate what was mine and what was somebody else’s. This was my very first experience of understanding that all I was feeling wasn’t just me!

An astrologer looking at my natal chart validated for me I had this level of sensitivity and that it was imperative I develop what she called at the time “psychic boundaries”.  I didn’t understand what any of that meant, but I felt the resonance of truth in what she was saying.

When a similar situation happened to me, I was just overcome with emotion. I didn’t know why, because I wasn’t sad, but all of a sudden I just had all this…”stuff”-I was filled with it. I didn’t know what it was, or what I was supposed to do with it, or how to get rid of it…

The way I understand what you’re saying is that you’re also a ground for the expression and movement of that emotion. That’s a lot of what empaths do as well. There’s a lot of people who don’t have a clear relationship with their feelings and emotional bodies. Those of us who are empaths will become the grounding rod for it.

It does take us by surprise unless we understand that this is possible. It is surprising because we recognize “Wow, I’m not actually feeling sad but I have all this sadness moving through me” and so to come into an understanding of that and cultivating your compassionate heart is really a big piece of understanding that you’re the  container, you’re kind of a gift, an offering to this person and that in the moment you can really feel your feet on the ground. The energy needs to be able to flow.  That is what it is seeking, a place to flow.  If you are a path of least resistance and you are standing next to someone who is resisting feeling, you very well may become the conduit for the flow of that energy, that feeling or emotion.

As an empath, differentiation is imperative.  We must  have some understanding of our own wounds and vulnerabilities, and the idea of projection.   Were you an empath for another’s unfelt feelings, or did what was being said, light up your own tender vulnerabilities and hurts?  It is imperative one develops an understanding of their own inner emotional geography and have tools to do the clearing and healing that is required. It takes training to become a clear empath, to clear your own channels so one can differentiate what is theirs, what is another’s, and notice when something gets stuck and have the tools in place to clear your own energy and physical body.

“Emotion wants to move…”

You can be a very supportive tool when someone is dealing with a lot of energy themselves, or dealing with a lot of energy in response to somebody. Breathing into my heart, feeling my feet on the ground and just breathing. Emotion wants to move, and when we don’t acknowledge it, it gets stuck and jammed up. So people who are empaths are going to be the ones who are helping it move.

Please explain about breathing through your heart.

What I mean about breathing through the heart is simply putting my intention on my heart and breathing. I can sit here right now and put my attention on my nostrils and I might feel the sensation of the air moving in and out. What does that feel like? Does it feel warm? Maybe I open my mouth and feel the sensation of that. When I’m with somebody or in a situation where there’s a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, I simply put my intention into my heart. And put my intention of moving my breath in and out of my heart. And that’s really it. So I might be more aware of that part of my body that moves with each breath. It is kind of holding dual awareness. I’m listening to the person, I am also feeling an intensity in the environment of one sort or another. Could be my own-I could just be reacting to somebody so that I’m doing it for myself. Ultimately, that’s what you’re doing.

We go to people who call themselves healers-certainly for support, but it’s really up to us to show up and do our own healing. When in a situation where’s there’s an intensity of emotion, it could be mine, and it could be that I’m in service to this other person, I don’t always necessarily know and I don’t need to know. But I am feeling something  so I need to feel my feet on the ground and put my attention into my heart and feel my breath moving in and out of that heart space.

Do you find the more you work at this it gets easier or is it a case by case basis sometimes being easier and sometimes more difficult?

It absolutely does get easier. For me, that’s where meditation and the journey process comes into play.

At times I may have what one of my wonderful teachers calls “resi-do-do” (and I think we can all imagine what that means). If I’ve had an interaction  with someone and I go home and I’m perseverating about it or I have stories in my mind or  judgments, like “Oh, I wish they would have done ‘this'”, or “I wish they wouldn’t have done ‘that'”, that kind of thing is a story that I’m going into. That, to me, that’s “resi-do-do”.  That’s where I find having a meditation practice, or a journey practice or some relationship with guidance or spirit, helps me then tend to that-clear it, or see what it’s pointing to so that I can have a different understanding of it.

“I think that’s the piece that’s really valuable, is we don’t have to know.”

When I had that experience of feeling my friend’s feelings that hurt my heart, I wasn’t coaching at the time. I didn’t know what to call what I was experiencing.  But I had an understanding that it ran me, and that there was an invitation there for deeper understanding, so I was curious. I think that’s the piece that’s really valuable, is we don’t have to know. We’re not going to know everything.

What are we curious about? Follow the path of curiosity that has you wanting to move forward and understand things more deeply. Because when we do that, there’s something called providence-I love that word! Providence steps into that place of curiosity and points you to the places you need to go in order to understand what you are wanting to understand.

Neither my coach nor I knew what that was, or what to call it, there wasn’t a language at the time we knew of, but I had this very clear pure experience and so I could ask friends. I shared with a very good friend and she said, “Oh, you might want to check out this school”. I checked it out and it resonated. I had some judgments about the name. I wasn’t prepared to understand psychic energy, being that I had a lot of fears around the idea of “psychic”.  Part of me wanted to just pooh-pooh it, but when I looked at the courses they were offering, it resonated.

They were teaching me tools to clear my energetic body of anybody’s energy that wasn’t natively mine. I love the tools! I don’t know why, but I’d visualize the Tasmanian Devil character spinning around my energy field picking up everything that wasn’t natively mine. I will still use that tool if I’ve gone to a place where I’ve picked up a lot of psychic residue. It doesn’t happen so frequently anymore, but if it does, I still will use that tool.

“I call all of my energy back to me whole and complete.”

Sometimes when I would travel, I was leaving energetic parts of myself places. I didn’t know I was doing this. So what I learned to do was call back all my energy to me whole and complete. It’s such a beautiful thing to say-“I call all of my energy back to me whole and complete.” My whole body just wants to take a deep breath, you know. I’m calling all of my energy back to me whole and complete.

As an empath, you really are often a conduit for feelings and emotions, found in people and in spaces.   And you don’t usually have control over when this channel of perception gets turned on.  You just have to be able to flow with it and find tools that assist you staying grounded and centered.

Cultivating the element of compassion is also very important. I think that we can sometimes help by just stopping and asking “Are you OK?”.  Or tuning within and asking,  “What is wisdom here right now?” For me to just be quiet and breathe through my heart or to go a little deeper with this person?  It depends on the relationship and if appropriate saying,  “Wow, I’m really aware of feeling this in my body right now, Are you OK?”

Thank you, Julianna, for sharing your experience and knowledge! It’s been a pleasure.

To learn more about Julianna, visit her website, JuliannaMuthu.com.

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