Butterfly Journal: Compassion (Entry #2)

flymetothemoonIn this month’s Butterfly Journal prompt I stated: Our empathic understanding of others’ suffering opens our hearts to compassion. Let’s explore deeper into what that actually means: what is empathy, and what is compassion? 

The word “empathy” comes from the Ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια (empatheia), meaning: in or at (en>em) feeling, suffering, or passion (patheia). Having empathy is feeling or sensing another person’s emotions in some way. Most often this manifests emotionally to the empath, but it can also come through as thoughts, as visual impressions, and even as physical signs or symptoms. For an example of physical empathy: if I am regularly around or must engage with someone who is very insecure, anxious, and sneaky and thus keeps secrets and tells many lies (someone who lacks integrity), I tend to get skin rashes (the integrity of my skin breaks down). In such cases, my body “feels” another’s emotional state. Most of the time though I feel other people’s emotions and the strong emotional imprints they may leave behind non-physically.

We all are capable of empathy. Some of you may be very empathic and not know it. You may just think you are “sensitive,” which your are. You are sensitive, that is highly empathic, to picking up others’ emotional states, but you may not be aware that they are not yours. If you feel this is you, pause each time you feel flooded with emotions and ask yourself if you have a reason for feeling this way. If so, address that issue. If not, then you are likely picking up someone else’s feelings, and knowing this you can help them if you can or at least let those feelings go.

When we are able to differentiate between our own emotions and others’, when we have empathic understanding of what others are feeling, we can then find compassion for others’ suffering. Compassion comes from the Latin verb compatior, compati, compassus sum, meaning to suffer or feel (pati-, pass-) with (cum>com). Empathy is the sensing, the intuitive “picking up” of emotions and suffering of others, and compassion is when we ourselves feel the desire to help others in understanding or dealing with their suffering.

Understanding my own empathic abilities and learning the difference between my own and others’ emotions was a big challenge and lesson for me as a child. It took me until my early twenties to fully understand that throughout my childhood I had been absorbing my mother’s emotions like a sponge and feeling all her emotional suffering and challenges. I would observe myself do things, say things, and feel things and wonder where those things came from or why I did, said, or felt that. They were things my mother would do. Those things were not me, I would think to myself, and yet they kept coming.

It was not until I left home for college that things started to become clear to me. Once away from my mother and home, those actions, thoughts, and emotions that would surprise me occurred less and less often. The most profound realizations would come, however, when I would return home for a weekend or holiday, and it all would come flooding back. I think I was nineteen when I saw that I was empathically and psychically picking up on my mother’s suffering.

With this self-awareness, over the next few years into my early twenties I was able to free myself from many mental and emotional challenges that were not really mine. It was hard work, but by working through this healing and growth process and by understanding my own empathic abilities, I was able to get to my own emotions and address the hidden hurt, anger, and shame of my mother’s abuse and neglect. I was also able to have compassion for my mother’s struggles and suffering, for I knew very well what she was experiencing. My empathic understanding of her struggles and pains has allowed my heart to have compassion for her instead of letting the mind take over with any resentment or bitterness. Clinging to any hurt or anger would have only harmed me and closed my heart, so instead I chose to have an open heart. May we all have open hearts and find compassion for all who are suffering.

Examine thus yourself from every side. Take not of your defilements and your pointless efforts. For thus the heroes on the Bodhisattva path seize firmly on such faults with proper remedies.

With perfect and unyielding faith, with steadfastness, respect, and courtesy, with conscientiousness and awe, work calmly for the happiness of others.

– Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatara

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About Julianne Victoria

I am a writer, healer, spiritual life coach, astrologer & tarot reader in Santa Barbara, CA. I hope to help heal, teach, and inspire others on their journeys and in this life. © Julianne Victoria and Through the Peacock's Eyes Press under the Common Law Copyright; My main Blog: www.peacockseyes.com
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26 Responses to Butterfly Journal: Compassion (Entry #2)

  1. BloomLisa says:

    Beautiful post Julie. It gave me some pearls of wisdom that had not occurred to me before regarding my mother’s suffering and growing up in her energy. You are amazing & inspiring. Blessings to you sweet thing.

  2. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hi Julie,

    Then I shall look forward to reading April’s first instalment on Monday 🙂

    Thank you for making our introduction a friendly and rewarding one. I hope it will continue. On your informative site today I was led to reading Animal Totem’s – Lion, and Butterfly Journal – Patience. I left a posting on Lion. But as I am still working on my Patience, I will hope to return when I am better centred 🙂

    And please have a lovely weekend yourself, rich in pleasure and bountiful in thought, and inspiring in your heart.

    Namaste

    DN – 05/04/14

  3. Dewin Nefol says:

    P.S: I like the signature monogram. Very creative 🙂

  4. Dewin Nefol says:

    Hi Julianne,

    I came to your wonderful site via Sindy’s ‘Water’ themed posts on Bluebutterfliesandme. Both you and her share many common insights and both of you are erudite and learned in your respective fields. Sharing time between these two Blogs has been a wholly productive experience.

    The title of your Blog is relevant to my on-going interest in Alchemy…the blooming of the Peacock’s Feather being a symbol of success in the transformative process. But I was drawn by the Butterfly Journals, and have read my way through a lot of the material they contain. It is because you have a very natural way of presenting your insight that I was able to take away with me a much fuller understanding in certain key areas. I have also found the depth, detail, and involvement of your reader’s comments most helpful…their sincerity is obviously a reflection on the ‘trust’ they have in the quality of your replies. You often reply at length and express the totality of an answer rather than leave to many questions unanswered that might otherwise leave your reader wanting.

    Empathy and Compassion are truly aspirational virtues of moral excellence and clearly defined attributes of higher consciousness. I imagine that such qualities are freely available within the hearts of all should they find themselves motivated to seek them. What I hadn’t realised was just how naturally predisposed some people are to the feelings and energies of others. It is a phenomenon that is obviously very affecting in the lives of those who may be so readily inclined and influenced by these ever present forces flowing from someone else. Perhaps in some way we are all compromised by such negativity in the world and may not even know it. I imagine there are also many people out there who have been overtly empathetic and wonderfully compassionate since birth and might not even be aware of it…they just accept their state of mind as being their own and push on with assisting others. So, I am fascinated to understand more on how someone with extreme sensitivity might ‘protect’ themselves against such bombardment. And how best they might rid themselves effectively and quickly during moments of ’empathetic build up’. I won’t go in to too much detail, but situations and circumstances in my own life are shortly to reach a climax and I hope I might be able to offer hope and compassion to an extended family that will experience a high degree of collective pain.I wonder too, if you might consider a separate post on this matter, or direct me to a post that you may have already made.

    Thank you for providing a wonderful site that obviously reflects your passions and interests together with your ability to provide support an guidance. It is a site bursting with positivity, vivacity, and an energy and love of life.

    God Bless. Namaste

    DN – 01/04/14

    • Hi Devin! Wow, thank you so much! I’m glad my blog (and Sindy’s!) is productive for you. It is wonderful to get feedback like this – to know that what I write is helpful to others in some way.
      It can be very challenging when facing “moments of “’empathetic build up’” (that’s a great way to state it). Number one thing to do, is breathe deeply. It helps calm your own emotions and it takes focus away from the external/others and into within. It is grounding. Other grounding practices (meditation, prayer/chanting, even exercise/moving meditation, etc) are very helpful too, especially if you can do them before meeting with your extended family. Grounding practices will center you and help clarify what are your feelings and what are others. Then there are the visualizations of screens or shields that I mentioned.
      I like your suggestion to do a post about this! I just realized I did not write a 3rd Butterfly Journal post for March (I try to get in three), but this will nicely seque and tie into April’s theme. 🙂 Thank you!
      Many Blessings and Namaste _/l\_

      • Dewin Nefol says:

        Hey Julianne,

        This is great! And very much appreciated. I must say that the exercises and practices you’ve offered sound of real benefit. Being an Earth sign, I have always thought of myself as being fairly well grounded, but you reply has asked me to reflect on this, I may have been assuming to much of myself without actually being aware of what was taking place.

        Methods and mechanisms of ‘shielding’ might take a little longer to establish. I do meditate but not as a separate component in my life but normally whilst engaged in Artwork…I find the peace and solitude of each a compliment to the other. It’s possibly more a case then of making more room in my life to accommodate it independently, and that can only be a good thing and a positive and rewarding effort…life can sometimes be far to busy! Of the other methods you suggest, prayer has always been a part of my life, and in this I do find a sense of peace and personal space. My family are not so predisposed in this way, yet are fortified by my ‘investment’ in it! Such is the way of all things.

        I’ve taken a little advice from elsewhere as well, not because there was anything at all missing in your reply, in fact quite the reverse…I found it inspired me towards a little personal research!

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. It is grateful and I am sure with practice the suggestions you have given me will bear fruit.

        Also, thank you for being a new follower on my young Blog! It’s got a long way to go before being as well appreciated as your own, but one lives in hope that from the planting of one small acorn will grow an oak tree. You’ll always be welcome, so let me know when you in town 🙂

        I shall be following your Blog, and will look forward to the forthcoming March edition of the 3rd Butterfly Journal, not to mention reading a deeper insight into April’s connecting theme. It’s nice to have ‘met’ you Julianne Victoria. I’ll be visiting quite often to read the material that is here. Sindy speaks highly of you, and since I found Sindy’s site informative and erudite, I’m sure to find similar here to. I’ve not been disappointed so far. God Bless.

        Namaste

        DN – 03/04/14

      • Thank you and nice to have “met” you too! I think I will just move into April’s Butterfly Journal posts next. I am working on it already, and will hopefully have it posted by Monday.
        Have a lovely weekend,
        Julie

  5. ~meredith says:

    Hi, Julianne.

    You wrote something that helped me a lot: “I was nineteen when I saw that I was empathically and psychically picking up on my mother’s suffering.

    With this self-awareness, over the next few years into my early twenties I was able to free myself from many mental and emotional challenges that were not really mine. It was hard work, but by working through this healing and growth process and by understanding my own empathic abilities, I was able to get to my own emotions and address the hidden hurt, anger, and shame of my mother’s abuse and neglect. I was also able to have compassion for my mother’s struggles and suffering, for I knew very well what she was experiencing. ”

    This is similar to the experience I shared with my mother, and I didn’t realize how strong the connection was until she died. Even though I don’t know the story of her last years, I had a number of …. sensations that confused me. I felt so much pressure, rage, and something else that seemed like a war within myself, but it did not make sense. This escalated, then it was gone. A few weeks later, I received word she died, and suddenly I understood “the war.” Oppression. Viciousness and intense will… even rage… gone. I thought, no way. Cannot be what I intuiti know. But those closest to me observed it, too. Here is where your message helps me so much: many would say, ‘that’s your mental illness,’ but that’s not what I felt, and I realized it. It seemed too fictitious, though, to think about. Now it doesn’t.

    Thank you.

    Meredith

    • Hi Meredith! Thanks for sharing your experience. It can be very hard to sort out emotions that are our own and those of others. I sounds like you and your mother had a “chord” connection even though you were not in close contact in her last years. It can be very hard not understanding where these feelings come from, but once aware of empathic picking up, it can be cleared out. Trust in your Self. 🙂

      Blessings to you!

  6. Very insightful write Julie. I like the phrase examine your self from every side……

  7. Theresa says:

    Terrific post, and so relevant to what happens to so many of us. Each morning in the shower, I visualize the water to be white light to serve as protection for me throughout the day. This to protect me from the “emotional vampires” that are out there, ready to suck the life out of us empaths.

  8. Thank you Julianne! Breathe, breathe, breathe…The best advice! As Kabir says…God is “the breath within the breath”…!!

  9. Dear Julianne,
    Thank you so much for this post. You elucidated a really complex topic in such a beautiful way.

    I echo Ashhambling’s sentiments – I too have to work in close proximity to someone who is always totally wound up, and the second the person comes into the room I feel my energy shift – so dramatically. I try to put up a shield, cloak myself, give myself a rainbow of protection, practice loving-kindness, all of it – but I still feel my heart slam shut. Maybe it just takes more practice?? The part I find most saddening is that I know this person has a good heart, I even see glimpses of pure devotion in the person’s heart, but it is so intensely covered by wound up energy that I feel it in my chakras and my subtle system (I even tend to hold my breath) every time we come in contact. Do you have any other suggestions for how to practice compassion on an energetic level?

    On a positive note, there are other moments when I feel endless gratitude to the universe for gifting me with empath abilities. I attend Holy Book readings every Sunday with a True Teacher who is clearly realized, and as I am sure you know, there is nothing quite like being around someone with such a pure heart and a high-frequency. Just being in the presence of this person, coupled with the vibrations of the Holy Texts, I am completely covered in divine love – drunk on the Beloved – to the point of tears.

    Sooo I am interested to hear more from you about how to leave yourself open to the amazing experience of sharing energy with the Blessed, yet still being able to protect yourself and show compassion for the suffering.

    Thanks for enduring this longggg comment!! and thank you for all you do here on your blog.
    xoxo
    Amanda

    • Thanks Amanda! Long comments are always welcome! It is challenging, but it sounds like you are doing what you can do compassionately with your co-worker. Sometimes that best thing we can do is just send love form our hearts, even if we have to shield someone’s negative energy at the same time. However, I sense that your energy field may be telling you that this is unhealthy energy. Does this person draw on others’ energy for sustenance? Your energy’s dramatic shift may be an intuitive protective act to not be “vampirized”.

      Whether or not, understand that this person is wound up because they are unhappy or hurting or distraught, and even if you don’t know the details of their suffering, know that they are suffering and sending love, acting in kindness, and even just a smile will help them in some way on some level. If this person is very difficult some days, then being indifferent is ok if it helps you to manage. Say a prayer or chant a mantra in your head, or out loud? Being reactive (angry, argumentative, etc.) will only contribute to their suffering (and yours). Oh, and always breathe! 🙂

  10. yogaleigh says:

    It took me a long time to realize that a lot of “my” emotions weren’t mine and then a long time to learn to keep other people’s stuff out of me and to know which feelings belong to me. Nice piece –this will be helpful to people.

  11. ashhambling says:

    Great article. This is something that I am struggling with at the moment. I am highly sensitive to the point where I find it intolerable to be around particular people sometimes. I try to show compassion and listen but like you said, I then become like a sponge and take that low frequency energy onboard myself. I need to learn how to protect myself so that I can remain in the company of these people and show compassion. My issue is that often these people will not help themselves and you cannot ‘fix’ someone else. They have to do the work themselves. How long can you remain around these people until it becomes destructive to your own energy and life ? I am sure I will find a way of protecting my energy and I will mature and learn how to deal with these situations. It is comforting to hear that other people have been through the same thing and can now deal with it in a loving way that helps the other person/people.

    • Thank you! If you have be around these particular people, have you tried putting up a shield or screen? For me, it has helped to envision a bell shaped window screen around me to filter out negative energy when I have to be around it. A screen has holes so I can still perceive empathically and intuitively, but at the same time protect myself from negative energy (and possibly others sucking energy from me). You can envision what resonates for you, but I recommend something translucent so that you don’t cut yourself off or exhaust yourself (such as if you put a steel wall around you). Also doing grounding practices can help too. I hope this is helpful. Namaste _/l\_

  12. fozziemum says:

    I so understand what you say Julianne..i found myself for years ‘being’ my family when I was around them..like a chameleon almost easier to blend in to their emotional colors than find my own..but it didn’t ‘fit’ I would get terrible headaches that lasted for weeks..There own problems I seemed to wear as a coat and wonder why felt so unwell..it hit almost overnight and when I realised it was so nice to actually be own self…understanding their problems were just that ..dysfunction in the extreme unstabilises me and my body doesn’t deal with it..my family used my sense of humour and usually upbeat persona to suck the life out of me..leaving me with nothing..great post Julianne and a very good point for people to think about . Hugs Bev xx

  13. We share such similar stories, although it took me much longer to fully realize I had long absorbed my mother’s emotions (and other’s, but especially my mother’s). In fact, it took becoming a mother myself to realize this.

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