How to build or develop empathy

We assume most all people are born with adequate levels of empathy. People who already know they are empathic go about life with a glass-half-full, rose-colored glasses mentality because we know we could always have it worse. We may expect the best of new people we meet and expect the best in situations we’re involved in. We may walk into a room and be surprised when there is “bad energy”. We want to get to the root of it, help, and stop the problems because when other people are in pain, we are in pain. 

The reality, though, is that not everyone possesses true empathy for the experiences of others. And aside from traditional explanations for low empathy (bio-chemical imbalances, mental health disorders), it makes sense to think about it this way too: we primarily develop empathy by undergoing, examining, and coming to terms with our life lessons.

Imagine if no one engaged in meaningful personal growth — would they be able to understand the emotions, challenges, and hardships of others? Would they care to make things better even if it didn’t directly benefit them?

What if, instead of pursuing personal growth, people pursued more tangible benefits and outcomes like money, exclusive personal belongings, socially acceptable rituals, and letters after their name — experiences that didn’t necessarily require them to learn how specific emotions feel? How much empathy would they develop?

To develop true empathy, we must first understand what our core wounds and life lessons are. The core wounds are the deep scars we carry from childhood or beyond. The fears, insecurities, and triggers. These then dictate our life lessons — the things we are here to do and become in order to overcome the core wounds. Once you figure out the repeating patterns of events in your life and relationships, your core wounds and life lessons become very obvious and you can then begin making different decisions in your life to break the patterns (I do this with clients in Energy Reading sessions). This is when you grow and further refine your empathic abilities and stop the recurrent problems. 

There is another way I like to explain this. I use this technique myself and now, as a mom, teach my daughter to do the same. This technique is basically the traditional “spider web” story outline that we were all taught in middle school or high school English. It’s where you create a bubble/circle in the middle of a page, then draw lines around the circle and connect the lines to other bubbles that support the main idea. 

We can use this technique when a difficult event transpires and we would like to understand and develop empathy or compassion for what has happened and to whom. The main circle represent what actually happened. From there, try to figure out why each person acted as they did. What could be going on in their life that would cause them to say that? What stresses are they under that would cause them to do that? What is their frame of reference or what are their underlying preexisting beliefs that would cause them to feel that way?

From there, create a third ring of line and bubbles. In these circles, you can even further examine why what they did was a trigger for you. “Because they did this, I felt _______.” Then create a fourth ring of line and bubbles. In these circles, ask yourself, why did I feel that way based on what they did? Your core wounds are likely to come up as answers. “Because I always felt _____ about myself”, “Because my parents taught me _________ about myself”, “Because I feared rejection”, etc. You can repeat this until you feel you have sufficiently deconstructed the issue. 

It looks like this:

empathy spiderweb1

After doing this, you will feel you have a better understanding of the situations, develop compassion for people who perhaps wronged you, situations you don’t “get”, and difficult emotions that pop up. Instead of asking “why did this bad thing happen to me”, ask, “why did this happen to us all and what can we learn from this? Why did they feel that way? What personal growth do I need to do? Which area in myself did I overlook that caused them to feel that way? Why do I feel this way and how can I grow so this isn’t a trigger again?”

Once you understand why they felt or acted how they did, you will understand why you felt and acted like you did and how far deep this kind of lesson runs for you. As a result, you’ll develop your empathic skills and begin recognizing how everything is one big interconnected web. 

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Tracing the roots of the toxic masculine as we witness its fall

What’s happening globally — politically, professionally and personally — is no accident. Secrets are being exposed, skeletons are tumbling out of closets, new information is being brought forth to be corroborated or denied, and on it goes. It suddenly seems no one is safe — whether layperson or famous figure. It’s an undoing of karma — a righting of wrongs — and we’ve all got a front row seat. 

The societal changes we’re undergoing are the resultant spark from the bombshell news last October involving Harvey Weinstein and allegations of sexual abuse brought against him (built on the backs, of course, of generations who actively fought for equality). Since that time, there has been a breaking of the dam moment and people are opening up, digging deep, sharing (with their thyroid chakra energy), and starting the healing process. It’s an opening to the sacred feminine and we’re getting to hear sides to stories we thought were cut and dry, we’re being asked to open our minds and start feeling to discern the truth. It may not seem like it now, but these are good things. 

The left-brained masculine system has been running the show for quite some time. It rushes, it detracts, it glosses over, it ignores, it covers up, it mocks, it takes what it wants, it deceives, it believes it is worthy. As I’ve written about before, empaths tend to have greater right brain abilities and therefore are able to tap into energy and their intuition much better. It’s also why we face more challenges than others: we feel deeply, we crave peace, we seek to meet the needs of others, and we often allow ourselves to settle for less than we are worth which allows us to be taken advantage of and fatigued easily. It’s likely the left-brained system has left you feeling drained for quite some time but perhaps you haven’t connected the dots to your frustrations.

We’ve lived the left-brained system. We understand how it works, what it expects of us, and how to play the game to get by. We’ve put off “too-lofty” hopes and fantasies for fear of unrealistic expectations or shattered dreams. We’ve tried to standardize our personalities and interests so we can fit in. We’ve said yes when we really wanted to say no. We’ve tried to go with the flow despite feeling a much different undercurrent. The things we’re seeing in the media — the stories, the drama, the undoing and unraveling — is the end of an era. It’s the turning of the tide. It’s the long walk to the gates at the other side of it — the “promised land”. 

The undoing that we’re seeing, the checks and balances, the desire for equality and discernment is bringing us into a time where more feminine, right-brained skills are prized and balanced with the masculine, rather than usurped or oppressed. It’s where one is not whole without the other and in order for the whole to work, the individual parts need to be at their best — in fact, encouraged to be at their best — because we see things work better when things are built in supportive partnership rather than separation. Not masculine versus feminine, and not feminine versus masculine — feminine and masculine.

The left-brained masculine social system can also be classified in other ways: patriarchy, rigidity, dis-connectivity, requires proof, requires external validation, “toxic masculinity” – gets what he wants no matter what. It’s the macho facade or cool exterior hiding the scared little boy inside. Yes, despite the hyper-“manly” displays of war, rape, and power plays, at the root of the left-brained, patriarchal, toxic masculine system is a scared little boy who just wants to be king.

The problem is, this proverbial little boy hasn’t earned the right to sit on the throne — and deep down, he knows this. He’s made cheap shortcuts, told lies, feasted while others have starved, and said one thing while promoting another. He’s pushed the boundaries, gotten away with as much as he can, and now he’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is reaping the consequences.

The little boy here symbolizes the toxic, not-yet-actualized masculine. He didn’t want to do the hard work, go into battle, and come out the other side a seasoned decision maker. It was easier to pretend he had already done the soul work. As a result, the kings aren’t making good decisions. In fact, the decisions they have made for many years under our noses have left people used and abused.

Right now, we are all being asked “how much abuse is ‘okay”? How much abuse should one be able to — or required to — forget or ignore? How long can the real human experience be ignored? Which abuse is relevant? How much brain or soul trauma should be permissible? Is considering how someone felt in the moment childish or unreasonable? Can the feminine be believed? Ultimately, I believe we will come to find that no abuse is tolerable, even those considered tiny and minuscule. The toxic masculine system is the root cause of abuse and inhumane treatments towards other people. We are waking up to this reality.

The problem is that while some may have aged physically and use fancy props to display their supposed wisdom, they have not developed personally or done the soul work in order to develop character. Thus far, we have been taught to trust people based on their biological age, income, profession, gender, and race. We assume that they must be wiser because they are older, outwardly successful, or adept at socially acceptable charades. But that assumption just isn’t true and this is the undoing and unraveling we are witnessing. Just because someone is older, more advanced professionally, better off financially, more connected or intellectual, funny, worldly, spiritual, or nice, does not mean they posses character. It does not mean they are capable of telling the truth, admitting to the lies, finding solutions, or righting the wrongs. In order to possess these qualities, you must undergo the process of opening your chakras which involves confronting your core wounds and life lessons. It’s the waking up out of the amnesia I have written about before

But please know, this does not refer to nor characterize all men. We all have masculine and feminine aspects to our personalities and the goal isn’t to suppress one or the other, but to balance and accept them. Unfortunately, these polar opposite personality traits often get expressed in unhealthy ways. In fact, women are often perpetuators of the toxic masculine system either because they don’t realize it, are forced into it, or because they are told they will gain certain advantages from it. Ex: women tearing each other down to protect their “territories” (aka: mean girls), women feeling they have to be “done up” or cosmetically altered to be considered credible or liked, women ignoring their true interests for jobs and hobbies that will get them approval from others in order to succeed, saying yes when everything inside of you is screaming no because you don’t want to rock the boat or risk punishment.

There are three stages of personal development it is said we should all seek to embody. For women, these stages are commonly referred to as the Virgin/Maiden, Mother, and Crone archetypes. It suggests that we are all undergoing life lessons in order to ascend from one level to the next, learning as we go. Each symbolizes a different cycle in the life of a woman, should she choose to learn her soul lessons. The Virgin represents hopes and dreams, the promise of a future, joy and naivete. She is everything you wanted for yourself when you were younger but only dreamed of, never worked for. The Mother represents power, true love, protection, and availability. She is how you love and protect those in need, do for others, put in the effort even when it’s not fun, and make time. The Crone is the ancient wisdom you have acquired on your journey and the ability to sit, wait, go at it alone, and reflect.

Men also have cycles they must go through in order to develop their character: Youth, Warrior, and Sage. Much like the Virgin, Mother, and Crone archetypes, the Youth, Warrior, and Sage archetypes are a natural progression from undeveloped child, to a person who takes life head on and fights for truth and justice (a true ally, equal, and defender of women, rather than subjugator), and finally to a prophet who understands the meaning of it all and makes peace with it. While these are typically sequential cycles, you can float in and out of any of them at any time — and should — because your personality is not limited to one but is a combination of all three. It’s the un-tapped-into parts that we are most scared of or try to compensate for. 

The societal upheavals we are witnessing are tracing us back to the roots of the beast. Where did it all start? Why do we consider this socially acceptable? Is pain-free too much to ask for out of life? Do our actions that we deem inconsequential really affect other people for the rest of their lives? Is that fair? Is there a different way to live?

The feminine has grown up into the mother, despite the long stymied battle. We have tiptoed around the scared inner child in those around us. Now, she wants to become the crone. She no longer wants to bow down to the good old boys club just because “that’s the way it’s done”, offer up her power for the benefit of others, and shut her eyes or ears because she will be the only one who admits to knowing. “Mothers” posses a magical, omniscient understanding of their children and are patient despite bad behavior. We knew if we spoke, we would force the little boys to begin the arduous journey towards becoming real sages and because the process is so intense, not everyone makes it. We knew they wouldn’t like their real stature being known. We have subconscious guilt over being the “impetus”. But the origin of the toxic masculine runs so deep, it may require an earthquake to pluck it by the roots. 

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Forward threading: a new way to learn

If you’ve been reading my blog series Empath sabotage, you may have noticed I posted a blog last week about how left-brained thinking can sometimes get the best of empaths. See, empaths tend to learn in more right-brained ways because the right brain is our emotional center and rules these highly sensitive personality types. It can be hard living in a world where people are rewarded for primarily functioning out of one side of their brain (the left), while the right-brained thinkers sometimes get their process or their experiences relegated as fringe, impractical, “overly emotional” or “artsy”. This needs to change. We need the empaths and right-brained thinkers to come out of the closet in order to have a more balanced flow of information and representation of the human experience. 

I went to college for a degree in Education because of the struggles I faced over the years due to left-brained learning disabilities. It forces me to operate out of my right brain (being an empath is kind of a life sentence for me) and I have great difficulty performing mathematical and linear tasks. After being in classrooms over the years and working with kids (and now having a child myself), I see that we all learn in vastly different ways. Remember that you have a right to learn in whichever way works best for you, whether it be listening, observation, experience, memorization, etc. 

But today I want to bring another learning method to you — one you may already use but are unaware of, or maybe one you have not considered before. If you’re an empath, you may do this naturally. It’s a technique I call “forward threading” and it’s a way to learn new information without needing to have a base of information to recall from. You see, the traditional educational model tells us you have to begin imparting a base set of knowledge from a very young age — math, letters, presidents, countries, shapes, sounds, etc. From there, children are taught progressively complex information that adds onto the base knowledge they have already acquired until they are considered proficient in knowledge memorization and recall. 

Don’t get me wrong — this method works, for sure. But there are a few problems with only thinking in this one way. It creates rigidity because we only believe we are capable of learning if we already know something. Therefore, anything that is outside of our realm of understanding becomes something we feel uncomfortable thinking about. New theories, possibilities, brilliant ideas, flashes of insight are often dismissed, mocked, or ignored until there is “sufficient” evidence to support the foundation of the theory. These kinds of ideas get long forgotten when they could instead be put towards helping humanity and studying viable solutions to our biggest problems. Only information that fits very neatly into a preconceived notion of what knowledge is gets passed down.

Secondly, much of the information we use as our “base” is largely flawed, misinterpreted, contains gaps and holes, or is indecipherable. Everything is filtered through a human lens of the times so we may assume we understand the origins and workings of man based on what we have learned, but there is usually a much more interesting truth at the root. 

Forward threading is a great technique because it’s a way to remember and learn new things that you can then write down, record, and be able to later explore, and debunk or confirm. It’s a way to tap into your subconscious mind without using meditation or other methods. Information will start coming to you as insights and you can simply jot them down to think about and come back to later. You don’t need to judge these ideas because doing that will stop the flow of information. The ego is a big road block to this kind of learning. Instead, reflect on what comes to you and later explore the ideas by researching or use the scientific method in your own life to see if it could be true.

For example, perhaps one day you begin reflecting and think, “This hummus is not agreeing with me. Every time I eat it, I get _______ symptom. I wonder if I could be sensitive to it.” So you sit with this idea for a few days. Then you begin deconstructing the ingredients in the hummus: chickpeas, water, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt — which could be the problem? Or is it the phytates, lectins, sodium or BPA, or could it be cross-reactive with gluten, etc? A few days later you have chickpeas on a salad and get the same reaction. The next day you take chickpeas out of your diet for three weeks with no other changes. One week in, you realize you no longer have that nagging symptom. After the three weeks, you are positive it was the chickpeas causing you problems because you haven’t felt ill the whole time you weren’t eating them. Take this information to a doctor and they may say, “Your diet has nothing to do with that. It’s unrelated. And anyway, no one has allergies to chickpeas.” You can then choose to take the standard approach and ignore your instincts in lieu of a rigid pyramid-based knowledge system that requires external validation, or you can trust yourself and keep that food out of your diet.

Over time, new insights will come to you more readily and rapidly. If you choose to trust yourself, you will experience more and more forward threading where you start to see what else in your diet or life may be a problem that you can then get answers to. Ask yourself a question, then wait for a solution to present itself. If you wait and seek it out, it will come. Then you have to begin trusting it. 

I like to describe forward threading like this: imagine there is a long, infinite piece of string floating out in space. Though it has no anchors, it stays in place. You feel the urge to pull at the string by asking a question; something you want to know. When you ask, an answer suddenly pops into your mind — a solution, a good idea, an explanation you hadn’t thought of before and you realize this answer is a knot on the string. “I’m not sure if this is the truth” you may tell yourself. After all, you didn’t get this answer from a doctor, or pastor, book, or friend. You found it inside of yourself. Though, you don’t trust yourself so how could you trust the answer, you wonder. But the solution makes perfect sense so after a while, you decide to ask another question by pulling your fingers up the thread. You are given another solution and you realize there is another knot there. Eventually you realize you can keep asking questions in order to find solutions and with each tug you feel the individual threads of the string making it very real, as well as knots that signify answers. You can see that this thread keeps going forever and ever and isn’t limited to a base of knowledge. You are learning in forward. 

Or, think about it this way: imagine you are in a terrible accident and wake up in the hospital a few days later with amnesia. You have no memory of who you are, why you are here, or what is happening. All you know is that you have a body that is now in pain and you have a consciousness that feels blank. Although you are an adult, you try to express your thoughts and they come out garbled much like an infant. A nurse stops by your room to check up on you. She speaks to you in plain English and it sparks your memory — you know the words she is speaking and you repeat them back to her. After a few interactions like this, you recall words and are able to say one or two to communicate your needs. After a few weeks, you begin stringing sentences together. No one re-taught you the basics of the alphabet or how sentences are composed; you simply acquired it through internal remembrance. As months pass, your strength builds and you rediscover things you enjoy doing, which gives you a faint remembrance of what you used to do/be in the world. It builds and builds. 

I highly encourage you to give this technique a try. Ask yourself, “what do I need to know?”, “what do I need to learn?”, “what does this mean?”, “what is a solution to this?”. It will help you tap into your subconscious stressors that are keeping you sick and energetically drained. It will help you find solutions and get answers. It will help you trust yourself and ignore the loud noise of everyone around you when it comes to decision making in your life. Remember, don’t judge — just observe, then see if you can confirm it. 

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