Monday, June 15, 2009

Empathy in Groups

One of the talents that I'm still in the process of controlling and understanding is Empathy. I've made progress in the last half year with empathy, but I'm quickly discovering that with most things, the more questions I answer, the more questions crop up. A particular conundrum that I've recently focused on is the role of empathy in a group setting.

Empathy in a group setting, unlike empathy in a crowd setting, can be a unique animal. While working in a group, synergy and coordination are often sought out in order to accomplish a goal. it's usually in this situation that it's advantageous for me to turn down any empathic shields that I have so that I can pick up on the subtle clues of the group. It works really well in a work setting, when you can pick out a nuisance before it becomes a problem. In my recreation, it's nice to know how the other four, or nine, or twenty four people are feeling - it allows me to focus more on my own job since I usually play a healer role. (On that aspect - I've prohibited my group from yelling out for additional heals, since not only can I pay attention to the group, but I already innately know who needs the healing.)

This can have some huge pitfalls in practice, though. Sometimes along the way, I'll pick up cues that in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have picked up. It's easy to pick up on feelings on lying, duplicity and feeling projection. It makes precognition a hazard - where I'll suddenly start feeling extremely irate and angry for "no reason", when I'm instead picking up events that will happen in a couple hours, or even days. I'll have people ask me "Why are you upset?" or "Why are you so mad at X?" and I find myself scrambling for real reasons when I really just want to say "I'm picking up things that haven't happened yet."

Another pitfall that affects me the most is a sudden group feeling. This can be in many forms - an example everyone recognizes is "classroom nervousness" when a teacher asks a question and the entire group freezes in nervousness. This can be extremely traumatic for empaths, even when shielded - the sudden influx of nervous feelings from 5 to 50 people is a huge weight crushing down. A more dangerous one is the combined sudden anger or rage of a group reacting to something that they all think is offensive. Sadness and nervousness can result in inactivity, but anger can be extremely dangerous in that it can lead to insatiable wrath. My own anger can be alleviated by reacting in certain ways, but this does *not* work with other people's anger. A very wrathful empath can easily continue to do extremely hurtful things all while waiting to be sated - something that will never come - which can irrevocably hurt the empath and any on the warpath.

Some of these can be alleviated fairly easily with the following methods:
  • Grounding, centering and shielding.
  • Raising one's empathic shields again. I usually envision mine as a dial (mine goes up to 11) that I can globally lower and raise my shields. I'm slowly working on having people-specific dials.
  • Tensing/Relaxation techniques. This can really help in stirring up and then dispelling any extra energy that you have from other people's emotions.
It can be hard to determine whether or not one's feelings are their own or someone else's. The best way that I've found to do this is to write down the feelings that you're experiencing. If one's angry, write a huge rant. If sad, write out one's sorrows. Once this is done, compare how you feel now compared to how you were before the writing. If the emotion is mostly gone or feels diffused, then it's most likely your own. If you're still feeling that emotion strongly, then it could be from someone else, and you should focus on the techniques above.

Mindfullness is the key here - interrupting a pattern before it spirals out of control is very important. This is especially true with angry feelings. Wrath can be a very seductive emotion in that it makes one feel extremely powerful and omnipotent while dishing it out. It's not until later that one realizes the damage that can be one, especially when it cannot be sated.

1 comment:

  1. Good, practical ways of dealing with empathy and group dynamics. I like it.