Posts Tagged ‘Empath’

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On Being An Empath (part two)

May 30, 2012

Part Two – The Delights

Empathy: the state of identification of personalities in which one person feels into the other as temporarily to lose his or her own identity. It is in this profound and somewhat mysterious process of empathy that understanding, influence, and the other significant relations between persons take place.  – Rollo May

In part one of “On Being An Empath” we examined the difficulties of being an empath. In this second part, we’ll now explore how to take care of yourself once you’ve recognised you’re an empath, and the delights which being an empath can bring.

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF

Now you’ve recognised that you’re an empath, the most important change you can make is to take care of yourself by minimising the number of negative influences in your life. As discussed in part one, as an empath you are susceptible to the detrimental effects of negative energy, whether it’s surrounding energy or your own.

This susceptibility affects your life in a number of ways. Firstly, you will be unable to tolerate an unhealthy relationship at any level. Some people are able to exist in such a relationship for many years, perhaps by operating as though it were simply a business arrangement, but as an empath you are unable to do this. Indeed, if you do attempt to follow this course of action, you will end up becoming physically, emotionally or mentally sick – I have know more than one empath who has become suicidal when stuck in a loveless marriage. I have also known other empaths who have ended up becoming completely numb – unable to cope with the negative energy, they simply cut themselves off from ALL energy and feel nothing at all. What a horrible (non) existence. Consequently, the aware empath would rather remain single than be in a negative relationship.

You will also be unable to tolerate work which is meaningless – what Barry Jaeger in Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person calls ‘Drudgery’. Though many people are able to tolerate a dull job purely for the money, you are not one of them and if you make such a sacrifice, you will ultimately pay for it with your emotional, spiritual and physical health. The aware empath values their time, their well-being and meaningful work far more than they value money and consumer goods. Sadly, our society revolves around the masculine principles of economics whilst the more feminine attribute of empathy is often derided and neglected. And whoever dreamt up the work ethic certainly did not have people like us in mind – and was definitely not an empath.

The empath’s preference for meaningful work means that you will find many of us working in creative fields – the writer, the musician and the artist will often have this trait to some degree. Creativity is food for the soul for the empath and I personally find it vital to my well-being to use creativity in my work. I’ve done many jobs over the years but this is the only work I’ve truly enjoyed – even the more stressful and tedious aspects are easier to cope with when your work means something more to you than just a way of paying the bills.

As an empath, you will also benefit from periods of solitude to recuperate after any energy bombardment. In part one I discussed the difficulties for the empath of being in an urban environment. As I’ve got older (and empaths often become more sensitive to energies the older they become) I find that if I spend the day in a nearby town, I can only last a few hours before I have to get the hell out of there.

I also used to have what I call ‘brain in the jar’ moments. Before I recognised my trait, I would spend too much time amongst other people and become so overwhelmed, that it literally felt as if my head would explode. I would also find myself becoming overwhelmed by stressful situations or issues in my life. Whenever I felt like this, I would comment that I wished I could ‘take my brain out of my head and put it in a jar’, as a way of giving myself a break. At some subconscious level, obviously I knew what I needed – complete and utter sensory rest.

Fortunately I eventually recognised this need so I now make sure that I regularly recharge my own energy by spending time alone, meeting my need for time to contemplate, read, write and generally take care of myself – and my ‘brain in the jar’ moments no longer occur. I also realised that, for the same reasons, empaths need more sleep than most people. If you have commitments such as work and family, this can be easier said than done, but at least try and take half an hour to nap or lie in a dark, quiet room during the course of the day to revitalise yourself.  Some empaths are so unable to cope with energy onslaughts that they become recluses or hermits, but for most of us there is no need to go to this extreme, although time spent in retreat for a few days can be a positive thing now and again. This can be particularly useful for urban empaths, as time out in a tranquil rural environment can really give you a boost as well as indulge your passion for nature, which occurs naturally for many empaths.

Finding a pastime which absorbs you is also a good way of giving yourself a break. My personal favourite used to be jigsaws – you’ll find that  ‘geeky’ pastimes like model-making or stamp collecting are particularly good for this, as are creative pursuits such as gardening, painting, sculpting, or cookery. So long as it takes you out of your conscious mind for a while to give you time to balance your energy, any pastime you choose will do.

Basically then, the rule is to be your own best friend – take care of yourself, eat and sleep well and give yourself little treats now and again. Time spent relaxing with a good book in a local friendly coffee shop is my idea of bliss and is a really cheap and simple way to give yourself a lift and recharge your batteries. And remember to talk kindly to yourself – empaths tend to analyse everything and can end up being hypercritical of themselves. Whenever you catch yourself judging yourself harshly, ask yourself ‘Would I speak like this to my best friend? Would I tolerate my best friend saying this stuff to me?’ If not, then perhaps you need to reconsider.

Ultimately, self care is crucial. The more you nurture yourself, the more you will be open to the following benefits of being an empath.

 UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE – TELEPATHY, SYNCHRONICITIES AND DREAMS

Because of your high level of resonance, you will probably be tuned into the ‘universal energies’ or what Jung called the collective unconscious. This gives you a deep sense of knowing – you just ‘know’ things despite there being no rational explanation as to how you know – as well as a strong feeling of connection, which can lead to the spiritual belief that separation is an illusion and ‘we are all one’. This connection and knowing also opens us up to the ‘universal guidance’ which is contained within these energies, which is why many empaths are natural problem solvers, able to resolve any issue which they put their hearts, souls and minds into.

I mentioned in part one how my daughter and I are so close that as soon as we’re in each others energy range, I start to feel her physical symptoms. This energetic connection with others, often referred to as telepathy, is one of the fun aspects of being an empath. As well as those little tricks which many of us do such as thinking about someone just as they call you, or bumping into someone you haven’t seen in years the day after you thought about them, you may also find yourself connecting energetically with people in other less obvious ways. I find that I often tune into people I’m close to through my dreams, perhaps because my mind is more relaxed and therefore more receptive. For instance, if my daughter wakes before me in the morning and reads a book, I often have a dream which reflects the contents of that book in some way. A recent example was a dream I had about Glastonbury music festival one morning shortly before I woke. When I asked P what she had been reading, it turned out that there was a character in her book that had the nick-name ‘Glastonbury’! Even more bizarrely, I have even on occasion had the same dream as my daughter or my partner.

I also have prophetic dreams which you can read about in my blog entry The Magical World of Dreams. Empaths are often fascinated by dreams and we are natural dream analysts, due to our ability to see the deeper meaning in things and make lateral links using subtle details. This ability also works in the waking world too and helps us to interpret signs, symbols and archtypes, as well as synchronicities. Aware empaths delight in synchronicities and as our understanding of ourselves and our connection to the universe grows, we find that the universal guidance which appears in the form of synchronicities becomes ever more fluent and clear. You can read more about synchronicities in my blog entry So What Is Synchronicity?

PEOPLE AND OTHER ANIMALS

The aware empath is often described by others as ‘a beacon of light’. You will find that people are drawn to you and babies in particular will adore you – I often notice little children staring and smiling at me from their pushchairs when I’m out and about.

A similar thing can happen with animals. Empaths have a deep connection to animals and love to be around their energies. You may even find you prefer their company to that of people, as you feel animals – and their energies – are simpler and don’t have an agenda. Perhaps those ‘crazy cat ladies’ who prefer to live alone surrounded by felines are actually misunderstood empaths.

As an empath, you will also be able to resonate with the emotions of animals and unlike most people, you will view them as sentient beings who should have the same rights as humans. Because of this, many empaths become vegetarian or vegan at some point in their lives.

As far as people go, the empath makes a great friend for life, as we are loyal, warm and, humorous as well as very loving and affectionate. We are also good listeners, who are unembarrassed by strong emotion as well as being pretty much unshockable. However a healthy empath will have no tolerance for drama queens who seek attention through emotional behaviour. Though we are highly expressive about our feelings and ourselves, with the ability to share openly and honestly, we are also natural peacemakers, so prefer calm discussions to overwrought emotional spectacles or aggressive confrontations.

If you befriend an empath, then they will probably be your greatest champion. Empaths recognise your inner potential, so are able to identify your positive attributes and will remind you of your strengths when you forget you have them. (Paradoxically though, they often find it hard to take a compliment themselves.) They may also subtly alert you to any negative patterns in your life in a helpful and non-patronising way, as your empath friend has the ability to sift through all the confusing emotions you are experiencing which may be clouding the issue, to help you achieve clarity and find the root cause of your problem. And should they ever feel angry with you, you can rest assured that they will express this without attacking you personally – empaths are not judgmental and they recognise that just because a particular behaviour is bad, it does not mean that the person is bad too.

YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND

Being an empath means you have the ability to sense the truth behind someone’s facade. You intuitively know when someone is attempting to mask a negative emotion. One theory is that when we are in the presence of an emotion we have personally experienced, we recognise it and feel it within ourselves, due to our high level of internal resonance. The empath is also able to read body language, mostly at a subconscious level – you will pick up on things like tone of voice, body movements, the words people choose when they speak, the words they avoid, the logic they use – all factors which help you to tune into others and know things about them which other people probably miss. This also makes you very difficult to lie to! Not only are you able to detect a lie, you can also tell whether the intent behind that lie is malicious and selfish, or whether it’s a white lie, told in an attempt to protect someone else.

Empaths are also highly expressive themselves. They project an incredible amount of energy releasing their emotions, with many gesticulations, and as they are so open about themselves, the empath is usually the person of whom it is said that you can ‘read them like a book’. We also delight in using our bodies in a sensual way – empaths can literally become ‘lost in music’ when they dance, their bodies becoming one with the music to create one wonderful mass of  flowing, sensual energy.

NATURAL HEALERS

As you become aware of your empathy, you will recognise more and more how sensitive this makes you to the energies around you. The fact is that as an empath, energy is literally absorbed by you far more easily than more thick-skinned folk (hence the expression) so by increasing your awareness, you will be able to be more selective about which energies you allow yourself to absorb. This also means you will be able to experience a high level of resonance with another, without being overwhelmed by a multitude of outside influences.

When you have achieved this level of balance and awareness, you will find that all your empathic qualities as discussed above – your deep inner knowing, your connection to the universal energies and so on – make you a natural healer and counsellor. Indeed, for an empath a good way of sublimating the energy we talked about in part one – which attracts the energy vampires and lame ducks – and drawing boundaries around your own propensity to give of yourself to others, is to channel it into training in a helping or healing profession.

Being counselled by an empath is an amazing and life-changing experience. After just a few hours of conversation, you will feel as if the empath knows you inside out. This is due to the afore-mentioned ability for high emotional resonance, which allows the empath to tune into your energy and emotional state, giving them an uncanny ability to pinpoint what you most need and want. They will also ask the questions others may be afraid to ask – if you’re willing to face up to some possibly uncomfortable truths about yourself and your life and recognise your negative self-destructive patterns in order to grow and be true to the real you, then working with an empath will change your life.  An empath will not shy away from talking about feelings of loss either, and will help you to gain perspective on your issue as well as heal from emotional wounds, past and present.

In addition to helping you to heal, the empath will point out strengths and abilities you perhaps never realised you had. Personal empowerment is very important to the empath so they will always respect your courage and sense of determination to survive and will trust in your ability to heal and take care of yourself. All this creates a very safe environment with a high level of trust and a strong intimacy. The relationship between an empath and their client is more than just a business transaction – an authentic and caring relationship will be formed between you as the empath helps you to be your best self and to live the truth of who that best self is.

Empaths may also find themselves being drawn to other types of healing work directly involving energy, such as Reiki. With our natural ability to tune into the universal energy, learning to channel this energy through ourselves to help others is a path which many empaths naturally gravitate towards.

I do hope this article has helped you to understand your trait a little better. If you feel that anything here resonates with you, do please leave a comment – I would love to hear from you!

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On Being An Empath (part one)

May 28, 2012

Part One – The Difficulties

Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this. – Merriam-Webster dictionary

Most people have the ability to be empathic to some degree. As an empath, however, your capacity for empathy is significantly greater than the average person – in fact, you are probably highly sensitive to the point of appearing to others to have psychic gifts.

The reality is that you have high emotional resonance, rendering you very sensitive to emotional energy. Everything has an energetic vibration which the empath picks up, just like an antenna picks up frequencies. This means you are able to detect and amplify the subtlest of changes which would bypass most people – essentially, you are the person who walks into a room and immediately picks up ‘the vibes’ (vibrations), be they positive or negative.

You will also be able to ‘feel’ the emotions of people around you – and the danger here, if you’re still unaware of your increased empathy, is that you can end up believing that these emotions are your own. Before I recognised this phenomenon, I would actively seek out – or even create – issues, to pin these rogue feelings onto something concrete – “Hmmm, I seem to be feeling a bit low today, I wonder why that is? Maybe I’m unhappy about my relationship/career/friends/family/ cat?”  After all, if you’re feeling so bad, surely there must be a reason? There is, of course, but often the only reason is your high level of empathy.

IT’S NOT EASY BEING EMPATHIC

Your high emotional resonance can also make it difficult for you to spend time in an urban, or indeed any over-populated environment. If you ever find yourself caught up in a crowd, you are likely to be surrounded by emotions such as excitement, confusion, anxiety and anger, resulting in you suddenly expressing these same feelings for no obvious reason. You may also find that the energy which builds up when you’ve spent some time amongst a huge throng of people is so overwhelming that you end up feeling physically ill – headaches, giddiness, nausea and high blood pressure are not unusual symptoms for the empath swamped with excessive emotional energy. This is why many of us prefer to live in a rural environment – the energy in a built-up, heavily populated area is just too much for us.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD…

Because we react so strongly to high-intensity environments, we may find others disparagingly labelling us as ‘oversensitive’. In fact, until you learn how to protect yourself from such bombardment, that’s exactly what you are. However, this is of little comfort when you don’t feel accepted or understood by those you love and who love you, or when people dismiss you as being ‘just too sensitive’. (I heard this everywhere – even one of my school reports remarked that ‘Sharon is sensitive – occasionally overly so’.)

 Those empaths who are lucky enough to have people around them who are aware of their trait will be more likely to have positive self-esteem and accept and express their natural talents and abilities. Their sensitivity will be embraced and as a consequence, these empaths will grow up to use their empathic gifts confidently and wisely. Unfortunately, in our current society the most likely scenario is that the child will be chastised, mocked and exploited for their sensitivity, and bullied and pushed in directions which please others rather than themselves. The inevitable result of this, of course, is chronic low self-esteem. These empaths will then either rebel and become one of society’s drop-outs or misfits – not always a bad thing if this means they stay in touch with their creativity – or over conform and become yet another of society’s depressed drones. I recently had a dream that I was one of the few ‘real’ humans left in a world populated by zombies. As I spent many unhappy years actually being one of the ‘zombies’ myself, doing what was expected of me rather than what was best for me, the dream was much more uplifting than it perhaps sounds.

BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE?

As an empath, adolescence can be a particularly difficult time in your life. Already dealing with your own rollercoaster of emotions, if you attended (or still attend) one of the average high schools within the Western world’s education system, you are also surrounded by anything up to 1500 other young people, all wrestling with over-energised hormones and a maelstrom of unfamiliar feelings. You’re also in for a rude awakening, as you realise through bitter experience that not all people are as thoughtful and well-mannered as you are.

I personally found the first few years at secondary school so traumatic, that to this day I refer to it as ‘doing my time’. I struggled to grasp the social rituals and game playing which occurs in friendships between little girls, and instead naively believed that others valued friendship in the same way I did. I therefore failed to understand that you were meant to switch best friends at least once a week, and was genuinely devastated when the friend of my choice fell out with me in my first year. (The unaware empath is always heartbroken when their friendship is abused or betrayed.)

 My lack of guile seriously affected my friendships for the next three years, and I ended up spending most of that time hiding away in a corner with a book, wistfully escaping into the fantasy worlds of my novels.  Unfortunately, being alone and obviously sensitive also made me an obvious target for bullies as my high sensitivity usually provoked a physical and emotional expression of my pain. I was also less likely to fight back due to a genuine aversion to conflict, particularly of a violent nature, and my natural inclination towards peaceful and harmonious relations.

My daughter is also highly empathic and as soon as she began to have regular social interaction with her peer group, she demonstrated a reluctance to defend herself when other children were mean to her – “I don’t want to hurt their feelings”. Thanks to my own experiences, I’ve had the foresight to teach her basic assertiveness skills from the age of three, the gist of my advice being: “Don’t worry about people liking you – just make sure they respect you.  If people respect you, chances are they’ll also like you, but if for some reason they don’t like you – most probably due to a projection of their own insecurities – if you have their (albeit grudging) respect, then they’ll simply stay out of your way.”

HANDLING SOCIAL INTERACTION

Because of my experiences at school, in my late teens and early twenties I mostly avoided female friendships, preferring to have simpler male friendships minus the bitchiness and games. I was much happier being around people who appreciated me and did not diminish me in any way for who I was. As the years go by, I’ve become even more selective about my friendships – I have a handful of close friends (men and women), and am not afraid to ditch any relationships which are detrimental to my well-being.

The aware empath also learns how to avoid negative people and sniff out those bad apples by following their intuition. Experience has taught me to always go with my first impression – never ignore that gut feeling! If I’ve ever made the mistake of giving the benefit of the doubt to characters who initially strike me as dubious, I’ve always been badly burned as a result.

Another distressing social problem empaths can have is people taking an instant dislike to you, apropos of nothing. This is often because as empaths we have very light energy, which naturally repels those people with darker energy. Until you learn not to take this personally and understand that the problem lies with the other person and not you, it can be very hurtful to be on the receiving end of undeserved contempt. Some people are also intimidated by the intensity involved in a relationship with you as not everyone want to explore their inner self – a natural tendency for you – so this can sometimes frighten people away for what seems like no obvious reason. Ever had a friendship which seemed to be going just fine then suddenly the other person stops returning your calls? Chances are that person just couldn’t handle the manifestations of your gift.

 SEXUAL BOUNDARIES

Dealing with other people’s sexual energy can lead to some serious difficulties for the unaware empath. This can be particularly tough during adolescence as not only are you surrounded by people whose hormones are going crazy, resulting in you being energetically overwhelmed by a multitude of unrestrained libidos, you are likely to still be somewhat unworldly. Your vulnerability and naivety coupled with your compassion and sensitivity can make you an unwitting target for all manner of sexual predators – female empaths in particular can suffer real trauma due to abuse of their sexual boundaries. As unaware empaths are also more likely to use drink or drugs for Dutch courage and to lessen the impact of excessive stimuli in social situations, you can see how the combination of all these factors can be a recipe for disaster.

ENERGY VAMPIRES AND THE ‘LAME DUCK’ SYNDROME

Until you become aware that you are an empath and learn how to protect yourself, you will find yourself being leeched on by energy vampires due to your natural compassion. Even strangers will be drawn to you, as people intuitively feel that you will empathise and offer support without judging them, so seek you out for advice or simply to vent. Equally, you seem to naturally gravitate towards people in pain. Unfortunately this can result in you being a constant victim of the ‘lame duck syndrome’, collecting all manner of troubled folk who you’ve shown some compassion for.

 THE SHY LONER

In an attempt to resolve their social difficulties, some empaths become withdrawn and quiet, in some cases to the point of completely isolating themselves and becoming a loner or a recluse. Others become depressed or anxious, maybe even developing social phobias to (subconsciously) give them a valid excuse for avoiding social activities. I’ve been very shy at certain stages in my life, though only people who genuinely resonate with me recognise this trait in me, as I have learned to disguise it very well – and not always in the healthiest of ways. As I mentioned previously, a number of empaths sadly deal with their shyness by hiding behind drugs or alcohol, which can ultimately create more problems than it actually solves.

POTENTIAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

When you are unaware of your trait, you can become swamped by emotions, mostly those of other people. Society soon makes it clear that expressing emotions is bad, so consequently you have no suitable channel or outlet for the excessive emotional energy you’re carrying. The potential outcome of this blocked energy is that you could become emotionally unstable (acting out past pains over and over with just a change of the central cast now and again, to try and shift the blockage) – or at worst, you could end up having a mental breakdown.  It’s easy to see why an unaware empath, battling their way through life, may be tempted to take an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) such as Prozac, to reduce their arousal levels for a while and give themselves a break. (See Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Survive and Thrive When the World Overwhelms You for more on this – there’s a whole chapter about the pros and cons towards the end).

Medicating yourself works to a point but the downside is that as well as losing the negative aspects of your sensitivity, you also lose some of  the positive ones (which are worth it, believe me). For this reason, I believe it’s best used either as a short-term solution until you come to terms with your trait and learn how to handle it, or as an emergency treatment, for no longer than six months, if life conspires against you and it all becomes too much.

 PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS

Some empaths put on weight to use as a ‘buffer’ between themselves and the world. I found that when I felt depressed and trapped (for example, when in a dull relationship or job)  I put too much weight on, but if under extreme stress – if suddenly thrust into a high-intensity environment or situation, be it personally or professionally – it dropped off me extremely rapidly. This ‘yo-yoing’ of my weight was not good for my health, but ultimately gave me another impetus for learning more about how to handle being an empath. You may also find yourself suffering from other physical manifestations – diseases and disorders – as blocked emotional energy tries to find an outlet through your body. (You can read more about this, and get links to relevant books, in the mind/body connection articles featured in the Empathic Guidance blog).

You are probably more physically sensitive than others too, and may find yourself having allergic reactions to anything and everything – cosmetic products, chemicals in food, detergents, pollen, dust, fur etc – resulting in symptoms such as sneezing, asthma, hives and stomach problems. This physical sensitivity means you may also feel other people’s physical pain, as well as the emotional stuff, particularly if you have a close connection. On more than one occasion, I’ve gone to collect my daughter from somewhere and the minute she is in my presence, I will suddenly get a strange ache in my stomach or my head – only for her to tell me that she’s not been feeling so well and has a stomach/headache.

 THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

Our empathy is not just limited to those around us – it’s also global. The empath can hardly bear to watch violence and will weep for the pain and suffering in the world. Your high level of compassion means that you probably find it impossible to comprehend the cruelty, ignorance and narrow minded attitudes of others. I remember my dad telling me as a child that Pete Duel, who I loved to watch in the 70s TV show   ‘Alias Smith and Jones’, had killed himself because ‘he took the weight of the world on his shoulders’, and as I grew up I began to realise why I had been strangely drawn to this man, as I too experienced some of the pain Pete must have felt.  (Pete’s story is a tragic testament to the life of an unaware empath – it’s worth checking out if you want to know more about this subject.)

My advice to those of you who also know this feeling only too well is do your best to avoid news programmes until you can handle it – I did this for a while whilst developing my inner strength and now limit myself to a quick scan of the headlines which automatically pop up on my homepage and occasionally reading The Guardian. Even then, I tend to stick to the stories which relate to my work or my life in some way. Empaths also prefer not to watch violent or gory films – though on occasion you may enjoy a psychological thriller. I liked Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ even though it scared me half to death, because (aged 15) I thought the plot twist was clever and weird. Empaths enjoy anything that involves creative or lateral thinking.

 BECOMING AWARE

Fortunately, more and more people are gaining self-awareness about their gift and are learning how to heal their wounds and nurture themselves. The empath often becomes aware after a number of strange experiences, which can suddenly launch them into an awakening period and provide the impetus for a journey of self-discovery. Often this experience can be dramatic, life-altering and very memorable for you throughout your life.

 For me, the turning-point was unexpectedly losing my full-time job (albeit one I was thoroughly miserable in) on 10 April 1995. After the initial ego panic about how I would survive, I decided to take some time out to find out what I really wanted. Following a series of weird but wonderful synchronicities, I realised I had to stop working in meaningless jobs for the sake of earning a living and fulfilling someone else’s work ethic, and find out what really fulfilled me. I began to listen to my inner guidance’s urge to seek awareness, balance and authenticity and thus started my journey on the holistic path. And as I’ve discovered, when you feel centred and whole, you gain the inner freedom to utilise and explore the positive aspects of being an empath.

 In part two, I’ll offer some tips on how to nurture yourself and make the most of your trait for those of you who identify with being an empath, and discuss the delights of being a highly empathic person.

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How I woke up…

March 22, 2012

In my previous post, I shared the philosophy which forms the basis of this site and my work. For my next three posts, I’m going to share with you my own experience of the awakening process and the changes which this has brought to my life, to demonstrate how this works in practice and also perhaps to demonstrate that I practise what I preach! I would love to hear your personal awakening stories so feel free to leave a comment or contact me via the link in the right hand corner of the screen.

Growing up as a HSP (highly sensitive person) and empath in a culture which frowned upon any emotional display was a traumatic, confusing and demoralising experience. Any expression of anger, sadness, fear or indeed, any emotion construed as ‘negative’ (however justified that emotional reaction may have been) was immediately stamped on and derided. Being an empath, I also had the problem of picking up on everyone else’s repressed emotions yet had no outlet for this maelstrom of feelings which conspired to make my inner life very intense and distressing (and later resulted in some very unhealthy acting-out).

As an extremely bright child, there was also huge pressure on me to conform to a particular life path – stay on at school and get good A levels, go to university and get a 1st class degree then have a financially successful career. Taking time out to explore the world and find myself after school – something which I desperately needed to do – wasn’t even an option.

Consequently by the time I reached adulthood, I was stumbling around in the dark with no idea of who I really was or what I really wanted or needed. Years of repression and suppression meant that I’d completely lost sight of my authentic self. I can remember looking at my wardrobe full of clothes – none of which were of the same style and all of which were trying to convey a particular image – and wondering ‘which of these outfits is really me?’. I tried different careers and different courses, moved house several times and lived in different cities, made new friends and started new relationships but nothing seemed to fill that gap where my authentic self should have been.

I continued struggling to follow a path which had been prescribed for me by other people and society’s expectations and had very little to do with who I really was until finally, in April 1995, everything changed. Though it felt like some kind of wondrous miracle had occurred, with hindsight I was able to recognise the series of encounters, opportunities and synchronicities which lead to my awakening at this time:

* I’d tried every possible way to make the path I was on work but it simply wouldn’t gel for me. By April 1995, I’d literally reached the end of the line and was primed and ready for a momentous change.

* In the previous couple of months, I’d encountered a rather enigmatic character who came into my life for a very short time and vanished almost as quickly as he arrived. He was something of a free spirit who lived on a combination of his wits and his creativity, and he inspired me to start thinking outside the box and recognise that there was another way beyond the one I’d been programmed to believe was the only route.

* On 10 April 1995, I lost my job. This was an early instance of manifestation for me – it was a beautiful sunny day which felt to me like the first day of summer, and as I walked to work, I wished with all my heart that I didn’t have to go and waste my day doing that dreadful job. Half an hour later, I was walking back home, having been laid off the minute I arrived.

* Having manifested this opportunity, I now began to contemplate taking a break from the rat-race to explore the other options that were out there. However I was nervous about stepping off the path – I’d been indoctrinated to believe that the path I was on was the only one to follow and that any other choice would be foolhardy. I was also concerned about what I would do for money without a regular wage. About a week after I’d lost my job, I’d arranged to see an old schoolfriend. This friend lived a life which seemed anathema to me, stuck in a dull marriage and a dull job, and the thought of ending up in the same position as her, however safe it might be, filled me with horror. In a wonderful piece of synchronicity, this friend arrived on my doorstep at the exact same time as the post arrived – with a completely unexpected prize cheque for £100 from a premium bond gifted to me by my grandfather 25 years earlier. The message to me seemed loud and clear – the universe was letting me know that if I took the plunge and diverged from the safe but dull path (the one which my friend was trapped on), the money would come.

* The day I lost my job, I met a man who had just moved into a house across the road from me. I ended up dating him for a while and he introduced me to the world of spirituality, which until that point, I had rejected in favour of what I believed was a more ‘realistic’ view of life. I began to realise that there was more to spirituality than organised religion and eagerly began to explore this new world which had just opened up before me.

* Even though I knew I didn’t want to take yet another ‘crap job’, I still wasn’t sure what it was I actually wanted to do. To remedy this, I signed up for counselling at a local employment and learning advice centre. Though I initially attended because I felt that I was at a crossroads in terms of my career, the experience was far more intense and in depth than I imagined it would be and turned out to be the first step on a lifelong personal development journey which would completely transform my life.

The counselling helped me to recognise that what I really wanted to do was write so I decided to take a sabbatical from the rat-race and spend a few months working on a novel. The experience was a revelation – I had never felt so fulfilled and so free. And that summer, somthing truly amazing happened. For the first time in my life, I had a strong sense of inner peace which ran alongside an equally strong feeling of being ‘at one with the universe’. People who met me at that time told me that I literally glowed – my inner radiance was literally flowing from me – and I effortlessly drew people of all ages to me wherever I went.

I also remember feeling really comfortable in my own skin – the only words I can find to describe it is a ‘humble confidence’. Though I felt confident about myself, it felt different to an ego-driven confidence and I now recognise that it was because this confidence emanated from the depths of my soul.

The other really strong – and at that time, completely unfamiliar – feeling I remember having was a complete loss of fear. Nothing fazed me anymore, not even the thought of death. In fact, I couldn’t understand why anyone would be scared of death as I knew without a doubt that it wasn’t the end of everything, but that we simply moved on to another plane.

I wrote in my previous post that I belive that often we’re given a taste of the awakened life to show us how life could look if we were free from our baggage, whether it’s the stuff imposed upon us via our environment or stuff we’ve amassed ourselves. This initial awakening experience is just the beginning and in my next post, I’ll share with you the transformational process which awakening triggered and which proved to be a bumpier – and ultimately more enlightening – ride than I would ever have expected.

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Talkin’ Bout A Revolution – a prediction for 2011 and beyond

December 23, 2010

Don’t you know they’re talkin’ bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Poor people are gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people are gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs

Don’t you know you better run
Oh I said you better run

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ bout a revolution

(Tracey Chapman)

Back in July, I wrote an article about my friend G who was the victim of a dreadful road accident. Thankfully she has now almost fully recovered physically – though she is still dealing with the emotional and psychological repercussions – but there is one rather spooky aspect to this which I didn’t mention in my original piece. For several months prior to this accident, I saw the expression ’thrown under a bus’ everywhere – so often that I was struck by how unusual it was, particularly as it wasn’t really an expression I was familiar with. I also began to become rather unnerved by it, worrying that maybe someone I knew was going to end up under a bus, and that it was some kind of warning – but as I didn’t know who this person was, there wasn’t really much I could do about it. So I put the thought out of my head and chalked it up to a vivid imagination….

Of course, the rest is history, so you can imagine my consternation when I more recently started seeing references to decapitation/beheading everywhere. At first I was extremely alarmed, particularly as the previous event had demonstrated to me that I was unable to actually do anything about it. However I then began to get a strong intuitive feeling that this wasn’t about an individual but was a prediction relating to events on a national level. Politically, the UK is going through a turbulent time, and I felt that my ‘decapitation’ prediction perhaps related to a potential revolution (similar to the one in 18th century France, though hopefully minus the guillotine), with the less well off members of our society finally being jolted out of their passivity and rising up against the complacent rich, who seem hell bent on taking as much as they can of the world’s resources for themselves, at the expense of everyone else.

Despite the violent and daunting implications of revolution, I really hoped that my feeling that this could be a national rather than a personal prediction was correct – not least because it’s about time we stood up for ourselves – and was therefore heartened when I read the result of my energy scan which I ordered from Gehenna of Beyond Within. I often contact Gehenna for an energy scan, as like most empaths and intuitives, I sometimes find it hard to read my own energy clearly and pinpoint any blocks etc, particularly if external energies have been somewhat overwhelming. Gehenna always helps me to clarify these issues and I would highly recommend her service.

As always, Gehenna’s reading for me was spot on – and I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I read these words:

“Only other thing I get is a sense of worry/anxiety around your third eye. You feel a sense of foreboding that isn’t personal, but more of a world thing and it is bothering you as you’ve never been one who bothers much with Doom.”

Gehenna described exactly what I’d been feeling – that  sense of foreboding relating to  people on a wider scale is indeed new to me as previous intuitive feelings have been on a more personal or individual level. I do believe that we are in for a rough ride over the next decade or so and that things are going to get  extremely tough for a lot of people – but I also believe that the outcome of all this will ultimately be a positive one.

I received this reading on November 30th, a day or so after I requested it, and a couple of months after I began to have the ‘revolution’ thoughts. And then, of course, nine days later this happened (accompanied by cries of  ‘Off with their heads’):

(For more on this see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/10/student-fees-charles-camilla-inquiry)

The other word which was prevalent for me over this same period of time – and again, not a word which had regularly appeared in my environment prior to this –  was ‘meltdown’. My feeling about this, then, and my prediction for the next decade is that nationally – and maybe even globally – we are heading for a meltdown and a revolution – with the masses finally rising up against the super-rich as the current austerity drive affects more  and more people – will be the outcome. One thing’s for sure – we’re heading for some enormous changes over the next decade, after which nothing will ever be the same again. Scary, yes – but also much needed if we want to create a more equal and empathic society. Vive la revolution!

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Burnout Pt.2: The Causes – and why it may be a blessing in disguise

November 13, 2010

In part one, I described some of the many symptoms of burnout. In the second part of this article, I look at why burnout is not necessarily a bad thing and list some of the causes of this increasingly common syndrome.

Firstly, however, we will briefly discuss the possible physical cause of burnout. It is usually attributed to a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system and the adrenal glands. The autonomic nervous system is a combination of nerves, connections and glands which works in conjunction with practically every other system in our body. All of our body’s regular activities are performed by this system, such as breathing, digestion and so on, and it is this system which acts as the body’s thermostat,  ensuring that it adapts accordingly to external forces – for example, adjusting your breathing and heart rate if you walk up a hill.

Your body can also interpret your external environment using the five senses – sight, sound etc. These perceptions are then transmitted through the brain, which ensures that the appropriate response is activated by the nervous system.

Problems begin when the part of the brain which controls the ‘fight or flight’ stress mechanism starts firing at an abnormally high rate. This can occur when we overanalyse potential danger and perceive threats where in fact there are none, or suffer stressful events which feel like danger because they threaten our sense of self or wellbeing. The adrenal glands begin releasing hormones such as cortisol to deal with the stress, but if this stress is overwhelming then too many of these hormones are produced, swamping the nervous system. This results in autonomic overload, as well as depleting the adrenals, leading to adrenal burnout – and resulting, ultimately, in the symptoms described in part one. (You can read more about this in Coping with a Stressed Nervous System by Dr Kenneth Hambly and Alice Muir.)

Of course, if you are a HSP (highly sensitive person) or an empath, then you will have been born with a nervous system which is already hypersensitive to external stimuli, making you more susceptible to burnout than others with a less sensitive system. This is why HSPs and empaths need to practise self-care a good deal more diligently than most. However, even if you were not born with a sensitive nervous system, you may find yourself becoming increasingly sensitised if you have had a particularly stressful or traumatic life.

As we have seen from the symptoms, burnout can be extremely distressing. However surprisingly, there is a positive aspect to burnout. It can be viewed as a transformative event in our lives – a turning point, a wake-up call and a cry from the soul. Somewhere deep within the heart of us, the barely discernible voice of our intuition is trying to inform us of what our soul really needs and put us in touch with our authentic self. If we listen to this voice then we can transform our lives immeasurably – but if we fail to heed the warning, then the outcome could potentially be fatal. (Viewed in this more positive way, it is also then no coincidence that the symptoms of burnout are so reminiscent of the symptoms of awakening.)

Dr Dina Glouberman talks about this in more detail in her book, The Joy of Burnout: How the End of the World Can Be a New Beginning:

The area in which we eventually burn out, whether at work, with our children or parents, in an intimate partnership, in a social or political group or elsewhere, has two defining characteristics. It is where:

* We invest our creativity, our passion, our heart and/or our ability to contribute.

* We earn a sense of identity, value, belonging, purpose and/or meaning.

As long as the situation we are devoted to is working and our contribution is effective, appreciated or rewarded, we remain wholehearted. Our energy is high and vibrant and our life probably seems positive and successful both to others and to ourselves. But if anything upsets this picture, we become candidates for burnout.

At some point, something changes either in us or in our situation or in the relationship between the two. Our heart goes out of our situation. There is a dawning awareness, often hardly conscious, that there must be another way, that it can’t be right to continue as we are.

Some of us listen to this feeling and make significant changes in our lives – a new job, a new relationship, or a new approach to our old job or relationship. In this way, we stop ourselves from continuing on the burnout trail.

But those of us who keep going, denying everything that contradicts the path we are on, are likely to head for a major burnout. Driven by fear of losing what we had rather than positive intention, we are no longer in a flow with ourselves or with our lives. We cut off from our bodies, our feelings, sometimes our friends and family. We become divided against ourselves. Our head, heart and soul are not in alignment. We operate like a car with the accelerator and the brake working at the same time and the tank down to empty.

 

So what kind of scenarios, experiences, traits and behaviours can lead to burnout? Here are some examples:

Trauma

If you suffer from one or more traumas in your life, then you are increasingly at risk of burnout. Initially we can feel that we have handled the trauma well, but find ourselves burning out further down the line when our life seems to have settled down again, as the effects on our nervous system catch up with us.

 

The ‘drip-drip-drip’ effect

Often it is not one major trauma but a series of minor stresses, disappointments and frustrations which can slowly drive us to burnout. Several years ago, I moved house and for six months, found myself plagued with petty problems which involved me making numerous phone calls to a variety of call centres. Anyone who has ever had to ring one of these places will know how frustrating it can be, particularly when the issue you are trying to resolve requires you to call back again and again and again, due to the company’s incompetence. If you’re a sensitive, you probably also know how difficult it can be to make these calls, particularly when you’re already under stress. Needless to say, after six months of dealing with this on almost a daily basis, I was on the verge of complete burnout.

 

Lifestyle

If your lifestyle leads you to neglect your self-care, and you’re not getting enough sleep, not eating or exercising properly and are using stimulants to keep yourself going, then you’re going to be much less able to cope with the issues life throws at you. Living a fast-paced, high-stress and/or fear-based lifestyle is also a sure recipe for burnout. You can also burn out from too much exercise – after a very stressful period resulting in several warning signs such as fatigue, weight gain and emotional problems, Louise embarked on an intensive training regime to try and boost her health. Unfortunately this was the last straw as far as her body was concerned, and the excessive exertion hastened Louise’s decline into severe burnout.

 

Work issues

Overworking and perfectionism, or alternatively job dissatisfaction and lack of challenge can ultimately lead to burnout symptoms. Everyone has heard of the phenomenon of the business man who, when he finally takes a holiday, immediately falls ill. And working day after day in a job which fails to challenge you in anyway is simply soul destroying. Our society is increasingly economically focussed, and sadly this seems to be at the expense of our wellbeing. If you don’t have a sensible work-rest balance or if you are doing a job you hate simply for the money, then you’re a high-risk candidate for burnout.

 

Feeling unappreciated or unrecognised for your efforts

This can be in any relationship, whether business or personal. Joanne is a busy mum of four, who also runs her own business and is studying at college. Already finding herself feeling increasingly tearful, she finally broke down when faced with her teenage daughters’ filthy bedroom. Her frustration and disappointment at the constant lack of respect and appreciation shown by her family for her efforts at keeping the home and family life running smoothly became too overwhelming and Joanne was in great danger of burning out.

 

Lack of social support

Even when we lead busy lives and are constantly surrounded by people, we can feel unsupported and isolated. On the path to burnout, it can feel as if no-one understands us, has time for us or truly cares for our wellbeing.

 

Negative relationships

Nothing will drain your energy more than being around negative people. Abusive and/or violent people, energy vampires, people who are critical or contemptuous towards you, or people who constantly fight or bicker with you are the kind of people who will slowly but surely drive you towards burnout.

 

Lack of confidence

If you lack confidence in yourself, then you will find most situations outside of your usual comfort zone difficult. Being crippled with self-consciousness makes events which would be a breeze for most people a total nightmare. Some people are born with this lack of confidence but others lose their self-confidence later in life, perhaps due to a difficult experience or a health problem.

 

Lack of assertiveness

At work and in your relationships, a lack of assertiveness can create difficult situations for you, as you fail to communicate to others your wishes and needs. Constantly sacrificing your own needs and being unable to say no to the needs of others will inevitably lead to feelings of disappointment and frustration, and to feeling unappreciated and unrecognised, the forerunners of burnout.

 

Unhealthy responses to stress

If you have ineffective coping strategies, you will be more prone to burnout, for example if you have a tendency to worry, get angry or anxious, or if you try and avoid potentially stressful situations.

 

Unhealthy attitudes and thinking habits

The way you think about life, people and the world in general can affect how likely you are to burn out. Are you overly hostile, aggressive, or suspicious? Are you pessimistic, withdrawn, or negative? Or perhaps you have too high expectations, of yourself and of others. All these attitudes are liable to increase your chances of becoming overloaded.

 

Unresolved emotional issues

To prevent yourself suffering from burnout due to accumulated emotional baggage which, as we have seen, can make your nervous system hypersensitive, it’s important to spend some time dealing with this and resolving any remaining issues you may have from the past. Living constantly with feelings of rage, bitterness, resentment, hatred and fear will in time almost certainly result in chronic burnout.

 

People who give too much

This is particularly an issue for empaths and others who work in caring professions or roles, particularly if part of the reason for us giving is the need for appreciation. We can find ourselves becoming over emotionally invested in people – friends, family or clients – which can lead to disappointment when the person fails to appreciate our efforts or respond to our help in what we feel is an appropriate way. We can also find ourselves suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’  if we are working regularly with traumatised clients or are spending time with anyone suffering from trauma, be it physical or emotional.

 

These, then, are just some of the ways in which burnout can creep up upon us. If we are willing to take the time to heal, however, we can turn our experience into a positive one by using it to increase our knowledge of our inner selves and find the way to our true path. In part three, we’ll look at how we can heal ourselves when suffering from burnout and explore how we can prevent it from happening to us now or in the future.

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Burnout Pt.1: The Symptoms

November 3, 2010

In my article ‘On Being An Empath‘, I emphasise the importance of self care. Today we’re going to look at what can happen if you fail to take care of yourself – or if life simply makes that impossible to do and overwhelms you.

In our technological, fast-moving society, with its plethora of loud noises and bright lights, toxic chemicals and preservatives, pollution and EMFs,  and its emphasis on money and material acquisition above compassion and empathy for our fellow man, it’s hardly surprising that burnout has become so prevalent. And sadly, if you are an empath or HSP, or spend much of your time healing, helping or caring, you are even more susceptible to this syndrome.

There are many symptoms of burn out, and in part one today, we’ll take a closer look at them. Though this is quite a comprehensive list, it is by no means exhaustive as burnout can affect everyone in very different ways.

Physical symptoms

* Fatigue – one of the main symptoms which is likely to affect everyone is exhaustion (emotional and mental as well as physical) which is not alleviated by sleep or rest. The outcome of this, should it continue, could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as ME.

* Sleep disturbances – you may find you are no longer able to drop off at bedtime like you used to, or perhaps you are waking up in the night, once or several times, and are unable to get back to sleep.

* Vivid, disturbing dreams – if you do manage to sleep, you may wake up feeling like you’ve run a marathon, after a night of overactive dreaming.

* Inability to relax – when at leisure

* Aches and pains – back pains, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, head aches and chest pains (including tightness in the chest) are all potentially symptomatic of burn out. You could also have severe joint or muscle aches, which could develop into fibromyalgia.

* Physical weakness – due to low energy and weakened muscles. Even climbing the stairs can feel like an ordeal.

* Numbness, tingling, pins and needles – particularly in your arms and legs, and hands and feet.

* Digestive problems – you could suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or other gastro-intestinal disturbances.

* Loss of appetite – resulting in extreme weight loss.

* Food cravings –  in particular sugar or carbohydrates, due to low blood sugar levels. This could result in significant weight gain, which you find impossible to shift.

* Operating on ‘low’ – like a weak battery, all your body’s systems could be running low. As well as low energy and low blood sugar, you could also be suffering from low temperature and low hormone levels, including low cortisol (stress hormone).  Low cortisol is also another cause of weight gain around the stomach area.

* Faulty thermostat – you could find yourself always feeling cold and suffering from chills and/or overheating and suffering from hot flushes.

* Lowered immune system – suffering from chronic and/or recurring low grade infections.

* Allergies – skin rashes, chemical sensitivities, respiratory difficulties and sinus problems, such as rhinitis.

* Toxic build-up in the body

* Pre-menstrual problems and period pains

* Decreased libido

* Fertility problems

* Sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights

* Tinnitus

* Sore throat

* Swollen glands

* Bladder problems

* Tremor or general feeling of shakiness

* Excessive yawning or sighing


Emotional and psychological symptoms

* Depression, despair, suicidal tendencies

* Lethargy, apathy, inertia

* Anger, irritability, resentment

* Anxiety, fear, worrying

* Guilt, shame, nervousness, apprehension

* Feeling helpless and hopeless

 

* Emotional deadness

 

* Mood swings

 

* Low self-esteem

 

* High self-criticism

 

* Overly introspective

* Compulsive and obsessive-compulsive tendencies

* Addiction – to over-stimulating substances such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, or activities such as excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other forms of excitement, in an attempt to stimulate the adrenal glands.

* Cognitive difficulties –  Memory loss, confused thinking, inability to concentrate. One of the scariest symptoms of this kind is ‘brain fog’, when you find yourself unable to remember something which you should easily be able to recall, for example, where you live or what your home looks like, or the name of an immediate family member

* Increasing sense of being cut off from ourselves and other people – feeling trapped, distant and disillusioned.

* Negative attitudes towards others, self and life in general – losing your sense of humour

* Defensiveness, pessimism, cynicism and/or intolerance towards others.

* Loss of interest in friends and family – withdrawal from others. You may find yourself using avoidance tactics when it comes to socialising, as you prefer to engage in solitary – and not necessarily healthy – activities such as isolative substance abuse, watching too much TV or spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet.

* Feeling that the world is an evil place and losing faith in humanity

* Where work is concerned, you may find yourself losing interest with the result being that your performance suffers, you are frequently absent or late, and you participate in negative activities such as gossiping.

* Decreasing ability to be effective at doing what we have always done, either at work or at home

* Poor attention – speeding up without increased effectiveness

* Lack of assertiveness

* Indecisiveness

Do you recognise yourself  or someone you love in any of those symptoms? If so, in part two, we’ll be exploring the possible causes of burnout.

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Visits from departed loved ones – dream or reality?

June 28, 2010

A couple of months ago I wrote here about the sad loss of my cat, Binbag. Binbag had been my cat companion for 16 years so as you can imagine, I was devastated. My other little cat friend, Pyewackett, who grew up with Binners, had died suddenly three years previously and Binbag’s demise brought memories back of this,  as well as symbolising the end of an era for me, so I found myself  grieving for both of them and for happy times, never to be revisited.

I also felt a lot of guilt and concern about the way Binbag died. I’d noticed him acting strangely over the previous week and had begun to wonder whether he was perhaps going senile. His personality began to change – he no longer seemed to be his usual laidback happy little self – and he spent a lot of time just staring at his food dish, or seemingly staring into space. When I realised that he  was also beginning to struggle with his breathing I decided it was time for a trip to the vets.

Despite his advanced age, I still hoped that the vet would offer some remedy for his problems and that our old Binners would be back with us, right as rain. We’d had a little scare six months earlier when his eye swelled up enormously and blood started to trickle from his nose, potentially the signs of a tumour. Luckily it turned out to be a simple infection and a couple of shots of antibiotics had him back to his old self in no time.

However, this time it wasn’t to be. The vet examined him and told me that he had a lot of fluid round his lungs, which was why his breathing was difficult, and also appeared to have a swollen liver. To remove the fluid would have involved a painful operation and she said that at his age, there was a good chance that the procedure in itself would kill him. The swollen liver was also a bad sign and she advised me that if it was her cat, she would probably do the kindest thing – and euthanize him. Ultimately though, the decision was mine.

I was utterly distraught and completely torn over what to do. After composing myself outside of the room (I didn’t want Binners to pick up on my distress), I went back in and after a lot of thought and soul-searching, sadly gave her the nod.

It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced. It all felt faintly surreal and the moment when the needle went in was truly horrible – I knew at that point he was going to die and that there was no way back from then. What made the experience even more traumatic was that his circulation was so bad, the vet had to inject him in his stomach which was clearly very uncomfortable for him as he squirmed in a desperate bid to free himself. The vet then had to hold his head up due to his breathing difficulties, so as he died he was looking straight into my eyes. As I stroked his paws and told him what a great little cat he’d been and how much I loved him, I saw the light finally go out of his eyes for good, but because of his illness and where he had the injection, he still continued breathing despite apparently being brain dead. The actual end – which in reality probably took a couple of minutes – seemed to take forever to arrive. I was heartbroken.

Over the next couple of weeks I found myself constantly in tears, unable to sleep and feeling desperately guilty about whether I’d done the right thing. Maybe if I’d allowed the operation, he might have stood a chance? He’d always been a fighter, after all. I also felt terribly traumatised by the manner of his death –   I’d always imagined euthanasia would be quick and peaceful but this wasn’t the case at all with poor Binners. My father, who was with me during all of this, assured me that I’d done the best thing for him and my friends and family all told me that he’d been a very lucky cat who had had a wonderful life, but none of this could console me.

I spent a lot of time over this fortnight pacing around and wandering  about aimlessly, unable to settle or concentrate on anything. Then one day during yet another aimless wander around my garden,  a bee began to follow me. Everywhere I went, there was the bee, buzzing around my head despite my attempts to flap it away.  I suddenly recalled that I’d heard of people being visited by deceased loved ones in the form of a non-human creature, and I began to wonder if the bee was Binners, particularly as it was a bumble bee (BB standing for Bumble Bee and Bin-Bag). So I said to the bee – ‘’Ok, if you are Binners and you’ve come back to let me know that you’re ok, then please give me another bee sign in the next 24 hours.’

The following day, exhausted through my lack of sleep, I decided to go for an afternoon nap. I always dream a lot when I have a sleep during the day, and this time was no exception. In my dream, I was in a strange house with my parents and daughter which was apparently our home. Despite the unfamiliarity of the house, I accepted that this was home and believed this to be real, until I suddenly spotted Binners curled up asleep on the floor. ‘ Hang on a minute,’ I said ‘this can’t be real! Binners is over there and I know for a fact he died. I’m dreaming this! I need to wake up!’

And I promptly did wake up – only to feel the familiar sensation of a cat jumping onto the bed. I sat up, eyes still closed, and was elated to feel fur rubbing against my skin. Binners was here! I was too afraid to open my eyes as I seemed to sense that if I did, he would disappear, so I contented myself with stroking him and was delighted to feel by the sleek texture of his fur that he was young and healthy again. He nuzzled against my face, and somehow wordlessly communicated to me that he was happy and at peace, and that he loved me and that I should no longer feel sad or guilty about him. And then he jumped off the bed, and finally I had the courage to open my eyes – just in time to see the tip of a black tail disappearing out of the door.

I lay in bed for a while after, feeling stunned and excited. Was that really him? Did that really just happen or was I still dreaming? I had heard about people being visited by deceased loved ones whilst they lay in their beds, so maybe this was what had happened here. When I eventually got up, I decided to do what I always do when wondering about something, and went on the internet to google it.

I typed in ‘dreams of deceased loved ones’ and came up with over a quarter of a million results. The first entry I looked at was a discussion forum which I felt would offer a number of different experiences, one of which may be similar to my own – and on the first page I viewed, under a comment which particularly resonated with me, was this ‘signature’:

 

It was the bee! And as you can see, not only is it a bee, it’s a bee who appears to be jumping up and down and waving at me, as if to say ‘Well, you wanted your sign and here I am! NOW do you believe it was me?’

This whole experience was of  enormous comfort to me and I was finally able to let go of the guilt I felt about Binners’ death. It was also a very exciting experience and over the next week I found myself sharing the story with a number of people. I live in Yorkshire where the people are very down to earth, and I expected that many would at best, humour me or at worst, look at me as if I was slightly mad. But amazingly nearly everyone I told, including those who I expected to be the most sceptical, had a similar tale to tell of being visited by a recently deceased loved one whilst lying in their bed. Each of these stories had striking similarities – no words were spoken yet there was a telepathic communication between them, the message usually being ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me’, the loved one appeared youthful, well and happy, and there was a surreal feel to the experience, with the person being visited unsure whether they were awake or asleep. Further research on this brought up that same surreal feeling time and time again – that it didn’t feel like a dream, that it felt real yet the fact that the visit occurred during the night made them uncertain of how real it actually was.

Having considered this for some time and done a vast amount of research, my belief  now is that this experience is a genuine visitation and that for most of us, this is probably the only time when energy of a more ethereal nature can interact with us. When we are resting, our mind is relaxed and therefore much more receptive than during the day, when we are usually over-stimulated and stressed out by our daily routines. When we are lying in that limbo state – half-awake, half-asleep – we are also probably less likely to be afraid of a ‘spirit’ appearing before us. At rest and away from the harsh realities of everyday living, it seems all of us have the abilities and sensitivity of the empath…

If you have recently lost a loved one, I hope this story is of some comfort to you – and if you have experienced something similar, please leave a comment as I would love to hear your stories too.

Incidentally, when my cat Pyewackett died, it was a shock as it was unexpected – we came down one morning and he had simply died in the night – but it was nowhere near as disturbing as the experience with Binners. However, even though I was relieved that he’d died the way we’d probably all want to go – suddenly, without any prior illness, and at home (especially as he hated going to the vets more than any cat I’ve ever known) – I still felt guilty that I hadn’t been with him, particularly as I had heard him miaowing in the night and had just told him to be quiet. He was always a very talkative cat, regardless of the time of day or night, and there was nothing in his tone to suggest anything was amiss, but I still felt upset that I hadn’t been there for him in his last moments.

A few days later I was in a local supermarket waiting for a friend to finish her shopping. As was usual at this time, I was thinking about Pye and feeling upset that I hadn’t been there for him when he needed me, when I suddenly spotted this rather bizarre headline on the newspaper stand. It said simply, in huge letters  right across the front page:

“I’m happy to die at home.”

 

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