What Is Healing, Empathic Presence?
While corresponding with a close friend, I recently found myself describing a very rare quality of healing, empathic presence. It’s a state of consciousness that I’ve been fortunate to experience while doing NVC-related work with clients. I find it so challenging to describe it clearly in words, intellectually! Sometimes I’ve found myself instead writing about what it’s not. Empathy is not sympathy, for instance. It’s also not about offering strategies to get out of one’s pain. Empathic presence is not trying to teach the sufferer a lesson about how to avoid getting into this kind of pain. Those are all well and good at times, but they’re certainly not empathy.
The Spiritual Experience of NVC Empathy
The late Dr. Marshall Rosenberg avoided any jargon that might conjure religious images of the divine. I’m going out on a limb here (oh look, there’s Shirley Maclaine hanging onto a high branch!). I’d like to share some of my own spiritual beliefs in this post.
Decades of pursuing a particular path of spiritual meditation practices have revealed a few things. In my experience, it seems so rare to find a follower who goes deep, not only into the philosophy and intellectual information about a path, but into the actual meditation. So many feel impatient or hopeless and eventually stop meditating. Beyond meditation, it’s even more rare to find followers who practice simply being a compassionate, empathic presence for someone in pain.
Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
There are many times when, as spiritual masters teach, we can do something to help. Sometimes we offer assistance financially. Occasionally we help with information or strategies. Or, we may try actually sharing a burden with someone.
Then there are those times when there is nothing more that we can do but to stand there and pray. We might also choose to meditate near the person in pain. While talking or relating with that person, we also have the capacity to be an empathic, compassionate presence. I’m reminded of what people in Hospice do for the dying. This bit about empathy is so subtle that I didn’t understand the first thing about it. Only the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg helped me to really get it.
Most folks think to be empathic, you must put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment. That’s close to it, but not really it at all. You’re not actually in their shoes. You probably can’t imagine exactly what their pain feels like. It’s something very hard to describe or define.
Many think empathy is just being kind and giving some sympathy. Some believe it is in taking on the other person’s pain. It’s none of those things.
Can Your Therapist Be A Healing, Empathic Presence?
Psychotherapists and other helping professionals are trained in giving empathy. They know when they’re in that empathic zone. That’s when they tend to feel very meditative and powerfully focused from the heart. Some therapists say that’s when they’re at their best. Other therapists have told me they live for those days when they’re able to get into that compassionate flow state with a client. Then they feel so connected inwardly, as they experience giving or “channeling” empathy silently, without dispensing advice.
I suspect it is why there’s a higher-paid kind of therapist that’s popular in upscale areas of big cities, especially New York. Analysts–not therapists–get $300 to $400 per hour. Their unique job is not to say anything. They specialize, supposedly, in just listening with rapt attention and with silent empathy. They encourage you to talk your heart
out with absolute trust they are on your side. You can enjoy freedom from any fear of being judged or picked apart. You don’t have to worry about being told you are broken and need fixing.
Is Divinity the Ultimate Empathic Presence?
A silent, profoundly empathic presence is very healing. It’s kind of what I imagine God does when we talk to the divine, or to the spiritual masters. According to many accounts, God doesn’t always say anything in response to prayers, but is 100% present if you speak or pray from a place deep in your heart.
We humans, including even the best analysts, can only mimic that kind of purely empathic energy that the Spiritual Being Upstairs can radiate.
Maybe deeply spiritual people with great faith never need this kind of empathy from a human being. They’re in the habit of receiving divine healing empathy in their daily practices of meditation or prayer. Why would they turn to a person? Why would they spend $300 or more per hour when they can get it direct from Source, at no charge? They simply pray, meditate or talk with the Divine. Their attention flows from a heart that’s wide open, and a mind that’s absolutely focused and centered.
In that state of conscious connection with something ineffable, you can enjoy the ultimate empathic presence. In those moments, all your fears, worries and struggles are swept aside. Relief comes through inner silence, just as empathy does.