Empathy, Velcro, and Emotional Contagions

When we sense suffering and feel compassion, we are using our natural instinct to empathize. Empathy includes not only the willingness to understand, but actually co-experience the pain of another, which is why we cringe or divert our eyes when witnessing others suffer. Instinctively, we feel another’s pain unless circumstances lead us to deaden our heart connection. Humans are born naturally empathic and must be trained to behave otherwise.

The following theory is included in my upcoming book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Spring 2019)

 

“Somatic Empathy Theory states that emotional energy moves between people and attaches to us like lint on Velcro. When we scan the environment for accurate information for safety and security considerations, ambient emotional energy is absorbed into our physical body. These transfers occur with or without our awareness due to mirror neurons and the universal nature of our human empathic abilities. Everyone is born empathically connected to another’s felt experience unless circumstances interfere with or enhance our somatic empathy.”    

 

Without clear boundaries and a way to discern if the emotions we feel are our own, originate from others or the surrounding environment, every emotion we experience will be processed as our own. Mood swings, psychological imbalances and emotional storage problems are natural occurrences. Poor energetic boundaries can corrupt us physically by allowing extraneous emotional energy to enter our body. Emotional contagions and unconscious Velcro tendencies can compromise our emotional wellness in the following ways:

  • Like a spreading pathogen, our emotional hygiene becomes contaminated.
  • Permeable boundaries attract emotional debris, if unmonitored; symptoms generally associated with mental illness can develop.
  • Problems occur when we are unable to protect or cleanse ourselves from emotional contagions.
  • Chronically owning the emotions of others will affect our physical health.

Emotional garbage from our surroundings will affect our mood and is a recipe for somatic disturbances over time. Highly empathic individuals frequently become awash in the emotional debris of others and are often unaware of why their moods fluctuate wildly. The following self-test can be a useful assessment tool.

Somatic Empathy Self-Test

There are many ways to connect with others without taking on their confusing and complicated emotions. Experiencing the pleasures and pains of all is a quality of an open heart, but protection from emotional contagions is necessary. It is a good practice to have one eye looking inward to get accurate assessments in each moment. Determining when something is yours or not reduces stress responses. The following self-test can help you determine if your emotions originate from outside sources:

    • Maintain baseline emotional awareness. Rate your average baseline mood on a scale from 0–10 and watch it with one eye like a barometer. Chose any number that feels accurate. Any significant numerical change can be assessed for empathy Velcro and addressed immediately.  
    • Scan the horizon. For example, let’s say your baseline mood at a restaurant was a five before a couple started an argument in a nearby both. If your mood jumped up to a seven and returned to five after they left, your empathic awareness may have tapped into the couple’s conflict and their emotional contagions.
    • Notice your mood changes. In that moment, you can ascertain if the internal change is personal/psychological or has external origins. Hold the following intention for the issue, “If it’s mine let it stay and if not, let it go.” Then visualize a waterfall cleansing your body and/or a large drain underneath you removing emotional residue.

 

  • Assess what emotion moves or remains. Assess if your waterfall helped you return to your original mood or stress level. If your emotional baseline remains elevated, make a commitment to address your stress response or unresolved monkey. A quick physiological and psychological self-examination can help determine the origin of discrepancies.

 

This somatic empathy self-test can help you rule out or realize how often another’s anxiety or a chaotic environment affects your emotional stability. Check how often your emotional state fluctuates throughout the day and try to determine why. Here is a list of possible somatic empathic reactions to emotional contagions adapted from Caitlin Matthews’s book, Psychic Shield:

  • Sudden depression, impending dread or groundless fear.
  • Vitality depletion, anxiety from unknown sources or soul disquiet.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, empty or hollowed out.
  • Ache in the solar plexus as if being sucked dry.
  • Wide mood swings or a lack of interest your daily routine.
  • A succession of low-grade illnesses, which never clear up.

Watch your brain come up with reasons for these symptoms, which may or may not prove true. Assessing your empathic nature is the first step. If you deem it appropriate, implementing the suggested solutions and visualizations provided in my book is the second step. Highly empathic people are often misdiagnosed with mental illness, but they have something important to teach us about human connection. Boundary awareness, emotional cleansing and discernment strategies are fixes people can do at home without professional assistance.

If you are interested to learn more about the Somatic Empathy Self-Test and Somatic Empathy Solutions, please contact me at The Ommani Center (262-695-5311). A paperback edition of my original book, which has a chapter dedicated to Somatic Empathy and practical solutions, is entitled Henosis: The Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles That Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellbeing. Copies of this 2017 paperback book can be purchased at The Ommani Center (ommanicenter.com) or at my website: ericehrke.com.

  1. Previous trauma, unresolved issues and primary love templates also provide triggers, and this assessment tool does not address these circumstances. The psychological strategies to resolve previous trauma and victim/perpetrator paradigms require further self-examination than the suggested solutions for somatic empathy-related problems.  
  2. Caitlin Matthews, Psychic Shield, The Personal Handbook of Psychic Protection. (Berkley, California, 2006), 40-41.

Sept 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He’s available to see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

Four Steps That Stop Bullies

Bloodsucking bullies tormented me in my youth. Mindful of their attacks, terrible anxiety, fear, and anger compounded my stuttering. Hating myself for my failure to speak normally, I desperately wanted the predators who preyed upon my weaknesses to stop.

During my Catholic grammar school education, I learned that Jesus “turned the other cheek” and prayed for his tormentors because “they did not know what they were doing.” But after years of prayer for my stuttering to stop and my adversaries to become more enlightened, I finally gave up after a particularly devastating attack.

When my “turning the other cheek” strategy had worn thin after three years of bending over backwards in front of my adversaries, I went to my dad for help. Taking me outside, he showed me how to punch when I was eight years old. I learned how to use my legs as a powerbase and use my whole body to deliver the overhand punch that any good boxer worth his salt would deliver. We  practiced together until I was ready to shut up any jerk that gave me lip.

Sure enough, when the first bully started up with the abuse, I punched him in the face without blinking an eye. He shut up right quick, and I started looking around for anyone else cruising for a bruising. While I was riding high on my initial rush of satisfaction for standing up for myself like a man should, another kid came by and made the mistake of ridiculing me. He got the medicine he deserved.

But then my world came crashing down around me like a ton of bricks. The new bully had pointy shoes and kicked me in my private parts like a kangaroo. Collapsing to the ground in a heap of agony, all I could do was tear up and try to catch my breath. I felt stupid curled up like an armadillo on the ground at the feet of my perpetrator, before a nun mercifully took me into her classroom to recover. Since my “turning the other cheek” plan hadn’t worked out and my father’s strategy to stop bullies had a major pitfall, I needed a new solution.

A month later four boys started to make fun of me as I approached the school entrance. I spontaneously decided that I wasn’t going to give them the pleasure of seeing me scared, mad or fearful of them. I calmly walked up to them, looked them in the eye and shrugged my shoulders before I said, “You’re right, I have a stuttering problem.” The original perpetrator tried to get a rise out of me again and one of his friends stopped him by telling him to lay off.

That was the last day I had trouble with bullies. Happy and unaware of what just happened, I had stumbled upon a universal truth about bullies. They feed off the emotional reactions of their victims like bloodsucking vampires. It was clear to me that bullies get an emotional release from their dissociated fear and rage and experienced relief when witnessing someone else’s pain. My pain had a destiny.

This victim/perpetrator paradigm is a prolific, insidious problem and has been throughout the human history. Every cycle of abuse and victimhood has this pattern of perpetrators needing victims and vice-versa, to experience and express the emotions they dissociate. The universe is interested in helping both parties heal the issues, which is why we are attracted to one another. When a victim remains calm during an attack, a perpetrator gets bored quickly and moves on by discharging his or her dissociated pain, anger and rage onto someone else.

Here are four steps to stop bullies:

  • Reconcile your internal fear, rage and judgment, which attract bullies.
  • End any self-imposed perfectionism and practice self-acceptance.
  • Admit your flaws to the blood sucking bullies with a carefree calmness and equanimity.
  • Hold true to these principles in the unholy presence of a perpetrating heathen who wants to feed off your emotions.

These principles within these steps really work. Follow each step and the bloodsucking vampire won’t have a comeback. When the targeted individual can remain emotionally neutral and look the vampire in the eye in complete acceptance and ownership of the problem, the perpetrators consistently stop, get bored, and move on to a more satisfying victim. I would have never guessed that the ideas just mentioned would stop a bully when I was curled up on the ground at the feet of my perpetrator at the tender age of eight.

Cherishing ourselves and accepting flaws is hard to do. Self-criticism is a misguided attempt to become “worthy” of love. But our heart and soul will hear nothing of it while our ears sting. The universe provides mirrors so we can see our reflection. When we judge and hate ourselves, we attract bullies and emotional vampires looking for the same blood that self-recrimination causes. Accept your flaws and learn from them. Pain has a destiny that can teach us about equanimity.

 

August 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He’s available to see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

Peace Treaty

 

When committed friends or couples fight, there are two things going on simultaneously with each partner. They have a valid concern or need that they are trying to get across and their concern is often distorted by old emotional allergies and projections that the other person is wrong and therefore at fault. Most of us focus on our point of view and the other person’s distortion in an argument. As most of you know, this approach does not work very well. The Peace Treaty is a constructive healing method to resolve chronic conflict and deepen your loving connection with yourself as well as your partner.

During the honeymoon stage of a relationship, which can last from one day to two years, we admire our partner’s positive qualities, while every void within suddenly feels whole. Smitten, many of us secretly hope we can absorb those qualities through osmosis. I’ve noticed throughout my career that lovers pick partners that will activate every dream, but also every illusion buried within about love. Like a circus funhouse, love provides mirrors so each partner can eventually see their own reflection. It is as if our soul recognizes a worthy partner and love compels us to grow into our full potential.

After emotional commitments are made to each other in a relationship, the working stage begins in earnest. While hiding our illusions and unconscious motivations from polite society is relatively easy, it becomes nearly impossible to do with an intimate partner. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and will reveal any block to its full expression. Sometimes it is difficult to find our saboteurs or realize how our partner mirrors our issues so we can see our reflection. So the deepest part of our psyche picks partners that push buttons. By acknowledging and healing our illusions hidden within, we will experience even deeper love and joy.

Often the very quality we admired in our partner during the honeymoon stage of a relationship creates great frustration later. The only way we can strengthen a quality within is by facing and healing our illusions our self. This illustrates an important tenant within the Peace Treaty. Most of us focus on our partner and the discomfort they cause us. Partners always push buttons, but they are our buttons or shadow material nevertheless. When we lose touch with our illusions and unconscious material our partner will provide mirrors so we can see our reflection. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, the things that really aggravate us about our partner are reflections that trail back to both partner’s disowned issues and needs. When each individual takes the time to find the origins of the underlying issue or trauma that touches their shadow in the current situation with each other, an opportunity to heal within and transcend illusion greatly improves.

The Peace Treaty considers chronic conflict and powerful emotional reactions as opportunities for individual growth. In effect, an emotional crisis can be seen as a way to express and get our deeper needs met, heal our shadow material and strengthen our relationship with our partner.  Blaming your partner for triggering these unpleasant emotions prevents you from discovering the opportunity that your anger and/or powerful emotions could be teaching you. Expressing your valid concerns and needs with mindfulness increases the chances for your heart’s desire to be addressed. Transforming a current crisis and making the connection to previous injuries in the past, prevents us from dumping suffering on our partner and activating a matching victim-perpetrator paradigm within our partner. In this way a crisis becomes an opportunity to feel more joy and deepen your connection with your partner.  

When we muster the courage to self-reflect, heal past wounds, and stop projecting problems onto our partner, a powerful surge of love, compassion and nurturing energy ignites. This often stimulates our beloved to follow our lead and look at his/her illusions and unresolved issues. When we take the time to reconcile our deepest needs and illusions, we start the process of truly loving ourselves. And when we love ourselves enough to do this, love warms the heart of your partner and a positive cycle of love, self-responsibility and joy is mutually experienced.

The Peace Treaty is a tool to help a couple or an individual move from chronic conflict to self-responsibility and deeper bonds. If two people own their emotional baggage, a sovereign sense of love, cooperation and gentleness returns to the relationship. When you allow yourself to pursue personal illusions and bring the light of day to your wounded heart, you can truly learn to meet your needs and communicate your heart’s desire to your partner. Mindfulness creates matching energy and then…everyone wins.  

If you’d like guidance in how to create more love in your relationship, please call The Ommani Center to schedule a session to learn all the steps within the Peace Treaty. In September, I will offer a free presentation on Thursday 9-13-18 from 6:30-7:30Pm at The Ommani center about my book Henosis: The Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles That Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellbeing. A two-day course that goes into depth about the core concepts within the book will occur on two Saturdays… 9-15-18 and 9-29-18 from 9AM to 4PM at the Ommani Center.

July 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He’s available to see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Promise of Wholeness

The Promise of Wholeness

A Two-Day Workshop about

Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love

This is two-day course offers practical strategies and self-realization tools to deepen the original concepts within my book Henosis: The Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles That Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellbeing. The name of this course is entitled The Promise of Wholeness to reflect the new title of my book, courtesy of Roman & Littlefield Publishers who will publish my work in spring of 2019.

Cultivating inner peace, mindfulness and love can feel like three bridges too far. To most of us, the odds of becoming whole and realizing these three milestones seem as likely as winning the lottery. The following course will provide information and experiential exercises designed to address inner saboteurs and provide effective solutions.

Free Introductory Talk: Thursday, September 13th 6:30-7:30 PM

The Promise of Wholeness

Course: Saturday, September 15th, 9-4 PM

              Saturday, September 29th,9-4 PM  (Please bring bagged lunch both days)

Cost:    $220 (must be paid in full at time of registration)

            Includes a copy of my book, Henosis.

How to Register:   Call the Ommani Center at 262.695.5311

Cash, check or credit card accepted

By registering before 8-27-18 (extended); course fee is reduced to $195.

You will receive a copy of my book upon registering.

If you already have Henosis, the course cost is reduced $20

Where:

1166 Quail Court, Suite 210

Pewaukee, WI 53072

Phone:   262.695.5311   

 

 


This two-day course will address the following topics and provide experiential exercises
to create inner peace, mindfulness and love in your life:
 Healing the victim-perpetrator paradigm to create peace within
 Re-writing primary love templates to create more love
 Inviting grace and forgiveness into your life
 Learning how to cherish yourself and your illusions
 Expanding your compassion, mindfulness and soulfulness
 Soothing our infantile, childish, adolescent stress responses
 Creating boundary awareness to address emotional contagions from others
 Developing incorruptibility in the midst of chronic challenges
 Becoming whole, how the forms of Illusion, Love, Grace, Cherish, Equanimity,
Empathy, Incorruptibility and Wholeness work with the Camel Wave Mediation
Philosophers, mystics and compassionate healers have attempted to point
humanity towards wholeness since time immemorial. After practicing psychotherapy for
forty years and researching traditional Eastern and Western wisdom on these topics, I
wrote my book to pass on what really works. I will provide the ancient philosophical
foundation and effective strategies to develop inner peace, mindfulness and loving
relationships.
Embodying immortal principles and developing effective practices to experience
our divine origins in the midst the divisiveness of everyday life are worthy goals.
Reconciling our daily challenges and merging into mystical union through meditation makes
humans feel whole. The Promise of Wholeness is a course about love, mindfulness and
reunification, and how to get there from wherever you are.
Contact Eric via email at: eric.ehrke@mac.com with questions or for additional information.

Eric Ehrke, LCSW, LMFT, is a determined pathfinder who understands the
tangled overgrowth of illusion. Relieving suffering and
restoring wounded hearts is his passion. During his forty plus
years of psychotherapy practice, Ehrke recognized early on that
modern psychological wisdom, ancient philosophical principles
and complimentary mind/body/spirit approaches universally
lead humanity towards lasting peace and wellbeing. Inspired,
he has merged traditional knowledge with practical
applications to create effective approaches to transform pain,
transcend circumstances, and increase our capacity for love. His book Henosis: The
Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles That Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellbeing
was recently purchased by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and will be published in
spring of 2019. It will be entitled: The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace,
Mindfulness and Love in a Divided