The Empress, Conservative Cavemen, and Getting Back to Our Magical Garden

Recovering a sense of physical safety in the world.

I’ve posted in before about the importance of recovering a sense of spiritual safety and of recovering a sense of safety about our own subconscious minds.  Today I’d like to share a little about recovering a sense of physical safety.

What if I were to tell you that 99% of people are perfectly safe 99% of the time?

Does that sound a little weird and uncomfortable to you?  It certainly did to me, when I first stumbled over the idea.  After all, we KNOW that the world is a terribly dangerous place.  Just look at all of the earthquakes and floods and tsunamis and GIGANTIC FUCKING ICEBERGS that are dropping off of the polar caps like fleas!  Not to mention the wars and famine and terrorists and horrible car accidents and planes full of terrorists flying into towers full of innocent people.

Yikes!

In fact, double yikes or even yikes to the fourth power, which is a pretty big YIKES!

But . . . stop and think about it for a few minutes.  How long has it been since you were smack in the middle of a 7.5 earthquake?  Or a massive flood?  Or you got swept away by a tsunami?  Or had an iceberg collide with the ocean liner you were on?

The astounding truth of the matter is that – by far and away – MOST of us get up in the morning, drive to work or take care of our homes, raise our children, plan for our retirements, take vacations, go about our lives and . . . NOTHING BAD HAPPENS.  Nothing.  We’re perfectly safe 99% of the time.

So why do we all have this creepy feeling of impending doom, of something horrible that’s going to happen to us right around the corner?  And why does it matter?

The Empress card in the Tarot shows someone who is absolutely, perfectly at ease in her world.  She reclines gracefully on her beautiful couch, surrounded by natural abundance.  Her head is crowned with stars and she grasps a scepter of power, but holds it very casually.  Her legs are slightly parted, as if she might welcome a little company on her couch, and her face radiates a quiet, peace.  She is the Goddess in Paradise.  

That is EXACTLY the vibration that we should have in our world, here on the beautiful Earth Mother.  We have evolved here over hundreds of thousands of years and this is our home.  In the words of the Desiderata:

“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

We might find a clue as to why so many of us don’t feel safe in our Magical Earth Home hiding in our brain structure.  The limbic system of our brain is set up to trigger massive amounts of stress hormones when our fight or flight reaction is activated.  Nick Ortner,in his book The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living, posits what he calls a, “negative brain bias.”  His thinking is that our ancestors who were the most frightened were also the ones who were most likely to survive.  To use his example, the caveman who thought the rustling in the bushes might be a tiger was more likely to live than the one who assumed it was a harmless squirrel.  And so, the more frightened, constantly freaked-out cavemen and cavewomen would have been the most likely to pass on their genes and – shazam! – we all have, “Holy crap is that a tiger in the bushes?” reactions built into our brains, even if we’re actually surrounded by harmless squirrels.

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Psychological studies suggest that conservatives have a negative brain bias, but liberals do not.  In a nutshell, if you show a bunch of pictures of gardens to both conservatives and liberals, conservatives will pick out the creepy spiders and snakes in the pictures and liberals will pick out the pretty butterflies and flowers.  In other words, conservative cavemen were the ones who heard tigers in the bushes and liberal cavemen were the ones who heard squirrels.

And, if Ortner’s hypothesis were true, all of the liberals should have been eaten by tigers, but there are still a bunch of us around watching the butterflies and smelling the flowers.

Which suggests that a negativity bias really isn’t built into our brains.  It was acquired.  Where did it come from, then?

A lot of it comes from social programming, of course.  It has long been a part of Judeo-Christian philosophy that the Earth was, “given to man,” by God and we’re supposed to control it and everything in it.  We have to, “conquer mother-nature,” in order to survive and build more hamburger stands and condos and parking lots and Walmart Super Stores.  God wants us to.  When you view nature as something to be conquered, then nature – earth itself – becomes an enemy, rather than our Mother and home.

Then there’s politics.  Think of what we’ve been hearing from our politicians for the last four years.  BE AFRAID!  Be very, very, very, very afraid of Mexicans and Knee-Grows, and Arabs and Jews and Chinese and lesbians and socialists and feminists and communists and . . . well . . . pretty much anyone who looks or sounds or thinks differently than we do.  Every single one of them wants to Destroy Our Way of Life, rape our daughter, and steal our dog.

A certain amount of the fear comes from the globalization of information.  We see things on the internet and our televisions that we would have been totally unaware of a short evolutionary time ago.  If there are riots in Portland, train crashes in Pakistan, or bombings in Yemen, we are aware of that now.  It’s all become a part of our daily lives.  The work that’s being done with mirror neurons suggests that human beings are highly empathetic.  If we see other people in pain or distress, we internalize that pain as our own, and we are being exposed to a LOT more people in pain than has ever been normal for the human race.

All of these factors – plus a lot more than could be covered in a blog post – have combined to create a massive illusion, a sort of a group hypnosis, where the world is perceived as a horribly dangerous place that could kill us at any moment.  And, really, it’s not.  

99% of the time, it’s perfectly safe for 99% of us.

Hopefully we can begin to stop the insanity and start EXPANDING that safety and peace to as many other humans as we can.  Stop the wars, feed the hungry, eliminate corruption and greed, declare AS A SPECIES that racism and religious fanaticism will no longer be tolerated.  

But first we need to recover that sense of safety in our own hearts and heads.  We need to return to our home in the magical garden and become The Empress again.

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Psychic Empathy, Boundary Violations, and Deep Sadness

I have struggled with being a psychic empath for most of my adult life and probably a good portion of my childhood.  I don’t much discuss it with other people because most people can’t comprehend the sensations that psychic empaths deal with on a daily basis.  There’s just no point in it.

Now, just to be clear, most of the ideas that people have about psychic empaths are garbage.  There’s a Hollywood image of someone, “picking up,” crystal clear messages out of the ether, making astonishing predictions about the future, or having amazing insights about other people’s thoughts.  The truth of the matter is that living with those, “gifts,” frequently feels like pure chaos. 

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

As near as I can tell, most people have a very clearly defined sense of inside versus outside, both in terms of their bodies and their emotions.  In other words, they have an innate sense of, “I’m in here, and you’re over there.”

To a large extent, that sense of differentiation doesn’t exist for psychic empaths.  We can, “feel,” other people’s energy, their moods, their emotions, their private thoughts just as if they were expressing them out loud.  Sometimes – especially with people we love or have some other strong bond with – we can feel their energy from a very great distance.  We somehow know when people we care about are upset, depressed, or in trouble.  We also know when they’re happy, joyful.

That’s not unheard of, even for normal people.  Many people have had the experience of thinking of someone that they haven’t heard from for years, when suddenly the phone rings and it’s that person.  It happens.  Now try to imagine if it happened to you every single day.  At a certain point, the psychic empath will begin to feel like a sponge, like we don’t know which energy is ours and which energy belongs to other people.  It can be very confusing:  why am I suddenly terribly depressed?  Is it me or is it that someone else’s energy?

EMPATHS VERSUS PSYCHIC EMPATHS

Claiming to be an, “empath,” has gotten to be kind of trendy.  There are articles about it all over the internet and I guess it’s a way of saying, “Hey, I’m a really sensitive, caring person.”  Which is cool.  We LIKE sensitive caring people.  But there is a major difference between empaths and psychic empaths.  It all exists on a spectrum, so imagine a straight line with different points on it.

A ———-B———C———D

At point A you find people with NO empathy at all:  sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths.  At point B, you find, “normal,” people with some empathy but clearly defined and sometimes rigid boundaries between themselves and other people.  At point C, you’d find emotional empaths, who are people who can STRONGLY (and emotionally) identify with other people’s feelings.  At point D, you’d find psychic empaths who actually experience other people’s emotional energy as being mixed in with their own, frequently on an involuntary basis.

And, “involuntary,” is the salient word.  Contrary to the fictionalized image of the psychic, most psychics don’t intentionally, consciously, “tune into,” other people’s emotions and thoughts.  It’s just something that happens as a part of our innate make up.  It’s what we do, whether we like it or not.

BEING PSYCHIC VERSUS BEING HYPER-VIGILANT

People who grew up in highly abusive households, people who have suffered spousal abuse, people who have been in combat, and people who have extremely high stress jobs tend to become hyper-vigilant.  What that means is that they are in a nearly constant, “fight or flight,” reaction.  They have become so habituated to living in a dangerous environment that they are constantly, “scanning,” for any signs of threats.  They are in a constant reactive mode. 

Hyper-vigilance – that scanning for danger – can occur at such an amazingly rapid rate that it almost appears to be psychic.  People who are hyper-vigilant are taking in and processing cues from their environment at a speed that’s nearly incomprehensible to a, “normal,” person.  That’s how they survived in surroundings that were fraught with danger, by being extremely sensitive to the slightest nuances of what’s going on around them.

The difference between being hyper-vigilant behavior and psychic behavior may actually look blurry to an outsider.  Hyper-vigilant behavior, though, is learned, adaptive, behavior and psychic behavior is something that you’re born with.  The difference can get even blurrier because people who are psychic will frequently become hyper-vigilant as a result of being so open to other people’s energy.

BOUNDARIES:  BEING VIOLATED AND VIOLATING

If you do a quick survey of articles on the internet about empaths you’ll find that boundaries are a big issue.  Most of the articles and books out there are oriented toward helping empaths have stronger personal boundaries.  If you’re highly empathic – much less psychically empathic – keeping your energy and your emotions separated from other people’s energies and emotions can be a huge challenge.

I’ve recently become aware of a different aspect of that, though, which is that, “normal,” people frequently feel that their boundaries are being violated by psychic empaths.  And I don’t really know why it hadn’t occurred to me before.

To a large extent, all I can do is to describe it from my side of the experience.  When I sit down across from someone, I feel almost bombarded with energetic and emotional impressions.  I’m not just listening to their words and reading their body language and facial expressions, I’m processing – frequently on a subconscious level – a whole array of vibrations that they’re emanating.

While I’m doing that, it can be difficult to keep what I’m picking up on a psychic level separate from what the person is telling me verbally.  And inadvertently responding to the unspoken psychic content can make the other person feel personally violated.

Let me give you an example.  Suppose a psychic empath is sitting down having a nice chat with a stranger about the weather.  Unbeknownst to the empath, the person they’re chatting with has been having a lot of emotional issues with a romantic relationship she’s involved in.  So the conversation might go something like:

“Nice weather we’re having.”

“Yes, but they say it might rain.”

“You never can tell this time of the year.”

“Yeah, the weatherman always seems to get it wrong.  What’s up with your boyfriend yelling at you?”

And, NO, the stranger is NOT going to say, “Oh, gee, you must be psychic!”  They’re going to say, “That’s personal and it’s none of your damned business.” And then they’re going to feel creeped out.

The point is that the psychic empath wasn’t trying to intrude.  He wasn’t meaning to pick up on something that’s a deeply private issue to the other person – it just happens.  Psychics pick it up and it pops out of our mouths. And, yes, it can feel very much like a boundary violation to the person who just got, “read.”  (Interestingly, I’ve only been able to find one article that addresses this issue.  It’s called, “Hey, Don’t Read My Mind,” though it might as well be called, “Don’t Read My Mind, Goddamnit!”)

BEING PSYCHIC AND BEING ALIENATED

I realized as I was writing this post that I was feeling an immense sense of sadness.  There are virtually no people out there that psychic empaths can talk to about these issues.  It’s paradoxical:  being highly empathetic almost always leads to a sense of being highly alienated.  The longer you live, the more aware you become of the fact that you are fundamentally different from the majority of people you will encounter in life.  The more that you authentically honor your own nature – the very way that you were born – the less you feel that you will ever belong.

I’m not offering this little post in the hope that most people will understand what I’m trying to say.  Rather, I’m putting it out there for other people who are dealing with the same experiences and feel that no one understands.

You are not alone.

Introverts, Extroverts, and Becoming a Cookie

My life partner used to say, “I’m my own cookie.”

What she meant by that was that she was the source of her own valuation.  She didn’t need someone to say, “You’ve been a good little girl, so here’s a cookie.”  She could decide on her own that she was a good person AND she could make her own rewards rather than depending on someone else for them.  

Above and beyond all of that – she was her own reward.  Just being herself and being with herself was reward enough.  She was her own cookie.  That’s a hell of a life skill if you can figure out how to do it.

It can also be a really vital life skill if you’re an introvert.  The more introverted we are, the less likely it is that we’re going to get our cookies from someone else.  If we don’t want to starve to death, we’d better figure out how to do some baking.

If you’re reading this, there’s actually a pretty good chance that you’re an introvert.  It’s a pretty simple equation:  people who do Tarot reading are usually empaths.  Empaths are usually introverts.  

When we do a Tarot reading (or any other type of psychic reading) for other people, it’s not about us.  It’s about the life and the experiences and the dilemmas of the person we’re reading.  If we’re going to be effective at that, we have to be able to empathize, to actually put ourselves in their space, and say, “Okay, you’re going through THIS and that makes you feel like you want to do THAT, but perhaps you should consider doing THIS instead.”  If you’re a good reader, you have to be able to suspend your own judgments and really get into the life and vibrations of the other person, to really see it from their perspective.  And that’s called, “empathy,” right?  That’s literally being an empath.

Doctor Judith Orloff, author of, “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” flat out states, “An empath can be an introvert or an extrovert, though most are introverts.”  So, if you’re a Tarot reader, you may be one of those wonderful extroverts who likes to dress up like a gypsy and do readings at Renaissance Fairs.  But the odds are that you aren’t.  The odds are that you’re an introvert and you hate crowds and feel intensely uncomfortable when you’re forced to be around too many people.

Which brings us back to baking our own cookies.

Our society is extrovert-driven.  We’re taught from the moment we come into this world that there’s something wonderfully right about being an extrovert and something terribly wrong with being an introvert.  Think of the terms we use to describe extroverts:  

  • He’s the life of the party.
  • She took center stage.
  • They were vibrant and bubbly.

Now think of the terms we use to describe introverts:

  • She’s a shrinking violet.
  • He’s a wall flower.
  • They faded into the background.

As we grow up, introverts are literally shamed just for being who we are, just for the way we were born.  Brene’ Brown, author of, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” says that our society has an epidemic of shame and that our school systems are 90% shame based.  A lot of that shame is aimed at children who are introverts.

  • She’s too quiet.
  • He doesn’t  play well with the other children.
  • She seems to be in her own little world.

In other words we’re taught that everything an introvert is – quiet, socially withdrawn, introspective, etc. – is NOT NORMAL and is a cause for alarm and a sign of neurosis.

Perhaps one of the most prevalent – and most damaging – myths in our society is that introverts are sort of socially backwards (not to say, “socially stupid”) and that they just don’t know HOW to fit in.  That’s why they spend so much time alone – they don’t have any choice.

Actually, the evidence indicates quite the opposite.  Researchers at Yale University asked over a thousand people to predict how the average, normal person would think, feel, and behave in different situations.  The correct answers were based on data they had already gathered about how the average, normal person actually DID react in those situations.

And do you know who scored some of the highest points on the test?  Introverts.  Introverts were able to predict with a high degree of accuracy exactly how, “normal,” people think, react, and behave. Introverts, far from being socially inept, can be highly tuned into and aware of social norms and behavior, even more tuned into what’s going on around them than extroverts.

So if we’re introverts, the start of baking our own cookies, the start of being our own rewards, is to firmly, thoroughly, once and for all, get rid of all of the BULLSHIT that we’ve been taught about ourselves since we were kids.  We are not socially inept, we are not painfully shy, we are not dull and uninteresting.  In fact, we can be a damned sight more interesting than the social butterflies who are getting all of society’s cookies.

But a more important step is to rethink what the terms, “introvert,” and, “extrovert,” actually mean, once we jettison all of the cultural prejudices.  Anna Lemind, author of, “The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In,” has a very simple answer for that:  energy systems.

Extroverts recharge their energy systems through large amounts of social contact.

Introverts recharge their energy systems through having a lot of time to themselves.

Period.

Extroverts aren’t any better than introverts and introverts aren’t any better than extroverts.  We’re just different.

The salient point here, though, is that if you’re really and truly an introvert, AND you buy society’s bullshit that you somehow have to be an extrovert to fit in, to get your cookie, you’re going to end up physically exhausted and spiritually depleted. Trying to be around a lot of people sucks you dry. No cookies for you.  Sorry.

As introverts, we really and truly ARE our own cookies.  We draw our energy from ourselves, not from others.  We ARE our own rewards and that’s just how our energy systems work.  The good news is that, much more than extroverts, we get to choose the ingredients that go into our cookies.  Chocolate chips?  Yes!  Sprinkles?  Definitely.  Whole wheat flour?  Ummmm . . . no.

After all, it’s my cookie.