All Healers are Wounded

May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Wounded healer –
an archetype, they call it,
a phenomenon,
but they’re wrong.

It’s superfluous,
a word said twice, because
you see –

All healers are wounded.

Oh, they might not begin that way –
starry-eyed, full of cheer,
out to save the world,
cure its ills, a savior –

but a savior is a sacrifice
and they don’t know it
until they’re on the altar.

Most start out wounded,
and are wounded time and again.

This is what we do:
treat injuries,
see death,
witness the aftermath of all that
human beings are capable of,
the abuses we inflict on one another:
on each other’s bodies,
and hearts, and minds –
the fracture patterns we leave
on another’s soul.

Witnessing is the healer’s role.
Seeing without turning away,
hearing without fleeing,
holding the story and the pain
and seeing a fellow soul underneath.
We bear witness to pain when no one else will,
or can,
or even knows how.

In witnessing, we learn, in a soul-deep way:
there are terrible events in the world,
terrible deeds, terrible acts,
terrible capability in the human psyche.

You can’t see these things and stay whole.

Witnessing wounds.

All healers are wounded.

Thoughts on Empathy

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in September 2005.

This is currently just a conglomeration of thoughts, my responses to a person’s email on an empathy YahooGroup. It will be revised into essay form eventually.

“What is it that I am dealing with here? Have I come to the right place, this group? Or am I losing my grip and really need a psychiatrist?”

You’re dealing with empathy. It’s not insane, it’s not you going crazy, it’s not some psychological disorder, you’re not being delusional. A good place to go for thoroughly-researched information on empathy is the
Universal Empath Report. A sort of “empathy 101” site and collection of essays. Read through that, first of all; it should help a bit.

“Is it possible to learn to shut people out?”

Yes, it’s called shielding. Call it a visualization, mind over matter, whatever you wish, if you’re not comfortable with more new-age-ish concepts and ideas. Perhaps it’s energy manipulation, perhaps it’s meditation or concentration on something other than emotion that shuts outside emotion out, but it works for a lot of people. Visualize a wall, bubble, sphere, whichever, all around you – above, below, around. Whatever visualization works for you. Build it piece by piece, brick by brick, or start it as a small bubble or egg in the palm of your hand that grows and grows till it surrounds you, keeping out everyone and everything else, containing you.

Some people visualize an egg, some a wall, some a bubble, some a globe of white light. For instance, A friend of mine has a highly sensitive 8-year-old daughter who gets easily overwhelmed when around too many people or too much emotion – one time, at a funeral of a person she didn’t even know, she started crying and couldn’t stop, almost seeming to have a sort of panic attack, because she was being so influenced by so many peoples’ emotions. She didn’t like the egg visualization, so my friend asked her what she thought would work. So her daughter visualized a banana peel around her, complete
with stem. If it works, use it!

I myself tend to visualize a globe of silver fire when I need to throw up a quick shield, or a thorough layered web overtop obsidian rock when I know I’m going into an emotionally charged situation and need strong impenetrable shields. I, however, hate shielding and do it only when others’ emotions get to be overwhelming, to the point where I feel like I’m going to panic or break down. Why? Because it feels like muting a vital sense, like putting cotton in my ears or having gauze over my eyes, or wearing gloves. I rely on my empathic sense more than I usually realize, when dealing with or reacting to people.

“Can a loss of a person or something similar heighten a person’s sensitivity? Is it permanent?”

Highly emotional occurances, often to the level of emotional trauma, tend to have an effect on one’s psyche, and that often extends to sensitivity. It can dull it, heighten it, shut it off altogether, or blow open previously inactive abilities, depending on the person and the event. It can be permanent, but not always, from what I understand.

“I also feel like I am invading people’s privacy. Can I learn to do this selectively? Is this really that unusual? Sometimes it is so strong that it almost feels like telepathy (although it is not). I can’t always put a name to the emotions I get from others — I just FEEL them, which makes it worse.”

Yes, you can do this selectively. Shield constantly, and just drop shields or send out “feelers” (reach out mentally to probe someone’s thoughts/emotions/sense) when you want to feel someone out, feel someone’s emotions. It’s not incredibly unusual; I know a fair amount of people with varying degrees of empathy, whether they call it that or not. Strong empathy, overwhelmingly strong, is a bit more unusual, but not insanely rare. I understand not being able to put a name to incoming emotions or feelings, though; I have the same problem at times as well.

“I still find it hard to believe that everyone can’t do this, thateveryone doesn’t have this ability. I have felt this for so long(although lately, as I mentioned, it has gotten more intense), that I always thought that this was just a normal thing.”

A lot of people I know believe that everyone’s empathic to some level – only sociopaths have absolutely no empathy, or completely blocked-off empathy. However, some people have stronger empathic sensitivity than others, and some people shut it off or block it off early on. You can imagine that some people just can’t deal with it, and so they do a sort of dissociation.

“What do the rest of you do? I mean, when you have strong feelingsfrom another person who needs you, and you need to share it with another, but you are afraid of how they will react to what you say?”

I have a couple pagan friends I can talk to. People who aren’t involved with mystical stuff, new-age type stuff, etc tend not to believe such things or be at all knowledgable about such things. I was accepting of my empathy and a couple other odd things before I ever converted (that the right word for the situation?) to paganism; I was christian before.

“Is there a way of SENDING, not just receiving, for those of us who have this…ability?”

Yes, it’s called empathic projection, but not everyone can do it, and the person you’re projecting to has to be aware of things or conscious of stuff to receive it (or realize what they’re receiving beyond mistaking it for their own feelings). I believe someone else already touched on this in reply to your posts.

The best way I’ve found to deal with empathy – the only way, besides blocking it all off with constant shielding – is to know yourself, your emotions, the way you react to things. And to be aware of yourself and your own emotions, at all times. That way, if you start feeling someone else’s emotions, you can recognize that it’s not *your* emotion, and you can deal with it accordingly. Oftentimes, when I start feeling any strong emotion, I stop and think “Why do I feel this way? What situation or thought caused this?” and if I can’t think of a reason for the emotion, then I start looking around me to see who else seems to be feeling it. If no one in the area seems to be feeling that emotion, then I pick up the phone and call the people I have strong connections to (my best friend, my boyfriend, and a teacher of sorts of mine) in order to see if they’re feeling that.

Differentiation between yourself and others is probably the most important part of dealing with empathic sensitivity, in my opinion.

Now, before I talk about psychometry or your issue with being connected with the one person you spoke with, I’m going to have to talk about something a little esoteric. If this strikes you as too new-age or too pagan or too damn insane to stomach, then just take it as a way of thinking about things or a way of visualizing. You’ve had psychological schooling; you’ve probably learned the power the mind has over the rest of the body/psyche/emotions/etc. So chalk the following up to that if it’s too much to believe straight away.

Everything has energy. This is a law of physics. Anything you do, whether it be talking, moving, whichever, expends energy. This energy has to go somewhere; it’s often taken in by other objects, the air, whichever. You jog for a while, you expend energy, you feel heated, the air around you heats a bit by taking in the energy you expend – it all works out. Logical so far?

Let’s take it a step further, to the realm of emotion and the metaphysical. When you chat with another person, you expend energy, and when they listen to you chat, they take in that energy. It’s an exchange of energy. You can consciously manipulate energy to certain ends, and this is what some people call “magic” – simple manipulations of existing energy. But that’s getting a little too esoteric, most likely, so I’ll move on.

Any energy exchange creates a link between the one who gave off the energy and the one who received it. This is evidenced in friendships, love relationships, and other types of relationships. The more time and effort and energy you put into any sort of relationship, the stronger it grows, and the stronger the connection between the two individuals becomes, forming a link, or even a strong bond in some cases. Sometimes energy impulses in whatever form (emotions, thoughts, impulses, etc) can pulse across this link, sent consciously or unconsciously.

Now we come to your connection. It sounds like you’ve formed a pretty strong connection with this other person, a fairly intense link through which emotion pulses strongly and regularly. As a bond, it can be cut, if need be. If you do not wish to have a link anymore, you can chop it off, but the stronger it is, the more painful and traumatic that severing is, and it takes a bit of esoteric knowledge. I don’t recommend it; when I had a link severed with an ex-boyfriend of mine, I was shaking and crying for ten minutes afterwards, and I thought I’d been over the man.

A different way to end a link, less painful but much more slow, is to stop thinking of the other person. Don’t contact them, don’t receive anything from them, shield the link, and without maintenance, the link should eventually fade. How long it’ll take I don’t know, and it can be very easily rebuilt, so it’s an iffy way of doing things.

If you wish to keep the link, however, as you seem to want, but want a way to deal with the amount and intensity of emotion coming through it, then you can just shield the link. I mentioned general shielding before, but those shields usually don’t automatically shut out links. You have to shield those separately or consciously, and if you have a very strong link to someone, stuff’s going to leak through no matter what. Use whatever visualization works for you, as before; I usually think of it as doors shutting, screen doors if I just want to mute things, or heavy safe doors if I want to shut as much out as possible.

Now, as for psychometry, the sensing of emotional residue from objects or places. I talked briefly about energy before. All energy has a flavor or a form – look at fire, electricity, wind, friction; they’re all energy, just taking different forms. Energy can be flavored or charged with emotion, and that can saturate an object or area. Visit the sanctuary of a very old church sometime; you’ll notice it. Or a funeral home, or a graveyard. Any place where there’s frequent amounts of strong emotion or a specific emotion will have the feel of it. The knife a depressed adolescent used mostly just for self-cutting will have a certain feel to it; an engagement ring exchanged between two people who genuinely, strongly love each other will have a completely different feel. And so on and so forth. Oftentimes you can pick up on that emotion, sometimes get an idea of what the object was used for or how or where or why, just by probing and concentrating much as you would in trying to pick up emotions off of someone.

I hope that helps!

“Feeling it this strongly and this… focused?… actually feels physically odd and quite literally electric (<— anyone else get that feeling? Is it normal?).”

For me, energy translates to a near-electric tingling on my skin or just under skin. The two very strong links I have with my closest companions feel as if they connect at my chest, so something coming through those links often feel like pressure in my chest, a tingling outward from the heart area, that sort of thing. Lesser links connect through arms, head, etc, and the tingling reacts accordingly in those areas. Others I’ve talked to sometimes experience tingling or reception of emotion as electric, static, warmth, etc, so it’s fairly normal as far as I know.

“I need more practice, but I want to do this gradually, because I’m afraid of accidentally cutting it off, rather than just temporarily blocking it out.”

Don’t worry too much about that; from what I understand, a link as strong as the one you’ve described can’t be cut off without great conscious difficulty, often needing the focus of ritual.

“When other people put walls up, I feel as if I have lost a sense, and it is very disorienting, like seeing someone’s lips moving but not being able to hear them speak. I don’t much care for that feeling.”

I know the feeling! It’s why I avoid shielding unless I have to. It’s like losing a valuable sense and is very off-setting.

Letter to an Empath

November 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Written in July 2008.

Dear Empath,

Maybe you have just consciously realized that not all the emotions you feel are yours, and aren’t sure what to do about it. Maybe you have known this for a while, and trust your senses implicitly. Likely you have a healer’s sense, and want to do all you can to fix the hurts you feel, sharing your perceptions of others’ emotions with them in an attempt to get them to open up.

Sharing your perceptions is fine, but it needs to be done sensitively, and too few “sensitives” manage that. There’s a reason many science fiction novels depict telepaths as mistrusted, hated, or feared: one’s inner world, the contents of one’s mind, is a deeply private, very personal place. Infringing there without permission is a severe violation.

But Meir! you might say, I can’t help sensing peoples’ emotions! How can you say it’s a violation? They’re violating me by blasting me with painful emotion!

First, not everyone is aware of their empathic senses, and plenty of people do not have very strong or well-honed empathy. If you are naturally strong empathically, you have a talent that you must learn to control. It is your responsibility to be ethical and sensitive with your abilities. After all, if you’re an empath, you’re supposed to be sensitive to the feelings of others, right? It’s in your best interest to avoid agitating people by displaying violation of their privacy.

It’s like someone born with a naturally larger body than most: powerful shoulders, great height, an easy gain of muscle mass. Such a person has to learn to adjust their grip so as not to bruise others in a casual handshake or a pat on the back. They can’t help what they were born with, but it’s nonetheless their responsibility to moderate their use of strength for the well being, safety, and comfort of less physically gifted individual. Similarly, a naturally strong empath must moderate their behavior to accommodate less psychically gifted individuals.

Second, it is your responsibility to take care of yourself, including in regards to your empathy. I’ve known empaths who insist that every other person in their social circle is at fault for what emotion they’re supposedly “projecting”, especially if such people are Pagan or occultist. Some have even insisted that a Pagan exhibiting strong emotion around the empath was psychically attacking them! In my opinion (and I say this as an empath, myself), this is ridiculous. You are responsible for your own senses.

For instance, someone who is hypersensitive to light doesn’t generally insist that lights be turned down or off wherever they go; that’s not feasible. Instead, they wear sunglasses or prescription glasses or both, and perhaps they install special light bulbs or dimmer switches in their home. Similarly, an empath can learn to use filters or shields and ward their home against outside energy and emotion. I live with emotionally volatile roommates who frequently fight; I ward my own room and retreat there when it gets to be too much for my senses. Music, a loud fan, reading a book, or focusing on video games can help block it out even further.

I don’t like shielding or filtering. I find it uncomfortable and feel that it muffles what is, for me, a vital sense. If I choose not to shield or at least put up good filters, however, I run the risk of sensory overload from empathic feedback. I can’t blame others for that overload, because it is my responsibility to shield and I choose not to, thus making myself vulnerable.

Many empaths I’ve known have difficulties shielding effectively. That isn’t the only way to manage one’s empathy, though. Developing healthy personal and social boundaries can be helpful; learn what is “you” and what is “not you” and it can make it easier to lessen the impact of or ignore outside emotions. This is harder and takes longer to develop than shielding, but I believe it’s the most effective coping skill for empaths in the long run.

Other management and coping tactics are removing yourself from an overwhelming situation (such as stepping outdoors after being in a crowded room for a while), preparing yourself when you know you’re going into a potentially overwhelming environment (visiting a distraught friend or going to a concert, for instance), grounding frequently, taking care of yourself physically so that you have the energy and mental resources to handle your empathy (such as eating healthily and regularly—food has an incredible impact on mood and ability to focus), and avoiding toxic relationships and situations.

For example, if a friend is frequently venting her anger to you and it’s overwhelming, draw boundaries: ask her to vent to someone else. Empaths are easy to open up to and talk to, but that can take a toll on the empath. If you are feeling strain from people emotionally dumping on you, it is your right to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t handle venting right now; do you think you could talk to someone else?”

You have to deal with, in one way or another, whatever emotion people give off, but you do not have to let people use you as cheap therapy. Firm, respectful boundaries are especially important for empaths. Friends may be upset at first that you won’t let them come to you about every one of their emotional woes and angers; they may even say that you’re the only one they can talk to, but don’t let yourself be guilted into not taking care of yourself. You can’t help anyone else if you’re burnt out and breaking under empathic strain.

And if you’re really the only one your friends can talk to about issues, then it’s likely they’ve become over dependent on you. Allowing that to continue does them a disservice and handicaps them. Beware of codependency!

Third, it is possible you are wrong or inaccurate. Your own mood and perceptual filters distort all sensory feedback. This certainly distorts visual and auditory feedback—what you hear and see and how you interpret it is infinitely subjective, and nonphysical senses are just as much so, if not more. Some people have shields that distort or divert your senses. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who you’re picking up emotion from: you might be feeling your distant lover’s anger through a close psychic link and mistake it as coming from the friend right in front of you.

Finally, if you must share your perceptions—be subtle and sensitive about it. Accept that you could be wrong. Especially accept that the other person might not wish to share what’s bothering them, and they have that right to privacy. Verbal, empathic, and social pushing after the individual has refused to discuss the matter is a violation, and at that point it’s an intentional one. I know it can be hard not to meddle, but oftentimes doing so can make matters worse, no matter your good intentions.

Take responsibility for your abilities. Take care of yourself. Accept the possibility that you and your empathic senses are fallible. Maintain healthy boundaries. It can even be helpful to get therapy to learn boundaries and minimize codependent tendencies. And please, respect others’ right to privacy; they are not required to explain their emotions to you, nor are they required to believe that you are sensing their emotions.

You have a talent, and it is your responsibility to manage it effectively.

It is not an easy journey.



Divine Message Fallacy

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written in July 2008.

When I was a Christian, there were many issues in the church that bothered me. One of the most aggravating, though, began with some variant of the following phrase:

The Lord gave me a message for you…”

This was followed with some holier-than-thou, well-meaning, and usually very misplaced directive on how the subject should change or otherwise live his or her life. My bad, a pastor, often gets these “messages” from people—typically elderly women with a history of meddling and judgment.

What do you say to that? “Sorry, I think you heard wrong”? That never goes over well. “But the Lord told me! Are you denying God’s authority?” Saying their meddling comes from on high (and they might even believe it does) gives their words extra weight, because after all, God is never wrong!

My father generally says, “Thank you, I’ll ask Him further about that,” then asks his God just in case it is a valid perception, essentially checks it with his own experience.

One might think that occultists and pagans wouldn’t have such issues—but in reality, it’s worse.

The problem is that there are so many avenues for this perceptual projection in a pagan worldview. In Protestant Christianity, there are 1. messages from God, 2. perception of demonic forces, and… that’s all I can think of.

In Paganism, there are the following:

  1. Channeling and/or aspecting deities or spirits
  2. Messages from deity or spirits
  3. Divination (tarot, ouija board, etc)
  4. Psychic attack
  5. Dreamwalking and astral projection
  6. Eempathy
  7. Extrasensory perception
  8. Auras and energy
  9. Past lives

…and I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

Let’s go over some of the ways these can be abused.

1. Messages from Deity

This is no different than in Christianity. Usually the meddler will get a “message” from the subject’s patron, which the subject should of course pay attention to.

I think the best way to respond to this is with a “Thank you for your concern, I’ll think on that,” and then check with your gods yourself. If you’re getting a wildly different message, the “messenger” is probably wrong.

2. Channeling or Aspecting

I have known people to channel or aspect a deity in ritual (or pretend to) and then, while still “wearing” the deity, give someone in circle the channeler’s thoughts or judgments. Sometimes the channeler will later “not remember” the “message” (because of course it wasn’t them) but say, “it must have been important, you should heed it”.

When I’m giving the person the benefit of the doubt, I’ll believe that they believe it was genuine—but unless I can get a confirmation from the deity later, on my own, in private communion, I’ll be very skeptical as to the veracity of the message. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the contamination and distortion inherent in the vessel, no matter how well a channeler trances out. That’s if they’re not being downright consciously manipulative.

3. Divination

Getting a divination from friends who know your issues is always risky. Oracles such as tarot are subjective, and I’ve known readers to insert their own opinions of your situation into the reading, weighing it with the authority of the cards.

An example: A very opinionated friend had read tarot for me several times before, but we’d fallen out of touch for several months. We got back in contact, updated each other on our lives, and I asked for a reading. I did not tell her my question; this was her preferred style, and it provides less perceptual contamination. I asked about something she had no way of knowing about.

The reading was spot-on. I know tarot, so I was able to “read over her shoulder”, and her interpretation was solid—until halfway through, when she very clearly felt she knew what I was asking about. She started smugly inserting her own opinions on what I should do about my education in the guise of “The cards say you should…”, when my question had to do with nothing of the sort.

Not telling your topic of inquiry to the reader is one way to circumvent this, as seen above. People who know what’s going on in your life, though, can often guess; I’ve suspected my subconscious of contaminating my interpretation when I’ve read for others and figured out what they’re asking about. Getting divinations from people who don’t know you well is better.

4. Psychic Attack

This one is obnoxious and irritatingly common. Accusations of “psychic attack”, often unwarranted, have begun witch wars or made them worse. Had a bad day and you’re mad at another pagan? “They must have cursed me!” Tell all your friends! Found out that a long-time member of your circle identifies as a psychic vampire? Well, you were tired after working overtime last week… they must have fed from you against your will! Confront them in a hostile way (or, alternatively, under the guise of “I care about you, but you need to learn to control yourself”). Can’t let them get away with that, after all!

I honestly have no clue how to deal with this one. Denying it or suggesting alternative reasons for their tiredness, bad day, or other issue doesn’t always work. I’ve even heard people respond to denial with, “Well, maybe you didn’t mean to and didn’t know you did it, but you did!” If they insist on perpetuating that sort of drama, and nothing you say or do will change their mind—maybe they’re not the healthiest people to spend time with. Unless you enjoy the drama of witch wars and fractured magickal groups—in which case, please stay away from me. 😉

Sometimes all you can do is ignore the drama monger or break ties with the person entirely. Witnesses might help—someone who is energetically sensitive and can attest as to whether or not a phenomenon came from you, though that could just as easily slip into accusations of people “taking sides”. Seeking the guidance or mediation of a balanced, well-grounded elder may also help. Stay calm; if you react, the drama monger will take it as more fuel for his or her fires.

5. Dreamwalking and Astral Projection

A friend of mine who is a member of a small occult group of some note once had a stalker. This stalker learned about her membership, read up on the group, joined its forums, and started claiming that my friend had dreamwalked to him and was trying to seduce him, psychically feed on him, and other such things. He said he dreamed about her, so she must have dreamwalked to him. My friend remembered doing no such thing, and his description of her supposed astral appearance was very different from past descriptions of such by people she’d dreamwalked to on purpose. Arguments to the contrary, in private, proved useless.

This is similar to the psychic attack issue, and there’s about as much you can do—which is to say, dismiss and ignore. Alternatively, someone might claim to have dreamwalked or projected to you or to an area of interest and claim to have pertinent information. If the person shares private, personal information of yours with you, that’s a little creepy, in that stalker sort of way. Either they’re telling the truth and have been astrally spying on you, which is invasive, or they’re trying to impress you with their l337 powarz and have actually hacked your email, spied on you physically, or some other unpleasantly stalker-ish and illegal activity. In either case, you might want to report the person to the police, because one way or another, they got private information that they shouldn’t have had access to.

If the person instead shares information about a nonpersonal area of interest, check the info as best you can. Newspapers, internet, and television news channels are all potential resources. Don’t take it at face value; there are a lot of factors that influence perception, and the reports could easily be colored, distorted, or just plain fabricated.

6. Empathy

Oh boy. This one’s complex, large, and not often discussed. It’s also the one I’ve run into the most, and even been guilty of before. A sample scenario:

Are you doing okay?” asks Super Sensitive Empath, concern etched on her face.

Huh?” Odd question. You’re feeling kind of neutral, content, laid back. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

She gets that knowing look. “You don’t have to be polite with me. What’s wrong?”

Um… really, I’m fine. Doing pretty well, actually.”

A patient sigh from S.S.E. “You’re angry about something. You’re trying to hide it, but I can feel it.”

Oookay. You do a cursory check on your mental state, just to humor her. All clear. “I’m pretty sure I’m not at all angry. I’m afraid you’re wrong.”

Oops. Now Super Sensitive Empath’s oh-so-wonderful and ever-reliable senses are called into question. Now she’s got something to prove. “I can feel strong anger in you. You just really don’t want to talk about it. Tell me what’s wrong. I’m worried about you.”

Exasperation shows in your voice now, and you really just want her to leave it alone. “Nothing’s wrong!

You’re yelling,” S.S.E. says triumphiantly. “How can you tell me nothing’s wrong when it’s obvious you’re mad?” She reels a little bit. “Your anger is painful…” She’s just sooo sensitive.

There are infinite variations of this scenario, and they’re all frustrating. I’ve found no good way to handle it when the “S.S.E.” won’t accept your description of your emotional state. One can only really address the empath, and I’ll do that in a separate article, because such an address gets lengthy.

7. Extrasensory Perception

This covers a wide range of phenomena and claims, most of which are similar enough to empathy, dreamwalking/astral projection, and channeling/aspecting to not require specific elaboration. One, however, has come up often enough in my personal social circles to merit some mention: precognition.

Telling the future is a chancy business. Your mileage may vary, but my experience leads me to believe that nothing is set in stone; the future is mutable. Divination and precognition, in my opinion, perceives only the likeliest pattern. When reading the “outcome” cards in tarot, I state it as “If this pattern continues…” because a significant change in the pattern of events or pertinent individual’s behavior will generally change the outcome.

Like channeling/aspecting, supposed precognition can be used to try to influence others towards the precog’s desires. Let’s say you want to pursuer a particular romantic relationship, and a friend is jealous or thinks such a relationship will negatively impact him in some way. He has a “bad feeling about it” that you should really heed because, after all, he’s precognitive! If you don’t believe him, it’s a personal insult! Or he “has a dream that feels like it’s about the future,” and it depicted disaster if you go forward with this relationship.

Of course, since most relationships have problems from time to time, and since more relationships fail than succeed, it’s very likely that something will go wrong in the relationship at some point. If you pursue the relationship despite the jealous friend’s dire warnings, he’ll jump on the chance to say “I told you so” and “See, I really am a precog!”, ignoring the fact that all relationships have problems. If you agree with him, then he has more weight on his side for future manipulations. Walk carefully if you have a friend like this! It is even possible that the person doesn’t mean to be manipulative, and sincerely believes he’s predicting the future, but that doesn’t make it any less manipulative.

Sometimes a person might have a legitimate precognition, but it’s cloaked in symbolism and easily misinterpreted. I know one person who had a vision of a mutual friend shooting fire from his hands at a particular event, in conflict with a young man, and a girl was involved. The visionary took this literally; he believed that magic would become more powerful by the time of that event and his friend really would throw fire around. The event came, reality remained the same, but the “fire-flinger” and the young man had a bitter, heated conflict over a girl for the entirety of the event. The vision came true—but not the way the visionary thought it would.

If someone has a supposed precognition that concerns you, take it with a hefty dose of salt. Take it as an opinion, a warning from the messenger if you wish, and weigh the potential risk. It never hurts to take a more careful look at a situation, but don’t let the precognition (which may or may not be valid) make your decision for you.

8. Auras and Energy

This has much the same issues as empathy. I have known people to say that someone they dislike has “bad energy”; I have known people to be scathing towards visitors because “their energy was off that day”. Now, I will admit to feeling wary of people I’ve just met for no reason I can perceive other than energetic, but I try to give them a chance to prove me wrong. Sometimes one’s mood can influence either one’s energy or one’s perception of others’ energy. Using such perception to belittle or manipulate is, in my opinion, distasteful and poor manners. If energy bothers you, then shield. Maintain healthy boundaries.

One abuse of perception is giving someone too much information (real or distorted) about herself, thus warping or robbing her of the identity seeking/development process and contaminating her perceptions with your own. The ethics of this require individual contemplation; what I find ethically reprehensible might be no big deal to another person. If someone shares with you information he sees “in your aura”, take it as opinion and perception, but not hard fact. If he insists that you are insulting him by expressing doubt, he’s got control issues or some serious insecurities that are his responsibility to deal with.

9. Past Lives

It amuses me that an apparent pick-up line among Pagans and New Agers is “We were lovers in a past life” (or knew each other, or were related, etc). I have watched myth-making in process, where one person shares a few details of a past life, and the second person uses those as a springboard for more details, until two people (or an entire group) have woven an extensive, oft-exciting, and dramatic story that they’re emotionally and psychologically invested in.

I have also watched attempts at mythmaking, where two people admitted feelings of recognition and connection, and the younger person kept throwing out hooks and prompts for the elder to build on. “I know I knew you! Don’t you remember this vague event…?” The older person recognized what was going on and didn’t take the bait, instead asking her for details or denying remembrance (or both). The younger person floundered in response, saying such things as “I don’t remember details; don’t you remember more about this?” or making noncommittal, vague, general responses and trying more probing questions.

Just because you were with someone in a past life doesn’t mean you should be with them in this one. Some people, wanting to belong or fit in, might come up with memories (however distorted or fabricated) of friendships or other relationships with another person or group. Some might have memories of a disliked person (or object of jealousy) as an enemy in a past life and use that as justification for their dislike.

One occult group that places a good deal of emphasis on reincarnation has, I think, a healthier view. They say that they have been lovers, friends, and bitterest enemies, but they are not the people now that they once were, and those issues are then, not now.

In Conclusion…

There are unhealthily manipulative people in any group, and that includes Pagans. Many people want their opinions heard and heeded, and will (consciously or subconsciously) seek ways to give their opinions extra weight. Perception is easily distorted and contaminable, even if the experience is honest and the communication of such is well-intentioned. Be careful, question, and check others’ perceptions against your own experiences.

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