Developing Safe Empathic Awareness
Empathic awareness is the feeling most practitioners have had at some point, of ‘picking up’ or feeling in their own body or emotions what the client is feeling, consciously or unconsciously. For some people this is a rare thing that seems to happen out of the blue, while for others it’s almost a barrage that can feel overwhelming and become very tiring. But as a form of interaction, communication and information it can be very useful, just another avenue of perception.
In this one-day workshop we work in a small group (maximum 8 people) to discover how we can make use of empathic resonance, whether we need to learn how to tone it down to become manageable, or are interested in ‘opening it up’ some more. We will use exercises, discussion and table work in pairs to explore this.
Common questions that come up for people with this type of resonance are – Is it ok? Will it hurt me or them? Is it my stuff or theirs, and how can I tell the difference? It can also tap into more fundamental insecurities about whether we can trust our perception or intuition more generally.
Often people feel that if they are picking up information in this way it must mean they have lost their boundaries or are being invaded by, or invading, the client. So we will work to recognise and experience how we can be very open and still very grounded and present in our own body, and this will form part of the experience of safety.
We will start from the fundamental assumption that we’re all connected, all part of one thing, and so this kind of communication is happening naturally all the time. In this way we will find the place of resonance as it already exists, from the grounding of being at home in our own bodies, as well as part of a wider field.
We also want to know the difference between ‘our stuff’ and ‘their stuff’ – are we really picking up something reliable, or projecting something of ourselves? Similarly we need to be able to tell the difference between genuine resonance and various types of projection like acting something out or responding from counter-transference. We will work to make these differences obvious experientially rather than just theoretically, and also question and find our own answers about just how clear-cut some of these distinctions really are in practice, and particularly how they might reflect differently in different ‘levels’ of work which happen from a more or less separated place. We will also see how we can find the ‘health’ and usefulness in projection when it arises.
Above all, the intention is to work from a way of being with the client which has this resonance as an inherent aspect of its sensitivity and openness, rather than any attempt to push perception as the goal. It is possible, as we all know, to invade another in an attempt to find out something about them, even when this is well-intentioned. Our approach here will be exactly the opposite of this – working with ourselves, to find the combination of safety, openness and trust that will allow this natural connection and communication to be felt.