As children, we are all naturally empathic. As children, we are all highly sensitive to the environment and empathic to life around us. The problem for us all is that, as we grow up, a toxic and violent "system" beats the empathy out of us and we become (sadly and unnecessarily) disconnected, desensitized, and shut down as a result. Some people however, can't be shut down. Some individuals come to this planet formally as empaths and these people do not lose their connection no matter how much toxic violence and abuse they experience. Remaining empathic "no matter what" might seem like a good thing to an individual caught up in the sparkles of Micky Mouse spirituality, but it ain't all wine and roses. The reality is that our world is extremely violent and toxic: people who remain empathic in this world must cope with constant vulnerability and constant exposure to a violent, toxic stew spewed at them by family, friends, work associates, and (increasingly) total strangers. I got to tell you, it is not easy for them. It hurts them, damages them, and in the long term, it destroys many of them. The bottom line is, toxicity accumulates over the decades and eventually, the physical unit breaks down. Even the strongest empath eventually buckles if not properly protected and supported.
The question before us today is, how do you properly protect and support an empath? It is a critical question. In this short article, I do not want to deal with the beset and overloaded adult empath. That's a big topic that requires extended treatment. Instead, in this article, I want to give a bit of guidance to parents and teachers on how to train and protect their empathic children. Before I get into that however, I just want to say that the advice I'll be giving here is quite different than the advice empaths (and those associated with them) usually get. Typically, empaths (and those associated with them) are given what I would call "individually focused" advice. Individually focused advice is advice directed exclusively at the empath. When empaths (and the people associated with them) get this sort of advice, they are told essentially that it is up to the empath to cope! Empaths are told that if they want to be able to "deal" with their gifts, they are going to have to learn to "cope" with reality. In order to cope, they should "reframe" their outlook, clean their house, cry and express, use crystals to purify energy, build some boundaries, recognize their divine mission, and so on (see this article for a prime example). I'm sure if you've ever come across the "standard" advice given to empaths, you'll be familiar with the guidance given.
Unfortunately, I have to say, individually focused coping strategies really do not help the empath because the problem is not the empath, the problem is the toxic environment they must endure. Individually focused coping strategies are highly problematic because they either ignore the significance of the environments' impact on the empath or accept the environment in which the empath moves as an unchangeable, even spiritually desirable given. These strategies take the violence and toxicity of this planet with a "well, that's just life, better get used to it" attitude. Some proponents of individually focused strategies even go as far as to say that all the toxicity and violence that empaths experience is some kind of spiritual "test" or "lesson." They say to the suffering empath, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and they leave it exactly at that.
But, that's so, so wrong.
Empaths are here as healers to help the people of this planet heal and move forward. Empaths are especially sensitive and in tune "emissaries of Consciousness/Spirit" and it is not their job to cope and accept. On the contrary, it is our job to protect them from violence and abuse so we can make sure that they stay healthy and whole so that they can grow up and do the job they came here to do.
Do ya got that?
If an empath collapses under the toxic burden of this planet, it is our failure, not theirs.
Now, please understand, it doesn't all fall to you. Conditions conducive to healthy empathy require fundamental global transformation and that is something we are all going to have to participate in. Of course, that doesn't mean that we have to wait on global transformation to start setting things right. There are things that you can do starting right now to improve conditions for the highly sensitive empaths in your lives and one of the most important, significant, and accessible things we can all do is to protect all the children of this world. As noted above, all individuals are empathic in childhood and some empathics are particularly open and connected. If we want our children to grow up empathic and if we want our empaths to grow up healthy, whole, empowered, and ready to heal, we have to start by protecting them during the most vulnerable years of their lives - in childhood and adolescence. I am sure you will agree. It is the years of our childhood and adolescence when we are most vulnerable to adult assault and it is in the years of childhood and adolescence that we are most in need of protection. With that in mind, here are some things that parents, teachers, scout leaders, and others who are daily involved with children can do to start creating life conditions that are healthy, supportive, protective, and conducive to the development of fully functioning empathic healers; (not to mention fully functioning and empathic human beings).
Parents and teachers
Recognize that empaths exist: The first thing parents and teachers can do if they want to help and protect empaths is to simply realize that empaths exist. This is an important first step. If you don't believe that empaths actually exist, then you won't put any mental energy into perceiving them, much less create environments that help and support them. We all need to learn to perceive empaths in our environment; otherwise, we'll get no where near closer to helping. So, the first step is to simply believe that empaths exist and subsequently put some mental effort into seeing them in the world around you.
Understand empaths: Once parents and teachers have recognized that empaths exist, the next step is to strive to understand them and thankfully, that is not rocket science. To understand empaths, simply observe how they act and interact with others and how others act and interact with them. For our purposes here, the single most important thing to observe and understand about empaths is that they are highly sensitive to physical and non-physical, direct and indirect, active and passive assault. Assaults of all kinds hurt an empath. Screaming, yelling, verbal assault, name calling, passive aggressive jokes, exclusion, arrogant disregard, belittling jabs, and even just randomly diffused, non-directed energies of anger, hostility, depression, and despair can hurt the empath! As noted, many people desensitize themselves so they are no longer aware of the pain, but empaths cannot desensitize and so they are constantly vulnerable and exposed to assault. This is a very important thing that you should always keep in mind. No matter how strong you think someone might be, assault them enough, burden them with enough toxic psychological and emotional sludge, and they eventually collapse under the strain.
Recognize Reality: Speaking about toxic sludge, the third thing parents and teachers can do to help the empathic child (or adult) is to recognize the true nature of our reality on this planet. This is very important. The image that Hollywood presents to us, the image that so many of us believe and strive for, is false. We do not live in an i-Carly, Happy Days, Leave it to Beaver kind of world. Our families are broken, our society is violent, and our social interactions are prominently superficial and quite often toxic. The reality is, kids on this planet are lied to, beaten, abused, exploited, and raped every second of every day. Even seemingly innocent "sleepovers" or "scout outings" can expose our children to toxicity, abuse, and sexual assault and this is not to mention child exploitation, child labor, child pornography, and so on. This planet is a toxic soup for children and that is the reality. Denying it, pretending it is not there, finding spiritual benefit in violence and abuse, or simply ignoring it (for whatever reason) will not prevent the children from being abused and empaths from being destroyed. If you want to help the empath, open your eyes and see.
Recognize that damage happens: One you see and understand the empath and once you are in tune with reality and not fantasy, the next thing is to realize that if you expose empaths to reality as it currently is, damage occurs. If you hit an empath, if you scream at them, if you manipulate them, if you exploit their energy, if you assault them, if you demean them, if you attack them, if you try and confuse them, if you soak them in the random energies of diffuse anguish and despair, damage accrues in exactly the same way that damage would accrue if you cut them with a knife. You can pretend that is not the case or maybe assuage your own complicity and guilt by saying things like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" or "it's their choice to be here" or some other spiritual/Darwinian nonsense like that, but if you do, you're self deluded. Assault a child, attack and empath, beat another human being for whatever reason, and you're hurting them and causing them damage, period.
Understand that damage takes a long time to heal: Once you understand the true nature of the empath and the jeopardy they are in, then understand that emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage that empaths incur as a result of Toxic Socialization can take decades to heal. Physical damage can take as little as a few days to heal, but as scientists and others are beginning to realize, emotional/psychological/spiritual damage caused by toxic home and school environments can take decades to heal. The economic cost to society alone is staggering to consider. And know this, it doesn't take much to injure an empath. Even a single emotional or psychological assault can do damage that can persist for decades. It is a serious, serious social and psychological issue. If we want our empathic children (and remember all children are naturally empathic) to grow up healthy and whole, we need to start paying attention to the serious consequences right now.
Issue a NO ABUSE proclamation: One you recognize the true nature of this world, once you recognize that empaths are in constant jeopardy, once you recognize the high, long-term cost and the serious need to protect our children, the next thing that you must do is STOP THE VIOLENCE wherever you can. Issue a "NO ABUSE" proclamation. In our home, we have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. In our home, nobody is allowed to scream, call names, spew negativity, engage in active or passive assault; or otherwise, be negative toward another person. This does not mean that we are not critical or open, but it does mean that we try to communicate in a positive manner at all times. We're not perfect and emotional assaults do happen (and its almost always the adults who are the perpetrators and the children who are the victims), but when they do, the perpetrator is expected to be accountable and issue a sincere apology. Compared to the childhood that we had and compared to the childhood of many kids even today, our home is a literal Eden, as it should be. We want our children to grow up healthy, whole, connected, and empathic and this will not happen if we put up with any form of assault. And note, the same "no abuse" rule should be adopted by teachers in schools as well. Teachers shaming children, children shaming each other, and any form of psychological, emotional, or spiritual violence should not be tolerated in the class or on the school yard for any reason whatsoever. Assault of any kind hurts the empath doubly so. Recognize that there is no place or space for abuse in the life of the child and issue a "no abuse" proclamation.
Protect your children / protect the children: Issuing a "no abuse" proclamation is only the first concrete step forward that you can take. Once you have proclaimed your choice and desire to live in an abuse free environment, push for its support, adoption, and enforcement. And remember, the home is not the only place that children and empaths suffer assault. Abuse happens at school, at grandmas, at aunties, at work, amongst "friends", and so on. You can't control where an adult goes, but you can definitely protect children from exposure to abuse, so there is no excuse. Never expose empathic children to abuse. Keep children far, far away from toxic adults and their toxic little children, especially as children grow. Play dates in the first few years are mostly harmless, even when parents are highly toxic. However, toxicity eventually bleeds into children who can begin to act out in toxic ways toward other children; so eventually, even other children (especially other children!) become the perpetrators of violence. All other things beings equal, as empathic children grow, they become more exposed and susceptible to negativity. The first few years that children play together is no trouble, but by ten, twelve, and beyond, toxicity and abuse experienced in families starts to spill over. Therefore, protect your children, adolescents, and young adults from other children, adolescents, and adults as they grow. You may think that pushing your children into family and social situations is a positive thing, but it is often not. When it comes to protecting the next generation of empaths, take a no compromise approach; make sure your eyes are wide open.
Teach your children well: It is true that parents and teachers must protect children because they do not have the power to protect themselves. But, children grow up to be adults and parents and teachers must eventually loosen control. When children become adults, it is up to them to protect themselves; however, they can only do this if they have been taught what to do. They don't learn what to do by magic! Parents and teachers need to teach children how to protect themselves, how to cope with negativity, how to build boundaries, how to reject abuse, and how to avoid toxicity. I've written a little book aimed at 7 to 12 year olds that provides basic information relevant to all children (see the Little book of Stars below) and there is additional basic advice in my Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice, but there are things to consider immediately. One of the most important things that you can teach your child is that there is never and excuse for abuse. If you teach them that there is no excuse for abuse, then they will grow up avoiding it, rejecting it, and refusing to accept it. If you teach them that abuse is OK in some cases (like for example, as "punishment"), then they will sometimes find it difficult to extricate themselves from abusive situations. Remember, damage accrues when empaths, children, and even adults experience abuse. Teach empaths/children/adults that there is never any justification for abuse, so that if abuse starts up, they know they should leave. This is especially important for empaths. Abuse damages everybody; children and empaths doubly so. Therefore, empaths must be taught from day one that no amount of physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, or spiritual abuse is acceptable.
Now, teaching children to reject all forms of abuse might sound simple and straight forward; but in fact, many people will struggle mightily with this. Consider this: the primary message that parents and teachers send to children is that it is OK to hurt another human if they deserve it. The message that children get is "if somebody does something bad, go ahead and hurt them". We may not overtly speak this message to our children, but it is modeled to them almost daily by parents, teachers, and adult authority figures who seem to have no trouble screaming, yelling, hitting, hurting, shaming, belittling, and otherwise assaulting the defenseless child whenever the child does something "wrong". We assault our kids and then to justify it, we tell them that they deserve it. And that's just the start. As children grow up, they hear the message and see it modeled again and again and again. By the time we are fully matured, we can justify profound levels of abuse, even torture, by simply telling ourselves that the people we are hurting "deserve" to be hurt because they did something bad. The message is crystal clear. Our kids learn - we all learn that as long as somebody "deserves it", we can hurt them with relative impunity.
But, that idea and that message is wrong, wrong, wrong. That message has to change and it has to change right now. We as a people, as a nation, and as a planet, have to get it through our stubborn thick skulls that there is no excuse for abuse. No matter what the child, adolescent, or adult does, abuse is never an option. Punishment is assault - pure and simple. People are rarely "corrected" or "reformed" by abuse. Usually, they are just damaged even more. There is no benefit. Assault hurts like hell and it causes debilitating long-term damage to the body/mind. This is especially so when we consider our empathic children (and remember, all children are naturally empathic). If we want them to grow up healthy, whole, and strong, we have to stop hitting, hurting, yelling, and beating. You can help with that by not only stopping the abuse, but also, by sending a clear, often repeated verbal message to the children and adolescents of this world that abuse is not OK. Don't teach the children to put up with it, teach the children to identify it, avoid it when they see it, report it to people who can protect them, and resist it whenever they can (i.e. when it does not further endanger them).
Spend lots of quality time: Even though the world should be a lot better than it is now, the world will never be a perfect place. But, even in a more ideal world, there will still be times when assault will occur. We're all in a human body after all and the human body sometimes gets out of control. But, that's OK because humans, empaths included, are resilient. Even though, in this article, I emphasize that empaths are extremely sensitive, they are not weak little blobs of spineless emotional jelly. When they are not set upon by years/decades of abuse, when they have been taught to build safe spaces and boundaries, when they have been taught to reject abuse - in other words, when they are not systematically suppressed and damaged, they are strong and resilient. We can deal with the fallout of somebody's loss of control because the physical body is resilient. It has built- in coping and healing mechanisms and these mechanisms, if they are functioning and properly "charged", can deal with even deep trauma. You can ensure these mechanisms are functioning and properly charged by simply giving out lots and lots of love. At home, this means lots of hugs, love, attention, and support. At school, this means lots of positive regard, attention, and support. It should go without saying, but empathic children - all children in fact, need lots of attention, lots of love, lots of appropriate physical contact, and lots and lots and lots of support: far more than they currently get. As a parent, we will bump up against time limitations in our day. Teachers will bump up against class sizes and administrative prerogative. My advice to parents is to prioritize your childrens' emotional and psychological needs over drinks with the boys, mom's coffee club, and so on. My advice to teachers - train yourself to pay attention and push your fellows (and governments) to stop spending on death (i.e. war) and start spending on life. We are rich societies and, with a shift in priority away from a wealthy generation and toward spiritually aligned, human centered economies, we can easily afford much smaller class sizes. Technologically, economically, we have everything we need to create utopia. Eject governments that are "by the rich, for the rich". Elect governments by the people and for the people. As parents and teachers, we are the ones that must act to elect governments that will prioritize our children and adolescents.
Pull them out of school: Finally, if you happen to have the wherewithal and the support, pull your kids out of school. Schools are currently one of the most toxic environments on the planet (and if you don't believe me, pay attention the next time a young adolescent commits suicide or goes shooting to take others down as well). Schools are second only to the home as the primary site of violence and abuse. My article here on emotional abuse in schools and the extended commentary it has received reveals how bad it can be. If you can and if their are supports in your area for home schooling, pull your children out of school and educate them at home. Of course, do this only if you have the means and only if you are able to give them a quality education at home. We need our children to be educated and it is becoming increasingly possible for some, at least. In the Canadian province were I live, our government is developing online curriculums that students can plug into from wherever they happen to be! Our family is very fortunate to have a formal home school option such as this. Our kids take real school classes, interact with real students and teachers, study the same curriculum, and achieve the same results while studying from the safety of our home. It has made a huge and positive difference in their intellectual, emotional, and psychological development; so, if you can do it, do it. If not, push for it. Governments can do a lot to create conditions that are supportive for home schooling. Until schools smarten up and start working to create a safe environment for our empathic children (for all children), push governments to provide alternatives.
Change the world: My final advice to parents, teachers, and really anybody listening, is to change the world. Ultimately, this is the only way to completely protect our empathic children and adults and we definitely want to do that. We have all put up with intolerable levels of suffering and abuse for far, far too long. We have watched our innocent children grow up hurt, damaged, depressed, and even suicidal. In the delusions of our media and the wars of our rulers, we see the outcome of violence and abuse. If we want things to change, we have to stop blaming the victims, we have to stop advising our empaths to "cope", and we have to start changing the world so their full healing/empathic potential can be finally realized. Remember, empaths are here to help us heal and transform. They can only do that if we stop assaulting them, stop hurting them, and start nurturing, protecting, and properly supporting them and the work they came to do.