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Empathy and Healing

by annie

While throwing the idea of this article around to some peers, I got pretty much the same response across the board. "What does empathy have to do with healing?" Perhaps it doesn't, to you. I can only write about my own personal and professional experience. In my personal and professional experience, the two are almost inseparable. I plan to use this article to explain why.

I am a licensed acupuncturist, massage therapist, and am educated at a graduate level in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the state where I live, we name grouping my studies as "manual therapist". This basically means I have a very large scope of practice. I would prefer to post my actual bio, but I chose instead to keep at least a semblance of anonymity in this particular forum.

I am also fairly recently self employed, which if you aren't aware means seven some work days a week. I use empathy and healing (in various forms) every single day, unless of course lightning strikes and I get a day off.

I don't care what the health care profession - doctor, nurse, alternative therapist, occupational therapist, psychotherapist, etc. etc. - there requires a subtle level of "relating" to people, in a manner that is not done in other professions' day to day affairs. The goal of this article is to change how you relate to, and read the people around you, health care professional or not.

  • A successful practitioner, or potential healer in the case of the reader, pays attention to detail. Physical observation in raw form (when the person you have intent to heal doesn't know you're observing) is the best. In my case, I watch my patients and clients walk from their car to my door through a conveniently tinted window. You would be surprised at how exaggerated their limp will become once they walk through the door.
  • A successful healer is also aware of the implied, but unspoken detail. When you're around someone who is in extreme pain, you too feel it. Perhaps it's not the same as having the injury or obstacle itself, but on some varying level you feel it.
  • A successful healer has an outlet for the sometimes overwhelming influx of signals he or she receives while healing. Internalizing pain from others to help them only prevents you from helping in the future.
  • A great healer doesn't internalize pain at all, but rather directs it somewhere else - an object, a location, some even visualize sending it to the earth's core. I don't really have an explanation for where that actually goes, but it seems to do the trick for them.
The connection between empathy and healing is actually a chronological one. Empathy comes first, and the healing is based off of those results.

I urge anyone interested in healing to become competent in anatomy, some physiology, and kinesiology. I find giving the instruction/influence/programming of precisely what I want the person I'm healing to do to be greatly helpful. I give no speculation as to why this is. I suspect it has something to do with vivid visualization.

And now, on to the good stuff.

First, I'm going to address empathy. Many of the people I respect greatly do not share my experience with empathy. For me, empathy and telepathy are indistinguishable without some effort. Empathy, in this article, refers to the actual feeling of others' emotions. This happens by accident for the unlucky, and with practice and fine tuning to others. In my experience, both empathy and telepathy come to me in bursts of "messages". The messages I get are different from person to person. More often than not, I receive a bundled burst of feelings and thoughts. Very much less often I will receive them separately.

For actual instruction on empathy, I link you to Rainsong's Empathy Seminar.

And now, more uncharted territory: healing. When it comes to healing, everyone has an opinion on how and when and why. I prefer to not address moral issues, and take a more matter-of-fact-/this-is-my-experience tone. And in doing so, I will give actual personal experiences, with an explanation of the process.

Experience #1

Receiver: 60 year old woman, two medial knee replacements, in wheel chair, constant headaches, and the beginnings of muscle atrophy

Service provided: Neuromuscular therapy and myofascial release

The unspoken healing process: I "visualized" (at some point, it becomes less visualization and more just going on in there) the inside of her knees, calves, and thighs. I was able to "see" the rods and pins and foreign objects that were to replace the patella. I also saw the surrounding connective tissue - muscles, ligaments, bone placement, and so on. Some people take this to an even smaller visualization scale, though I don't find it necessary. I saw build-ups of ischemia, or "knots" as we like to call them, in the tissues. I saw the muscle structure around the affected areas dying away from non-use. I saw the mass of scar tissue surrounding the surgery sites. I felt the path her sharp pain was taking up the leg. I felt the lower back pain this was causing, which was the reason for her tension headaches. In combination to the therapies I used from my education and training, I also used some suggestive healing. While applying ischemic compression, for example, I directed the "knots" (lactic acid build-up, for you nerd types) to disperse, one by one. I directed the breakup of the knots into the lymphatic system, for waste removal. In hindsight, this was done in half visualization and half arrogance. I was in charge of her body functions for that moment, and it didn't have a choice.

Note: after 8 months, the patient is out of her wheel chair, moved to two crutches, and is now on one crutch.

Experience #2

Receiver: 34 year old man, athletic, shattered coccyx (tailbone) 15 years prior that resulted in sciatic (low back and leg) pain

Service provided: Acupuncture

The unspoken healing process: Acupuncture is a little bit different from anything like physical or massage therapy. It does a good portion of the energy work for me. However, I tend to stay proactive rather than passive. I "saw" the coccyx, and it's shabby repair of itself. I saw the scar tissue surrounding it. I saw the sciatic nerve, all bunched up and shortened. I saw the surrounding muscles and ligaments reacting to that. I felt the pain path, and the numbness. Like in the first example, I took control. I demanded his surrounding muscles relax, so that the sciatic could stretch out some. I directed his pain into an object that I have dedicated for that sort of thing. If you decide to have such an object, make sure it's one that is not touched, or at least cleaned often. To expand further, I pooled and condensed the pain he was feeling into a small sphere. When I was done, I solidified it and threw it into the dedicated statue.

Note: He has gone from seeing me twice a week to seeing me twice a month for "maintenance" in a three month span

Experience #3

Receiver: My mom

Service provided: straight healing

The unspoken healing process: Basically, she has tennis elbow. Sometimes it makes her incapable of using her arm. When the tools in my professional tool box showed no results, I began just going in. I saw exactly what you'd expect to find with lateral epicondylitis inside of her arm. And since it hadn't responded to my demands (she's a feisty woman!) of healing before, I didn't waste the energy. Instead I posed the question to her body: what will make you respond? I got an immediate answer. I asked her, almost without processing, "Does it hurt more when you're driving?" She looked at me with slight shock and confirmed that it did. She needed to relax her arms while she drives, and chill out a little. I also recommended changing positions, and she did. After about a week, I went back to my vivid visualization and did a little myofascial release. She's 100% back to normal.

These techniques can be applied to all sorts of things. I would like to say, though, that healing is an aid, not a way around health insurance. See your doctors regularly. And when in treatment for something, or know someone who is, use your healing to assist - not cure. Start small, too. And for the love of Bob Dylan, do NOT bite off more than you can chew. Nobody wants your shoddy healing; who knows what effects it may have.

Below is a short list of smaller scale things I've healed:

Small cuts - We're not talking gunshot wounds, we're talking "Ow, I got nabbed by the coffee table again" type things. The visualization follows the same routine. Bring the white cells to the cut, tell the skin and watch it come back together with ease.

Unsightly bruises - These stink. I haven't found a very quick way to get rid of these, but telling the bruise to heal, watching it from the inside, and knowing the colors it needs to be going through can speed the healing process by days, in my experience.

Bug bites - OK these stink too. And again, to cover my own rear, I'm not talking about black widow or snake bites. I'm talking about mosquitoes or gnats or black ant sort of things. Again, visualize from the inside out. Try to speed up the body's natural reaction.


from sleeping wrong - You'd think the one thing you can really master is sleeping, right? Hmf. For this I do general muscle relaxation techniques, and usually combine with stretching. I tell the muscles to relax, or lengthen, or shorten, or whatever the case may be that is wrong.

Zits - yeah right, if I had the cure I'd be a millionaire.

That concludes the article. Perhaps one day we can have an open Q&A for any questions that may come up from trying things in this article.

- annie

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Last Modified on May 26 2004