Client: 'It has been a long, difficult time with my dear friend being ill. I dreamt a man was chasing me with a gun and he was going to shoot me, and I said, 'Well, that's okay, but I don't want to be shot in the front, just shoot me in the back,' and I started running. I could feel the laser sights on my back and I kept saying, 'Shoot me, shoot me, shoot me.' He didn't, but kept right after me. I ran to a friend's house, where he was teasing the children. The only sense I came was that there was nothing for me to do. I just couldn't figure out what to do.'
Orion: Now this is a very dramatic dream, seemingly representing danger - 'I am in danger here,' but more so to us, it represents that it's really all out of your hands. Interestingly, you still gave yourself an option, a choice, when you said, 'I don't want to be shot in the front, go ahead and shoot in the back...' and again, you didn't stand there and let him shoot you, you took off. Further, he doesn't shoot you even if he's harassing other people. In this your troubles are still with you, behind you, but truly, you can only do what you can do. Again, you did choose two important things, 'Don't shoot me in the front,' which the trouble acknowledged, and running. 'But I'm not going to just stand here and let you shoot me. I give up, you might be able to shoot me, I can feel the laser on my back; I know it's your hands now, but I'm going to keep going.'
We see this as your processing feeling absolutely overwhelmed. And you have reached the very real point, a true actuality, where you can only do what you can do, and in that moment, you cannot do more. Perhaps in a later moment or a next moment you can do more, but not now.
In this era where the highest 'product' sold is 'multiple options', there has become the illusion that there is always the 'better' option. The perfect option is sold commercially in every variety and you are told you can always find how else it should or could have been done and further that is you don't, it's your own lack or failure.
Sadly, people have internalized this unrealistic message that everything is in their control. When they’re selling you a product, they want you to think if you choose Apple over Android, you’ve made the better decision. The illusion continues that you are in control of having the very best, best product for you. People have begun to take this idea to every decision. And in that, they often end up feeling it is really on them and, if at any time anything goes south or doesn’t quite work or doesn’t turn out how they wanted, it is, again, their personal, individual fault because they didn’t make the right choice. They weren’t the right consumer of choice. In this illusion that we all can have everything we want by going to Amazon or Apple or wherever these things are, so many have built up their sense of power, 'I can have the right choice,' but they are also building up their false sense of responsibility. 'It’s all on me.'
And people become more centered in only their own view; they forget the rest of the world is interacting with them and that there are influences in life that are beyond your control. This is happening in the culture. It is a very stress inducing element, which we’re sure someone would be happy to sell you a product to have you feel less stressed.
When there was the financial downturn for instance, we had many clients who were sure they were doing something wrong that made them have less business. They simply found it painful to accept, it’s because there simply is less business. At that time, people weren't using their resources for 'extras', massage, coaching, personal training - many of the services our clients provided. They struggled with even considering that the outside world had taken control of their own world because everyone is given the idea of their power to self-create everything, regardless of the outer situations. Since often they felt their work was anchored in spiritual practice, they found it challenging to see themselves as not protected somehow, to see only the financial aspect by itself. When reminded of the outer situation, they would say, Well, that’s out there in Wall Street, it should be affecting my people…' but of course it did. And acknowledging that reality needed to be the first step to finding a way through the change life had brought.
Client: It certainly was for me. I felt like I had done something wrong, even though I knew my field of real estate would naturally be affected by a financial downturn.
In your dream, a 'realist' is speaking, rather than the idealist. The dream is creating an experience to remind you of reality; inviting you to acknowledge and move toward accepting that the truth is 'I can only do what I can do."' In that, the other side of not having all the power is to remember it is also not your personal lack, misunderstanding, or worse, your personal failure, that you can’t do more because you actually cannot. And further in many situations where one 'hits the wall' of extending, it is often the place where you are not given the power, the authority, the position, the ways and means of impacting the situation. You literally and actually cannot help in that moment.
Along with acknowledging these outer limits, we have to allow recognizing of our individual limits of helping or giving. In this on-going and now long term situation, you’ve continually risen to the occasion of helping. At the same time you have had to learn that there are times you do not have it available in energy or time to give to your friend's situation and all the other situations in your life. You've also have had to learn more about your right to say No. 'This is what I won’t do. This is when I’m turning the phone off. And this is when I’m not the answering the phone just because I don’t want to deal with anything more right now.'
Many people have no problem with such limits, but as you know, receptive people want to receive. They internalize not only an identity that they are that way, but they are willing to take on a responsibility to do so. 'I should be. I should be there… you know if I’m not bleeding, I should be there for the other person,' rather than, 'I’m just tired and I don’t want to talk to them,' or rather than, 'I’m relaxing watching this silly television show and I just don’t want to talk to them.'
Empaths have great difficulty in just putting themselves first ,'just because', but you have gotten to the end of your energy and of your rope, sometimes, and you’ve had to say, 'No' j to yourself. In other words you’ve had to say, 'I can’t do that today, that’s it!'
We encourage you to embrace these limits, to be the caretaker of yourself and your own energy. The old cliche 'If the starving mother gives all the food to the baby, then there won’t be a mother to take care of the baby next time.' is true.
Simply put, over-doing, giving all your energy when you don’t have it, isn’t really practical. It isn’t the best option. It also leads people to go to all or nothing rather than finding balance along the way, they finally say, 'That’s it. I’m done. I quit'; when stopping and allowing balance along the way, as it were, might have given them more strength for the long haul of the situation.
Client: I feel so overly responsible and it just drives me. I can never feel everything is done.
Here is another aspect of 'boundaries' Empaths/receptive people deal with - their identity as the responder and giver It is difficult to let it go. It is difficult to question it; to let it change according to a situation; to lay it down. It isn’t easy to get out of our identities because they make us feel safe. In our view when something persists, it is not because it’s bad, even if the actions end up looking bad. It’s that the root of it is that it feels safe. It makes some part of us safe even if that part is disconnected from the big picture.
Client: Yes, I feel my 'always helpful' identity has become a sort of costume, some uniform I'm stuck in, but I feel too uncomfortable without it.
In this, your awareness of, 'I’m a great worker but I need to get off my own grid, my own to-do list, my own plans,' is useful; is powerful. But you may find that allowing that change is not easy. You will be uncomfortable allowing new facets, new limits, and so on. But knowing you are entering a challenge, will help you to not judge yourself. You can instead, say with truthfulness, 'It makes me uncomfortable to just get in the car and go away for a few days, but I am getting in the car.'
You are going to begin to re-educate the person who feels safe by ticking off the to-do list, but who does not pay attention that to-do lists never end unless we end them. It is essential to understand the struggle many Empaths have with inner and outer boundaries. Acknowledging that struggle exists is an essential step in allowing and supporting change.
Empaths do help and support others, but part of that is their deep nature and own capacity and desire to respond. It is always a caution to not elevate our Empath nature into specialness. Empath nature is indeed a positive capacity, but like all things, balance is required for this energetic way of being in the world to work most well for you and others.
People who are not as responsive to others may not truly understand your struggle to say no, to not answer the phone, or your willingness to put your own plans on hold for another, because they simply do not have the same pull as you. Your partner may get frustrated with your inability to say no and watch you become drained. They think "This person’s called you fifteen times; you don’t have to keep answering the phone.' But what they may not realize is that each time you don't answer the phone, you have to make an effort to do that. So getting clear about the challenge yourself, will help you communicate to others how you work. Sharing that may also give them a way to support you, as in reminding you to take care of yourself.
Empaths also need to remember that there are people who will simply take, who will not be 'in exchange' or reciprocal with you. The people who will call fifteen times, will take every one of those calls you give them and will not censor or limit themselves or think they have asked too much. They will not offer a limit of their own accord. People will take from the givers. It is essential for receptives to understand this situation exists. As difficult as it is to be the boundary setter, only you can do it and hold it. And do it you must in order to have an aligned life. It will not feel 'natural' to you. It will be a re-learning, but as in all things, with practice, it will become easier, even if never easy, automatic or without an inner sense of awkwardness or conflict.
We end with our old reminder. Many Empaths feel a responsibility to be empathic no matter what and on demand, but it is not a responsibility in that way. You were not born to be an Empath. It is that you have a heightened capacity for empathy and you can share it when it is aligned for you and never to your own depletion or detriment. Remember to be empathetic to yourself. Listen when you are overwhelmed. Listen when you need quiet, when you need respite. Be your own 'first responder', your own caretaker. Allowing this awareness to be clear and in the forefront will enrich your life and support you in so many ways.
excerpted and edited from a personal session, with permission
Image by Deb Booth-DifferentLightStudio.com