What is somatic empathy?
Somatic refers to the felt sense of the body. Empathy means to feel the experience of another.
Somatic empathy, is to feel in your body what another may be experiencing at physical level. However, there are a few catches to it. Not everything we experience surfaces at mental level.
You may be in the company of someone who seem like they’ve been having three cups of coffee before your meeting with them. You may feel your heart rate increasing, hear yourself speak much faster than you are used to, and after a few minutes feel completely exhausted. You may even start panicking, since this is not a comfortable way for you to be. By the time you leave the meeting you wonder what had just hit you, since just a short while by yourself seem to have been enough to get you back to normal speed. Upon reflection you wonder how that person you met manages, and whether they are in this anxious state all the time. You may even feel sorry for, or judge them.
Yet, person B felt nothing of anxiety. To person B this high paced way of being is normal and exhilarating. Person B flourishes in this high paced state.
Wait. Please explain what is going on here. Somatic empathy is the physical experience of another, and one would expect also emotional, yet why are the experiences so different at mental level? Don’t our emotions also create our physical environment? Is every book about self-healing and the law of attraction wrong?
Thoughts do create emotion and it is after all how we think about a certain action, or reaction, that creates our emotional environments connected to it. How we think is determined by our level of awareness. Of course the greater awareness, the greater the challenge to be ok with everything and thus develop maturity and wisdom.
My thoughts about this is as follow. If you have the unresolved emotions about a particular way of being within yourself, picking up on another’s unconscious patterns will be a desturbing occurrence. However, if you have fully processed your stance towards a particular feeling or reaction, you will go smoothly through the meeting.
Yet I say: “unconscious patterns.” Yes, I do believe that this is what somatic empathy is about. When you are close to someone who has been hurt, deeply hurt, you can feel it. I am talking about that pain that sits in your heart from heartbreak or deep sadness. However if this deeply hurt person starts expressing their hurt in a way that shows ownership, that shows understanding and acknowledgement for their pain, it is as if the weight of the feeling is lifted. You may still feel the sensation on your chest, but their is no emotional responsibility on your part.
In the case of being in the company of someone being hurt in the same way, yet putting up a facade of happiness, of being ok, and seemingly doing fine, that weight sits on you.
This is what I mean with somatic empathy as picking up on the unconscious, unexpressed patterns of another. In a therapeutic environment you may well take initiative to express what you as somatic empath is feeling, yet in a social environment this is mostly inappropriate and unwelcome. It is like we are all living from one big pool of emotions and feelings, all waiting to be claimed and acknowledged by whoever is willing or available to do so.
We are all one. We cannot hide or isolate ourselves. Our feelings are those of others and others share our feelings. This is the ubuntu principle of life. I am because you are. May we all grow to healthier, more wholesome, aware and happier people.