The Reciprocity of Feelings

This is something I’ve been observing for quite a while now. One of the RSD instructors says “she feels what you feel.” My recent All Too Human gives me the opportunity to elaborate more about this very important topic.

My Experience at the IIT in Non-Violent Communication

I became very consciously aware of this phenomenon at a ten-day Intensive International Training in Non-Violent Communication held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in December 2007. (You can learn more about IITs by clicking here.) The IIT was an absolutely amazing experience all around. We trained with Marshall Rosenberg and his healer-wife Valentina Rosenberg, as well as a bunch of other incredible NVC teachers.

Each evening the group would gather to reconnect and talk about what happened that day. I’ll never forget a particular woman standing up and talking about her experience in one of the empathy/healing sessions. Apparently she forgot to turn off her cell phone. It started ringing while a man in the group was doing an intense group empathy/healing session focused on some very painful experiences from his past. The woman was absolutely distraught that she could possibly have forgotten to turn off her cell phone (i.e., she felt guilty). As she told of this experience, I was thinking to myself, well, why are you beating yourself up about that? Who cares — so your cell phone went off, no big deal, I’m sure he didn’t care.

Well, much to my shock, the man from that same session took the microphone next. And he relayed that in fact he had been *extremely* angry when her cell phone went off. The two of them ended up spending a bunch of time together after that decompressing from what was a really emotional experience for both of them.

This was the first time I really became fully aware of how reciprocal feelings are, but then I started noticing it in lots of situations. If one person felt guilty, the other person would feel angry or would experience pain, or would have other negative feelings. The feelings were reciprocal.

Guilt and Fear

For many years, I had already believed that guilt was a useless emotion. But now I realized guilt was more than useless — it was destructive.

Fear is similar. Fear will actually move the Universe around on you, keeping people apart. Marshall Rosenberg often says that unacknowledged fear will be perceived by the other person as hostility. What I’ve noticed is that when I’m really scared (like I was of sex), bizarre things will happen to keep me separate from the person toward whom the fear is directed.

It’s very important not to take this personally. Aspiring pickup artists, for example, are often so scared that women literally run from them. If the aspiring PUAs don’t understand what is going on, they may judge themselves, which only further deepens the downward spiral. They think they aren’t good-looking or charming enough, perhaps, or whatever other interpretation they put on it. That’s not true at all. Their fear is a vibe that is literally pushing other people away. Fortunately there are many ways of reducing fear. When fear is eliminated, attraction happens naturally.

How This Relates to the Ego Ambush the Other Night

This is actually how I caught myself in the middle of the emotional reaction that I was having the other night. I wish I had caught myself sooner, but we all do the best we can. When I’d gone on dates with this guy, he had told me some stories about his encounters with women, so I already knew he had a pattern of him feeling guilt and women feeling anger. When I suddenly realized that I was just playing right into that script, the emotional reaction I was having vanished. And I started laughing. I saw that it was just a “story” and not true.

That this guy and I met each other was not an accident. As soon as we made eye contact, we both “recognized” each other and knew we would be getting together. Immediately.

There are no accidents in salvation. Those who are to meet will meet, because together they have the potential for a holy relationship. They are ready for each other. – ACIM

Remember that no one is where he is by accident, and chance plays no part in God’s plan. – ACIM

People are brought together because they have mirror-image “wounds” that need to be healed. The most amazing part is that one person can heal both. So if I become present with my anger and work on healing the unforgiving beliefs that triggered that reaction in this situation, I’m not only healing myself, I’m healing him too. And I’m also healing countless other people all over the world. So that’s what I’ve been focusing on the past few days.

And as you let yourself be healed, you see all those around you, or who cross your mind, or whom you touch or those who seem to have no contact with you, healed along with you. Perhaps you will not recognize them all, nor realize how great your offering to all the world, when you let healing come to you. But you are never healed alone. And legions upon legions will receive the gift that you receive when you are healed. – ACIM

The good news is that good feelings are also reciprocal. So the more we heal ourselves, the better we feel. And then our good-feeling vibe is transmitted to everyone around us. We start noticing that people are actually magnetized to us because they feel good being near us. There’s no better feeling, IMO, than that.


p.s. A little comic relief here. I find it endlessly amusing that I now receive regular updates on Facebook advising me about how to “game porn stars.” I’m sure these new skills will come in handy soon ;-)

About the Author:

Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening

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  1. Would you be willing to go into further detail on this? Thanks

  2. thanks

  3. Matt,

    You might be interested in ACIM’s discussion of empathy:

    “To empathize does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand. That is the ego’s interpretation of empathy, and is always used to form a special relationship in which the suffering is shared. The capacity to empathize is very useful to the Holy Spirit, provided you let Him use it in His way. He does not understand suffering, and would have you teach it is not understandable. When He relates through you, He does not relate through your ego to another ego. He does not join in pain, understanding that healing pain is not accomplished by delusional attempts to enter into it, and lighten it by sharing the delusion.”

    Empathy as we learn it with NVC always focuses on restoring a sense of wholeness.

  4. hey John,

    You are right. I am interested in wounds for one purpose and one purpose only — as a focus for healing.

    Lesson 31: “I am not the victim of the world I see.”

  5. I read this with great interest. I have been working through ACIM for the last three months or so. I am only about halfway through with the main text, and I had not read these parts of the text yet (or I did not retain them).

    These quotes hit me forcefully in that one way that spiritual texts will hit me when I need to hear what is being said. The relationship I am in now is filled with a lot of past emotional garbage stemming from abuse. I have noticed that if I attempt to empathize with the false (meaning pain) coming from some of the situations she has gone through, it only makes the problem that much more palpable. However, when I am focusing on simply observing and offering only presence, the pain associated with talking about it subsides. This was very illuminating. Thank you.

    Some would say that this is sticking one’s head in the sand and burying the problem, but the reverse seems to be true. You are listening to them completely, but you are not acknowledging that the pain or suffering is real. I wonder if psychotherapy actually can exacerbate a problem by making it more real in the patient’s mind if a lot of wrong empathy is used. It is very interesting.

  6. There is a danger in thinking constantly of wounds being healed.

    As thinking of yourself wounded, or hurt, there is a chance to sink into that victim mentality that time and again you get stepped on and it’s your lot in life to suffer unduly at the hands of others.

    Along with the wounds and their ache, you can always play that external blame game and feel some kind of aggression or negativity towards those in the world you did the hurting.

    All of this though is more wallowing about the fact that you have the wound or that you were in the pasted wounded…rather than healing whatever the wound might be.

    The act of healing is as much a you-thing as it is a he-thing or an us-thing, and I’d probably argue that the you-component is the largest and most integral.

    Granted, healing those wounds and having wounds healed is good, but there is still greater good in getting past the wound/wounded/will be wounded mindset.

    Live more than the wounds. But don’t live around them either. This isn’t swiss cheese, you’re not defined by the content with holes in it. You are you because of all the bits: wounds, craters, imagined craters and good parts….it’s all you.

    To draw too much attention to what you perceive as wounds is to dilute the attention devoted to what those wounds can do for you going forward.

    Look up and out, not down.

  7. I must tell you that your blogs are pretty addicting.

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