When worrying about others goes too far

Frog populations all over the planet are in serious decline. In fact, amphibian populations are the most endangered group on the planet. Being dependent on both healthy air AND healthy water to survive, frogs are especially vulnerable in our troubled environment. With habitat destruction and climate change, the future of frogs is dismal.

guajon_frog_tree

Sometimes I think I’m like a frog. I want everyone else around me to be happy, healthy and at peace so that I can be happy, healthy and at peace. If you or your kids are sensitive or empathic, you may already be aware how toxic a negative environment can be. Whether the toxin is noise pollution, stress, pressure, judgment, blaming, inadequacy or physical clutter, it can cause a sensitive person to grow weaker. Empathic people have an easy time understanding and sharing in the feelings of others. Whether it’s your family members or friends that pull you in, the homeless on the street, the endangered pandas, or the entire rain forest eco system, being empathic can leave you vulnerable to the emotional and physical climate surrounding you. While our froggy friends are helpless and dependent, we humans are not.

Empathy is a great gift, something our culture could use more of, but if you don’t know how to use it, it will use you. Many animals and plants suffered and died during the last few years of drought. Children bully and belittle other children. Hungry and homeless children exist in our communities. People die everyday, sometimes tragically and unexpectedly. Do you think it’s a good idea to think about these things all day every day? Maybe a little bit….. just to motivate us to fence the pool, put on seat belts, donate to animal shelters, conserve water and plant a tree. After that, the benefit of empathy can hurt us, not help us. It can cause us to take less action, feel weak, small and helpless, and perhaps endanger ourselves and follow the fate of our friends the frogs.

Because we are humans, we can use the power of intention and imagination to help us feel better. Remember when your kids were scared of monsters under the bed? You sprayed your magical monster spray squirt bottle under the bed, the kids felt better and the monsters went away. Sometimes invisible problems, need invisible solutions. If you think you, or your kids, may have empathy overload, try this simple exercise and see if it helps.

Close your eyes and imagine two dials in front of you numbered 1-10. One is labeled ME, the other is labeled EVERYBODY ELSE. These dials represent where you put your energy and attention. What number is your ME dial pointed to? Close your eyes and pretend you are looking at it.  What number do you imagine your everybody else dial is pointed to?  Now try turning up the ME dial, how does it feel?  If you’ve got a highly empathic personality, it’s going to feel dramatically better to turn up the dial on your own energy. If you already focus on yourself a lot, turning it up will just feel familiar. Play around with the EVERYBODY ELSE dial, if you struggle to make friends, it may because this dial is turned too low. Try turning it up and see if it doesn’t help you consider others more often. I find it fascinating that something so simple and invisible, can help so much. I think it’s something about taking back control from a place where you felt you had none. Try creating a dial for “the planet” or  “animals” or “the future”, “the past” and “the present”, wherever you feel yourself getting tied up in knots. Notice where the dials are currently tuned then play around with them until you feel increased comfort.

Empathic ability is a gift much needed in our culture. Make sure you keep it healthy and protected so you can use it to make our world healthy enough for frogs, and ourselves, to live in.