Empathy, Compassion and Boundaries in the Astrological 12th House

Hello Dear Readers,

I have been going back through the posts on this blog, which I have been working on since 2009 – more than 12 years now! And in some of those earlier posts, I feel a strong desire to make serious revisions. For the most part though, I refrain from doing so, and add a separate paragraph saying, “Revised 2021…” And two of those posts, from back in 2010, are about the astrological 12th house (Western astrology). Hence my desire to touch on this topic today.

I have been studying and practicing various forms of healing bodywork since 2003 (when I got my first Reiki Attunement) and certainly since 2005 (when I dove in deeply in studying and practicing Craniosacral Therapy, Zapchen Somatics and Tibetan Buddhism). As a Pisces, and someone with Neptune square my natal Sun in my astrology chart, and also having Pluto conjunct my Libra Moon… I have been learning about boundaries my entire life.

What do I mean by boundaries? Psychological boundaries – the ability to stand up for myself, for my needs and my desires. The ability and clarity to know what those are! Boundaries are the ability to get in touch with my authentic “NO!” and to express that objection. Without being in touch with my authentic “NO,” I will never get to my authentic “YES.” The interesting thing here is that stating our objection also means being in touch with our anger, irritation and frustration. Can I express those? If I feel resentment building up about something, can I express that in a timely manner? Or do I let things bottle up inside until a month down the road I explode in a manner which is not appropriate to the context or situation?

Boundaries also speak to my ability to be in my own skin – literally and figuratively. Can I be around someone who is suffering without taking on some of their pain? In the past, that was very difficult for me. Can I feel sensations in my body? Can I come down out of my head and into my heart? Can I notice how exhausted I actually am (if appropriate) or do I continually keep pushing through and overriding?

All of these questions might go back to the Astrological 12th house. For more on what the astrological 12th house represents, see my previous posts from back in 2010 – https://wordpress.com/post/astrodharma.me/1007 or https://wordpress.com/post/astrodharma.me/1022 where I discuss the 12th house from a Buddhist perspective (among other points of view).

What is the difference between Empathy and Compassion? It is actually a big difference. Empathy is being able to put oneself in another’s shoes – can I feel something along the lines of what this person is feeling? Have I experienced something like this before? Empathy is caring with someone else. Being with them, sharing with them and caring with them.

Compassion is a bigger sense of caring. It is caring for others. It is wishing them well. It is also an awareness that someone’s suffering (at least on some deep level) is caused by their own karma. (I know this sounds indifferent or cold – rather we want them to be happy, to be content, to be free of suffering, but some people just keep creating the causes of suffering over and over again.) If we can benefit them great! If not, we can’t attempt to take on everyone’s burden. Compassion does not mean getting down in the trenches and feeling into one person’s suffering (that is more along the lines of empathy).

Compassion says, “Oh gosh, you are drowning! Here, I will throw you a life preserver.” Someone with high empathy says, “Oh no! You are drowning, here I will jump in and save you.” Obviously, the conventional wisdom is, if someone is drowning you always throw something to them first – a rope, a floatation device, a life preserver, etc. That is so they don’t take you down with them. Then you help them get back to shore, make sure they are okay – get any water out of their lungs, and then, later, once they are stabilized, you can ask them, “Hey, can I teach you how to swim?”

Because this distinction (compassion vs empathy) and boundary work has been my life’s work (along with offering various healing modalities), I am very good at helping other people through this process: of lowering the empathy dial if they are empaths and psychic sponges – always taking on other people’s suffering. Ideally we want to have high compassion all the time, but we want to be able to choose how much empathy we engage in – and make it contextually appropriate. We want to know how to be present for my own needs and my own process. Then I can give of myself if I have the energy for doing that.

To plug my own bodywork and healing practice…

In my bodywork and somatic therapy practice, I help to answer these questions:

How can we turn our sensitivity into a superpower? Or at least turn it into a tool that we can take out from time to time, and then put away when appropriate?

Did my parents or caretakers have good boundaries? Were they really good at self-sacrificing and constantly giving to others? Were they very sensitive? How did that affect me?

How can I learn somatic tools to reduce my extremely high levels of empathy? To reconnect to my self, my wholeness and my health?

Let me know if you want to schedule a time to chat or if you would like to schedule a treatment. You can email me at: kirby [at] mkirbymoore [dot] com

Wishing you well on your journey!

Kirby Moore

konchog chakchen

Published by Kirby Moore

Kirby Moore is a healing facilitator based in the beautiful rolling hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. He does sessions in-person and long distance via Skype and Zoom, working with Spiritual Astrology, Somatic Experiencing, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and Birth Process Work. His healing work is informed by fifteen years of meditation and Qigong practice. He works with client's intentions and deepest longings to attain clear, tangible results. Contact him for more info at (email): kirby [at] mkirbymoore [dot] com

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