The Empath and Walmart; Part 1
“Walmart is the seventh level of hell” ~ a few hundred empaths
“We live a story that originates in our autonomic state, is sent through autonomic pathways from the body to the brain, and is then translated by the brain into the beliefs that guide our daily living. The mind narrates what the nervous system knows. Story follows state.” -Deb Dana, LCSW
I’ve said before that the only trait empaths share is that they are just that. However, those I’ve worked with, with a few outstanding exceptions, share a particular loathing of Walmart that goes far beyond not wanting to be caught in the next round of ‘Walmart people’ photos. The feelings associated with Walmart (or shopping malls or lines at airport customs or movie theaters) include every symptom of anxiety known, ‘creeping skin’, quaking limbs, the inability to complete simple shopping, panic attacks, and unfinished chores due to feeling overwhelmed and ashamed by the whole shebang.
When I used to do the Empowered Empath class, I had two standard homework assignments that were the measure of personal growth. The first was to go to Walmart before the class started and record every experience from the driveway at home to the cash register, if they could make it that far. The last assignment, 2-3 months later, at the end of the class was to go back and notice their transformation. From the first, a few people couldn’t even get out of the car once they’d pulled into the parking lot, others broke into a sweat before making it to the freezer section, and others carried on through the half-hour assignment while exhaustion competed with a shopping list. Not a single person had anything positive to say about the experience or my method.
Following the Deb Dana quote above is this: You’re afraid of Walmart and the like because a) you set yourself into the fear long before you get there, and b) your body and brain do not understand how to process the, 1) your fear, and 2) the energies it is responding to. It’s all you, baby. Until you get to the store, that is. There’s no shame in it, no reason to argue with me or yourself. It’s just something to sit with for a bit. It’s not much different emotionally or physiologically than working yourself into a particular state when faced with, say, public speaking. However, the primary difference is how we recognize and deal with the effects. The public speaking example is one where we can easily recognize the reason for the fear response: there is an audience in front of whom we may screw up. We view the potential results on a spectrum that may range from embarrassment to the loss of employment. There’s pressure to perform and the anxiety that accompanies it. That, to most of us, makes complete sense.
It does not make any sort of sense that we have a similar response to an otherwise normal experience of shopping. There’s no real pressure to perform unless you’re the husband who typically forgets things despite there being a complete list and it’s hard to feel embarrassed when you’re not the one wearing pajamas to the store (not that there’s anything wrong with that. Comfort is key, no?). Because it doesn’t make sense to us, there is room for shame to set up shop, repeating the oft-heard “you’re too sensitive”, “you feel too much”, “you’re a bigot”, “can’t you do anything without falling apart”, “what the hell is wrong with you”. All that and more internalized as if there is something wrong with you, that you are disordered. I can assure you there is nothing wrong with you and that with a few simple tools, you can breeze through Walmart and the shopping mall with ease.
Before we go further, I want to refresh two notions: everything is energy and if you are sensitive to one kind of energy, you are sensitive to other (maybe every) kind of energy. So, in our journey to Walmart, your internal energies that have been fueled by dread before starting the car and the body’s practiced fight, flight or freeze response does what it’s been trained to do. It doesn’t quite understand why but it’s there for you, doing it’s powerful thing.
Then, once you’ve arrived, before you even set foot in the store, you are inundated with electricity from underneath your feet that feeds the parking lot lights. It may be sheathed and under asphalt but your body can still feel it. How many times have you driven under a large power line and felt it? The same thing is happening when you drive or walk above it.
You walk through a weight, light or movement sensor-controlled door, into an electrified and electronically controlled environment. Think of the currents of energy it takes to fuel the rank of cash registers when you walk in the door, the refrigerators and freezers, think of the florescent lights, and the type and amount of energy they emit. Think of the chemical energies emitted from the petroleum based, mass produced clothing, household goods and miles of packaging. Then, think of the electronics department! Think about how you feel in that department; do you hurry past it, dread getting the phone minutes card because you feel overwhelmed or overstimulated there? You’re experiencing the same thing, to a slightly lesser degree in the rest of the store. Your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin are responding to all of those inputs, those received messages and haven’t the foggiest idea of what to do with it.
All of those physical energies are designed to amplify the other energies associated with ‘buy me’ and ‘buy more of me’ and ‘do so quickly, if you don’t mind’. Think of the marketing (size, colors, types of packaging), labeling, and televisions and bright orange clearance tags on endcaps.
Here’s how you, your feeling nature and Walmart come together to meet in either hellishness or harmony (the place you’re going to get to soon). Another friendly energy reminder: although we may be individuated expressions, there is no separating us from our environment.
We are energetic beings, long before the caffeine begins coursing through the body, our cells vibrate. We are of and constantly creating, expending, and receiving energy. There is nothing within our body that is still when it appears we are. We contain all of the above forms of energy and we feel all those forms of energy. We are a body electric. It is the foundation for our cells, our heart beats, our synapses firing or misfiring along our nervous systems.
That electrical system within the boundaries of the skin works in conjunction with chemical processes (say, sodium and potassium) that, in turn, are working with conscious and subconscious thought processes (say, training that leads to what we call muscle memory), and all of those things are working within sensory systems—both conscious and subconscious as well. In the same manner these operations are happening within the boundaries of our skin, they are also occurring between our skin and it’s external environment; both to us and from us. Think about the way we feel someone’s presence could knock us over or that we can zap the cat into oblivion with our forefinger on a dry day.
We’re all somewhat familiar with our five physical senses, those of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. We may not understand how they work but most of us have enough of an awareness to notice something amiss when one of them is not functioning as it normally does or, rather, how we think it should.
Human bodies are not the only beings that operate in this way. We are all energetic beings in an energetic universes. Plants, animals, and minerals create and use it in similar ways. Animals appear to telegraph danger silently or sense, say, the energy of a cyclone or earthquake. We know through the studies of plants that they can sense a change in energy around them not associated with food and water. We know that trees communicate by transmitting and receiving energies through networks of other organisms. We are not exceptions, we receive and transmit in the same manner. Here, the network of organisms we’re navigating with senses we’re not very aware of, is all things Walmart.
Diane Ackerman, in A Natural History of the Senses, says this:
The senses don’t just make sense of life in bold or subtle acts of clarity, they tear reality apart into vibrant morsels and reassemble them into a meaningful pattern. They take contingency samples. They allow an instance to stand for a mob. They negotiate and settle for a reasonable version and make small, delicate transactions. Life showers over everything, radian, gushing. The senses feed shards of information to the brain like microscopic pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When enough “pieces” assemble, the brain says Cow. I see a cow… In the flatlands of the Southwest, a speck develops a tiny line at the top. Cowboy, the brain says, a person who has turned his head, revealing the silhouette of that brim… Reasoning we call it, as if it were a mental spice.
One of the reasons I think so many of those who identify as empath have such difficulty maneuvering through the world is that we have spent many generations—as long as we’ve been removed from our once-ingrained relationships with the natural world—separated from our bodies and the external environment, that we’ve quite literally lost our senses or our connection to them. Combine that with our fear of many of the things we cannot see (oddly enough, not of oxygen and most odors) and there’s a recipe for a disastrous shopping day.
The sense that I’m going to focus on is the one most associated with our skin, touch, and how it influences us in Walmart, without us even touching a darn thing.
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