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Reiki Practice: Empathy or Compassion?

Article by Deborah Lloyd, Reiki Master

Many of us were taught that Reiki attunements, and Reiki symbols, provide a layer of protection for us. When clients release emotional blocks and other negative energies, these will not be absorbed into the energetic bodies of the Reiki practitioner. Yet, I often hear Reiki practitioners, as well as other energy healing practitioners, report they have picked up negative energies from clients.

Because intention is one of the most powerful tools a practitioner has, it is often the culprit in these cases. It is not that the practitioner is setting the intention to absorb negative energies. Rather, it is a misunderstanding of what empathy is, and what compassion is.

One definition of empathy is “the psychological identification, or vicarious experiencing, of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Some helping professionals believe in order to be effective, they have to actually feel what the client feels. Nothing could be further from the truth. If a client is feeling depressed and grief-strickened, and the Reiki practitioner becomes depressed and grief-strickened, it will be difficult to balance the energies in the room. All helping professionals need to maintain some objectivity in order to support the suffering person.

Compassion, on the other hand, is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” When a Reiki practitioner is compassionate, they feel “for” the client, but not “with” the client. She can listen to the client’s feelings and acknowledge the pain with loving validations. But, if she actually experiences the pain of the client, she too can become overwhelmed by the pain, and lose her effectiveness as a practitioner.

Empathy or Compassion

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Clients always know true compassion, when they experience it, from any professional. We can name the doctors, nurses, therapists, Reiki and other healing arts practitioners, who affected us in a meaningful way. We knew they truly cared! Perhaps, we experienced a knowing look, a touch on the hand, an earnest comment, or a tear in the eye. Or, we simply felt their loving energy. True compassion is always a love-filled experience.

Another way of distinguishing empathy and compassion is this: empathy = sharing emotions; compassion = love. Empathy is a two-way street and should be reserved for our family and close friends. Empathy has a personal, emotional involvement, and one cannot be objective. Compassion is a form of caring service to others; it is not about “me”, but rather our feelings are connected to helping others, in their time of need. Compassion is giving and other-centered.

Reiki teaches us compassion. Because I remember my doubts and misgivings during my first Reiki session as a client, I do everything I can to put new clients at ease. As the sessions continue, I receive impressions and messages about the clients’ struggles and energetic blocks. My compassion continues to grow. I want to help them overcome these struggles and find harmonious balance in their lives again. Reiki provides a learning opportunity to experience caring for people whom we have just met.

It is true – the Reiki attunement and use of the symbols learned in higher levels of Reiki trainings do provide protection. However, we Reiki practitioners have to cooperate with this protection, and not work against it. We need to understand the difference between empathy and compassion, and practice compassion. That is the best way we can truly help our clients.

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Deborah Lloyd
Deborah Lloyd

Deborah Lloyd is a Usui and Karuna® Reiki Master and certified holistic therapy practitioner, providing Reiki sessions and training in Asheville, NC. Deborah is the author of two books, 22 Messages from the Archangels; and, Believe and it is True: A Story of Healing and Life Lessons. She is also one of the co-authors of Reiki 101: 101 Answers for Your Reiki Questions. Reach Deborah at http://www.deblloydhealing.com/, deb@deblloydhealing.com and at Deb Lloyd Healing on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/deblloydhealing)

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