The same is true of spiritual theories. When someone encounters a spiritual theory that is not the best for them, they may then swing to the opposite side, missing all of the middle ground and ending up in a place that is equally unhealthy as the theory that caused such distaste in the first place. The Reluctant Empath by Bety Comerford and Steve Wilson is a book that creates just this error. The authors clearly have a bitter distaste for what they label “the New Age community” and the books produced by the same. Herein lies their first mistake: There is no one “new age” community. That’s like stating “the Christian church”: You cannot reasonably group such diverse units under one umbrella and label them all as the same. In their reaction to their experiences with some new age groups (though we never specifically learn which ones or how many), the authors swing their pendulum to another extreme, and as a result, they create some theories that are downright dangerous on a metaphysical level.
As an empath who fought her metaphysical abilities for the first 35+ years of her life and saw them as a curse, not gifts, I was drawn to the title, The Reluctant Empath. That label definitely could have described me for most of my life. I’m definitely not alone in that experience: Many of us with metaphysical gifts hide them for fear of being ridiculed, harassed or persecuted in a society that overemphasizes scientific rationalism. Throughout the book, the authors use the example of a man named Alex as he grows from a boy to a young adult. His life experiences were very different than mine, but I could see the common threads in our journeys. Alex is a unifying figure and great literary device to make the book cohesive.
A careful analysis of just one paragraph from the book, however, can help illuminate a multitude of issues within the work and the authors’ spiritual theory:
There are so many people in the New Age community who believe that all you need is a crystal, or a talisman, or some outward item that will protect you and keep you happy so you don’t need to do the inner work. But that’s all an illusion. In essence, they have created a false god and have given their own power over to this false god. Yes, a crystal or a talisman or a healing can open the window and get a person to feel something that they've never felt before. However, the high energy these people feel doesn't last because it isn't real and they’re condemned to constantly be chasing it, or going to healers who only offer band-aids. You’ll walk out feeling good, but how long will it last? (106)
The authors would argue that using a bandage indicates you are coming from a place of fear that will prevent you from ever healing which is simply not true in many cases. However, they believe that negative energy of fear that you are putting out when using crystals and other talismans as protection will attract more negativity. I argue the converse: Using protection indicates common sense and strength. It says, “I am a strong woman who knows her limits. I know when I need assistance and should ask for help.” It also says that I am very aware of my desire to keep my vibrations high and healthy; the crystals I wear are signs of the vibrations I want to attract. It is not a fear based action but rather one based in confidence, strength and growth.
Crystals alone will not protect someone from negative metaphysical energy. However, they can act as amplifiers to shift and accentuate a person’s energetic work. They are aids, not the ultimate solutions. My energy is far more secure and grounded when I have certain crystals on; I woudn't dare enter a large crowd of people without them. However, I also know that that crystal alone is not enough to keep me safe. I have to keep my energy grounded and make sure I've let my spirit guides know that I would appreciate their help in this situation where there are wild amounts of energy from across the spectrum.
In the same way, crystals and other metaphysical aids can be very powerful tools for individuals to help clear out a lifetime (and in many cases, a multitude of lifetimes) worth of toxicity, pain, stored emotions, and negative entities. Most of us don’t realize how much crud we've stored in our bodily forms and attached to our souls until we begin doing deep healing work. (I actually think a great majority of the energy workers in practice haven’t even begun to clean themselves up to the point where they can help others from a place of health.) The metaphysical aids are an easy way to help shift one’s vibration so as to shake loose negativity that is attached to us. Because like attracts like as the authors repeat many times, once we get rid of negativity, we won’t be as likely pick up new negativity, and we’ll also be able to dump the other stored negativity in our bodies. It’s a long and slow process. I agree with the authors that there is no instant healing; however, I think that the authors deeply underestimate the amount of work necessary to truly clean a person’s body and soul in order to get them to the point where the author’s primary premise of grounding all negative energy can be applied.
The expanded version of the authors’ all-solving magical premise is that we should never absorb the negative energy and emotions we encounter. We should observe them without judgment, and then we should use our empathic energy to ground them. This is great advice, but it is WAY more difficult than the authors understand for most people to do if their bodies and souls are already cluttered with negativity. It’s an excellent goal for all of us to work towards, but until individuals work, often with aids such as crystals to clear the blockages that prevent the flow of energy through their bodies, bringing in more energy through our bodies in an attempt to ground it will simply cause the energy to get stuck in the person and in return will cause the person to become more toxic. The technique that the authors are advocating is NOT something a beginner should attempt without first having done extensive healing work. The theory also declines to take into account sentient negative energies, a topic too large to cover in this review, but one that greatly dislodges the success individuals will have when trying to apply the authors’ theory of grounding.
Furthermore, the authors seriously neglect the ethical issues involved when they argue that empaths should take on other’s negative energy to ground it without first consulting those whose energy they are working with. This is the equivalent of metaphysical assault. To give a parallel example, if someone looked at you and said, “You really need to loosen up. Let me help you with that” and then forced sex you, that would be rape, a sexual assault. You did not give them permission to “help” in the way they deigned necessary. Likewise, working on someone’s metaphysical state without their permission is assault. While the empath might have deemed in his/her/hir distorted perception that the other person “needs” help, it’s not acceptable to do energetic work without consent. If I ever feel someone messing with my energy, I use methods of protection to prevent them from entering my aura. Only those whom I have decided are “clean” enough on a metaphysical level get to work on my energy and only then with my knowledge and consent. Too many healers think they are healthier and more skillful than they actually are; they can actually cause damage to others by attempting metaphysical healing they are not ready to do.
I found the overall tone to the book to be one that was patronizing and distasteful: The authors unwittingly create a view of empaths that makes them seem like the most superior humans on a spiritual level. This simply isn’t true. Empaths are human, and they are inherently no better or worse than others. It is entirely possible for people who are not empaths to still live an incredibly holy lives that are of great benefit in raising the vibrations of their souls and the planet overall. The authors’ insistence that empaths’ sole duty in life is to raise the vibration of the planet through any means necessary is misguided and is based on their limited experiences. Had they discussed this theory with other evolved empaths, their theory would likely appear much different. Empaths have a variety of gifts, and we’re not all here to do the exact same thing. What they visualize may be true for some but not for others.
There is wisdom to be found in this book; in particular, it helped me look at the intense spiritual healing I have done on past lives from a different view point. I don’t know that I agree with their theories on past life healing as they just don’t ring true with my experiences, but I appreciated the exposure to new ideas. Overall, however, I felt the book was weak, and not just because of the plethora of grammatical errors it contains. The issues I touched on in this review are only the beginning of the problems within the book, but they are some of the most major ones. I won’t be recommending it to my clients because I believe it seriously neglects ethical concerns around working with energy and because I believe it encourages dangerous behavior in untrained empaths.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC