“All Creation is one. What we do to one, we do to the entire web of Life.”
(Chief Seattle, of the Suquamish and Duwamish)
Last week I wrote about empathy on the individual level. This week we will look at the collective element of empathy. Next week, I’m planning to broaden out even farther to explore community empathy.
This past Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day. It only seems appropriate then, for me to let my Chickamauga ancestors demonstrate “collective empathy” for you.
There are many traditions that embrace the knowledge that comes from our heart brains and gut brains. My Chickamauga and other Native American ancestors, my Celtic, African and Roma ancestors all developed this ability so far beyond simple empathy that we might as well refer to them as “Claire People:” Clairvoyant, (seeing the unseen,) Clairsentient, (sensing the less than obvious,) Clairaudient, (hearing what others don’t hear but not as a feature of psychosis,) Claircognizant (having knowledge beyond what is apparent with only the linear brain.)
While all of this might sound quite “woo woo” and hypothetical, as scientific understanding develops, it’s beginning to catch up to what a whole lot of people have known for a very long time: There are multiple ways of knowing and multiple ways of connecting that do not rely on the limited linear logic of the brain between our ears. Those ways of knowing can create a collective empathic experience for everyone and everything involved.
Physics, Drums, Chants and Dance
Physics is sometimes “phacinating!” I especially love physics when it creates a bridge between different ways of knowing. According to the principles of physics, each atom has a “resonant frequency.” When the resonant frequency in the atoms of one thing match those of another thing, they generate a more powerful energy together than they could have created alone.
If you’ve ever seen Native American dance, you have experienced this. (If you haven’t, click here!) It starts with the drum. Most often there is one very large drum, surrounded by drummers. The drummers turn their attention to the “resonant frequency” they can feel in the Earth below them, in their fellow drummers, or wherever else, and they start drumming in unison. Then people join in with chant, in that same frequency. (For dances, this is traditionally pure chant – no words. Words get in the way.) Then the dancers begin, also in that same frequency.
I used to be embarrassed when I went to Pow Wows. I couldn’t help it; Every time the drum started and it all unfolded, I’d start to cry. In the last few years I’ve spoken with multiple cousins I didn’t know I had, who have reported the exact same phenomenon. I believe there are numerous reasons for this, but part of it is the power of that resonant frequency, literally synchronizing everyone involved. Frequency joined is frequency magnified.
If you want to see a bizarre and dramatic demonstration of the power of resonant frequency, click here to watch it completely destroy the Tacoma Bridge in 1940. (The bizarre part starts 1 minute into the video.) Resonant frequency is no joke!
As mentioned in previous blogs, one of my tasks as Head Elder of the Chickamauga Nation is to gather the Nation’s stories. One of the stories I’ve been working on is one given to me by our Principal Chief, Charles Spottedfox Bowling. I’m sharing it with you here, but not for the story itself. I’d like you to watch just from :45 to 2:58.
As you listen, notice that young Spottedfox is doing everything he can to get his Grandpa to ask him what’s wrong. Grandpa offers him a finer gift: He walks on with young Spottedfox, saying nothing at all.
In so doing, Grandpa Silverfox teaches young Spottedfox through his example. In his silence, Grandpa is showing his grandson how collective empathy can offer a profound kind of love and respect. Grandpa Silverfox respects young Spottedfox’s story, his privacy, his timing, and Spottedfox’s growing ability to manage his own emotions. Words often get in the way.
Grandpa the Traumatologist
Beyond that, I believe that Grandpa Silverfox is also joining with the environment’s resonant frequency. Grandpa Silverfox is demonstrating a powerfully effective technique taught more contemporarily in Forward Facing Trauma.
FFT teaches that the person attending to the hurting person stays out of Sympathetic Nervous System dominance, (the core of what I teach for anxiety management, conflict resolution and trauma relief.) By staying in that place of body calm, the person offering care provides a healing resonant frequency. The hurting person now has a stabilizing force to tap into which helps them disconnect their remembered experience from the body response that isn’t really helpful at all.
It’s a lot easier for the heart brain and gut brain to pick up on this gift when the linear brain is not flooding the air with words. In Native American tradition, we tune into the resonant frequency of the earth under our feet, and all perceivable living things. If you’ve ever had a sense of being “grounded,” you’ve likely done the same.
This exchange between grandfather and grandson is now so much bigger than just the two of them. The potential for healing has been multiplied by everything that joined into that resonant frequency.
All things are interconnected on a cellular level. (Or as Chief Seattle is quoted above, “All Creation is one.”) Exercising collective empathy, whether conscious or oblivious, magnifies our ability to be healers and to be healed.
That’s better than using it to obliterate bridges, doncha think?
Where are the places in your life where you experience “collective empathy?” If you’d like help using empathy well, contact Tiffany today. Let’s talk.