Heyoka: The Most Powerful Empath

Surviving in Austin, Texas

The Caring Catalyst

So what exactly is a Heyoka empath?

The term has Native American roots, stemming from the Lakota branch of the Sioux tribe, today confined to 5 large reservations in the Dakotas. Heyoka translates to “sacred clown” and refers to those members of tribal society chosen for public roles not dissimilar to court jesters, thanks to their unusual talents.

Below are the 5 characteristics of Heyoka empaths. Do any resonate with you?

1. You use humor to heal.

This is perhaps the primary attribute of the heyoka. This is why the heyoka is considered an empath and not just a comedian of sorts. While a heyoka may seem very silly, self-deprecating, or overly brash, their humor is a form of catharsis.

Think back to the popular children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In the story by Hans Christian Anderson, the naked emperor is exposed by an innocent child in a crowd of adults hypnotized by adulation for their ruler.

Imagine, instead, that the child had been a fully cognizant adult heyoka. The heyoka would likewise open the eyes of the populace but would do so via disturbing humor to make others think critically about the situation at hand.

2. You are uncomfortably blunt.

The heyoka is like the child in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” for another reason. They are both very blunt, seeing and speaking without fear or filters. The child, after all, is the only one who can admit to himself and others what is obvious to those not brainwashed by authority figures.

In this same way, the heyoka’s bluntness serves a greater good. It awakens others. The difference is that while a child’s innocence permits him or her to speak freely, the adult heyoka knows they must use humor to avoid censorship and/or ostracization by others.

Boy, do others get nervous when they see the heyoka start in on their snide sarcasm!

3. You are deeply sensual.

The heyoka typically enjoys food, music, the arts, and partaking in leisurely past-times that bring pleasure. They openly immerse themselves in their five senses and the immediate world around them. This Epicurean quality helps make heyokas charming and relatable, increasing their influence over others. This charisma is a large part of how they’re able piss people off but still maintain social standing.

4. You are a fierce warrior.

While one typically thinks of empaths as being lovers, not fighters, the heyoka once again breaks the mold. They are fighters by nature.

The heyoka knows that their greatest weapon is their quick and cutting tongue. While nearly all empaths sense weaknesses or vulnerabilities in others, the heyoka uses these keen observations to their advantage. This makes them quite dangerous. Luckily, the heyoka is smart and compassionate enough to channel their abrasive truth-telling into humor.

5. You carry the trauma of your collective society.

Heyokas deliver unpalatable truths via humor. This humor is disarming and causes others to critically think about issues they previously ignored.

But it’s not all fun and games for the heyoka. It is actually quite a heavy duty, which is why the Lakota tribes designated a sacred title to those embodying heyoka characteristics.

You see, the reason the heyokas are so culturally healing is that they possess a uniquely deep and open-minded understanding of corruption and deception. They loathe hypocrisy and arrogance, but see it everywhere. They also see that nobody else seems to notice what they do. This frustrates them, causing them to “act out.” Their humor is a defense mechanism against an ugly world.

Who are the Heyokas in your own communities? How do they use humor to shine light on ugly truths? Are you a Heyoka?

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