• Even after we take care of our physical selves, we can still feel like a piece of pudding: unable to move on our own free will, and generally without strength of structure. As the energy pyramid demonstrates, physical fitness is a requirement but not a guarantee of energy. Mental and emotional energy tend to be far more powerful than basic physical energy, and mostly, this works against us. Sure, we have the occasional stories of being insanely motivated and working for twenty hours straight, but more often than not, we are saddled into useless states because of emotional or mental energy depletion.
• First, we will discuss emotional energy. This concerns how we feel about ourselves, the world, and our place within it. It involves our sense of confidence, security, anxiety, and feelings. It is influenced by vampiric people, our own negative beliefs, cognitive distortions, and disempowering narratives. All of this amounts to us spending too much time and energy inside our own heads, rather than directing energy into the external world. And for what? Typically, nothing based in reality, as cognitive distortions demonstrate.
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So, the previous chapter takes care of the various ways in which our precious life energy could be faltering or sputtering out in a physical sense. Of course, you may have experienced depleted energy levels even though all the physical boxes seem to be ticked. You could be doing everything right and still feel like your life force is sapped from you. Why?
Remember the energy pyramid? Everything is interrelated. Emotional- and mental-energy vampires are in some ways worse than their physical counterparts because they’re harder to spot and combat. They’re ephemeral, and there’s no obvious formula of input to output that can fix them. More effort will not equate into a proportionate improvement in energy. No, there’s often a root cause that must be addressed, or all your other efforts will be in vain.
It’s obvious that you’ll be tired if you don’t sleep well, but it may not be so obvious that you’ll feel utterly exhausted if you’ve been arguing all morning with a loved one, stressed about money, or just carrying around a vague sense of anxiety about life in general. And sometimes, these emotional- and mental-energy vampires simply have to run their course, such as waiting for the will to live to return after a painful breakup or divorce.
In fact, many constantly fatigued problems come down not to physical issues but rather to emotional and psychological ones (although they can often intertwine and enter into a “chicken or egg” cycle). In the same way a bacteria or virus can weaken your physical body, an emotional “virus” can slow you down too, leaving you feeling depressed, tired, and pessimistic. The mind is more powerful than the body, and it doesn’t allow you to forget it.
Consider the phenomenon of psychosomatic illness and people convincing themselves into feeling poorly, or those who go completely catatonic overnight because of some unbearably shocking news. Thoughts and emotions can make themselves known in heavy limbs, sluggishness, and feeling as though our life force has been zapped. Have you ever noticed how prone you are to colds and flus when you’re stressed, or what worry does to your stomach? Have you noticed how you feel light and healthy around some people and utterly drained around others, as though interacting with them literally sucked the energy out of you?
To add to the matter, many emotional-energy vampires are unconscious; the fact that they are manifesting physically is precisely because your conscious mind has not quite figured out a way to acknowledge them. If you have no idea that this is even a problem, you may keep on swallowing supplements and eating your broccoli and diligently getting your eight hours each night, and it won’t matter one bit if the thing that’s making you tired is a deep dread about your work or the strain of facing an unpleasant truth.
How you feel about yourself and your place in the world, your deep underlying assumptions about it all—these are all simmering quietly below the surface. If you spent every moment of your life with the unconscious belief, “I’m a failure and I’ll never amount to anything,” isn’t it much the same thing as trying to live with a chronic, low-grade illness?
The Self-Defeating Mind
Emotional energy all starts with the way we view the world and our place in it. Unfortunately, our perception of the world is ninety-nine percent incorrect. There’s no other way around it. What we see is often not the reality that exists, and that’s completely normal.
This is because of the various biases and perspectives we bring from our past. Some are good; most are negative and the reason we even need to talk about this issue. They are one of the ultimate energy vampires because they shed light on our insecurities and rob us of our confidence and power. We spend so much time worrying and anxious that it leaves us too exhausted to do much else. Any time your brain is in a state of even mild distress, there is energy being discharged for self-protection.
To stop emotional-energy vampires, you must change the way you view the world. Information and events come to us in a neutral state; it is only through our interpretation that these items have positive or negative connotations. How we choose to view events determines our realities and has the ability to completely undermine our confidence and will to persevere.
More than likely, you are suffering from frequent cognitive distortions—a view of reality that is negative, pessimistic, and generally incorrect. It can damage your self-esteem, lower your confidence, and make you feel as if you have no control over your life. Cognitive distortion is also a form of self-talk that is damaging and can become so ingrained and habit-forming that people don’t realize they are creating an alternate reality where they are destined for unhappiness and a lack of confidence.
Most of us have enough trouble coping with reality; distorting our view of the world to be more menacing and difficult just saps our confidence and will unnecessarily.
Enter Craig. While returning from the restroom, Craig walked past a closed-door meeting in his supervisor Max’s office. As he passed by the glass door, he noticed that almost all his coworkers were in the room, and many glanced in his direction.
He immediately began to feel nervous. Were they talking about him? Had he done something wrong? He was probably going to be fired! Last week, he’d noticed Sheila and Katie giggling and looking at him in the break room. And the Nickerby account had just moved to another company. He was probably going to get fired, and it would be impossible to find another job because he would definitely be getting a horrible recommendation. He wouldn’t be able to make his truck payment next month without a job; it would probably get repossessed.
Craig was in a downward spiral for the rest of the day, worrying about his future work prospects and how he would survive without his usual income while looking for a new job. He fretted, worried, and agonized for hours with friends over the phone, which only left him exhausted and stressed and not one step closer to any type of solution.
The next day was Craig’s birthday, and he was feeling very depressed. He dragged himself into work, prepared for the worst. He felt it would be fitting to be fired on his birthday (only the fourth worst birthday he would have), and braced for impact.
As soon as he sat down at his desk, he heard a loud, “Surprise! Happy Birthday, Craig!” All his coworkers were gathered behind his desk, armed with small gifts. Sheila rushed over and blurted out, “We’ve been planning this surprise for weeks! We thought we had been caught when you walked past Max’s office yesterday, but it looks like we really surprised you.” Craig was thankful and relieved, but the damage to his energy was already done, and his self-inflicted wounds were all for nothing.
Craig was suffering from severe cognitive distortion.
His perception of an event, a meeting of many of his coworkers, was colored by his negative, draining viewpoint. Although his coworkers were ultimately planning a surprise birthday party, Craig jumped to conclusions and assumed the worst. This cognitive distortion served to lower Craig’s self-esteem and put him into panic mode in which he wasted his energy and time worrying about an unlikely future scenario.
Imagine being at the mercy of these types of distortions and the impact it would have on your energy. The first step to launching a counterattack on these negative thoughts is by noticing when you are having them. Then you must make a conscious effort to turn them off or find alternative explanations for your worries. By refuting or shutting off this negative thinking over and over again, the damaging thoughts will diminish over time and automatically be replaced by more rational, balanced thinking. It is only through constant vigilance that you can replace the bad habit of cognitive distortion with the good habit of positive thinking.
Many of us may notice this type of internal dialogue while at work but aren’t able to recognize that it’s something that is disengaging us from reality. Thus, I’ll cover a few of the most common cognitive distortions, illustrate them with examples, and discuss how they are detrimental to emotional stability and thus energy.
Show notes and/or episode transcripts are available at https://bit.ly/self-growth-home
Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition.
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