When I first moved back to Phoenix from the San Francisco bay area, I was eager to start the next phase of my life and meet new people with whom I could share new experiences.
I met a friendly gal who invited me to a happy hour with some other gal pals, and I accepted, excited to see new faces and meet new friends.
We went to a mom-and-pop place that was eclectic and hip and ordered a round of beers. We had the usual first-time introductions: getting to know you questions, anecdotes and a few personal stories. And then the conversation shifted.
“How was your week?” one gal asked another.
The response was a long-winded explication of how frustrating her job was, how one coworker did this and another did that. I sat quietly and politely, waiting for her to finish, and eager to move on to another topic. But the same question was asked to the next gal immediately to the left. I groaned inside.
This was supposed to be happy hour, I thought. What’s so happy about this?
I didn’t want to participate. When it came to be “my turn,” I politely declined. The other gals egged me on, begging to hear all about the negative, frustrating things that had happened to me during that week, and when I didn’t have anything to say, I became the odd gal out.
I have had this experience before. I have been called a snob, conceited, condescending and haughty. But my spiritual training and experiences have taught me not to gossip or vent in this way—to be mindful of how I move and use energy.
I left the happy hour disappointed, and declined a future invitation. The search for new friends continued—not because I thought I was better than anyone, but because I choose to be mindful of how I spend my time and energy.
Caroline Myss has a term for this phenomena. She calls it “woundology,” a dynamic in which people engage and feel comfort in sharing their pain and negative experiences with one another, and through this a bond is formed.
“You have pain and frustration? I do, too! Are you free for lunch on Thursday?”
There is safety and comfort in knowing you are not alone in your experiences, but this pattern is actually a less healthy way of processing emotions and life’s experiences. Energetically, I call it an “energy dump.” It’s a way of moving emotions and energy out of the body in order to express and release the physical discomfort that comes with energy in motion. It’s a way of moving energy out of your own system and “dumping” it onto someone else. Getting the feelings to move is a good thing—but how it’s done is key.
Venting verbally to another person is a form of energy transference—and only a temporary fix to the festering emotions inside. If you find that this is a strategy you employ, there’s no need to judge harshly. There are ways to shift this pattern and appropriately move emotions and energy through the body.
Here are five strategies to dump the “energy dump” and healthfully process emotions:
What moves you also moves through you. Biking, running, swimming and any other cardio exercise that gets the circulation going also gets emotions moving. Especially good for feelings of anger, frustration or stuck emotions, a rigorous workout is the quickest way to move this energy, re-center the body and reinvigorate.
The beauty of focus, as yogis know, is the unification of mind/body/emotion/spirit. More gentle than active cardio, yoga brings your focus back to you. It’s a form of active self-responsibility, which takes attention off of the frustrating actions and words of others, and asks you to engage with your own contribution to your experiences. A good Vinyasa flow moves emotion out, so you can fill yourself up with positive vibes again.
It’s not about quieting the mind; that is biologically impossible. It’s about becoming an observer to your thoughts, and noticing how they point the way—very directly—to your emotions. Meditation has the power to disengage the hold that the analytical left brain has on the emotions, which is where attachment is formed. Release the attachment, and emotions can flow—out of you instead of unconsciously onto someone else.
4. Fun and New Experiences.
Doing something you enjoy—with or without others—engages feelings of joy, happiness, and gratitude. This is not about deflection or denial, but rather a conscious shifting of focus. Where positive feelings are, negative feelings usually aren’t. Go to a movie, grab dinner with a friend, stop putting off that weekend trip you’ve wanted to take. Fun, new experiences, a change of scenery and a healthy does of fun do well to dispel stuck emotions so they don’t end up displaced.
Sexual energy is life energy. When we engage in sexual activity we move energy and emotions without having to think about it. While at first this may seem like another form of “energy dumping” onto your chosen partner, it’s actually a way to actively engage with your own first chakra. It can open up the flow of spiritual energy, which works from the first chakra up to the crown—and beyond. Moving life force energy through the body can release stuck emotions and transform them. The cardio does a body good too.
Awareness is key when employing any new strategy. And compassion is essential. Next time you have the urge to transfer energy elsewhere, try one of the above strategies to process it out instead. Keep in mind that different strategies may work at different times.
Tune in to yourself, and take action. The commitment to healthy emotional processing is easier than you think.
Author: Kelly Lydick
Editor: Toby Israel