Have you ever noticed that when you’re around a co-worker who is always whining about how their life has gone wrong, they can’t find a date, they’ve gained weight, they feel old, blah, blah, blah…you wind up feeling beat up and emotionally wrung out yourself?
Have you noticed that when you spend time with your neighbor, who is always fighting with her boyfriend, her anger has a way of spilling over into your conversations and by the time you return home, you just want to curl up in a ball? Do your encounters with your stressed-out boss leave you wanting to go to the nearest bar and drink away your sorrows (sorrows you didn’t even know you had until after their tirades about deadlines and competition)?
Other people’s junk
If you’re having these sorts of reactions to other people’s emotions, your otherwise admirable ability to exhibit empathy has kicked into overdrive and is making you into an emotional sponge. Like the guy in the movie, The Green Mile, who was able to inhale other people’s anger, illness, insanity and hatred – then exhale it out in a thousand dark, creepy crawly beings – you’re absorbing negative energy. The difference is, you’re not releasing it. Instead, you’re letting it roll around in your mind and body, morphing your own emotional outlook and demeanor with the negativity of others.
According to Dr. Judith Orloff’s new book, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, (she’s a psychiatrist and an intuitive), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over two million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue. Dr. Orloff states that it’s likely that many of them are simply emotional sponges.
B’ bye negativity!
Needless to say, this is unhealthy. So what can you do about it? Well, according to Dr. Orloff, first you have to find a way to separate yourself from other people’s caustic issues. Although you may feel that this is unavoidable, there are actually several ways in which to do this.
Believe it or not, you may need to separate yourself from that person physically. This means that your physical proximity needs to be expanded so that you’re not actually absorbing their energy field. When it comes to people in your friendship circle, this may force you to reexamine your relationship with some folks. It often happens that you break ties with people and, in retrospect, you realize you’re relieved not to have them in your life anymore.
Sometimes, it may be a group of people whose frenetic pace or mass anxiety is bearing down on you. Consider how you sometimes feel after being in a crowded mall or theater. Do you crave a quiet place and solitude? This is your body’s reaction to the variety of emotions that are screaming out at you, figuratively speaking. It’s a good idea to give in to your needs and find a place that’s conducive to clear thinking and relaxation. A library is a perfect place for that, as is a tea room or meditative yoga class or a sun-dappled bench in a grassy park.
You may also try deep breathing. Inhale calm for the count of two, exhale negativity for the count of four – this is a useful exercise in both yoga and in life! It helps you relax and it also allows you to mentally release negative energy from your body, your mind, and your world.
If all else fails, try reaching out for something uplifting – a book, some music, worship, exercise, an upbeat friend – and allow the good feelings that develop from them to envelope you. Visualize them washing over you like a wave, covering you with their optimism, blissful feelings, and overall goodness. Imagine the water clinging to you in little bits of glitter. You’re now shining from the inside as well as on the outside. Think of yourself as covered by this shimmer – a protective shield of sorts – whenever you must face the culprits of negativity.
It’s hard to change from being an emotional sponge, but if you think of yourself as literally wringing out the waste product of bad vibes, you are now “cleansed” of all the gunk associated with it. When you begin approaching situations that create emotional turmoil, tap into these methods and you’ll find yourself feeling better overall and with a greater ability to disassociate yourself from the “bad stuff” while still retaining the empathetic you that makes you such a positive person.
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