Ages ago I read a book called Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, and it imparted on me the idea of a toxic energy dump. For me a toxic energy dump is a place where, or moment when, the interactions with others leave you feeling like you took a nosedive from a high energy level to a low energy level. In life, I find there are certain people who dump their bad mojo on me, quickly leaving me in a worse state of mind. This needs to be addressed because the loss of energy hampers motivation and can lead to a pattern of poor thinking that robs you of happiness and contentment.
As I focus on self-improvement and personal reflection, I increase my awareness and have pinpointed five “people” who always leave me feeling worn out. Without further ado, I will introduce them to you and offer how I learned to deal with them. I hope this allows you to identify similar people in your life, so that you can stop them from eroding your peace of mind.
- Who: This person is inclined to believe that bad things will happen in the future and that what he hopes for will not happen. He emphasizes adverse aspects, conditions and possibilities and usually expects the worst possible outcome.
- Why: After asking several pessimists why they insist on seeing the negative side of things, I was given a somewhat consistent response – they expect the worst because if things don’t get that bad, they can be pleasantly surprised. While if they expect the best and it doesn’t pan out, they sense it as a greater loss.
- How to handle: Affirm the flip side of the argument. Every time the pessimist says the glass is half empty acknowledge that it is half full. You don’t need to do this out loud, but offer the affirmation nonetheless. This is especially important if you are regularly around a pessimist because beliefs stem from repeated thoughts and ideas. If you hear him enough times without affirming your positive perspective, you may become a pessimist as well.
The Know It All
- Who: This person has the answer for everything and believes she is the go-to expert for any topic often acting like she is the only one with the authority to address the subject at hand. She may even shut down input from others, leaving others with the opinion that she is aggressive although she does not recognize this.
- Why: Often when somebody exhibits a behavior that imposes authority, it is because she has a lack of control or power in other areas of her life.
- How to handle: Be empathetic, as this person may have deep rooted confidence issues. For practical purposes, be selective on items you choose to disagree with her on and when you do disagree, come armed with facts. Do not burn precious energy debating with this person unless you feel strongly about the topic. If you feel like you need to do something, a well-timed eye-roll should do the trick!
- Who: This person personifies “woe-is-me.” He sees life as an uphill battle that is more difficult for him than anybody else. Because of this he often gives up before he tries and has a tough time trusting others as he feels strongly that they cannot understand him or the hardships he endures.
- Why: Shame and fear of responsibility are usually the cause for the victim identity. This likely stems from childhood experiences and being taught to think this way.
- How to handle: If the relationship is superficial, focus on limiting the amount of time you permit him to complain to you and then very clearly change the subject. This will prevent alienating the person while also showing that you want to move forward and you are encouraging him to do the same. If this person has a deeper relationship with you, hold him accountable and do not bail him out. This is very important. He needs to learn that he is responsible for his life and, more importantly, that he is good and strong enough to propel his own positive life changes.
The One Upper
- Who: This person can out do you in every regard. She has nicer things, has traveled further, experienced harder times and had greater adventures. She very obnoxiously will ask you questions about yourself, not to hear the answer, but as an opportunity to speak about herself. She is competitive and has a difficult time congratulating you on your achievements and genuinely empathizing with your experiences.
- Why: A poor sense of self-worth is likely the culprit for this behavior. This person is trying to impress you, and everybody else for that matter. This shows she inherently considers herself unimpressive and so she overcompensates by building up a tremendous persona.
- How to handle: Do not take the bait and attempt to one-up a One Upper. You would reach fantastic levels of frustration in short order. Instead, lead by example. Be honest and genuine about your accomplishments… and about hers. Don’t stroke her ego, but give kudos and acknowledgement when its due. If you feel something is fabricated, decline to comment on it and forge ahead with the conversation.
- Who: This person can be any one of the above or it can be the most humble, kind and honest person you can imagine. This is because the mirror is somebody who causes you to see qualities in yourself that you do not like. For example, when I was in high school a dear and lovely friend of mine had a beautiful and harmonious family life. I hated to see it because my family was at the height of its dysfunction. When we recognize our bad qualities in somebody else who holds the same traits, we may think “at least I’m not that bad” or “at least I’m not the only one.” But when we see our bad qualities because we are shown a better way, we are pained with the realization that we have self-work to do.
- Why: This usually occurs when you are ready to learn a lesson about yourself or have a deep realization about your life.
- How to handle: Be grateful for this person because at the moment you recognize him as a Mirror, he is given to you as a teacher. Watch how he handles himself with regard to the quality you want to develop. Understand that if something is possible for him, it is possible for you too.
Everybody grows at different speeds, so while I become frustrated with the above individuals for their behavior, I recognize that it is not my place to judge or teach them. Instead I should show them compassion because these traits often stem from painful and limiting self-beliefs. This is not always easy to do, and luckily I found a visualization technique that fosters the feeling of compassion.
Visualization for Compassion
- Imagine yourself having a typical interaction with the individual you are frustrated/angry with
- See yourself walking away from him/her
- Imagine time has passed
- Now see yourself walking down a street. You bump into this person who is now dressed in rags, appearing destitute and seeking your help
- Make your decision to help him/her
- Allow yourself to feel the positive influence you have over this person’s situation
This visualization is powerful because it allows you two things. First is the recognition that you would willingly aid this person in need because ultimately you care about him either personally or as a human; and second is the association of positive feelings that arise when you offer him assistance. The amazing thing about visualizations is that, in terms of storing memories and generating feelings, your brain is unable to distinguish between what you imagine and what really happens. So metaphysically, your compassionate act absolutely takes place.
As you meet Pessimists, Know It Alls, Victims, One Uppers, and Mirrors, use the techniques listed above. If after using them, you realize that these people still have the ability to negatively influence you, also realize that you can choose to remove them from your life. Be grateful that you have sufficient insight to know when you are better suited to move on. The bottom line is that you want to spend the majority of your time and energy with the people who inspire your continued growth.