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  • Heather Towndrow, CH, LCSW

Investing Your Energy: Awareness of Energy Vampires


First post in a new year. I can tell you that I am looking forward to it. The year 2018 brought good lessons and I expect to put them to use for 2019 and beyond. To start the new year, I wanted to share one lesson that I hope to make a priority: making conscientious choices on where to invest my energy.

First let's define energy: that of which you put your thoughts, time, and work into. It can be goals, people, hobbies, places you spend time. Just like with money, there can be good investments on energy, taking your dog for a walk, trying a new meal at a restaurant, spending time with a dear friend. There can also be poor choices of energy investment, spending a night mindlessly watching tv, or these days smart phone, spending time gossiping, and to the point of spending time with individuals who pull you down.

Here's another example: you are shopping for a car and can either choose one that gets good milage, good reviews, and the car facts run smooth. Of course, those vehicles are hard to come by and maybe your money is short. But if you’re the kind of person that wants a good investment, you’ll wait for the right car.

There are a lot of choices of where to spend your energy. I'd like to make my first focus in this post on the energy we put into our relationships. To make clear, this isn't a statement on introversion or extroversion, though these personalities are important considerations when it comes to energy spending. To review, introverts are typically those who are energy drained around large groups of people or social interactions that don't provide meaning. Extroverts are individuals that typically are drained by much time alone without social connections.

But introversion and extroversion aside, this isn't about whether you should spend time with others or in solitude based off personality. This is about the choices of relationships you have in your life. Take a look at your social network. Do you have a lot in common with the individuals in your circle? What is your time like with them? When you spend time together, how do you feel afterwards? What does your body feel? Elevated, happy, optimistic, grateful, at peace? Stressed, tense, drained?

You may already be adept to knowing if your energy is being fruitless and then you quickly re-navigate it. Or maybe you could use a little more awareness on it. Take some time for reflection and think of the individuals in your life and what your time is like with them. Note anyone who you spend time with and you feel sucked dry afterwards? If you haven’t heard of the term energy-vampires already, I want you to add it to your vocabulary. The term defines itself: anyone who drains you of any energy you expend and does not return an investment of their own energy, or if they do, the quality is low and continues to leave you feeling ragged.

Here's a typical scenario. The energy vampire is down on their luck, and knowing all that they know how to do, reaches out to a friend. The friend responds to help with a good heart at their sleeve. Soon they find themselves wrapped up in an entangled mess, uncertain whether the problem is their's or the energy vampires. For every solution the friend has, the energy vampire has a new problem. The energy vampire doesn't use the energy towards helping themselves in their situation; they instead expend it on their problems, pointing out even more vividly how significant the problems are for them. The friend? Usually they note their investment of energy was fruitless, quickly backing out of the mess. This is easy, but there are some relationships that we are attached to that it is not easy to back out; it may not even be easy to see that these close individuals to us are truly energy vampires.

How do you spot an energy vampire? Your feelings are a good indicator, telling you whether the expenditure of energy was a good choice or not. There are, however, red flags that you can easily look for. Energy vampires typically gossip. They don't talk about ideas or activities or emotions, they're caught up in what others are doing. When there is any focus on you, they generally switch it back themselves, never rejoicing in your happiness or success. They compare others to each other a lot, generally critical towards others and life in general. Energy vampires struggle taking responsibility. They see themselves as victims, helpless to their circumstances. They always depict others as cruel, and not just a few people, but almost everyone they know. Most importantly, energy vampires struggle to take feedback if it is directed at them; if they do need this kind of feedback, it generally needs to be delivered with kid-gloves.

Most of the time, energy vampires need professional help and there is an array of therapy out there that can help these individuals. Unless you're willing to take that role on, however, you need your own energy to tend to. Knowing that energy vampires can quickly deplete it, you can choose to spend your time with these individuals in doses where this energy is easier to manage. Be firm and direct in your boundaries, delivering them with kindness. Most importantly, find relationships that rejuvenate you. These investments are good with individuals who are uplifting, goal-oriented, dreamers, believers, kind, and take pleasure in simple events. Uplifting individuals are insightful of themselves and others. They consider timing and circumstances. They usually make positive assumptions. Rather than, "I think she's mad at me," it is more quickly directed to, "She must be busy."

Starting with this and then using your body and emotions as a further guide, take a look into your relationship choices. Do you want to continue investing in the individuals you are investing in or are there some investments that may be good to back out of for a time? Note that your quality of life will be affected by these choices: you are who you spend your time with.


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