Lately, I have felt like I am being constantly bombarded by negative energy from the people around me. I think what is likely is that the bombardment is a natural part of life. When my stress level is high, I simply notice it more readily and also tend to take it far more personally.
Life is limbo. There is uncertainty and instability all the time because there is the possibility for so many things to happen at any time. We cannot anticipate or plan for them all.
I have grown accustomed to this idea, but there is another limbo that has been adding to my stress. It is the limbo I create, or at least that I am party to. My husband has been researching how to earn a PhD in Europe for the past several months, so I have been thrust into an intentional space of unknowing. Being in this space is challenging for me. I realize that I want to know what is going to happen right away. Having to be patient and wait is not my strong suit.
With the building stress of the unknown, I find that it does not take very much to set me off—inconsiderate driving (at least, what I consider inconsiderate), a terse email, a stern look from a stranger or a friend, no response from people I care about in a social media forum like Facebook. All of this energy keeps coming at me, and I can feel myself getting beaten up.
How to respond to negative energy is something I have been thinking about for a long time. I have imagined that I am engaging in a kind of energy Aikido. Should a person send something negative my way, my job would be to stop that energy in its tracks and let it fall to the ground. In this way, I would not be deflecting the energy back toward the person, which never improves a situation. I would also be ensuring that the energy did not carry on and hit someone else. Finally, I would not be taking the energy on myself.
The latter thought process is where my thinking has been flawed.
A few weeks ago, I began taking Tai Chi. I am a complete beginner, but I listen closely to the tenets of this martial art that my teacher conveys to me.
This evening, he was teaching me a posture that would allow me to grab hold of the wrist and forearm of a person who might be sending a punch my way. The following move would be to deflect the punch by pulling them first towards me and then behind me. In following through with these movements, I would deflect the punch from hitting me.
My teacher explained, It only takes 4 ounces to move a thousand pounds. Think of it as they are already moving in that direction, and you are just helping them continue on their way.
We took a break, and I quickly wrote down as much of what he had said me as I could remember.
And suddenly, I experienced a moment of completely clarity.
I stood up and walked over to where my teacher was standing looking out the window.
Can I ask you a question?
So, when you were talking about deflecting a person’s attack, can that be compared to how to respond to a person’s energy?
He responded affirmatively.
The highest skill in tai chi is environmental awareness. If you sense someone with ill will in the distance, you try to go around them. But if you can’t, you should also be aware of what is going on behind you. And if there is no one behind you, you know you can deflect the energy in that direction.
(Clouds separate to reveal sunlight streaming through from the blue sky above)
I have always thought that if a person directed mean energy toward me, I should try to stop it from possibly hitting someone else.
That makes sense, but it takes a lot more energy to stop a moving force than it does to deflect it, he told me.
It was this idea that sparked the ah ha moment for me. it was like moving from an IBM to a Mac. Suddenly, I realized that I had been making my life much harder than it needed to be, and I felt lighter. Clarity was right there looking directly at me.
All of these years, I have been thinking that I need to put my hands out in front of me and physically stop the negative energy coming from the people around me. Yet I seem to find myself failing at this task.
Am I a bad person? I would wonder. Why do I let people get to me? Why do I engage? Why am I not able to practice my energy Aikido?
The reason is that I have been setting myself up to fail.
The reason I have been failing is that my thinking has been flawed.
I am not an energy superhero. In some fairly benign energy instances, I may be able to stop the energy in its tracks and let it fall to the ground. However, in most instances I am not strong enough to stop it, and so it simply comes crashing right into me. When this happens, if I am not under a high amount of stress, I can sometimes let it pass through me (though not without some damage). Most often, I am inclined to push that negative energy right back at the person because I am feeling attacked.
If I take the practice of Tai Chi to my energy theory, I realize that I don’t need to try to stop the weird, often nasty energy of the people I meet, in some capacity, each and every day. I don’t know where their negativity or aggression started, but likely it originated long before they met me. What I can do is to attempt to gracefully redirect the continuing path of their ire and let it continue on its way without taking it on myself. The origin of their ire is not my fight. I can simply help a little with the path of its trajectory.