How to starve the energy vampire

Keep your thoughts and actions positive to starve one of the practicing veterinarian's worst enemies
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Oct 01, 2011


"When we choose to think and react in a negative rather than positive fashion, we empower the energy vampire to suck away our productivity, our morale and our happiness."
"If only I had more time." How often have you experienced this thought at the start, during or at the end of a busy day? However, the reality of life is that each day we all have a finite amount of time (24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds) to accomplish our to-do list related to our families, professional activities and community service. Likewise, each day we all have a certain amount of energy available to accomplish these goals. Whether or not we find the time to accomplish our goals is greatly influenced by how we choose to use our energy.

Using the energy vampire as a metaphor, let's explore positive and negative choices and how they influence our own responses. The energy vampire symbolizes the unproductive expenditure of energy and loss of time that occur when we choose to think and then react negatively to seen and unforeseen circumstances that invariably affect each and every one of us each and every day. What can we do to change the effect negative circumstances have on us? What can we do to minimize the mental and emotional baggage that tends to drag us down?

Causes and effects of negative thinking

Between a stimulus (or an event) and our response to the stimulus there is a space. In that space is our opportunity to choose how we will respond. Once an adverse event affects us, we cannot change that event. So if negative situations develop, what happens if we think negatively and then respond negatively? The principle of cause and effect predicts that if we respond in a negative way, the consequence will be an unproductive use of our energy and time.

Once used, that energy and that time are gone. In context of the theme of this essay, when we choose to think and react in a negative rather than positive fashion, we empower the energy vampire to suck away our productivity, our morale and our happiness. Why? Negative thoughts (anger, frustration, defensiveness, resentfulness, distrust, fear, guilt, impatience, blaming, envy, selfishness) foster negative results (indifference, irritability, apathy, anger, withholding, pouting, dislike, hostility, litigation). In addition, by unproductively using our time and energy, we are at high risk of becoming even more frustrated and angry, which in turn will result in further loss of time and energy.

In this context, negative thoughts are not only unproductive, they are also counterproductive. I have found that the consequences of impulsive outbursts of angry responses often exceed the frustration that initially prompted my anger. This situation is a classic example of a vicious cycle of events sustained by self-defeating negative behavior. In other words, making the choice to think and then react negatively about the negative results, which were the consequence of our initial choice to react negatively, fosters the habit of negativity. Why? We are creatures of habit, even when the habit is self-destructive. For some, negative thinking may even become an addiction. Addiction has control over us; we do not have control over it.

Consider the following example: When I become frustrated with events or the actions of others, I have to overcome a tendency to negatively react in terms of my initial thoughts of frustration, disappointment or anger. Especially when I am tired, my initial negative thoughts fed by negative emotions tend to block out my ability to choose a positive course of action based on knowledge and experience. But I have learned the tough lesson that when I react in a negative way, my clients, colleagues, family and friends often become frustrated and in turn may react negatively. Why? Because emotions can be contagious.

The moment either of us overreacts and returns the unkind treatment we perceive we are receiving, we become caught up in the exchange of negative energy. My experience on occasions too numerous to count has been that these unpleasant exchanges fueled by negative emotions have escalated into energy-draining unproductive arguments. Then, when I have subsequently replayed these conflicts in my mind over and over again, in a symbolic way I have allowed my negative thoughts to further drain my batteries, leaving me without enough positive energy to accomplish worthwhile goals.

Consider another example: After taking an examination, but before you received your exam scores, did you find yourself worrying about the questions that you thought you answered incorrectly, rather than balancing your thoughts by also considering the questions that you likely answered correctly? On numerous occasions while attending veterinary school, I expended energy by blowing events out of proportion in this fashion, only to learn later that, although I had incorrectly answered some questions, my test scores ranked with others at the top of the class.

Other than learning one of life's experiences related to needless worrying, of what benefit today was the choice I made to unproductively worry about an examination nearly five decades ago? One point of this illustration is that if we choose to do so, we can find a negative detail in any situation (I incorrectly answered a few exam questions) and dwell on it to the extent that we develop the distorted perception that the entire situation is negative (I performed poorly in taking the entire exam). As illustrated with this example, it is not a negative event, but the choice to negatively respond to a perceived negative event that feeds the energy vampire.