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Why It Is A Loss To Distance Yourself From Negative Engergy

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Why It Is A Loss To Distance Yourself From Negative Engergy

Several years ago my uncle Bob was killed by a drunk driver. He was a doctor, single, and had only three nieces–myself and my two sisters–as relatives. Having already lost our mother, uncle Bob was our only “connection” to her side of the family, and we were devastated. He had been such a big part of our lives. Of course, everyone deals with a loss in a unique way, but once the shock was over, we realized we had to make the “arrangements,” get his affairs in order, and settle his estate (which was rather large). That’s when all of the drama and negative energy rose to the surface.
I quickly learned that deaths, funerals and property issues bring out negative energy. At first, I only wanted to run away from it all and just grieve for my loss. What I came to realize, however, is that letting that negative energy surround me, if only temporarily, actually worked for my good in many ways. Here are 12 things I brought out of that experience:

Negative energy means criticism, but confrontation builds confidence

It was my job to make the funeral arrangements. I was the only one living in the same town, and uncle Bob had left no instructions. Still, I knew his favorite hymns, and I knew that he did not have a specific church affiliation. So, I contacted my church pastor and asked for him to officiate. Then I contacted a nearby mortuary and arranged for the casket, the viewing, and all of the other details. I purchased a plot in the cemetery in which our mother was buried, along with a headstone.
The criticism came almost immediately. The casket was too expensive; uncle Bob never would have approved. Why my church? My sisters had church affiliations and maybe they wanted the service in a church of their denomination. How selfish could I be? For an afternoon, I stewed and agonized. Then, the epiphany hit. Criticism born of negative energy needs to be met with confident assertion. I called each sister, stated that I had made the arrangements I felt best, and they would stand as made. I also reminded them that this was about uncle Bob, not us. I then offered that if either one of them wished to take on the task of completely re-doing the arrangements, I would be okay with that. Neither volunteered, and that criticism ceased. I felt good, and the negative energy did not envelope me.

People with negative energy blame, but it can be a teaching tool

All of us, in our grief, blamed the justice system for being too lax on drunk drivers. The individual who killed our uncle had already been in court for DUI’s and had paid fines and undergone probation. Obviously, he was anything but a safe driver, and yet he still had a license. And not one day in jail. We wanted our revenge not just on him but on the court system as well. This blame talk went on for months, until I finally realized that only positive action would be productive. I stopped having these conversations with my sisters and, instead, did some research on active groups in my town that were confronting the issue. Not only did I find a support group, I found lots of positive energy toward changing laws.

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Negative energy causes us to catastrophize, but that forces us into perspective

One sister was tasked with meeting with the local newspaper to devise an obituary. My uncle was a bit prominent in the town, and so a longer obituary was in order. She provided all of the details. When the obituary was published, it left out one organization of which he had been president. You would have thought the sun had dropped out of the sky permanently. Seeing her reaction made me think of times when I had done the same thing. Small incidents become catastrophes and magnified beyond proportion. Given that my uncle was gone, any obituary was such a trivial thing. Now, I understand my grandmother’s statement, “If it will matter five years from now, then it is something to worry about.” Smart woman. I’ll try to remember this in the future.

Filtering out the positive is common negative energy but it helps with the weeding

I was nervous about the funeral service because I was worried about how my sisters would react to every little thing. I was not too far off. While the service was a lovely tribute to my uncle, there was a small eulogy given by a lifelong friend that probably bordered on slightly off-color memories of their youth together. One negative chalked up. There were a few other minor things, such as my pastor pronouncing his middle name incorrectly and a second cousin we had not seen in years arriving drunk. One sister chose to dwell on these negative things after it was all over. It really put a damper on my mood for a while, and there was no way to escape. As I lay down to sleep that night, I began to laugh. First, my uncle was probably laughing at these mistakes, so I might as well laugh with him. Second, by getting all of the “little negatives” out of the way, my sister had done me a favor. It was like weeding a garden. What was left was a beautiful event that honored our uncle.

Negative energy feeds negative drama, but drama can be a great release

I’ll admit it, sometimes I like to observe drama. It can be quite entertaining if you are not in the midst of it and can just watch from the sidelines. The drama of my uncle’s estate began with the dividing up of his personal goods from his home. Now, mind you, as wealthy as he was, my uncle was a bit quirky. He lived in a very modest home and maintained very few valuables–some rare coins, a Rolex watch (I wish now I had given it to the undertaker to put on his wrist and kept hidden by his jacket sleeve), a few pieces of antique furniture, a few valuable pieces of art, and my grandmother’s china which is probably worth quite a lot.
My oldest sister had the idea that we would draw numbers for who would go first, then we would alternate, each making a selection. The Rolex watch went first of course, selected by my sister who was divorced and had no male children. My other sister was appalled, of course, because her husband would have gotten actual use out of it. Now I am not a perfect person either and was clearly upset about a few items that the others got. We had a lot of drama that afternoon–most of it along the lines of, “He knew how much I loved that; he would have wanted me to have it.” By the end of the afternoon, however, after it was all over, we sat, got a bottle of wine from his private collection, and toasted him and his wonderful being. The drama was a great release of part of our grieving, we recognized it as such, and moved on.

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Polarized thinking is negative energy, but it allows to see the grays

It was difficult to think of the drunk who hit our uncle as anything but pure evil. And we all shared in some true negative thinking about him. He was the scum of the earth; he needed to rot in jail for the rest of his life. I bought into this thinking for a while. My sisters bought into it for a long while. All during the week of preparations, the funeral, and still to this day, I am certain at least one of my sisters still has this polarized thinking.
Ultimately, the man received a three-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, with some years of probation after that and permanent revocation of his driver’s license. I heard that both of my sisters came into town and attended his hearing and judgment, and both were livid. I didn’t go. Their attempts to pull me into their polarized thought was successful in the beginning, but it also allowed me to see how wrong that was. People, and, indeed the world, are a kaleidoscope of grays. We are all bad and we are all good, and sometimes we make horrible mistakes with terrible consequences. But black and white? No. When we stick around and witness polarized thinking, we see how debilitating it can be.

Complaining is contagious but it can clarify priorities

It’s so easy to get into the habit of complaining. The weather is bad; the traffic is horrible; prices are too high; politicians are all greedy for power and money; the boss is crazy; the kids are unruly; the neighbors’ dog barks too much. And when we are around others who complain a lot we do the same. It gives us a sense of belonging, of camaraderie. When we leave a general “bitch” session like this, what we find ourselves in is a state of exhaustion. That’s how that week with my sisters was–one complaint after another until I was exhausted. What it did for me, however, was help me to clarify what was really important in life and to vow to spend less time with them in the future.

Victimology is negative energy at it’s pinnacle, but it can have a humorous outcome

Now, my sisters and I are not victims–not by any stretch of the term. But during the week of the funeral, a great aunt arrived from Colorado and stayed at my house. She would have gotten a hotel, she stated, but just couldn’t afford those kinds of things anymore. Her husband had been a gambler and had left her with only social security and his small pension from his years at a factory job. She was forced to live in a subsidized senior citizen community. She got sick last year because the management refused to provide adequate heat. One problem after another was someone else’s fault, and she had no choice but to just be the victim of fate, of circumstances, and of others. One day she slipped and mentioned that her daughter had bought her a new car and had set up a checking account for her and put so much in every month. This, of course, was because she had been such a good mother–it wasn’t fate. When bad things happen, it’s someone else’s fault; when good comes it’s by our good work.

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Negative energy means lack of gratitude, but it is easily foiled

My sisters have good lives. During the week of the funeral, however, I got an earful of their lack of gratitude. Nothing was really quite right or good enough in their lives. Why, one child was only on the second-string of the basketball team; one husband was just passed over for a huge promotion; good cleaning help was so hard to find, as they shared terrible housekeeper stories; one was thinking of a facelift because she looked older than her friends. As we say in the field of education, this was a “teachable” moment. So, I began with stories of some of my students–one whose mom had just died from cancer; another whose family had just been evicted and was now living in a homeless shelter at the Salvation Army. The point was well made, and they stopped.

Negative overgeneralization is narrowmindedness but it cautions us

My uncle always felt a need to “give back,” and he did that in the form of opening his office on Saturdays to those who could not afford care and who had no health insurance. Obviously, when he died, a lot of those people came to his funeral. They were not the best dressed and there were many others there who probably wondered who they were. I knew and had explained this to my sisters in advance. They were not happy that all of these “street people” were in attendance and clearly believed that they did not belong there. Many in fact were hard-working people. When we are hit with this kind of negative labeling, it reminds us not to do the same toward any group of people–lazy poor people, greedy rich people, or corrupt politicians.

Selfishness exudes negative energy but it forces introspection

It’s natural to focus on ourselves, our goals, our problems, and our responsibilities. When it becomes excessive, however, it throws off a negative vibe that makes us want to just get away. How long can we listen to the talk of someone who believes that it’s “all about them”? The funeral taught me that my sisters tend to be in that mode a lot. Perhaps I do too. Seeing this trait in them has made me far more mindful of my conversations with others and to become a better listener.

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Resentment is terrible negative energy, but it can end toxic relationships

Of the three of us, I am the only one who never married. Over the years, I could kind of feel inklings of resentment on the part of my siblings. I am not rich; I am a teacher. They married well and enjoy a pretty great lifestyle. So why the resentment? Because I always had the freedom to do as I wished. If I wanted to spend Christmas vacation in Belize, I did so. If I wanted to sleep until noon on Saturday and not clean my house, I did so. If I wanted out of a relationship, I just got out. I also had more time to spend with uncle Bob over the years, and I did. He loved stories about my “kids” (students), we often ate out together, and took a few trips together as well.
When we finally landed in the lawyer’s office a few weeks after the funeral, the resentment turned to anger and accusations. Uncle Bob had a trust. Half of his assets were mine. The other half were divided between my two sisters. That did it. I was accused of manipulating him, of taking advantage of him, of spending time with him only to get his money.
I had finally had enough. What was holding our relationship together anyway? Blood was the only thing I could think of. The negative energy emanating from these two over the years really was a big downer, and it dawned on me that there really was no reason for me to spend lots of time letting that energy pour onto me. They have since apologized, and we have somewhat reconciled, however, I keep my distance. Truly, we should be grateful for negative energy people; they are our best teachers.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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