I have a good friend who experiences a lot of anxiety and worries about what people think about her. We had a really funny conversation that resulted in the sentiment “You just have to ration the fucks that you give. We only have so many fucks to give, use them wisely.” I needed this advice too.
I have been thinking about this idea incessantly for months, because it can feel like you HAVE TO care about what *certain* people in your life think of you. Preserving relationships is the only reason to give fucks when it doesn’t feel great to give them… and it’s a temporary solution at best. Hence the anxiety. You can’t just keep on giving your fucks away.
(Yes, my friend and I talk like sailors.)
A while back I did a post about “Bad Medicine”. The phrase “Bad Medicine” came from a friend’s spirit guide, where “good medicine” is a good intention / energy, and bad medicine is the reverse. “Medicine” differed from simply “energy” because energy is what is, the status quo. It’s such a useful phrase, but I feel uncomfortable using it because “Bad Medicine” can evoke racist images of Native Americans in John Wayne movies. I just can’t do it, and as a white person, I really, really shouldn’t.
So I’ll call it “Off-Key Energy.” Hey, it rhymes! On-Key Energy can signify thoughts, feelings, and prayers, both intentional and unintentional, which influence others positively. Off-Key Energy throws others off. Makes them cringe and they don’t know why. It’s unpleasant, it feels wrong.
We all have to deal with this. It might come from coworkers, friends, neighbours, family – whole communities and even the entire culture. Off-Key Energy is why we care what others think of us. It’s real energy, with real effects.
We give fucks because we’re trying to AVOID Off-Key Energy.
At some point, Off-Key Energy becomes unavoidable, or the amount of energy you’re putting into trying to control it is unsustainable. That’s when you have to STOP caring about whether this energy is generated or not – it’s coming.
Here’s why I don’t call it “Bad Energy”: It’s not necessarily bad. Those people having those thoughts about you, they’re having those thoughts based on the framework of their lived experience. It’s their reality. That’s why it’s so powerful! Here’s an extreme example:
I have been listening to audio book autobiographies of women who escaped the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints in the early 2000s. This extreme cult had / has communities in Utah, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia. A lot of their beliefs actually parallel Scientology – mind over matter, viewing illness as spiritual weakness, eschewing personal property for a shot at eternal salvation and their own *planets* in the afterlife.
The FLDS, however, sublimate women and girls to the level of property, and the result is a culture of human trafficking. It seems certain harmful practices have become much more extreme in the past 30 years, although the sect has been around for centuries.
I started to notice parallels in the women’s stories. Every time a girl or woman would escape, her entire community including her family would go to church and listen to sermons on how evil the escaped woman was. The whole community including her children would be ordered to pray for this woman’s death.
Talk about off-key energy!
The price of freedom for these women is enormous, and every one of them experienced a major health crisis in the aftermath of their escape. Listening to their stories, I wondered, “How much of this could be the off-key energy of their family and community?”
In Rebecca Musser’s book “The Witness Wore Red,” Becky talks about a cancerous growth at the base of her spine which caused her tremendous pain. A reiki practicioner, who knew nothing of Becky’s history, commented after a session “I think this tumour is the result of ill will being directed at you.”
Becky nearly fell on the floor, because the reiki lady had no way of knowing hundreds of people were praying for Becky’s death.
Where I live in Tofino, my friends of First Nations decent talk quietly about their customs and defences against negative energy. They’re always cautious about alluding to these parts of their cultures, for a lot of historical reasons including surviving cultural genocide, and so when something like this comes up in conversation I accept and respect the information.
One thing a friend always does is burn her tissues when she has a cold. If someone were to get a hold of those tissues, they could use it to exploit her temporary weakness and steal her life force.
There are stories about a person who uses off-key energy for hire. Basically, there’s someone around here you can hire to put a curse on your enemies, throw a kink into a business deal, create endless obstacles for those trying to create positive change.
I believe it, too. I think any kid who’s experienced bullying knows what off-key energy feels like, and how it builds up like plaque in the arteries of your life.
Sylvia Browne always said there’s no such thing as a curse, and I think that was a wise stance for her to take. There are too many fear-mongering woo-woo witches willing to convince you there’s a curse on you, and here’s a $500 talisman that will protect you for a week. That’s ridiculous. Never let anyone manipulate you with fear.
But I think it’s helpful to talk about the impact of off-key energy. It exists. We experience it.
I think Off-Key Energy is one of the reasons why kids and teens who are bullied / cyber bullied are more vulnerable to psychic and psychological damage leading to increased risk of suicide. Kids and teens are more vulnerable to what other people think, because other people’s thoughts about them have a direct impact on their lives. Kids and teens depend upon the adults and other kids around them to take care of them, and because a teacher, a parent or a friend can have a huge impact on your life, you’re going to tune UP your empathetic connection with those power figures in your life.
As an adult, we gain independence from the thoughts of others… to a point. We tend to ramp up that psychic / empathetic attachment to coworkers, friends and neighbours if those people have the power to significantly impact our lives. Family members have a special secret code to our defences too, intentional or not, sometimes family challenges each other more than anyone else in our lives.
So whether you’re a kid in school vulnerable to the thoughts of teachers and friends, or you’re a grown-ass person vulnerable to the influence of other adults, there is a psychic connection there. We get to be extra sensitive to those thoughts. We *know* when someone else is thinking, talking or feeling bad about and towards us. I believe this is a natural part of our human survival instincts. You’ve got to know if your co-worker is reporting on you, if your teacher has labelled you a bad kid, or if your boss is in a mood. It could affect your survival – that’s why we’re “tuned in”.
Here’s a hard lesson I’ve had to learn over and over and over again: It is not my job to internalize what other people think of me. Nor is it my job to be a peacekeeper, at the expense of myself. I don’t need to dance to their off-key energy.
It is my job to be myself, just who I am.
I am simply occupying space as my complete self, decompressing and expanding into the whole being I came here to be.
It reminds me of the “Fuck it” meditation John showed us as a joke a few years ago. I wish I’d written about it at the time, but I can’t seem to find anything in the blog! I remember telling my mother about this in one of our phone conversations. There was John Lennon, in awkward lotus pose, chanting: “Fuuuuuuck it. Fuuuuuuuck it all. It’s fucked.” This was followed by a strong visual of John PISSING into the pool of tranquility.
We had this conversation during a time when my Mom’s diet was terribly restricted after she was diagnosed with celiac disease. She made a “hamburger date” with John, to eat hamburgers and talk about their lives. I wonder if she’s had it yet? I’ll have to ask her.
I’m still trying to sort all this out. There will be more on this topic.
What do you guys think?? How have you experienced off-key energy? What things have helped? What didn’t help? If you were to advise your past selves, what would you tell them?