Off-Key Energy, or “Why do I care what they think???”

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?

11 thoughts on “Off-Key Energy, or “Why do I care what they think???”

  1. A factor that I have struggled with is ….. expectations. Getting the balance right between allowing people to be who they are and the natural human need for reliability and good faith in ourselves and others can be ……. hard. I have had situations where I exploded and I felt bad ….. and I have had situations where I remained silent and I felt bad. What feels good is when I can place the situation in deep context, decide what being true to myself means (beware the seductive
    lies of the ego), and fulfilling that. Often, you just walk away. Forgiveness can sometimes be an issue. Not infrequently the person who troubles you would despise your forgiveness if you offered it. So I think in terms of ….. release. ………If I were to advise a past self, it would vary somewhat with the age of the person that I was, for I struggled at many stages. If I go there, this comment would simply run too long.

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  2. YES! I even wrote a paragraph about balance and set it aside, because I want to clarify my thoughts some more. Trying to find balance seems like the decent human thing to do, but sometimes I don’t know if it’s my conditioning to keep other people happy and sublimate my own thoughts and needs. Maybe it’s a survival instinct, or both.

    Is a balance in even possible? Certainly not without all people involved motivated to create that balance. Each situation is unique. In listening to these books, some women have had to cut off all ties with their families, or their families cut them out, which is terribly painful for everyone.

    In Rebecca’s book, she seems to be the only woman who actually manages to maintain a relationship with some of her family members, even though she was an instrumental witness in convicting their prophet (and so the family is required by their religion to condemn her!) She did a great deal of sublimating herself around them, reverting back to the FLDS hair styles and dress around them “out of respect”. She’s an incredibly strong woman.

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  3. I’ve also been in many, many situations where I remained silent and felt bad. I’ve rarely pushed boundaries when they’re set, but when I do tend to take a lot of time weighing the consquences of crossing those lines.

    It’s tough to evaluate your needs on the fly – how badly do I need to say this thing, versus how bad the fallout might be?

    Keeping the silence creates a lot of baggage to carry.

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  4. Seth often stated that it was best to speak up for yourself directly and clearly BEFORE things reached the point where explosions and overreactions occurred. I always felt that advice was …….. cheap. Sometimes, no matter what you do, there is going to be a “bad” outcome. To me, a key is …… can you keep your self mastery? That is soooo hard, but so worth achieving. I know this …… the worst I ever felt was when I felt betrayed by a “friend” at work and didn’t trust myself to speak to them for fear that I would lose it. I felt bad about it for 5 solid years. Today, because of life experience and what I hope is personal development ……. I think I would handle it better, whichever course I took. I could ……. release it ….. the event, the fallout ……. all of it.

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  5. I have reached a point where by and large, I don’t care what others think of me – as long as I am not deliberately harming anyone, I allow my intuition to be my guide, whether it be about decisions I make or opinions or beliefs I hold, and I do my best to respect others’ opinions and decisions in return. Whenever I come in contact with negativity, particularly if it is directly aimed at me, I make a conscious effort to dispel it by mentally surrounding myself with white protective & healing light. But this is a recent development : for the longest of times (pretty much the whole of my life, and I’m 57 !) I danced to other people’s expectations of me, and I felt hurt and influenced whenever my decisions or opinions were dismissed as wrong, stupid or weird. So felt the need to “get back into the ranks” in order to gain approval, and therefore positive energy coming my way, to the detriment of what was truly right for me and/or kept quiet about those beliefs of mine that would be ridiculed. I also would do almost anything to keep the peace and would not speak up for fear of disturbing the still waters of life. Nowadays, I focus on what is right for me, sticking to my guns with kindness (if possible !) when I’m being challenged, trying to strike a balance in all things where I feel good, centered, and in tune with who I am. If I were to give any advice to my past selves, it would be that others don’t always know what is best for you, and they don’t have all the answers in life, and their opinions don’t have to be yours, listen to that inner voice and guidance of yours and you will stay true to yourself

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    • Very wise, I completely agree, thank you Catherine. I too, as a non-confrontational person, would do almost anything to keep the peace. I do find it challenging to focus on what’s right for me when worry likes to tell me stories of what might happen!

      It’s funny that I’d be revisiting this lesson AGAIN at this point in my life, having come out twice about two different things. Each time I have “come out” it’s been to some drama, some initial waves of disturbance, but ultimately an okay place where I have more space to be myself.

      Sticking to your guns with kindness is a powerful image. Passive resistance with love.

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  6. Yes, I understand how challenging it can be to focus on what’s right for yourself when the potential consequences spring to your mind ! Personally, I spent far too much of my life being concerned with what others needed from me or would think of me if I didn’t do or act or say what was “expected”. After decades of this, it took its toll and translated into a debilitating illness for some time. I think this was a big wake up call and the catalyst for me to start thinking in terms of who I am at the very core, what I needed, nurturing and starting to put myself first (not in an egotistical, self-serving way, but rather loving myself – the whole of me – at long last). I realised at that time that we give too much importance to what others think of us possibly because we don’t love ourselves completely, and so try and compensate by seeking others’ approval. I can hazard a guess as to what two things you had to “come out” about in your life, and without a doubt, you will have caused a stir !! Very brave of you. But hopefully the people who matter in your life will have ultimately seen the beauty of your spirit rather than focusing on the aspects of who you are which made them uncomfortable. I tend to diffuse potential heated confrontations nowadays by simply stating that I am unwilling to get into an argument, we have differing opinions, I respect theirs and we’ll have to agree to disagree. It’s like a firework being drenched in water : it fizzles out very quickly !

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  7. Great post, Kate. Very timely. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’m actually writing a book about beliefs (as well as emotions and thoughts) and how they affect one’s ability to find authenticity, which includes taking on other people’s beliefs about ourselves and the world. I think that our thoughts, beliefs and emotions = energy, aka vibrational frequency.

    I’ve been really interested in the concept of vibrational frequency lately, because it just makes sense to me (and spiritual teachers put forth) that the bigger picture is that we attract people and situations that are a complement to our vibrational frequency, our sense of allowance, and also resistance. So, for example, when I was younger (I still have difficulty now, but am getting better), I had few boundaries. I felt that I had to make people happy by pleasing them. I was in a “victim” mindset quite often and I just let all of that off key energy affect my sense of well being. So one could say I attracted people and situations that took advantage of that frequency I was putting out. Once I worked on boundaries, on self-love, on raising my own frequency, these off key energies came less often to me. Granted, I still slip (especially when traumatic life events happen) and lower my frequency, but then I am hit over the head that I need to work on myself to raise my frequency again in order to quit attracting this off key energy! Now, I realize that it sounds like I’m kind of “blaming” my energy (aka thoughts, beliefs, emotions) for what I attract, but isn’t that what the law of attraction is about? It’s actually relieving, because it makes me feel more in control – I won’t be victimized if I can keep a high frequency; and if I am, I still have control over my own emotions, thoughts and beliefs in response. I get to decide if someone has power over me, not them.

    I don’t think many of us really bring to conscious awareness what beliefs we’re operating on, or what others are operating on — all that energy just seems to merge into a soup so we don’t know what’s ours and what’s not ours. And then, even when we do have conscious awareness of them, what the heck do we do with them? Human beings are wired for connection, and often having different beliefs means that we face rejection, disapproval, isolation and NOBODY wants that. So the resistance comes in to try to get us to stick with the status quo. It takes a lot of will and energy in order to separate yourself from others’ beliefs while maintaining relationships. It’s far from easy but it can be done, it’s just a long psychological and spiritual process (maybe over many lifetimes!)

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    • Oh durn, looks like my reply to you didn’t post, HSB!

      I’M SO HAPPY you’re writing a book!!! I can’t wait until you’re ready to share it, you’ve had so many amazing travels / journeys, both physically and spiritually. What a great book I’m sure this will be!

      I know just what you mean about the ‘victim” mindset and it was so funny that when I first read your comment, I’d just scheduled TODAY’s post! (Sometimes when I have time to write more than one post, I’ll schedule the second one to appear the next business day.)

      I have this whole “bathtub” analogy I use to describe that “soup” in my psychic protection section of the class I’ve been working on for the past… year. I really want to get that thing launched already!

      “It takes a lot of will and energy in order to separate yourself from others’ beliefs while maintaining relationships.” – YES. Truly, it does. This was the number one concern expressed by the folks who attended the last class, how can I be this weird and not completely isolate myself? It’s hard sometimes. Sometimes people see us through their expectations of who they think we should be, rather than who we are.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the encouragement about the book, Kate. 🙂 It feels like the right work to be doing now, even if lazy me is saying “but it’s soooo much work!”

        I’m wondering if our cross-posting about the victim theme was a coincidence or perhaps not… ha ha.

        Regarding “the soup/bathtub” analogy, I find it to be a good exercise to look at the “shoulds” first to see where they are coming from. Rather than protection, I prefer to look at it as an opportunity to develop self-awareness and discretion. I like to label the thoughts/beliefs “my shit” (meaning that’s my own belief) or “his/her shit” (which means that’s someone else’s belief that they’re foisting on me). It’s then up to me to choose whether I will willingly accept that belief, and perhaps then reframe that “should” as a “want.” I think often it’s enough to just figure out what shit belongs to whom, and then the subsequent step can be whether we communicate that to the other person, and how (I recommend the Non Violent Communication process).

        By the way, lovely new pictures! My first thought was “so beautiful and radiant!” That’s a wonderful colour on you.

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  8. I decided, after all, to mention some possible pieces of advice to my younger selves: Age 10: You are beginning to feel different, no it isn’t your imagination; no you are not bad ….. you really are different, you are supposed to be, and you are never going to fit in well. Accept this and begin the hard work of discovering who you are. Age 14: Go ahead and ask the girl out. Whatever the answer, it is a step forward for you ….. you really need life experience. Age 14 …. again: Push your parents. You are too quiet and complaisant. Decide what you want and work for it. Make deals, complain, even disobey. They won’t die and neither will you. Age 14 ,,,, again: You need a tutor, you are too far behind in school to ever catch up. You have lost confidence in yourself and you need help. Ask for it. Keep asking. Age 14 …. again: Whether you get the tutor or not, you need to build your self confidence and the best way to do that is use your quirky mind to set achievable goals that are meaningful to you and …… work for them. Age 24: You are married. Your are luckier than you know. This person really is your best …….. and sometimes only …….. friend. Cherish her …… she’s not going to live forever.


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