Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Politics Week 4: What To Do with Negative Energy?

I came of age on a top-ranked college debate team. I ended my debate career winning a speaker award at the national tournament. I know how to argue. I used to do it for sport. I thought it was FUN to embarrass people intellectually. Sometimes, when people find this out, they will attempt to goad me into an argument. A particularly memorable time was at my sister's home. I was a guest, as was this other person, and he took a few moments to stand and insult me, truly out of nowhere. I remember taking a breath and in that breath, I made the decision that I wasn't biting. This guy was an idiot, and I could've leveled him in two sentences, but I stopped. I didn't always have this control. I'm embarrassed by that. But in this particular incidence (and most of the time these days), I made a good choice to bite my tongue. In doing so, I absorbed his negative energy.

You see, at some point, it became obvious to me that not everything is worth arguing about. Most things, in fact, are not worth arguing about. It is also not important to defend myself, even in the face of insult. I prefer to think that the insulter has shown his idiocy, and rather than me looking bad, he's the one who looks bad. I may be kidding myself, but I'm OK with that, too. I live with the fear, daily, that something I say to someone may be the last thing they ever hear. And how awful if it's something mean!

By and large, people are terrible arguers. Arguments are riddled with claims without warrants for those claims. People who get really into an argument will literally switch positions - and not in a progressive "I see things differently, now" sort of way, but in an "I can tell I've lost that point but I care about beating you so much that I will go in the opposite direction - even if it is nonsensical to someone who can follow an argument" sort of way. It makes me crazy inside. That's when I start to feel the other person's negative energy.

Which is not to say I don't enjoy a good argument aimed at truth seeking. I have another friend who I argue with a lot, and over the years, he has convinced me of many things and I think I've convinced him of a few things as well. I would never want to stop arguing with him. The arguments can be so rich. I love seeing things in new light. These heated conversations are filled with positive energy.

I believe in the power of positive energy. I'm mindful of the footprint I leave, and for the many people in my life I disagree with, you will probably never know the control I am showing. Daily. This is possibly the worst thing about Facebook. People post things without fact checking. And sometimes, I want to say "no, no - this argument is wrong and here's why!", but then I think of the argument I will have fallen into, and what an unproductive waste of time it would be. But there is a part of me that wants to shout "NO, NO, NO". In not saying anything, I feel as if I literally trap that negative energy inside myself.

I have told myself for years that if I have the opportunity to absorb some of the negative energy in the world, I am making the world a better place to be. But sometimes, I ponder - what is happening when I absorb all this negative energy? Is it gone, or is it just getting stuck in me? How am I supposed to exorcise it from my very core, or do I just let it pile on, and on, and on? Will the weight of it literally break me, some day? Should I instead shout back just to get the negative energy away from me?

For now, know that I'm showing more control than you could ever know.



  1. You have taught me that often it is not worth trying to convince people round to your way of thinking. I think you sort of said "What's the point if they agree with me or not ? I don't care if they agree/approve of my way of thinking." This has been incredibly freeing for me and was the motivating factor behind my maxim of "Different people think different things."

    I think sometimes I can see a tiny, imperceptible twitch in your face or a hitch in your shoulders when someone says something you don't agree with. I find it such a gesture of kindness when you just let them sit with their statement and don't "take them on" so to speak.

  2. Thank you for this post. I loved our friend's comment.
    I used to be ready to jump at the first opportunity to argue but over the years, I have learned as well that very often - and more particularly at work - it is not worth it.

    I guess all this negative energy make us stronger and do not forget you can always do the yoga lion pose (I think it the the lion's) and let it out. that feels good.