A few weeks ago, I was exhausted, mostly because of health reasons. However, I paid little attention and continued with my regular chores and routine. One such routine activity is playing fetch with my dogs every morning. For a couple of days, I noticed that my dogs were not playing as enthusiastically as they normally would, and I mentioned to my husband that there is a possibility that our dogs are under the weather. My husband, instead of taking the dogs to the vet said that I am not able to engage my dogs and therefore were showing signs of low energy.
A few weeks later as things normalized, including my health, one of my co-lead for a session pointed out that while some elements in the session were quite energetic, there were also some areas where the energy and engagement level of the participants was very low. He mentioned that he felt that the primary reason for this was my fluctuating levels of energy and that he further noticed that the participants’ energy was high only when I was enthusiastic and low when I wasn’t enthusiastic.
In my defence I stated that every time the energy was low was due to the nature of the activity in the session and probably those activities weren’t as enjoyable as others. My co-lead did not agree but we ended the conversation without much debate. While the conversation ended, the thought didn’t leave my mind. And being the ever curious cat that I am, I wanted to explore this idea more deeply.
Is it possible that we could influence each other’s levels of energy? Everyone has studied the first law of thermodynamics – Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred from one form to another. As a student (and probably until now) I only thought of it as change of kinetic energy to potential energy and the other way around. But is it possible that when people are communicating, they are actually picking up from each other’s energy?
It seemed more than plausible, but the eager beaver in me resorted to the internet to find out more. I was pleasantly surprized to learn that there has been actual research conducted on this topic. According to research, similar to plants drawing energy from other sources including plants near them, this discovery applies to some other forms of life too (such as some forms of algae). While research is yet to confirm such findings in humans, Olivia Bader-Lee, a physician and therapist at the University of Bielefeld believes that humans can absorb energy from each other.
“This is exactly why there are people who feel uncomfortable when they are in a certain group with a mixture of energy and emotions,”– Olivia Bader-Lee.
How does this information help us?
We deal with people all the time. Even if you are someone who has a job that can be done without the much interaction, it is impossible to live in complete silos. For people, like me, who are in the space of facilitation, training or public speaking – this information can be especially helpful.
By simply knowing that our energy gets picked up by the people we interact with and their energy in turn gets picked up by us – a process that happens at a sub-conscious level, we can be conscious of always choosing to transmit energy that is positive and nurturing. In other words, for every interaction if we can assume that the people we are dealing with have a positive intention, we will automatically transmit energy that is positive, thereby enabling that energy to amplify leading to a healthy conversation.
Using Emotions Efficiently
This does not mean that we will never experience negative emotion. But knowing that sub-consciously people pick up each other’s energy, we can learn to better channelize our energy. Another interesting thing I had come across several years ago is how labelling an emotion (useful technique when experiencing a negative emotion) helps in dealing with the negative feeling better.
Another study reveals all our emotions are generated from the pre-frontal cortex of the brain but our body’s reaction to the emotion only happens when the limbic system of the brain signals the body to behave in a certain manner. In other words, the stimulus happens in the pre-frontal cortex while the reaction centre is the limbic system. If any emotion that one feels is left to analysis, it activates the limbic system of the brain resulting in greater impact; if however the emotion is labelled (how does one feel at that moment – sad, disgusted, confused stressed, etc.) it activates the pre-frontal cortex only and hence the response seen in the body is week and recovery from that emotion is faster.
So, once a negative emotion is labelled, it not just helps the person feeling it by letting the person deal with it better, but also helps the listeners as the listener only heard the negative emotion and did not actually absorb the negative energy from the negative emotion.
How does this work for happy (or positive) emotions? Simple, when you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! It is never a cause of concern when the emotion experienced is positive.
Whether there is enough evidence or not, I am certain that people feed off each other’s energy. Thus, being self-aware of our own energy levels and emotions can help us drive conversations and interactions to have a more meaningful impact and positive outcomes,
P.S. My dogs are fine and didn’t need a vet, and my husband was right. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?)