Find More The Meaning Of Love

images-40How would you rate yourself on the meaning scale in your career right now? Do you feel like you are working on purpose, that you have a calling and are acting on it, and that you have meaning in your work each day?

If you’re reading that in a cold sweat thinking to yourself, ‘what on earth is she talking about?!’ You’re not alone. And please don’t panic!

The vast majority of people are going through the motions when it comes to their career. It’s like being on auto pilot, or on the treadmill, and it happens for a whole lot of reasons. We get busy, we get stuck in a rut, we find ourselves a decade into a career and worry that it’s too late to change, and we sometimes believe that meaning and purpose are for ‘those’ people, you know, the lucky ones, but not for us.

If you have those thoughts, you’re in good company. But you’d also be selling yourself short. If you are struggling to find meaning in your work each day, or are longing to really discover what your purpose is, then browse through these thought starters, quietly contemplate the ones that you are drawn too, and see where they lead you.

1. Know it’s ok to want more – if you’re unfulfilled in your career, have a big dream, long to find your calling or just know that what you’re doing isn’t ‘it’, then know that it’s ok to want to find something different, more meaningful and on purpose. You can go slowly. You don’t need to declare to the world that you are on a seeking mission. You just have to admit it to yourself first.

2. Stop waiting to be struck – most of us wait to get struck by purpose, like a lightening bolt from the sky or hearing the voice of God. But researchers tell us that it rarely happens like that. We discover our callings, bit by bit, not in one giant moment of clarity. So stop waiting for it to rain down from the heavens and start taking small concrete steps to uncover it piece by piece.

3. Start following your interests – so if not struck, then how do we discover it? We start by simply following our interest in a certain area, finding ways to spark it, and keep reigniting it over a long period of time. For me it started with an interest in women at work, so I followed that interest by attending women’s conferences, joining the diversity council at work, reading and researching small pieces of information and it grew from there. What are you currently interested in? How can you keep sparking that interest and see where it takes you?

4. How ‘you’ do you feel? – do you ever feel like you’re just not yourself anymore? Like when you were younger you had such a sense of yourself, but as you got older and more entrenched in your career you have lost your essence? This is a sign you are off track. Think back to the things that used to make you feel alive, authentic, real and you. What can you bring back today that will reconnect you with that core of who you truly are, even just a little bit?

5. Where do you lose time? – think about the moments of full engagement where you lose track of time, your surroundings, forget to eat or even move from your chair. These are moments of flow where you are engaging your strengths in a task that is fully absorbing you. These moments can be a good place to investigate a potential source of meaning for you.

6. Think about who inspires, interests and excites you – write a list of 15 people who truly inspire you, whose work interests you and who you get excited thinking about a day in the life of. What do they do? Why is it interesting? What content are they working with? Who are they helping? Is there a spark in there you can follow that may lead to meaning for you?

Wait for Your Partner To Commit Tips

download-27Commitment is a topic that brings a lot of couples into therapy. The word has a single definition, but it holds infinite meanings. For many people, commitment includes an emotional acknowledgment of a we, in thatwe are with each other and choose to be part of a couple. And on a practical level, it means the possibility of planning for a future—even if it’s just the weekend—and a sense of continuity.

For others, commitment is about living together or getting married and sharing a home life. And for still others, a child expresses the commitment desired. But wherever we fall on the spectrum, when our partner cannot provide the commitment we want and need, we are left to live in a difficult limbo: There’s something we want, that we want more of and more from, and yet we don’t know if we’ll ever get it.

How do we know when to stay or leave this type of relationship?

There are no hard fast rules, ever. Each time we make the choice to stay or go is unique, and sometimes we make it again and again within the same relationship.

At the most concrete level, we can always ask our partner if and when he or she will be willing to meet us at the level of commitment we desire. Sometimes the answer we get is comforting and gives us the sense that we are heading in the direction we want. But more often the answer is unsatisfying and leaves us not knowing if what we want in the relationship will ever happen, usually because our partner doesn’t know. Living with such uncertainty can cause pain and anxiety, and lead to insecurity and resentment.

What’s most important is that we own our truth, which is our desire for more commitment.

We must stop judging and blaming ourselves for needing what we desire. For years I have heard women condemn themselves for being too demanding or not being able to figure out how to be OK without what they fundamentally want. I have heard every possible rationalization for why it makes sense to do without something we fundamentally want. In the context of a relationship, there is nothing “Buddhist” about not being able to make plans for the future, or with someone who is not sure about us. Even if everything is impermanent in the absolute sense, we still need to create places of security in our lives, where the ground is solid—or at least, as solid as it can be.

We get certain things in relationships and give up others. When we’re not getting the commitment we want, we must ask ourselves if the balance is workable, that is: Am I receiving enough to give up what I’m giving up?

We can only answer this one moment at a time, and the answer changes over time. We know we must leave when we can no longer tolerate or bear the situation we are in, when the equation shifts and it’s too painful to do without what we really want. We leave when the unrealized desire for commitment becomes resentment, and we can no longer enjoy or appreciate what our partner offers.

A Good Life Of Love

images-37Pursuing happiness might decrease your well-being. That’s the paradoxical finding ina 2015 study. The finding was true expressly of Americans in the study versus Russians and East Asians. Why?

The scientists have an hypothesis: So much has to do with how we pursue happiness. Specifically, in cultures such as the United States, people often pursue happiness for individual gain. It’s individualistic cultures, in other words, that might be a distinguishing element.

Consider the era of American “self-help” and the plethora of self-help literature that might or might not be useful. The focus is on the self.

So, when entrepreneur and founder of the Good Life Project Jonathan Fields (who also is a friend) said he was publishing a book called How to Live a Good Life, I was skeptical. Jonathan, however, has tapped into the very problem that the 2015 study identifies.How to live a good life, it turns out, has a lot to do with relationships and connections with other people. In fact, Jonathan suggests we’re living in “a crisis of belonging.”

In this interview, I speak with Jonathan about

* the challenges of writing this kind of book

* the problems in our culture that feed a renewed interest in the good life

* the crisis of belonging

* the three Buckets of a Good Life—and how to fill them

* possibly the most crucial element of the Good Life recipe

* a unique project that could grow a new forest in the U.S. Southwest as part of the good life

Jeffrey Davis: Let’s talk about writing, first. I think a lot of authors struggle with whether they’re writing a Big Idea/Curiosity Book or a How-To Book. Your new personal growth book, How To Live a Good Life, with Hay House is a notable departure in content, tone, even publisher from your previous books in the entrepreneur/business/career category. It’s a fairly simple structure with just enough research to ground the key points. How hard was it for you to keep the book simple? What was your greatest challenge in writing this kind of book?

Jonathan Fields: Oy. Hard. On a few levels. One, even seeing you write the word “personal growth” in the sentence that describes the book makes me uneasy. At this point, I’ve come to know that’s what I’m about on a deeper level, but the phrase still has certain associations that don’t entirely jive with how I see myself in the world and what sparks me. I think I’d describe my pull more as human potential than personal growth. I know, I know, parsing words, but still, for some reason, I can breathe more easily with the latter, while the former still creates a bit of struggle.

Are You Being Gaslighted

The term “gaslighting” comes a film  in which a husband attempts to convince his wife she is going insane. If you’ve never seen the film (there are two actually), it’s an excellent idea to see it. It not only explains gaslighting well but is a remarkable piece of film making and film making history.

Gaslighting is now recognized as psychological abuse whereby a perpetrator manipulates a victim into doubting his or her own sanity or reality.

It’s not usually LITERALLY believing that you are going insane but rather doubting your version of reality. You do feel confused a lot of the time and have a lot of self-doubt.

Gaslighting can take many forms but it is a twisting of reality that turns a person into a true victim. It’s about second guessing yourself or getting so far from reality that you don’t guess it at all, you just accept someone else’s interpretation of reality.  It’s an experience that happens to many who are involved with very dysfunctional or personality disordered people. The perpetrators are most likely sociopaths or narcissists.

My own experience with being gaslighted is not the “are you sure?” “it’s all in your head” type of overt gaslighting. Although all gaslighting is insidious, the kind I experienced was a tactic that I called “rage against reality.” His angry insistence that everything was my fault and when I tried to defend myself I was mocked as being irresponsible and unwilling to accept blame. In reality, I was not to blame and was not unwilling to accept blame because I accepted it all the time.

I was blamed no matter what happened or how tenuous my connection was to what happened.

One of the last incidents is one I remember so well because it was such a leap to blame me for what happened, it opened my eyes.

My husband, his friend and his brother both of whom were staying with us for a while, were all in the house when I left to take the dog for a walk. No one had mentioned that they were going anywhere and I had no reason to think they were.

During the walk I looked up to see my husband barreling down the street toward me. I stood frozen wondering what I had done wrong. His grandmother lived next door and the kids had been with her. Were they supposed to be with me? No. Had I left something cooking on the stove? No. Had I left water running? No. In the seconds it took him to reach me, my mind went through a thousand different things I could possibly be in trouble for.

He screamed at me for my keys. My keys? I didn’t have keys. Why would I have keys? He was angry and screaming at me. While I was out walking the dog, they were going to his grandmother’s. He walked out followed by his brother and his friend pulled the door shut and locked everyone out of the house. My husband, his friend, his brother all had keys and his grandmother was supposed to have an extra set in case something like this ever happened, but she also left them in our house.

Science of Mistakes

Immune System Mistakes: Our immune system is composed of a complex set of bodily functions which work together to keep our body healthy. The immune system welcomes in the healthy substances in air, food, and water, but it must consistently resist impurities such as germs and viruses if we are to stay well. When our immune systems are weak, unhealthy substances can gain entry, causing illness. If our immune system is too strong, we go into “fight mode.” Our bodies go on the attack—creating a fever. So how does this relate to Soul Mistakes? Metaphorically speaking, we need a similarly balanced emotional immune system to remain healthy. We all require the support and encouragement of others to be well and to achieve goals that cannot be achieved alone. So, our emotional “immune system” must be equipped with the skill to let the right people into our lives, while resisting unhealthy influences. If we grew up with experiences which led us to avoid needing others, when the right people (nurturing, caring, responsible) come along, we may either be threatened by the vulnerability (our immune system is too strong) or we may work too hard to please others (our immune system is too weak).

These “immune system” weaknesses can lead to Soul Mistakes. We must at times be independent and self-reliant especially in the presence or unhealthy influences. However, if your immune system isn’t balanced and you are unaware of it, you might resist vulnerability too ardently, or bend more than you should. These responses may drive away important relationships, such as the love of your life, or family members, or friends who can be a source of support or joy. At work you may receive a promotion to lead a team, and find you are either threatened by the people who report to you or too eager to please everyone. If we are aware of this “immune system” weakness, we can work to correct it before we undo the success we worked so hard to achieve.

Emotional Blocks may lead to Soul Mistakes as well. Emotional blocks usually occur in response to childhood experiences. For example, if you grew up in a family with a depressed or raging parent whose emotions were out of control, it was a wise choice to promise yourself you would never be like your parent, never let your emotions be out of control. This promise helped you function more successfully than that parent but at a cost, creating a Soul Mistake. Relationships or interactions may trigger feelings that are unpleasant and not easily switched off. The typical feelings of sadness or anger that can arise in any relationship do not feel normal to you. You may become frightened by these feelings; afraid you may end up like the adult you swore to yourself that you would never become. Once again, becoming aware of this problem allows you to seek help and set goals to grow in this area. Not being aware, however, may lead to self-defeating efforts to avoid or contain emotions and limit our capacity for a full life, for healthy relationships.

A third category of Soul Mistakes is Not Knowing One’s Own Special Gifts. While the “immune system” and “emotional blocks” allude to possible limitations in our skills or emotional strengths that may lead to mistakes in relationships, here we talk instead about how being unaware of our strengths can lead to mistakes. Consider, for example, the person with the powerful gift of empathy. He or she can see the world through another person’s eyes…even in cases where another person is causing significant pain. You may choose a romantic partner and assume they too will be empathic. You don’t realize this is a rare, precious gift and not everyone will be able to reciprocate the understanding you can give. You may be surprised, painfully so, if your partner is not as caring and compassionate as you are.  Another gift is curiosity. You have always been curious and do not recognize this as a rare talent. You are surprised when people you care about do not show the same interest in your activities, your passions, as you are able to give them. Being aware of your own special gifts allows you to avoid being disappointed or hurt in relationships by seeking partners who share these gifts or can respect and not abuse them.

How to Recovering Your Love

A king once owned a large, pure diamond of which he was justly proud, for it had no equal anywhere. One day, the diamond accidentally sustained a deep scratch. The king called in the most skilled diamond cutters and offered them a great reward if they could remove the imperfection from his treasured jewel. But no one could repair the blemish. The king was sorely distressed.

After some time a gifted lapidary came to the king and promised to make the rare diamond even more beautiful than it had been before the mishap. The king was impressed by hisconfidence and entrusted his precious stone to his care. And the man kept his word. With superb artistry he engraved a lovely rosebud around the imperfection and he used the scratch to make the stem.

Linda: We can emulate that craftsman. When life bruises and wounds us, we can use even the scratches to etch a portrait of beauty and charm. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, the trust begins to build, bringing out deeper feelings, becoming more vulnerable with each other again, or perhaps for the first time. As we practice the new skills of looking through different eyes, through eyes of appreciation and gratitude, the other person actually starts to look different, more beautiful, not like a self-centered “taker.” We start to see a decent human being who is struggling with difficulties, we see a person who is lost, and who is not intentionally causing destruction, but who is unconscious.

It is a great tragedy that some couples lose their relationships at a point of despair that is only the darkest hour before the dawn. It is amazing how quickly a comprehensive healing can take place if both partners commit themselves to the project of building trust. A relationship that has deteriorated into shambles, characterized by a slow burn of resentment, angry outbursts, and a chronic undertone of resignation, can revive and flourish in a matter of months.

When we are steeped in the hopelessness and frustration, it seems as if it would take years to pull out of the destruction, if indeed we will ever pull out of it. Instead we may find that our badly damaged trust, that looked so impossible to repair, can make a startling and rapid recovery, if we invoke the presence of the artist and the healer, to bring vital energies to heal, and create a new relationship. The possibility exists of attaining not only the level of trust that was established before the breakdown, but that surpasses that which we have ever known.

If we take the point of view that we have all been wounded and harmed in some ways, and are in need of healing, our minds begin to reach for the ways that we can be readjusted and upgraded. It all begins with the recognition that we are flawed and imperfect. No one is to blame for our condition not ourselves, or those who failed us. But they do have responsibility for letting us down.

Facing the truth about who is responsible for the wounding, our families, our culture, our educational or religious institutions, etc., and the specific ways in which they left us with learning deficits and pain empowers us to begin the repair work. The more mending that we do on ourselves the more use we can be to others who suffer. Attending to our brokenness calls for our compassion for others who struggle. Then we become wounded healers, who are in a position to heal ourselves, others and the breaks in our relationships.

Avoid Contact With Your Ex

Sometimes when a romantic relationshipends, you don’t want to end all contact with your ex. Although you may never again embrace in a loving hug and may never again feel deeply connected while literally being sexually intertwined—two bodies transiently being one—there are many other aspects to your past romantic relationship that may be worth preserving. You might have had matching personalities, a close nurturing friendship and unmatchably fun times that you don’t want to lose simply because you are no longer romantically involved.

Friendship with an ex after a long-term romantic relationship (which for the purposes of this post I will define as a committed relationship having lasted at least six months) has ended is definitely worth pursuing if you can both handle it. But sometimes friendship isn’t possible because one or both parties are deeply hurt and deep down still have romantic feelings for the other person. Friendship is literally impossible if those deep-seated romantic feelings or other romance-related emotions lead one or both partners to treat the other person in a demeaning way.

If you and your ex cannot treat each other like true friends, then needless to say, it is best to cut all contact, or at least limit contact if required by external circumstances. For example, you cannot cut all contact if you work together, have children together or have too many common friends.

Here are eight examples of the kind of dehumanization, devaluing and disrespect that immediately should lead you to cut all contact with your ex (or limit contact to the extent that it is practically possible):*

1. When asked whether you are still together, your ex proudly and triumphantly replies that you are not—without even a hint to hurt or sadness. Then he sends the female questioner a flirtatious smile that suggests that he is open to anything with her. He does this right in front of you without scruples.

2. Your ex prefers—hours and hours on end—to be in the company of people that even he has admitted are toxic individuals to helping you out when you really need it. When you kindly ask him to accompany you for 10 minutes, he gives you five if you are lucky. Later you find him spending all night in the company of people he used to think were wicked, pernicious and virulent.

3. Your ex has already dated 15+ people within the two months that have transpired since your breakup, and he is not shy about telling you in details about his many dates while locking his face into a twisted expression that clearly and loudly states just how little he respects you and your feelings.

4. Your ex has subtle or not so subtle double standards. He feels perfectly entitled to date and be sexually involved with anyone still breathing. Yet he feels betrayed if you even as much as briefly entertain the idea of finding a new boyfriend.

5. Your ex continually makes it clear to you how little you mean to him, either in words or action, and how little he cares about your feelings. For example, he might refer to you as “pathetic,” “needy,” or “a stalker” in subtle ways despite your alleged friendship being his idea. Or perhaps it does not even occur to him that he shouldn’t leave you alone as a woman in the middle of nowhere, because he is tired and already has an Uber coming to pick him up and take him home, leaving you stranded and exposed.

When Kids Talk About Bullying

In the last several years of working as a School Counselor and speaking with professionals,parents, and students across the United States on the topic of Bullying Prevention, one of the observations that stands out to me the most is that parents, in general, are very eager to talk about bullying while their kids, on the other hand, seem to want to do anything but talk to their parents about this topic. The more parents pry, the more kids withdraw. The more parents push, the harder kids pushback—with excuses, minimizations, abrupt subject changes, stonewalling, silence, and sometimes even complete denial that a peer problem exists.

Why is it that so many young people are so loathe to talk to their caregivers about bullying? The more I ask students this question, the more often they tell me some version of this frustrated rationale:

If I tell my parents, they are going to make a big deal out of it and tell everyone what’s happening to me.”


“If I tell my parents, they’ll rush into school to try to meet with the Principal, which will definitely make things way worse for me.”

What can parents, caregivers, educators, and other trustworthy adults do to help a young person feel safe enough to confide in them about a bullying situation? How can you make your child feel supported—instead of embarrassed or endangered—enough to tell you when they really need your help?

When I ask school-aged kids how they would like their parents to respond when they tell them about a bullying situation, again the responses are nearly universal. Most commonly, kids tell me, “I just wish they’d listen.” This is frequently followed by, “I wish they’d give me some advice but let me try to handle it on my own first.”

What follows are five guidelines for parents and professionals on how to listen well and respond in helpful ways when a young person reports an incident of bullying:

1. Stay Calm
First and foremost, when a young person takes the leap of faith to talk to you about a bullying situation, stay calm. Avoid freaking out. The dynamics they describe may be very run-of-the-mill or they may be entirely appalling, but either way, your role as a helpful adult is to listen well and respond as if the situation is completely manageable. The steadfastness of your response will go a long way in shaping the child’s attitude as the two of you begin to move forward toward solutions.

2. Express Sympathy
Next, it is helpful to express sympathy to the child. Something as simple as, “I am sorry this is happening to you” goes a long way in signaling to the young person that the dynamics they have described are not just a “normal” part of growing up and that you feel badly that they have been on the receiving end of cruelty.

3. Thank the Child
Thirdly, thank the child for finding the strength to tell you about the incident(s). Acknowledging the courage it takes to overcome fear, embarrassment, and self-doubt is an important affirmation. What’s more, only when a child talks about a situation does an adult get the opportunity to help do something about it. This is also something to express gratitude for. An effective message may sound as simple as, “It know it must have taken you a lot of courage to tell me about this. Thank you for trusting me with something so difficult.”

Attention Love

What’s a parent to do when a child acts out in a big way, like peeing on the baby?  We can understand the toddler’s jealousy, but we obviously can’t let him pee on the baby.

Punishing him with spanking or even time-out will just create more sibling rivalry, because it convinces him that he really has lost you. Sticker Charts are unlikely to be effective, because they don’t get to the root of the behavior.

In our last post, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” we talked about how to nip this behavior in the bud by focusing on prevention. Refill your child’s love tank and give her an emotional tune-up on a daily basis, and you won’t end up in the breakdown lane nearly as often. Takes a lot of time and energy? Yes. But it works. When you connect with your child in the way she needs, most of the time her behavior improves dramatically.

But what if it doesn’t?

“Just how much more love and attention can I give him?”

I call this the leaky cup syndrome. The answer is, if you’re really giving him all the love and attention you can, and it isn’t changing his behavior, it’s because he needs a different kind of loving attention to heal the feelings driving the behavior.

Your child is showing you that he needs you to lovingly welcome all those big emotions and help him work them through.

Why?  Because fears — like his fear that you don’t love him as much as the baby — don’t just go away.  First we have to let ourselves experience them, after which they dissipate. But when kids are too scared to go near those emotions — or they’ve gotten the message that feelings aren’t okay — they stuff them down in their emotional backpacks.

But the feelings don’t stay put; they bubble up to get healed. Kids try to defend against them by getting controlling, whiny, aggressive, territorial. They might even start marking out their territory like a small mammal, and pee on the baby. Any time children act out, it’s because they’re feeling disconnected and driven by emotions they can’t handle.

Are you wondering if kids sometimes act out just because they want something? Of course. But that’s a symptom that what they want is more important to them than their relationship with you. Which is a red flag that there’s a disconnect, either ongoing, or right now, caused by big emotions. So “bad” behavior is always a cry for you to help them with their feelings.

Here’s how to help him, when love and attention don’t seem to be enough.

1. Start daily roughhousing that gets your child laughing.

Kids who are aggressive (and peeing on someone is an aggressive act) have fear locked up inside. Luckily, nature has designed humans with a great way to loosen up that fear: giggling and belly laughs. Try physical games that very mildly provoke a fear response, such as chasing them around the house, bucking bronco rides, or a kids-against-grownup pillow fight. Laughing not only reduces fear and anxiety; it also releases bonding hormones like oxytocin, so every time you laugh with your child, you’re building trust and connection.

Daily roughhousing will help your child be happier and more cooperative, and sometimes that’s all children need to work through their unhappiness.

But sometimes, even daily laughter isn’t enough. Your child is still acting provocative. Luckily, all that laughter has loosened up those tears so that your child begins to cry more easily. That’s a GOOD thing; you want him to show them to you, so they’ll heal.

2. Schedule a meltdown.

What’s a scheduled meltdown? It’s the same meltdown your child would have had at the supermarket, except you give her a chance to have it at home, at your convenience, while the baby is asleep, or there’s another adult for back up. You’re not creating the meltdown; she’s got all those feelings inside, making her contrary. You’re welcoming those emotions at a time when you can really listen and love her through them.

I know, you’d rather she not have a meltdown at all. But tears are nature’s way of healing big emotions. So it’s a huge gift if you can welcome your child’s upsets and help her through the tempest. Your goal is to help your child express what’s going on. Most kids can’t articulate it, of course, and the truth is that words aren’t useful to her at this point; they pull her out of her emotions. Instead, help her show you that upset. How?

3. First, connect so there’s a warm feeling between you.

Do a little roughhousing and laughing. Then, set a calm, kind limit. If there’s a new baby in the family and your child feels she isn’t getting enough of you, then even saying “We’ll have to stop soon…I know you wish you could have me to yourself all day” is likely to bring those feelings of need and hurt to the surface.

Go For the Jugular Vampire

One of the most malevolent of bloodsuckers, this person is vindictive and cuts you down with no consideration for your feelings.

Driven by envy, competition, or severe insecurity they deflate your energy with just the right insult.  Their jabs can be so hurtful, and are hard to get them out of your head.  Whoppers my patients have endured include: “Darling, gray hair is so unattractive;” “Forget him. He’s way out of your league;” “Don’t be absurd, you’re not material for that job!” Some are unapologetically bent on bloodlust; others are more passive aggressive. This fiend uses their own darkness to maim and insinuates that darkness in you, a maneuver they probably learned from their parents at the dinner table. Energetic fallout from these vampires is nuclear, leaves you sickened by siphoning vital energy. Excessive exposure can cause illnesses from chronic fatigue to depression.

The Go-For-The-Jugular Vampire is most damaging when they have you cornered. The place you least want to be is stuck in a car with them. The noxious vibes from their comments pollute that closed environment. You, the recipient, can practically feel them congealing in your arteries. Research has shown that driving brings out horrific behavior; cars are a set-up for road rage, aggression, and family warfare. A common form of spousal abuse is for one partner to verbally incinerate the other in a car, and start driving erratically. Heed this warning. If you suspect someone belongs to this vampire species, don’t even consider getting into that vehicle!

What to do about this drainer? Move heaven and earth to eliminate them from your life. There’s no gain to being exposed to such venom. However, if they must stay, never stoop to their level by countering meanness with meanness. That only inflames their power. Instead, do your best not to take their poison personally—they’re an injured person who pitifully can’t do any better. In a temporary situation, say with a pipsqueak despot who’s filling in for your boss, feel free to shield to your heart’s content and not go for the bait. If we’re talking about your mother, who’s there to stay, go further by firmly asserting, “Mom, we need to treat each other with respect. Your remark about ___was unkind. I won’t permit you to treat me that way.” Don’t cave in. Limit contact or enforce other consequences if she persists. A realistic expectation is to gradually modify her behavior. I also suggest the following tactics from my book, Positive Energy to further diffuse vindictiveness.  They can be used with other emotional vampire types as well.

Strategies to Remove Negative Vibes and Protect Your Energy

Break eye contact to stop the transfer of toxins. Use the breath to retrieve your life force. Let it function like a vacuum cleaner. With each inhalation visualize yourself power-suctioning back every drop of energy that’s being snatched from you. Keep inhaling until the job is done. Do this in the presence of a vampire or later on.

Exhale negative vibes out the back of your lower spine. There are spaces between your lumbar vertebrae, natural exit points for energy. Touch the area; get a feel for the anatomy. When toxicity accumulates, expel it through these spaces. Envision dark gunk leaving your body. Then breathe in fresh air and sunlight, a quick revitalizer.

Jump in a bath or shower to cleanse negative vibes and prevent further drain. If you are feeling particularly drained add Epson salts or sea salts to the water.  If you are in the shower you can rub sea salt on your skin and then wash it off.  Drink plenty of water to flush toxic energy from your system too.  Also you can burn sage where this vampire has been to purify every nook and cranny. (This works well in hotel rooms when a prior guest’s left-over vibes feel smarmy, but use only a little so you don’t trigger the smoke alarm!)

Practicing these strategies will preserve your energy, short and long term. But also expect to bump into one pesky cosmic certainty: we energetically attract what we haven’t worked out in ourselves. So if you keep getting swarmed by a particular vampire, honestly examine why. From experience, I’ve seen that I can guard my energy until lost Atlantis rises, but if I don’t strive to heal childhood patterns associated with unhealthy relationships the same vampires will just keep hovering. Conquering unresolved insecurities strengthens your energy field, reducing a drainer’s power.