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who controls my energy?

May 31, 2012

It should be me. But I don’t think it is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy lately because I don’t seem to have very much of it. That could mean that I’m depressed, but I don’t think I am right now. Also, historically I’ve never had very much energy. (Historically, I’ve been depressed a lot too.) Still, I think the situation is more complicated than whether or not I’m depressed.

It’s also possible that introverts have less energy than extroverts. Or perhaps we use it/regulate it differently than extroverts do. I’ve read that the human brain uses an amount of energy disproportionate to its size. So you might suppose that people who are more likely to think a lot and reflect a lot  (introverts) would find more of the energy they had going to their brain instead of other bodily functions, like physical activity. Except that Spouse and most of my friends are introverts, and they are all much more active than I am. How are they managing that? Yes, they probably eat more. But I don’t think that’s the whole story either.

Bryn Collins, in her book, Emotional Unavailability: Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap, writes about how the process of deciding on (one’s own) behavior works:

“The process of external feedback involves asking friends, family, … and others whose ideas and opinions you trust and who have some appropriate connection with your process of decision-making for their input and ideas, then putting it all together into a reasonable, appropriate decision. The internal feedback system measures the options against your own internal yardstick. That yardstick is made up of your own values and beliefs, your experiences, your education, and your self-knowledge. Most people combine, in weighted averages, internal and external feedback to make choices.” (p. 60)

Very rarely, I wake up, filled with energy, and I bound out of bed, ready to face my day. On days like that, I always get a lot accomplished. Which I feel really good about.

I would like to have more days like that, but I have no idea why they happen at all, so I don’t know how to re-create those conditions.

I do know some of it is having things to look forward to. A recent example was last Friday. I needed to prepare for a class that was supposed to start this week. It would be taking place at a location I had never visited. So I needed to find what building my class would be in, where I could park, and buy my textbook.  Some of these issues could have been settled by making a few phone calls. I really detest making phone calls. Beyond that, in some circumstances I really enjoy jumping in and finding out by doing. So Friday, I woke up energized, made a quick list of things to do, and got started on it. I drove to the campus, where I: (1) drove around, looking for the buildings of interest; (2) observed the parking layout; and (3) bought my textbook at the bookstore. Since I knew rush hour traffic going home would be really bad, I also (4) sat with my car’s book of maps to figure out an alternate route home. And then (5) I drove home, the alternate way, which was rather complicated, and exposed me to many sights I had not encountered before. Which I always like. (As a result, my mental maps of Baltimore County are now a lot more comprehensive. Yay!)

If I did have more days like last Friday, it has occurred to me that I wouldn’t have nearly enough tasks that would use up my available energy. Or maybe it’s more that there would be plenty of tasks that need doing, but most of them would not be enjoyable? Because I always have a backlog of unpleasant tasks. That will require emotional energy to do effectively. But in the meantime, just knowing they exist, undone, sucks up a lot of my emotional energy. Not even doing them, just worrying about them, or feeling bad that I’m not doing them.

The biggest one is the clutter in my studio. There are piles and piles of stuff, all of which needs to be gone through, and then I need to figure out what to do with it. There is so much extra stuff that I can’t really easily or effectively get anything done in there. In fact, I normally keep my laptop on the desk in my studio, but lately I’ve been bringing the laptop into our bedroom to write.

Am I somehow creating chaos to oppress myself with? I think I am. Because this is a cycle that I’ve experienced ever since I’ve had a room dedicated to my own creative endeavors, which was (iirc) circa 1995.

I’m not so much addicted to the chaos in my studio, as I am enmeshed with it. (Like I was enmeshed with my mother.) And then there’s some introject that has all sorts of expectations for how I can make my studio usable again:

  • It’s wasteful to get rid of things, even when you have good reasons for doing so.
  • I can’t just throw stuff out; I have to find someone else who can use it, or recycle it.
  • I shouldn’t get rid of anything that a family member gave me, even if it’s ugly or I don’t like it or there are bad memories associated with it.

I’ve also been wanting to hang artwork on the walls, including my own art. But I have a lot of internal resistance to the idea — as if it’s ‘not seemly’ or ‘unladylike’ or some other weird bullshit for an artist to like her own work enough to display it?!?

I want to have a design wall. You know, like all fiber artists have. Because they need them. Somehow that never happens either.


I actually think that I have an adequate internal locus of control in some areas of my life, just not most of them. I think spirituality is the big one. And I recently had an epiphany about a ‘meta-purpose’ for my life (not quite the right word), which originated organically from inside of me.

There are other big things that, for most people, as far as I can tell, originate from an internal locus of control, but for me, they come from the outside. And when, for whatever reason, I don’t get feedback from others telling me what I should focus on, I get stuck, and I don’t know how to proceed. Or I try to proceed, and quickly get overwhelmed with choices.

Bryn Collins again:

“Some people don’t have an internal feedback loop and focus their behavior around input only from the external loop. … Without an internal feedback loop, this person has no idea what his or her own feelings, ideas, and values are on any particular subject. Worse, this person has no way to predict possible consequences for behavioral choices because he or she has not evolved a value system that signals right from wrong. … Thus anyone who lacks an internal feedback loop can be characterized as emotionally unavailable.” (pp. 60-61)

This is going to sound really stupid, but I think part of the reason I have such difficulty getting up every morning is because I don’t have any pressing reason to get up. Most mornings, I wake up with a full bladder, and that ought to be reason enough, except that it isn’t. I will lie in bed, thinking, and I will make my bladder wait. (Written out like that? I’m appalled.) Later, when I get up, I’ll usually have a lot of trouble deciding what needs to get done. If Spouse has asked me to do something for him, that shoots to the top of the list. I often have things to do for myself, but I prioritize his items.

About the only reason I allow myself to not do what he asked is if I’m feeling sick, in lots of pain, or exhausted.

My own priorities usually only seem ‘important’ when they have a social component, like taking a class. If it’s just something I want to do for myself, I can keep putting it off indefinitely. And I commonly do just that. Because I’m not that important. Wait, what?

In fact, pretty much the only sure way my bodymind can grab the attention of my ego (is it my ego? not sure) is by – (a) getting sick; (b) pain, lots of it, or high intensity; and (3) feeling despair. Otherwise, external stuff always comes first.

I have been trying to listen to my body more often. But I realize now, I don’t really pay attention unless something hurts. And then I only try to figure out how to make it stop hurting. And/or I start worrying that I’m dying of something. I also sometimes wonder why I don’t feel good very often anymore.

Probably because I’m letting everyone but me run my life.

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