Wise Words
A moment with energy psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD, author of Positive Energy

Q. You’re a psychiatrist. Why did you write a book about energy?

A. I’m a traditional physician who incorporates traditional medicine along with intuition, senses of energy fields, and how to use that energy for health and well-being. I wrote Positive Energy (Harmony Books, 2004) because I know so many people are exhausted, with low energy, not feeling good, and tolerating it as normal. You have no idea how many people feel that way. I wanted to offer this book as an alternative. People need specific strategies on what to do.

Q. What are some everyday things that drain energy?

A. One of the biggest things is energy vampires; these are people who can just suck your energy dry. What I’ve noticed with my patients is that when I take a history of where their energy is going, so much of it is drained from other people. And they don’t know how to correct that.

Q. This could be anybody—like a friend or a mom?

A. It could be. But I go through different types, like the sob sister. She’s the one who keeps you on the phone for two hours, complaining without discussing a solution. Then another type is the drama queen; a constant talker is another type. There’s also a blamer and an attacker. And so we have to learn strategies for how to deal with these people so they don’t drain our energy. People lose energy because they err on the side of being overly polite.

Q. What can you do once you’ve determined someone is sapping your energy?

A. For one thing, you have to learn to set limits. For example, with the sob sister, you can say, “I can only listen for five minutes,” and after that you’re going to have to hang up or change the subject. In my book, I interviewed Jamie Lee Curtis, and what she tells people is, “We’re friends, and I love you, but I think it may be time for you to find a good doctor.” Be very direct. Otherwise you’re enabling a friendship, you’re enabling negativity. Good friends can hear this if you say it kindly and lovingly.

Q. How else can you deal with negative people?

A. If you’re at a party and you’re talking to an energy vampire, you have to excuse yourself from the interaction. You can’t just stand there for an hour to be polite. You have to say, “Please excuse me, I have to go on and talk to another person now.”

Q. What if you can’t get away?

A. I use a visualization technique when I can’t get away from a vampire. Let’s say it’s your mother-in-law who’s draining your energy. She’s always blaming and criticizing you, but she’s not going to change. I suggest visualization—it’s the same technique that I use with cancer patients where they are taught to visualize T cells eating the cancer cells. In this technique, you visualize a protective shield around your body so that the shield arms you from the words and they can’t get to you. The negative energy can’t get to your body.

Q. How do you personally rejuvenate?

A. One thing I do is a three-minute minimeditation that people can use. You just sit down for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, focus on your breathing, and if thoughts come, picture them as clouds floating through the sky. Focus on something positive in your heart—the face of a child, or a waterfall, or a beautiful flower, or a little dog, and focus on that for three minutes as you calm down. This enables you to go out and face the world again.

Q. What are some positive energy foods?

A. You have to test what foods feel good in your body. Some foods are alive energetically, and some foods are dead. I suggest people go through fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and chicken, to see how each food feels in your body and to begin to construct a diet based on these live foods rather than on synthetic, chemical foods. I talk about eating with attunement. That’s eating for energy.

Q. What’s the one thing you would like our readers to take away from this conversation?

A. I’d like them to place their energy as a top priority and not put it off until they have a heart attack or depression or some sort of major crisis. If they can begin to honor their energy now, they can enjoy life. Life goes by too fast, and you want to be able to appreciate every moment of it.

—Jena Hofstedt