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How to Emotionally Detach from the
Pot Stirrers and Energy Drainers
by Carissa Conti
c. February 23, 2006

(Updated 2007)

In every day life we encounter people and situations that are designed to pull our attention in non-productive areas, as well as extract our emotional energy. An apt name for them would be “pot stirrers”, or feeders. As I type this, I’ve already had to artfully maneuver around two pot stirrer people in less than an hour! I wasn’t able to completely 100% avoid giving up some personal energy, but I was able to diffuse probably 95% of what I would have previously expelled. So there you go! What was the trick?

Well, the trick was — not caring. Learning to finally have little to no emotional investment in what is happening around me. When you’re not emotionally invested, you won’t generate an emotional response that feeds something, somewhere.

For some, this personality trait comes easily. They’re born with a relaxed and detached, nonchalant attitude. But for others, the sensitive types, the empaths, this is a very difficult thing to achieve, and takes some work. Anybody who has a slightly neurotic personality type, who could be classified as being a “bundle of nerves”, and those who can’t detach themselves from the emotions swirling about around them will easily find themselves getting sucked in by the energy feeders of the world. I know, that was me — still is actually, because I haven’t fully conquered it – but I’m learning how to “unplug” from it and pull back. I’m learning how to not care and be the “artful dodger.”

Too often people throw stuff at us, gossip, news stories, personal woes, things that have nothing to do with us, to try to provoke a response for their own amusement, or “feeding needs.” Those with low personal energy are always on the prowl for more, and they consciously, or unconsciously, hone in on empaths, sensitives and neurotic types, because it’s a guaranteed meal, every time.

So the trick is — learning how to not be that guaranteed meal!

The way to achieve having little if any emotional investment involves not taking things so seriously, pulling back and seeing the Bigger Picture, and realizing what is or isn’t truly important. This way when a feeder crosses your path, and those invisible feeder tentacles start whipping all around, trying to connect, you will instead be detached, and become an observer. Not a participant. There won’t be anything for the tentacles to connect to. Then they’ll have to leave and find a meal elsewhere.

In my own immediate example that just happened this morning, one of the old women who volunteers for the church I’m currently temping at stopped by the office to “say hi”…and to feed. (Yes, temping at a church, long story!) From Day 1 of me temping here I realized she was a feeder, and most definitely a “pot stirrer.” Loves to gossip, loves to throw stuff out there about things that have nothing to do with me in order to provoke a reaction, and even used to pry and jab about my personal life situation. When I see her emerge through the church office door, my alarm system sounds, “BEEP…BEEP…ALERT…ALERT… Feeder at twelve o’clock, feeder at twelve o’clock…” And I prep myself accordingly. Get into my detached, non-plussed mindset. The one where I feel like I’m watching the situation from behind a window. I become “the observer.” Not a participant.

After coming into the office, the volunteer woman immediately launched into who in the church is sick and ailing. I nodded my head, “Oh yeah…? Huh…wow…” Listening to her while I typed, being polite, even sounding like I care. Which I don’t. And not because I’m heartless and cold, but because she’s telling me for no other reason than to feed. And for that, I won’t give her the energy she’s seeking. Granted, she’s part of the visiting committee, whose job it is to visit the ailing and home bound…but because I know the rest of her personality and have seen her in action, I know that she’s not telling me this because I need the update. (In fact…she technically has no reason to be stopping by the office to see me – she comes in for one-on-one energy feeding.) So, I managed to sound interested, upbeat, friendly, yet simultaneously remained detached, not providing an energy meal. This caused her to launch into the usual standby, of prying for details and gossip about the former secretary who had stolen from the church. Do I know the update? What’s going on with that? I shrugged. You know, I don’t know. Nobody seems to know what’s going on. (more non-plussed detachment, and friendly and polite artful dodging.)

In a last ditch effort, she got a weird glint in her eye, and with a smirk asked me “What do you think the church should do with her? Do you think they should press charges?” I was surprised to see that look, but not really. It confirmed once and for all what I’d been suspecting for two months about this woman’s true motives and core, but which I couldn’t definitively prove. Feeling nothing emotionally, other than a matter-of-fact mindset, I responded with,

“You know, it’s not in my place to judge what other people do.” I proceeded to explain very bluntly, but politely, that to be honest, I’m trying to stay out of that drama. I don’t want to be involved in it, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. And again, it’s not in my place to determine her “judgment.” (What does it matter what I think should be done to her…ya know?? ?? Other than that she would have successfully “drawn me in” and gotten me to discharge some emotions…all for something that has nothing to do with me!)

She got the hint! She switched gears, adopted her “I have genuine concern for the situation” voice/manner, said she doesn’t judge people either, (right, uh huh…) and promptly bailed out. Buh bye, have to be going now, feeding was unsuccessful, time to try it on somebody else!

Author Stuart Wilde has a related concept for this approach that I’m talking about, he terms it, Throwing chickens to the reptiles. Toss ‘em a chicken and run. And while you won’t be literally throwing chickens at anybody, and sometimes you can’t actually run because you’re sitting behind a desk, you can however learn to adopt handy counter-defense tactics against feeding attempts.

Detach. Become the observer. Don’t be emotionally invested in what’s happening around you. Learn to recognize what’s actually important and what’s not. Most of what’s going on out there in the world, whether it’s in your immediate surroundings, or in the big scheme of things, is not important. But the world would like you to think it is, and get all caught up in it to the detriment of the things that really are important. “Stuff” wants you to waste what little free energy you have going in circles over stuff that doesn’t matter. And it uses your ego as the way in. So too often we get caught up in things, losing our bigger perspective, making mountains out of molehills, thinking stuff’s important when it’s really not. We allow others to pull us into their energy draining gossip, or feed them energy for their personal woes and news stories they want to tell us about.

The workplace is one of those major target areas that “stuff” can use to hone in on you. So if you’re sensitive and empathetic, naturally neurotic and keyed up, then it’s imperative to learn how to block it all out, pull back and detach. When someone’s “dumping” on you, you can either bluntly tell them that you’re not interested, or, practice moving yourself behind the window and becoming the unfazed observer, who listens….but feels nothing for what they’re hearing. It’s just words, and nothing more, bouncing off you and floating around the room. I’ve done both tactics, actually, and both work. At a former job in Florida, I was sharing an office with another woman named Suzanne who was very cool, and one day, a third female coworker named Becky came in, purely to dump on us and feed. Suzanne was what I call “real”, ie, souled, and had inadvertently allowed herself to become the target of empty feeders and the dumping grounds for other people’s nonsense. So people now had the habit of running to her and venting, because she would listen…and get caught up in it, whether she wanted to or not. So there’s Becky, charging into our office, all fired up about who knows what. Stupid stuff. I’m the new girl, so I’m a fresh face to get dragged into the drama. I made the mistake of looking up at Becky from my desk as she ranted, so she turned her undivided attention to ME…venting rabidly, like a mad dog, just going OFF. ROOOOWWWWWRRR!! And the way she did it, you would have thought I was the person she was actually pissed at. Suzanne sat there, in nervous silence, until I just cut Becky off. “I am NOT the person you need to be talking to about this. I am not interested in hearing this. You need to find somebody else to vent to. I’m not going to be that person.”

I’m really not sure where that came from, to be honest, but some part of me must have sensed that there was a major boundary violation happening here, and responded accordingly. And it stopped her in mid sentence, and stopped the problem, right there. She never did it again. After Becky left, Suzanne grinned and nodded. Sometimes you just have to lay it on the line with certain people if becoming the detached observer isn’t going to be enough. But don’t be afraid to do so. Nobody is obligated to be the dumping grounds for others’ rage, bitterness or hostility and need to “vent.”

One technique I experimented with back in 2001 and had surprise success with was the “protective bubble” technique. It sounds completely cliché new age metaphysics, but you know what, it worked! If you have sincere intention behind it when you do it, then that creates a very real, albeit invisible barrier that really does help to “keep things out.” I had no choice but to try to do this out of sheer desperation, because I’d gotten to a point where I was absorbing the vibes of everybody around me, good and bad, like a sponge. And it was making my life very difficult. When you’re feeling what everybody around you is feeling, how can you focus on yourself and what’s important for you? It’s all well and good if those around you happen to be emitting positive loving vibes…but let’s face it, most aren’t. So if you’re surrounded by people with black clouds over their heads, and hateful, self absorbed tendencies, and you’re also an empath, then drastic measures need to be taken. After I did my protective bubble technique I quickly forgot about it and went about my business. Later that night I was at the grocery store, and watched as a VERY angry woman approached and stormed past me, mumbling to herself and yelling to somebody over her shoulder, ALL pissed off. My first reaction was to “brace myself” for the inevitable sponge affect that was guaranteed to happen…here we go, I’m going to get hit with whatever she’s feeling, and now I’m going to feel it…sigh…bracing…

…except it didn’t happen. ! Shocked, I felt as something literally, bounced off me, creating an actual physical “BOING!” sensation, jarring me back slightly!

Whatever she was emanating just bounced right off me and went flying out there into the air. I was left standing there, untouched, as she flew past, on her way. I remembered my bubble protection technique from earlier, and was amazed. It had actually worked! Even after I had forgotten about it and was no longer consciously thinking of it, it was still in place. The thing with protective bubbles though is they don’t last forever. You have to keep up on it, every few days or every week or so. Be diligent about it. In constantly maintaining the intention for it, it will get stronger and stronger and last much longer each time. It’s a very useful tactic to adopt, along with becoming the detached observer, or even flat out pushing people away who are encroaching on your boundaries.

When you start to see through the world, much of what’s happening around you loses its power. And this is true for all situations, not just protecting yourself from energy feeders. You’ll lose your fear about things that previously frightened you, you’ll stop caring about stuff that you used to think was such a big deal. When this happens, a side effect is that people will no longer be able to illicit the same energy draining reactions from you that they previously would have. You’ll find yourself tuning them out, nodding and smiling while feeling nothing, or flat out walking away. Most things don’t matter, it’s all about realizing this and getting to that point naturally. Stalk yourself and closely watch your reactions to things, learn the art of “not doing”, (a Toltec tactic for energy preservation, which is all about not mindlessly reacting to things) and analyze when your ego is being manipulated. When you get in the habit of doing these things, and get to a point where you realize that most things don’t matter, then the rest just falls into place naturally. You won’t have to “try” to not care and get riled up and give off your energy…you just naturally wont! :)