Life seems to be a lot less about managing time, and resources, and a lot more about managing energy. Responsibilities, and obligations, and passions and social interactions, these things all require energy. There are people that I find drain this valuable resource, and people that fill me right back up. In some interactions, energy comes or goes like a trickle from a stream, and in others it might be taken or gifted in large, potentially overwhelming amounts. Which way is to better to give, and to receive? Which way is more apparent from one person to another? The nerd in me will talk about these two doses of energy in computer game terms, two types of healing spells from Wow, or World of Warcraft. You don’t need to know anything about this game other than the metaphor: healers cast spells with mana to restore other players life, and keep them from crumping. A “Flash of Light” is a quick, tiny heal, and a “Holy Light” is a slower, but more powerful heal. The first is more of an economy heal, it uses a lot less mana, and delivers in much smaller doses. Both are important in the game, and for an interesting metaphor about energy expenditure in life.

Holy Light I can look back on my life experience, and see times when I have been given energy in large amounts, and I think that this drastic a change can produce a dangerous high, that as soon as the source is removed, leads to a greater fall. So in the examples I am thinking of, it seems that blasting someone with Holy Light for an extended period of time would be exhausting to the giver and the receiver. I think that people have a threshold for receiving energy, just like many things, and the benefits of breaking the threshold are huge, but once you break it, the affects of additional energy are marginal. And the threshold holds for giving as well. So possibly the most fulfilling life experience comes from bouncing back and forth across this threshold, as opposed to remaining constant above and below it. it isn’t the level that is very important, but rather the change in these levels.

When these gifts come as a rare surprise, it can extremely energize and impress the receiver to make the giver feel even better than had he/she tried to maintain in long term. In terms of relationships, if you think about the balance between giving and taking, this is why the tactic of being an endless well of giving isn’t very good for either side. It will ultimately drain you, and potentially push the other person away, either due to being overwhelmed by the giving and feeling guilty about not reciprocating in an equal manner, or adapting to the unmaintainably high level and being disappointed when it drops.

Like a Holy Light healing spell in WoW, the person receiving gets a lot more in that moment, but it takes a lot more mana, or energy, for the person giving it. In the long run, it hypothetically is a lot harder to maintain this level of giving€¦ it drains the giver of energy. And this is why we have a tiny, efficient way of giving as well.

Flash of Light: Giving marginally over time, to bounce into positive from negative territory, seems to be an efficient strategy for giver and receiver. The giver isn’t drained of energy, and the receiver is maintained without being overstimulated or overly energized. When I give and receive little amounts of energy from other people during the day, largely without being aware of it, i find these days very positive and fulfilling. Combine a balance of this life energy interaction with the right perspective, and the concept that good and bad days just “happen” and are out of our control is completely eliminated.

It is also important to think about how people might react differently to similar amounts of energy. Someone that is used to receiving in large quantities might not get as much out of your act of kindness than someone who is not. People might grow up with different dynamics to expect receiving a certain amount of energy and time from other people, or not expect it. Either extreme seems dangerous€¦ the people that expect it might be constantly disappointed in others, leading to a dynamic of one person exhausting him or herself trying to please the other, or the expectee being given up on by other people because he/she is impossible to please. People that expect not receiving a lot of energy might learn to exist in a hyper-self-sufficient or solitary state, and learn that needing other people could be dangerous, and be overwhelmed when another person invests in them. We like to receive something called self-verification, or feedback that the way we look at ourselves is also the way that other people see us. So one person sending the message to another that “yes, I value you, you are important,” when the second person doesn’t see him or herself as a person that is worthy of or needing value and attention, is going to lead to a turbulent relationship. On the other side of the pancake, a person whose identity is built up around greatness and being constantly pat on the back is going to feel cognitive dissonance when this constant reassurance does not come from another person, is stopped, questioned, or challenged. The bottom line is that if you don’t interact and treat me in the way that supports how I think about myself, that’s really scary.

So relationships of all types are intricate, and complicated, and too often opaque. Sharing what and more importantly HOW you think, I strongly believe, is the cement that holds us together. If I can try to understand how you look at the world, I might be able to place myself in your shoes, understand your thoughts and behavior more readily, and treat you in the best way I know how, given this insight.

What happens is a lot less important than how I choose to perceive what happens. Understanding myself to know how I might perceive certain interactions and events can let me set up my life in a way that leads me to have interactions, and a schedule doing things for myself and others that has a lot higher probability of turning into a “good” day. Other people rock my world, and I see myself as going from extremes of giving, possibly looking to receive, and then withdrawing when I feel disappointed. So here I am, briefly writing, but mostly thinking about the best ways to connect and relate to others while maintaining my own energy.

The answer then, as with many things, isn’t one or the other, black and white. We give huge spurts of energy to people that we care about when levels might be dangerously low, and then more of a trickle over time to maintain our own reserves and continue telling the other person that we care about his or her wellbeing. This post is largely about quantity and quality. An interesting question comes up about distribution – how many people we choose to invest in, and whether that number has an affect on our ability to give trickles or spurts, or potentially spread ourselves too thin, like peanut butter :) But I guess that depends on your preferred ratio of PB to jelly!!!

and these are hard questions, and in a discussion of energy I find my mind turning into a nice blue goo. And saying that I have an exam in 20 minutes, I better preserve whatever non-goo is left, and then go for a nice, long run and blast my brain with music, because not thinking is just as important.