Here’s an interesting case of viral energy. It is commonly talked about among dentists that their profession is linked to abnormally high suicide rates. According to a Wayne State University study conducted by Steven Stack in 1995 and published in 2010, being a dentist increased one’s risk of suicide by a whopping 564 percent. Numerous studies have attempted to figure out the reason why. Is it occupational stress? Air Traffic Controllers have high rates of depression and suicide and it can certainly be linked to stress and the massive responsibility of so many people’s lives in their hands; however life and limb are not often at stake in the dentist’s chair. Is it the burden of financially supporting their families? Farmers also have higher than normal suicide rates and this is very frequently linked to the precarious nature of their business, which is dependent on weather conditions and ever-changing trends in consumer appetites and food marketing; dentists in comparison have fairly stable client bases, and market insecurity is not a common factor. So what is it that causes dentists to be so vulnerable for depression and suicide? There is one answer that makes sense. It’s viral energy.
Dentists are in a job vocation where nobody wants to see them. Most all of their patients would rather be anywhere else. Patients associate going to the dentist, and the dentist themselves, with discomfort, pain, and fear. “I hate the dentist,” is a phrase that you’ve probably uttered, most of us have. So guess what happens with all of the negative energy produced from words and fear? It goes viral and it’s palpable to the dentist. They know that they are in a sense hated and feared; like a dental water jet, they are blasted and soaked with it everyday.
Energy affects you and you affect energy. You’ve said it before, “I could cut the tension in the room with a knife.” “His energy is contagious.” “Her laughter is infectious.” You know that you get good vibes or bad when you walk into a room. The nature of that energy is that it’s catchy. For better or worse, it’s contagious and can be picked up when you’re tuned in or open or just plain lingering in it. Chronic exposure to light energy results in the good stuff in your life. Chronic exposure to dark energy results in what you perceive as bad.
Try this visual, it will help you get clear about how viral energy works. Think of viral energy as a marinade. Then think of yourself as a piece of meat (don’t get too excited, it’s a metaphor), and you’re soaking inside the marinade. In your marinade you have some ingredients that are hot, flavorful, savory, and salty.
To deconstruct our metaphor, the marinade is the energy of the people who you spend time with, the work that you do, and what you are exposed to all around you. Whatever’s in there—that’s what you’re soaking up. Remember, you have a permeable energy field, so you take on all that you are marinating in. Maybe you have a loving partner, a loyal dog, a stressful work environment, some positive friends and others quite negative, clutter in your closets, violence on the TV, a peaceful garden to repose, a ornery neighbor, a morning traffic jam, and a good audio book to get you through. It’s a spicy sauce.
I wanted an expert’s opinion on the subject of viral energy in social interaction and our environments, and how it can affect anyone like you and me, and so I asked Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., about this phenomenon; he’s Chair of the Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, and Editor of the Psychological Bulletin. He said, “It’s really an interesting concept, these infectious agents that you’re calling them. Maybe you’re a person who doesn’t have enough ‘Teflon’ (emotional armor), so things stick to you. Turn off media and social media at a certain point. I think social media can make it hard to have ‘Teflon’ these days because sometimes you can be constantly reminded of what is negative. I think there’s something to what you’re suggesting, it’s like you get this virus, you get this infectious agent.”
Viral energy comes in both negative and positive and a full spectrum in between. What do you think the viral energy of a traffic jam is? Well, it’s not good. Tension, stress, running late, held up, angry people, idling motors, beeping horns—those are the energies in a traffic jam. How about the energy of a walk in the woods? Birds chirping, fresh air, harmony and balance, soft earth under foot, adventure—it’s a very positive viral energy mixture.
If you were about to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, I bet you would want to get your energy right in the hours and minutes before this milestone, once-in-a-lifetime moment. You might be a person who wants all of your best friends and family around you that morning before the big game, pumping you up with encouragement and love. Or you might want to be still and focused, practicing meditation and swimming in the gentle vibration of your go-to classical music to get you centered. Either way, chances are you would avoid on that day dealing with a person with whom you have a tumultuous relationship history, or the frantic friend who gets you nervous and agitated, surely you wouldn’t expose yourself by reading hate on social media, and you would likely arrive early as not to get stuck in a traffic jam or bring on the stress of running late. You would strike a balance between filtering out the energetic noise, and bringing in the good stuff that fills you up.
But, you see, your life and whatever you’re trying to accomplish in earnest is that important, everyday. It is mission critical that you watch your viral energy. To achieve what you’re trying to achieve—your personal mission or simply happiness itself—each and every day should be treated like the Super Bowl of your dreams. At least you need to try, because we both know that you let in a lot of negative viral energy, and you don’t have to. You can be minding of what the heck you’re marinating in.
You are a superstar. You are the lead character, the protagonist of your own life. Who else could possibly lead or be in-charge of your life? No one. You already know that your work is worth your effort. You believe that others are worth your effort. I’m here to tell you that you are so worth your effort. So, please, mind what you’re marinating in.