Thursday, April 23, 2009

BlissQuest: What Does Gossip Do to Our Energy?

Today's topic was submitted by a reader through Skribit*: How does gossiping affect our energy? How do we go about not gossiping?

*Remember: You can submit a question or topic submission through the Skribit widget to the right. Or you can vote on topics already suggested. Go ahead...I dare you. (That daring thing seems to work for a lot of you!)

This is a sensitive topic, especially, I think, for women, who are often made to feel that any talking they do at all is gossiping.

Deborah Tannen, in the classic sociolinguistic work You Just Don't Understand, points out some interesting male and female differences in terms of bonding and communication. (I don't own the book anymore so I cannot directly quote, but I highly recommend this work. It came out a year before Men are From Mars...)

Men bond and communicate predominately through actions, through doing. They play football together. They build something. (Remember, there are always exceptions to all "rules;" we are just looking at the "average.")

If you think about where we come from, this makes sense. Men were the hunters. They couldn't sit around chatting while they waited for their prey!

Women bond and communicate predominately, of course, through shared storytelling.

This, too, makes sense. Women were back at the village, taking care of the children (and eventually becoming the first farmers). Chatting made the work more pleasant.

Fast forward to the present: Men and women define the concept of gossiping totally differently. As said before, many women are made to feel that any talking they do at all that is not "productive" is "gossip."

Not so.

Gossip is all about intent. Gossip is malicious and destructive and mean. It is meant to build you up while bringing someone else down.

Gossip is not simply the sharing of stories or information.

For example, you and a friend may have a mutual friend whom you both know is having a hard time. Discussing this in a way that is about displaying compassion is not gossip.

This is a sensitive issue to me as a writer. Everything I do could be construed as gossip!

But I am inquisitive about human nature. I am always trying to understand human motivation. So I look for hints to the larger story. I am always gathering for a deeper and broader understanding of how it is we work on the emotional and spiritual level. This is the stuff of my writing -- both fiction and otherwise.

The lesson here, then, is to always be checking in with your own intentions.

I was just watching a Dalai Lama lecture about nonviolence, and he points out something very important: Nonviolence is all about intention.

Someone's actions, for example, from the outside might look completely peaceful, but if you could see inside, you would see that they were doing whatever they were doing for manipulative reasons, to get something for themselves, etc. This is violence because they have ill intentions toward the other person. Perhaps they want control of the relationship. You get the idea.

This takes the practice of nonviolence to a more intense level, doesn't it? (Emphasis on "Practice.")

It means being completely aware of ourselves and our motivations when sharing information with other people.

This is a lifelong practice!

But it's worth working on and not just for the person about whom you may be gossiping. Mostly, this is about you. Whatever you are putting out into the world is what you will get.

Also, since we are all One (according to just about every major spiritual tradition on the planet!), you are hurting yourself whenever you hurt anyone else in any way.

From another perspective, Kundalini theory would say that gossip is about an imbalance of the throat chakra.

Perhaps you are gossiping because you are having a hard time expressing your own truth? Perhaps there is something you are unwilling to share about yourself and so take out your frustrations on others? Or maybe there is some way you are stifling your own creativity?

Or you are around a negative person and you are allowing yourself to get caught up in their negative energy -- which would indicate the need for some serious boundary work!

Think about these things when you feel like you are speaking in a way that lacks integrity.

Also, do not confuse gossiping with talking about difficult matters. Having a balanced throat chakra means you are able to confront the hard stuff, too. Not everything in life is pretty and rosey, and when we act like it is or expect it to be, again, we lack honesty.

Singing, chanting, and humming are great ways to balance this chakra.

If you leave an interaction and have a sour taste in your mouth, this is a red flag. Spend some time writing in your journal. Think about how and why it happened. And then move on. You'll do better next time!

Have you ever been affected negatively by someone else's or your own gossip? How did it feel? How did you handle it after the fact?


Emma said...

I'm glad someone suggested this topic and to read your thoughts on it! It's so timely for me, because this is an exact issue I've been working on the past couple weeks.

I really identified the ways that I am participating in gossip at work and how awful it makes me feel. It leaves me feeling drained, anxious, and a little ill. The problem is that at least 90% of what is discussed in my workplace is malicious gossip. It is really hard to avoid!

But what's the difference between discussing the people who are parts of our own lives and gossiping? One of the conclusions I came to, just like you did, was that intent means a lot. So, when I am talking to my partner about my day, that can feel fine. But sometimes it feels mean and I realize I am criticizing someone else to make myself feel better or something similar. I call that gossip and I am working on cutting it out. My partner and I made an agreement that if I find myself feeling those warning signs, I'll just say "Oops, I think this is gossip" and we will move to other topics. Just being very mindful of it has helped immensely so far.

I have had a major lesson in the affects of gossip during all this. Someone I work with (A) said something really ridiculous and racist. It was so stupid that there was a humorous element to it. I repeated it to another coworker (B) and we spent some time being horrified together. I justified this in my mind because what coworker A had said was WRONG and therefore it was OK for me to talk about it behind her back.

This is a justification I realized I used a lot and it just does not hold water.

Anyway, so I turned it into gossip. Coworker B later told me she'd repeated it to someone else. That's when I realized that I'd started a chain reaction and I felt uneasy.

Christine, this thing has become a raging forest fire. It has become an in-joke amongst people at locations across the country (seriously), including executives of the company.

Nobody connects it to me, but if I had not told it to coworker B...

I'm not beating myself up about it, but wow - this has been such a illustration of one of the dangers of gossip. If you repeat it, why wouldn't the next person repeat it and so on to infinity...

I wanted to talk about one other thing which is how to break the gossip cycle with people who don't think it's damaging to gossip. This is something I am still mulling, but I am going to stop this comment because it's just TOO BIG!! =D

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. I had never before thought about gossiping vs. discussing, and how my intention makes such a difference.

I literally closed my eyes when I read this part, because you nailed some of my issues:

Perhaps you are gossiping because you are having a hard time expressing your own truth? Perhaps there is something you are unwilling to share about yourself and so take out your frustrations on others?

As I've been thinking about this topic lately, I've been using these issues to understand myself better, and what I've learned is that I do hold back on expressing myself. I am unwilling to share, and I do project that onto other people. So this could relate to your other post about transforming vice into virtue!

Also, you mentioned kundalini theory, which really interests me. Do you have any book recommendations for exploring this?

Thanks so much for this post, and for the insight into working with such a sticky area.

- Jessica

Kavindra said...

Great post!

I have been away from this place for 6 years now, but I had a job where we all were horrible about backstabbing and gossip. Me included, yes. It created a terrible energy, and no-one trusted anyone else, with good reason, because you know that if everyone is talking about everyone else, they are certainly talking about you too ...

What it did to me personally, eventually, was made me mute. I felt like I couldn't talk at all after years there, literally. It became ridiculous because some days all I would say all day was good morning and good bye.

When I left I took singing lessons, and spent alot of time chanting instead of sitting meditation. It took a great long time to find my voice again. So to me this post is right on. What a terrible time in my life that was, created by my own foolish choices in speech!

(Geez even after 6 years this gets me going, on and on I can rave about this!)

Raine-Lee said...

Great post! I was wondering though, would this also apply to reading and/or talking about celebrity gossip? Is it still bad if you're talking or reading about someone you don't even know and they've chosen to live a very public life?

I'm just wondering because I find I can refrain from gossiping about people I actually know but I do sometimes indulge in celebrity gossip. Is there a difference or is all the same?

blisschick said...

Emma, Wow. I feel your pain...this was a very difficult lesson, I'm sure. :( But because you are such a loving and kind little person ("little person" being a term of endearment in our house!), you took the time to figure it out. You are such an awesome role model! :)

Jessica, Thanks to your question about books, I think I'll just make a widget with some of my favorite Kundalini stuff for people who are just starting out. So watch for that! :)

Kavindra, Singing lessons! Awesome! How exciting to have someone who actually used a technique recommended by Kundalini and to know that it works. I know that chanting really opens my heart center and increases my compassion. Which would help with these issues. :)

Raine-Lee, GREAT question about celebrities. Yes, they have chosen to be in the spotlight. BUT we have always had actors; the difference now is the malicious journalism that makes money off of them. So I think the whole intent thing still applies. Why feed that machine? First, it is still mean to US because we are participating in something destructive. Second, we are buying into the illusion of them being different from us. Which ends up adding to all sorts of self-judgment about our lives versus theirs, etc.

I hope that helps.

blisschick said...

Oh, and another thing, talking about celebrities at all...I mean, don't we have our OWN lives that are interesting? And if we are finding THEIR lives that much more interesting, don't we need to take a long hard look at how we are spending our precious time in this manifestation?

Anonymous said...

That would be amazing! Thanks so much Christine.

I am definitely falling in love with kundalini.


- Jessica

Gypsy said...

Beautiful topic! I have been on both ends, and as I have gotten older, I have become much more self-aware about the *type* of conversations I will engage in, who I befriend, etc. As soon as I notice or *feel* that there is any type of hurtful gossip, I will walk away, or if I can not for whatever reason. I try to filter out anything I do not want to hear, if that makes sense

Raine-Lee said...

Thanks for answering my question Christine. It does indeed make sense and I'll definitely have to watch myself when it comes to celebrity gossip. Also, I think our lives in many ways can be a lot more interesting. Just watch one of the many reality shows out there and you'll end up asking yourself why exactly are these people on TV? Actually, don't watch, it's not worth it! LOL!

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

A great post. Gossip is damaging, destructive. If I encounter someone who wants to share gossip about someone else, I tell them I don't wanna hear it. Those who gossip typical steal energy.

Tess said...

What a good topic. Yes like others I've been involved in my share of malicious gossip. It's as if a kind of mob mentality overtakes.
I've only experienced this at work (and school, if I stretch my memory), and I wonder if there's something about being institutionalised that encourages gossip. Maybe it's a reaction to lack of power to pull together with the 'popular kids' by joining their gossip.

Anonymous said...

Would you be okay if the person you re talking about overheard you? That is my rule of thumb.