Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Your Emotional Energy – Drained Or Used Well?

Your Emotional Energy – Drained Or Used Well?

A lot of people are crazy, cruel and negative. They got a little too much time on their hands to discuss everybody else. I have a limited amount of energy to blow in a day. I’d rather read something that I like or watch a program I enjoy or ride my damn motorcycle or throw back a couple of shots of tequila with my friends.

~Queen Latifah


I had a Skype session recently with a patient now in law school outside New York. She said that one of the most valuable things she learned in our work together, was what I called the “Energy Pie.” It’s one of my favorite metaphors, and I use it frequently when I hear patients talk about slices of pie that don’t serve them well.

Emotional energy is finite. You might look at a three-year-old and disagree, but even they eventually collapse. As adults our pie seems to shrink. We have less and less total energy as we age. Yeah, there are some people who seem to have boundless energy. Maybe they carry a spare battery. For most of us, though, energy begins to dwindle, and we need to assess exactly where it’s going, and whether we could make better use of it by reassigning the size of the slices, or possibly whether they even need to be there at all.

The point is, that given that emotional energy is not infinite, we get to (in fact, have to) choose how we divide it up and where we spend it. How big a slice of your emotional energy is spent on work? On your relationship? On sleep? (Probably not enough…) How much of it is eaten up obsessing on life’s inevitable major and minor irritations? Or obsessing endlessly on what you should have said to that jerk. How much of it do you have left over to spend on the things in life that give you pleasure, are fun or relaxing? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s the smallest slice in the whole pie.

Imagine if you could free up some of the energy that is spent uselessly, unproductively, what you could use it for! Pure enjoyment, in whatever form that takes for you. Seeing a movie (on the big screen!) with someone. Getting in contact with the former friend you saw at a class reunion and said “we’ll have get together sometime.” Get together! Signing up for that class in unusual art making you heard about. Finally learning Excel, like you keep saying you want to but don’t have the time or energy for. Or getting to that closet you’ve been meaning to clean out for months or years and donating things you no longer wear or use.

You’re in charge of your life. No one sliced up that pie for you. Another way to think of it is as your autobiography. The first few chapters, your life history up to this moment, are already written, and can’t be changed, but the present and the future are, well, an open book. The pages are blank, which means you can write a new chapter on a new page anytime you want.

If you ever took physics in school, you learned about this in scientific terms. If you didn’t, here it is, stated simply and understandably: The first law of thermodynanmics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. What that means is another way of saying what I started with. We have a finite amount of energy, and can’t change the overall size of the pie. But we can change how we use it, and what we use it for.

So think about how you spend your energy. How big a slice of your pie are you going to eat up on what gets in your way of getting the life you want? Maybe you want to sharpen the knife and cut some cleaner, smaller slices, reducing the amount of emotional energy you spend on things that aren’t benefiting you, and freeing it up to spend on things that do.

To be a good parent, you need to take care of yourself so that you
can have the physical and emotional energy to take care of your family.
~Michelle Obama

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