Identifying short – term energy-relieving behaviors or Sterbs
Many people in our society use what is call STERBs or “Short term energy relieving behaviors” in an attempt to cover the feelings caused by unresolved emotions from grief. Some examples of Sterbs are alcohol, food, shopping, and exercise.
Being able to identify short term energy relievers is an important part of understanding how we replace grief. Grief is the change in any normal pattern and there are approximately 40 different types of specific losses. Death only being one of them. In this current season of upheaval our former normal patterns are completely gone with things like zoom fatigue, home schooling, inequities, and loneliness filling some of the voids. It is understandable that we are grieving. These losses produce an incredible amount of emotional energy that can be exhausting. And largely, we have been socialized to deal with sad, painful, and negative emotions incorrectly, leaving us to store this energy within our bodies and minds.
As a kid have you ever hurt yourself and been offered a cookie. You might have learned that feelings can be fixed with food. But really when the cookie is eaten the feelings are different, not better, and for a moment your distracted from the incident that created a sad emotional response. This distraction tactic has not created a completion of emotional pain caused by the event. The event and the feelings attached to it are now buried in your belly with a distraction cookie and are reinforced to not be revisited. “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” “Be strong.” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” I have a stomach-ache thinking about it.
Short-term relief offered through consumption is an illusion for long term relief from pain caused by the loss. The “go to” western human coping mechanism for loss becomes to cover up, hide, or bury feelings with distractions. The consuming of these distractions becomes the habitual response to the emotional energy, rather than discovering the real source of the energy or complete the relationship affected by our loss.
Food and alcohol are obvious and typical short-term energy relieving behaviors. Yet, there are many, many other behaviors that have the same life-limiting and damaging consequences. This partial list if done for the wrong reason, can have a negative impact on grieving people:
· Fantasy (movies, TV, books, gaming, social media)
· Shopping (humorously called retail therapy)
Most of these actions are not harmful in and of themselves. They become harmful when you engage in them for the wrong reason. In fact, short-term energy relievers can have the opposite effect: the shopping binge followed by remorse over the money spent. This can be further distraction from the real and original emotional event or loss.
While many short-term energy relievers are apparent, some are not. I can say I have worked with people who have come year after year to grief support groups or visit the grave site on an extremely regular basis years following a death looking for long term relief. The problem with these actions is it does not lead to a completion with the loss.
Feel free to connect with me for a 15 minute discussion to discover if you would like an opportunity to work with the Grief Recovery Method on how certain actions of your own maybe indirect ways of dealing with the feelings caused by loss.
I will be here when you are ready.