THE BLOG
07/29/2013 03:14 pm ET | Updated Sep 28, 2013

Fatigue as a Symptom of Repression

There have been moments when hanging out with a friend that I grew excessively tired. Out of the blue, suddenly I found it almost impossible to keep my eyes open. I've come to realize that there was more going on then just needing to catch up on my sleep. I've come to understand that when I'm in a situation where I am challenged to be real or more difficult to discern -- when the person I'm with is refraining from expressing his or herself more openly -- a heavy energy pervades the room and sleepiness takes hold of me.

This became glaringly clear when my first boyfriend came to visit me. It had been 25 years since we'd last seen each other. We had only spent about an hour and a half together when I noted how sluggish I felt. Finally, after much interpersonal deliberation and barely able to hold my eyes open, I decided to share what was going on for me. As I told him what I was feeling I grew animated, awake and alive. Enthusiasm returned to my body. What I shared had nothing to do with grudges harbored or past grievances of any kind. So I wasn't "unloading" onto him. It was just my take on what was going on in that moment and possibly within him. I said what I thought he wasn't saying and my guesses as to what brought him to Los Angeles. As I waited for feedback or input on what I shared, it became evident he wasn't about to "go there." Instead his focus reverted to surface chitchat and a bit more of his factual reporting -- married, three kids, where he worked type of stuff. Still, I found relief. At that stage nothing was needed from him in order for me to feel present again. I let go of the energetic burden that was causing me to feel so tired. In a sense, I gave myself permission not to carry his energy or emotions around any longer. Through discussion his energies were returned to him which, released my listlessness.

This happened because I noticed the energy but did own it. I do energy readings for a living so where I may be a tad more sensitive to other people's energy, I realize most of us have these experiences. It's important to develop the ability to discern what messages we're receiving moment by moment and then to muster up the courage to express ourselves. Lethargy (in different types of circumstances) can be viewed as a message.

Often we are blind to the feelings or clues within the body. Culturally we've been trained to ignore the indicators and rationalize them away. Instead we'll get a feeling (in this case fatigue) and then immediately justify or deny its existence through preconceived notions. For example, being tired would most likely equate to: not getting enough sleep, not eating the right foods, not taking enough vitamins, not getting enough exercise or due to boredom.

Now, what if I were to take this indicator and use my mind. In other words, what if I directed my mind to consider new ideas? What if I were to go beyond the automatic thoughts that emerge? This might look something like: I am feeling tired. Was I previously? Is there something I'm not saying? Is there something I am afraid of doing or saying or avoiding? Have I been overlooking something important to me by saying it doesn't matter "that much" or "it's not a big deal"? These are just a few ways to actively think about a common everyday occurrence. Yes, you could simply be tired. But perhaps it's more than that.

What I'm speaking of here is fodder for your brain, a proposal for consideration; there may be unknown reasons throughout your life you've become mired in fatigue or enervated prematurely.

In a different example, I find that if I am tired and go to a spin class, I am often invigorated afterward. Along those same lines, have you ever gone to exercise while carrying something mentally upsetting but after a good sweat wondered what all the fuss was about? Endorphins, right? We've been educated about the body's ability to give us a boost of happiness through the release of these natural substances. Rarely do we discuss the other release that the body goes through, an energetic cleanse. A relief felt within the body from ridding the body of old energies-unexpressed or repressed feelings and thoughts being cleared. Yahoo!

The repressed energies are trickier simply because were not aware of their existence and thus often remain hidden only to be released in bits and pieces, whereas unexpressed energies are often submerged under a host of rationales to avoid any possible consequences from expressing them.

Philip Sheperd, in his fantastic book, New Self New World, speaks of “tired” as a way to avoid exhaustion. I read that to mean avoid confrontation and in this context, confrontation is synonymous with growth and learning. Tired is a means of staying put, safely unexpressed. As in my above example with the long lost beau, I had gone out on a limb to tell him what I was feeling and thinking. He could have easily called me "crazy," I could have felt bad, guilty, etc., but I was willing to risk that in exchange for feeling alive. Sheperd's statement reflects what my therapist many years ago once offered that, "there is no such thing as laziness." Meaning, there is always a reason for one's behavior (I would like to add: and feelings). I would explore this all the more when that behavior seems as benign as lying around on the couch. To be tired is to avoid. To be tired is to not grow, to not think, to not try and maybe to not believe that effort brings forth desired results. There was a local gym whose motto was: Sleep when you're dead. That's a form of advertising manipulation, as it's encouraging you to not take care of yourself in one way in exchange for going to their gym. Yet, there's another angle here that I do value. It makes you realize that being tired could also be an avoidance technique.

To be tired in this context means to not challenge, to give up before one has started. To be tired is code for I prefer not to feel that, I want to stay comfortable in what I know. Just understand, you may be risking your own authentic expression (and what could be more exhausting than holding back being you?) and perhaps it's even a reason to place blame rather than live the life you envision.

So the next time you're feeling tired, question yourself, ask your body what it wants to say. The smallest new thought could reveal deeply hidden truths. Rather than dismiss these new ideas, include them. Start by saying, "okay, and..." The "and" technique is taught in improv comedy trainings. The purpose of it is to keep a story moving forward. They know that if someone meets a fellow improv actor with the "no because" the story itself-can never unfold and that would put an audience to sleep. Through this type of inclusion inquiry you may discover a level of enthusiasm you mistakenly believed only existed with your adolescent self. You can reclaim that youthful, bright spirit that resides within you.

For more by Kimberly Berg, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.