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Know Your Chi Suckers

October, 2021

Tackling a Recurrent Killjoy

When I learned about Chi Suckers from my fabulous acupuncturist in 2010, the concept was so illuminating that I devoted two successive blogs to this topic. Dang, here we are eleven years later, and chi suckers still have that ability to sap our joy.

You know what else saps my joy? Not getting a blog published in September. (Perfectionism is such a chi sucker!) Before October rolls to a close, I decided to silence the slavedriver within, and share an updated version of the July and August 2010 blogs about Chi Suckers.

Chi is essential to our wellbeing. Pronounced “chee,” the closest English translation of this Chinese word is energy flow, or vitality. If our chi is flowing (instead of being blocked, or stagnant, as you might hear in an acupuncturist’s office), we’re more likely to experience joy, in addition to good health.

What can you do to attend to your chi? I’m not an expert on Chinese medicine but here are a few field notes from my experience with acupuncture:

  • Be aware of the Chi Suckers in your life. What people, places, things, or situations suck the vitality right out of you?

  • You cannot always eliminate Chi Suckers. If you know what they are, you can take proactive steps to modify your exposure and plan for subsequent re-vitalization.

  • Sometimes the slightest alteration in your behavior will get the chi flowing again.

“Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts

filed away just below the conscious level.” ~Joyce Brothers

Without consulting an expert, you may already know where you’ve got blocked chi in your living environment. Piles are a big culprit. Paper, files, clothes to be put away, laundry to be folded, to-do projects or lists, things that don’t really belong anywhere (yet), etc. When you’re able to clear something that has been piling up on you, a nice, spacious feeling often emerges. That’s because your chi has gotten unstuck. That is a state of mind to pursue. I know someone who can’t start preparing a meal until the clutter from the previous one has been cleared. If it is clothes that need to be put away, there may be clothes to give away first, to clear space (and chi) for new stuff.

Change can stir up blocked chi. Try listening to a different kind of music. If you typically read mystery novels, try a biography or poetry. Move old stuff into temporary storage so you can try new things in its place. Eventually, you may be ready to get rid of the older things altogether. Re-arrange the furniture in a room that feels particularly stuffy or flat. Open the windows, get some air circulating, introduce new plants or move old ones around. A fresh coat of paint can really make a difference. Try not to resist change; embrace it instead. Seek and enhance that which gives you energy and minimize that which depletes you.

“When you are through changing, you are through.” ~Bruce Barton

One of my readers, back in 2010, posed the following question: “How do I avoid BEING a Chi Sucker?” If you are worried about being a chi sucker, you probably aren’t one because you have enough self-awareness to ask the question!

We are ALL capable of being Chi Suckers. Sorry for the bad news, folks. Here’s why: at some point(s) in our lives, our energy or needs or in some cases, the lack thereof, will be draining to someone else. Chi Suckers leave people feeling exhausted, guilty, exasperated, depleted, used, abused, uncharacteristically irritable, or even physically ill. Think about the sum of your life thus far: I bet you can think of a time when your behavior had this kind of effect on someone else. Don’t beat yourself up: as I said above, perfectionism is rather chi-sucking.

Is there a checklist of personality traits that capture the profile of a Chi Sucker? Nah, it depends on too many factors. The “P.O.W.” (which stands for Piece of Work) personality comes to mind.

One person’s P.O.W. is another person’s delightful companion, co-worker, friend or relative. One person might find someone who fails to express an opinion about anything utterly annoying. Another might find it pleasantly refreshing. Some people find it difficult to hang out with highly controlling or opinionated folks. Others might enjoy spending time with someone who is decisive or forthright. So even if you are a Chi Sucker, or P.O.W., it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the same impact on everyone. The trick is to spend most of your time with people who don’t feel exhausted or guilty or any of those other things when you are around them.

3 Closing Tips to Avoid Being a Chi Sucker:

1) Be observant about how others are responding to you. If you sense they are responding as if you are a Chi Sucker or P.O.W., ask if this is true. If so, ask what you can do to rectify? You may need to give them some breathing room.

2) Nurture and pamper yourself. The more you take care of you, the less you place responsibility on others to do it for you.

3) Do a self-assessment. Do you monopolize conversations? Do others appear to be tuning you out, nodding off, ignoring you? If this is true, try to shift the focus of attention off you for a while. Be more vigilant about this in interactions.

Any tips you’d like to add? I’m eager to see them if you post a comment.

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Prompts For Joy

Click here for one word bound to stir up stagnant chi.

Click here for an old classic interpreted by brilliant technology.

Big thanks to Sue Murray and Peggy Landsman for sending me these links!

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above

Top: This week’s “atmospheric river” inadvertently created some art. Palo Alto, CA. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.

Below: A sample page from Chapter 14 in my memoir, Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself).



For those who have expressed an interest in my collages, you can follow me on Instagram.


Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


The Clark household, where Martha was nicknamed Happy, was utterly devoid of religion, yet for Martha it was a place of magic and divinity. A divinity to be found in the resilience of family members, the joy of household pets, and the creative juices that produced her father’s many paintings. In these, she finds a faith unencumbered by ritual and churchbound conceits. And this may be the purest faith of all.

James Hanna, Author, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, The Siege, Call Me Pomeroy and more.

Above, a sample page from Chapter 14 of Assembling a Life. This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.

For additional book reviews, click here. To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


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