Drainers and Fillers: Which One Are You?


    My shoulder is currently frozen like a block of ice. The medical term is “frozen shoulder,” a very common condition for women in their 40’s. Sadly, I twinged my shoulder playing tennis, and now my shoulder has decided to take some much-needed time off. I’m quite certain it’s also related to the constant reaching into the back seat of the car to chuck things at my kids over the years.

    Luckily, I have a very wise physical therapist who gives me hope that one day, my shoulder will thaw and be able to do amazing feats like reach over my head and hook my bra strap on my own.

    In the midst of my current physical limitations, I have been trying to enjoy physical therapy and get what I can out of it. Luckily, my physical therapist, Mason, is a charismatic, kindred spirit and has thrown a few nuggets of wisdom my way. I always enjoy a good nugget, and I thought I’d share with all of you.

    Mason tells me that through his work, he has discovered there are two types of people in the world: Fillers and Drainers. Mind you, as a physical therapist, he has worked on thousands of people with all types of ailments and maladies. He hears their stories, feels their vibe, and tries to work some healing and stretching magic. In other words, he has some life experience and credibility.

    Sensing a good nugget was forming, I asked Mason to tell me more about Fillers and Drainers in his own words. Mason informed me that an interaction with a Filler leaves you walking away with joy and a sense of fulfillment. You feel more alive like you’ve learned something or gained some positive energy.

    Conversely, an interaction with a Drainer leaves you exhausted. You walk away feeling like your energy has been sapped, with a lingering sense that something is not quite right. Drainers make your antennae go up and leave you with a “meh” feeling.

    Mason further specified there is good exhaustion and bad exhaustion. Good exhaustion is what you feel after a hard day’s work or after you’ve completed a fulfilling or challenging task. Bad exhaustion is when you feel the joy sputtering out of you like a car that’s running out of gas. After an interaction with a Drainer, you feel like a good face plant or a nap might be your next course of action.

    Interestingly, Mason the wise PT says that a person’s Filler or Drainer status correlates directly with their ability to heal and their likelihood of success with physical therapy. Time and time again, he sees the Fillers’ physical conditions and mobility improve, while the Drainers don’t make the same progress.

    I find that too, in my own work as an immigration attorney. Inexplicably, clients with positive energy get better results within the immigration bureaucracy. When I have a client come in with a “woe is me” or overly-needy attitude, I mentally wince, because I know their case is inevitably going to hit more stumbling blocks and delays. It literally happens every time.

    Energy matters.

    Mason’s nugget got me wondering, “Am I a Filler or a Drainer?” Of course, we would all rather be Fillers than Drainers, but take a moment and really consider how you are interacting with and approaching all of your roles in the world. As a wife, mother, daughter, or sister, are you a Filler or a Drainer? As an employee or boss, are you adding energy or draining it? When you go to the post office, the grocery store, or the dentist, are you filling cups or draining them?

    This is really important, considering that the energy you put out there determines what comes back and your chances of long-term success, in your relationships and beyond.

    I can honestly say that my husband does not walk away from every interaction with me feeling full of joy and sparkly energy. I have lots of moments when I say something snarky to him or the kids, and I can see the energy draining from them like leaky balloons. There’s nothing sadder than a leaky, wilted balloon.

    Truthfully, I think I have been more of a Drainer than a Filler in my relationships lately, and I’m thankful Mason the PT came along to share his wisdom and shift my thinking a bit. I’m more conscious of my energy (and other people’s) now and trying to take responsibility for what I put out there. It turns out that PT may not only thaw my shoulder but also my (sometimes icy) heart. 

    I leave you with this question: In your everyday life, are you a Drainer or a Filler? 


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