Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Mandi, the (emotional) vampire slayer

If only spotting an emotional vampire was so simple
Vampires are real, and they live among us.

I’m not talking about the coffin-sleeping, garlic-hating, reflection-free types who float through the movies on bat wings and an oh-so-stylish tux and cape combo.

Oh no, they’re the easy ones - easy to dispatch with a sharpened stick, a cupful of water genuflected and mumbled over by the local priest and the cleansing fire of daybreak.

I’m talking about the ones who can suck all the energy, joy and equilibrium out of you. The ones who are impervious to the cleansing rays of the sun, unaffected by even the stinkiest of tzatzikis, just waiting to seek and destroy your positive vibe. 

They're the ones who view your cheery “Good morning!” delivered with a genuine smile as a challenge to their natural supernatural powers. The ones who can shatter the serenity of the Dalai Lama in the space of snapped response and a killjoy comment. 

They’re the ones who turn joyful occasions like weddings and birthdays into battlefields or chase away the respectful melancholy of a funeral or memorial of a dearly-beloved into an unsightly mess of sniping and competitive shuffling for who was closest to the departed (usually with an eye on what’s left under their bed, in the kitchen drawer or written in the will).

But fear not! We CAN fight back. We just need to know how. And to help you keep your inner idealist, annoyingly upbeat Pollyanna or happy place alive and intact, we present our easy-to-follow guide on how to spot the emotional vampires in your life and how to send ‘em back where they came from.

First, you need to know how to spot them, preferably before they bare their teeth and start gnawing away at your happy vibe. So, look out for:

No.1) Addiction to arguments:
Friction and hurt feelings are their lifeblood, so they do everything in their power to stir up trouble. They’re shit-stirrers, gossip-mongers, fast-to-judge puritans, pedantic layers-down of the law – anything that can worm its way through the chinks in your emotional armour to prick your psyche enough to spread an itch of irritability over your contentment. They have the talent to provoke a screaming row between a loved-up couple over something as simple as the right solution in a crossword or someone else’s favourite ice-cream. Learn to recognise their attempts and resist them in any way you know – even if it means falling into a paroxysm of silliness, your best Aretha Franklin impersonation or a full-faced smooch with your partner, right in their face.

No.2) A love of background noise:
I’m not talking about the sound of laughter, children playing or Motown's finest. I’m talking about the constant drone of the TV turned up to full volume but not listened to by anyone, the constant moan of muttered comments from the corner or the need to pass loud comment on everything. Companionable silence is an anathema to them – it saps their powers and they’ll do anything to break it.

No.3) An absence of humour:
This one is crucial. Humour is a foreign country to them, and the healing powers of laughter is like a bathful of holy water flung int heir face. All one-liners are greeted with a determination to take offence, argue or slap down. Silly voices and surrealism is dismissed as childish. They know that laughter is the antidote for the woes and worries of the world, so they’ll do everything they can to nip it in the bud and – if possible – kill it stone dead.  Do not, under any circumstances, let them. Respond to their attempts to kill your happy buzz with more barbs of funny – a particularly well-aim sharp dig at their pomposity can be enough to disable an emotional vampire at fifty paces.

No.4) Refusal to see no shades of grey:
Their world view is strictly black-and-white, them-and-us, if-you-ain’t-with-us-you’re-agin-us. Anything that does not reflect their own view of themselves is wrong. Tolerance is weakness for them, diversity a disease and anyone who tries to introduce the other side of the coin is like a virgin bride exposing her lily-white throat to Bela Lugosi and screaming “Come and get me, big boy!”

No.5) A self-proclaimed state of eternal victimhood:
News of anyone’s misfortune is greeting with glee, rapidly followed by a long list of their own woes, which of course trump those of the victim and tell them to snap out of their clinical depression, or the fact they don’t have functioning legs. Their idea of compassion and sensitivity is telling you how much worse they have it. Mention that migraine that has been hammering your left temple from the inside for the past 48 hours and you’ll be treating to a diatribe of headaches they have known and loved, which will reduce you to a whimpering, quivering, wordless heap of jelly unable to form the words “PLEASE make it stop”. Better to say nothing and retire quietly to a darkened room.

It’s not possible to avoid or eliminate emotional vampires completely, but we can refuse permission to let them suck us dry of our feel-good:

·         Get a pet. In the worse-case, a startled cat thrown in the face of an emotional vampire can be a wonderful way to neutralise a full-on assault (an angry duck is even better).

·         Refuse to engage. They'll do everything in their power to drag you into their disputes. Don’t. Just walk away.

·         Crack a joke. Laughter is an enema for the soul. It boosts your endorphins (or “them dolphins” as my batty flowerpot hat-wearing ex-neighbour in Brighton used to say), increases your oxygen intake and increases your resistance to their daggers of darkness.

·         Do something! Get up from your chair and go for a walk, take a swim, hop on your bike, grab your camera, start wielding a paintbrush, dance, turn a somersault, learn to ride a monocycle….   anything but stand there like a sitting duck. A moving target is harder for them to hit with their negative vibes.

·         Eat chocolate. It won’t banish the vampires, but it sure as hell will make you feel better.  

Happy hunting, and let me know how you fare.

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