Energy vampires & their Dracula-like stranglehold

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Energy vampires & their Dracula-like stranglehold
You see the woman comforting the other one? Well, that used to be me. and is still me.

Published: Thu 17 Jan 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Jan 2019, 1:00 AM

Since I consider myself a contextual anachronism and inhabit my own time zone, till recently, I had no idea what the (new-fangled?) term 'energy vampire' means. It's easy enough to figure out, though: someone (or maybe something, like a not-so-magnificent obsession) that sucks away your time and, by extension, life-giving energy - much like how the Transylvanian count sucked blood and life out of countless hapless victims.
Maybe one reason why I empathised with the term so much - and wondered why on earth I hadn't looked it up earlier - was because I immediately realised I have a lot of energy vampires in my life. Exhausting conversations with them - that start off being open-ended and then stretch on to becoming horribly futile - have me scrambling for that bottle of multi-vitamin pills.
Why do you give people so much time, I was asked recently.
Because I want to be empathetic, I said. Empathy is a great virtue, I believe. Being able to be non-judgemental, yet keen, and giving the other person an impression that can we just, well, talk. anything to make the load lighter, make them feel more wanted, make them believe I'm a listener, not a hearer. basically a sounding board, not an echo chamber.
Who knows, perhaps (at times) I actually manage to administer a pre-emptive strike before some form of dreaded depression sinks in?
It all started forming into a wisp, and then a thundercloud, with this woman I know vaguely, who, I was told, looked up to me as a mentor and guiding light; she sought life - and professional - advice from me once in a while. You know stuff like relationships not working out, promotions not happening, the world at large being non-compromising, unyielding about her concerns.
Was happy to help.
I became an agony aunt of sorts. And then, the floodgates opened. I was spending at least two to three hours hearing out her rants - and trying to listen and then give constructive feedback.
But nothing appeared to change. Ideological differences in her romantic liaisons kept rubbing off all the soothing balm I was trying to apply. Her bosses were never seeing her point of view. Her family members were discovering new - and novel - ways of torturing her.
"Maybe something's wrong with her," someone suggested.
Maybe there was, but I was already a victim. Sometime later, she moved cities, and conversations moved to WhatsApp. I'd wake up to find a litany of complaints piled up. If I didn't reply immediately, she'd hound me. Her tone would become sulky: "You're not listening to me any more!"
To make matters worse, there were more of her ilk coming into my life - to tell me about their problems. One of them pinged while I was at a work meeting saying she needed to vent something out of her system rightaway, so did I have five minutes? I don't, I messaged back, am in the middle of a meeting. Can you take some time out for me please, she pleaded. "It's kind of urgent." There was an incoming call five seconds later.
I informed all assembled (at the meeting), I've got to take this call - "It's from the bank, there's some issue with my credit card, apparently", and did an eye roll for good measure as I stepped out of the room.
She told me I needed to unfriend her ex-boyfriend from Facebook. "Ex? When did he become ex?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about!"
"Are you a psycho magnet?" yet another friend asked when I told him about this line of people in my life who need constant validation by making me believe they are always teetering on The Edge.
"How do I know they will not be pushed over if I don't listen to them?" I countered, more frazzled than ever.
"Hey," he said gently, "it's not about you. It's about them. They have a problem - they need to deal with it. you don't need to feel responsible."
I decided to do a trial run. The opportunity presented itself when I was speaking with a family member. He went on and on about how everything is wrong with his life: domestic helps were shirking work, the Indian government was shortchanging his savings, the weather wasn't cold enough, etc.

"Let me tell you all what's wrong with my life," I interrupted. "My bathroom ceiling was leaking yesterday, so the maintenance guys came in the morning - and I couldn't do my workouts, and now I'm feeling really bloated."

"Can you call me later?" he cut in swiftly. "I think there's someone at the front door."


Sushmita Bose

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