Have you ever wondered why vampires and zombies have become so popular in American culture? I believe it is caused by the huge rise of addictions in America, and by so many parents over-protecting and over-indulging their children. Both of these trends have produced people whose lives resemble vampires and zombies on the inside, because they love in dependent ways.
When children see their parents overly involved with each other, or with a child, these children don’t grow up looking for intimacy and bonding in a life partnership of strong, equally yoked adults. Rather they look for intimate connections where they have seen them at home – in relationships between mutually dependent people.
To me, a psychological vampire is a seductive, lively-looking person who actually needs to steal real liveliness from other people. Such a person is thus a cross between a vamp and a pirate, so to me, what they do is vampiracy. They prey on dependent people who seem like zombies, because they are enthralled with those they love. Vampires are so preoccupied with their own feelings and needs that they neglect their partners and caretakers.
Caretaking people have the opposite problem: they are so preoccupied with the needs and feelings of other people that they neglect their own. When anyone points this out to them, they are likely to tell you they feel that they do not have the power, the right, the desire, or the freedom to love themselves as much as they are loving another person (or group). An awful lot of caretaking people are burning out and becoming zombies, because they don’t take good enough care of themselves as caretakers.
So what happens when adults (who were often spoiled as children) develop some sort of addiction, and then expect to be taken care of by a lifeless zombie? And what happens when zombie caretakers (who may have grown up identifying with a martyr-type parent) over-protect or over-indulge a loved one? Vampiracy happens, that’s what. Both the over-protected, over-indulged vampire and the lifelessly bitten zombie have been rendered ineligible for life partnering with a normal person.
When people try to suck the pain and problems out of another person (or a group of people), they are really sucking the lifeblood out of them. Their healthier loved ones tell them to “get a life,” but they are too over-extended and exhausted to enjoy living life through their own bodies. They can’t really die, because they aren’t really living, except vicariously through those they have bitten, and through their addictions. Addicts bite into their partners and caretakers (their vampire lovers), and then for rest, they crawl back into their addictions, the coffin-like retreats they keep taking from their responsibilities and relationships.
Dependent relationships illustrate an increasingly common condition – people loving in ways that interfere with the personal growth and welfare of their lovers, and with their own. Dependency involves too much loving and too little respect or understanding. It is loving your neighbor instead of yourself, or the opposite, loving yourself at the expense of your neighbor. Either way prevents living by the standard Jesus gave us, loving your neighbor just as you are loving yourself.
For something so prevalent, it’s amazing we haven’t had a name for vampiracy yet. And it’s tragic, because it’s hard to recover from a sick habit when nobody knows how to call you out on it. Well, nobody now except you. You won’t be looking out for fangs, capes and hickeys anymore. By challenging others to love both themselves and others in healthy ways, by disengaging from them when they don’t, and by calling vampiracy what it is, you now have some stakes you might be able to drive through the hearts of their lifeless little dances.
Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.