Friday, July 19, 2013

Energy vampires in books: Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling

There are many articles about energy vampires (meaning the human kind, not electrical appliances on standby) to be found online. Some have nothing new or original to add to existing knowledge in either the material itself or the presentation and interpretation: they just repeat the basics; some are written by people who are trying to sell something: they consist of snippets surrounded by advertisements.

Many such articles are superficial, positioned at the level of pop psychology; others are all generalisations with nothing coming from personal experience. Many books are not much better.

Some of this information may be suitable for people who want an introduction to the subject, or to learn how to deal with a difficult colleague at the office or a negative, self-pitying mother who won’t get off the phone, but some of us want something deeper and more substantial, something that takes metaphysical factors and the very worst examples into account.

In this connection, I have found two examples of fictional energy vampires that resonate very strongly with me.
The elves in Terry Pratchett’s book Lords and Ladies remind me of what I have read about glamorous energy vampires in real life:

“They offer you all the power you want, for free. They give power for a while, then less power and more price, then no power and you're paying every day. And what they give has less than no value. And they end up taking everything. What they like to get from us is our fear. What they want from us most of all is our belief. If you call them, they will come.”

“The look in their eyes…you are nothing. You are flawed, you have no value.”

“…they project something… when people look at them, they see beauty. They see something they want to please. They can look just like you want them to look. It's called glamour. You can tell when elves are around: people act strangely, they stop thinking clearly. They read your mind; they hear what you think.”

“You couldn't fight elves, because you were so much more worthless than them. It was right that you should be so worthless. And they were so beautiful and you weren't. Something as useless as you could never win. Humans want them but don't need them. All they can give is gold that melts away in the morning. They make you want what you can't have, and what they give is worth nothing and what they take is everything and all that is left for us is the cold hillside and emptiness and the laughter of the elves.”

“It's all in the mind - without the glamour they are nothing. They have no strength: an elf's strength lies in persuading others that they are weak. Disdain - you would never be anything at all never intelligent, beautiful…”

The effects described above remind me of something I read in a book about energy vampires many years ago: unfortunately I can’t remember either the title or the author. I do remember that it listed various types of vampires and vampire/victim combinations. Some of it was outside my personal experience – mother/daughter combinations for example – but one anecdote from real life really hit home.

I can only remember it vaguely, but it was about a girl who encountered a man in a lift and the unpleasant after effects of this meeting. He was a glamorous energy vampire. She had flu symptoms; she felt worthless; the impression she received was that no matter what she did she could never get into his world, where everyone was rich, beautiful, talented, never grew old or ill… she could never reach that exalted level so she might as well not bother with anything.

The described symptoms were familiar; the interpretation was illuminating and liberating. It is a very long time since I had those feelings. I now realise that they are a red flag, a dead give-away. Beware of anyone - or any group  - who has this effect on people. More investigation is needed into the type of person who has this effect.

The Dementors in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books have some familiar sounding effects too. Remus Lupin said in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

 “For that was the terrible power of the dementors: to force their victim to relive their worst memories of their life, and drown, powerless, in their own despair.”

This could be a description of severe depression, but it does also remind me of some feelings I have had after being in the company of certain people. This includes both individuals who were extreme energy vampires, family members in particular, and groups of people who were associated with a cult-like organisation.

I have included Harry Potter to demonstrate my agreement with the many others who have made the connection between Dementors and depression and publicised it.