The phone conversation I had with my aunts on my last visit to my parents, made me wonder about how on earth they can carry on, repeating the same words -just like the Tolstoy character mentioned in my previous post- year after year, and not feel bored to death of it. You must be pretty "switched off" to be able to live like that. I remember that when I came off the phone after talking to one of them, I thought: "Wow, she's just like a zombie." A "walking dead" going through life as if through a set of pointless motions, doing the same things over and over, saying the same things over and over... and I'm not saying that having a routine is a bad thing, but that they way these people approach life is completely devoid of meaning or/and connection. People like that make me feel just like Tolstoy describes the "aunt's victims" felt: "her victims made their escape with a sense of relief at having performed a tiresome duty, and took care not to go near her again for the rest of the evening."
It makes one want to run away from them.
When I was a teenager, I watched a horror-comedy film about a vampire hunter professor set in the 19th Century. I don't remember much about the story, but there's one scene that is etched in my mind like a photography still. In this scene, the professor, his attendant and the tavern keeper's daughter are dancing in ball at the castle. It's one of those balls where people go around the room in rows. In one of the walls of this ballroom there's a huge mirror. When the three characters find themselves in front of the mirror they realise they can only see their own reflection, which means everybody else around them is a vampire. I remember the sheer horror of thinking: "Oh no! they are ALL dead" and that feeling, is very much the feeling that I got after speaking to my aunts. Like I was talking to a "figure" but there was no life inside it.
The vampire analogy is very fitting, because you always feel drained of energy after spending time with these types. Since they have no "life" in themselves, they must get it from other sources. That's why they're always so obsessed with what other people are doing or wearing or eating. Since they unable to create their own stuff, they feed on that of others.
The "walking wounded" are a bit more tricky. Some are ok and some are 50/50. Meaning, that they might suck your energy at times but not always. I have a friend that is like that. I appreciate that she lets me be who I am and tell the truth about my FOO. She is also from a dysfunctional family. I used to think we were talking about similar struggles, and I would share everything I've learned about how to cope with dysfunctional FOOs. However, over time, I noticed a big difference between her and me: she never tried to apply the things I had shared with her. She would complain about her mother and her siblings but would still go back for more every time. I couldn't understand why she was doing this, until one day she was showed me a piece of expensive jewellery her mother had bought her. "Ah, there's always an explanation..." I thought "there's a pay off to what she puts up with". It makes you look differently at people when you see that they're happy to "take the payment", and that their complaining is not about resolution but about bitching. I guess it's hard to tell when you don't know someone very well, because both look like a "complaint"; it's only with what they do afterwards that you know which one the person is about. A bit like those girls who would bitch about their boyfriends endlessly, only to go back to them every time. That's been a big lesson for me: I'd assumed that because when I talk about a problem I want a solution, everybody else does too. But that couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of people complain to let off steam, or to feel superior than the person they're complaining about. I guess we can all be guilty of that every now and then. So I try to let people (and myself) off the hook. For me, the issue here is the "stuckness". When they start to sound like a "scratched record" every time. My mother is like that. She would tell me the same complaint year after year as if she was reciting a poem from memory. It was like a recording in her head. Just press play and the words would come out in exactly the same order every time. "How many times has she told this story..." I wondered "for it to become embedded in her head to this degree?"
The way I look at this now is that, if that's what they want to do (complain endlessly on a loop) that's their prerogative, but it's also my prerogative not to have to listen to it. One thing I realised with another friend, who is always ranting about one thing or another, is that there's plenty of other people who are willing to listen and join in. It doesn't have to be us. Personally, I've found that spending to much time with people who are stuck, keeps one stuck too, and that's when resentment creeps in. That's what happened with my siblings. They didn't want to become healthier and I resented them for it. In reality, I didn't need to. All I had to say is: "Fine, you stay there if you want, but I'm off". It's the feeling "obliged" to stay "there" with them, what makes one resentful, but if you don't "stay there" then they're not so much of an issue. I guess it's as just unfair to both parties for one to expect the other to keep up, or for one to expect the other to stay behind. You can see why relationships like that always end up feeling strained.
Some people though, make you feel like you've been "re-charged" after spending time with them. There's an interchange of true humanity there. They "see" you as a person and you "see" them too. They make one feel "alive and kicking". Those are the healthier types: the "living". I'm aiming to spend more time with the "living" this year.