"Biting Back takes a compelling look at self-care, setting boundaries, and protecting ourselves from friends, loved ones, enemies, and sometimes even ourselves. Written in a page-turning and warm style, Claudia’s refreshing addition to the self-help shelves offers empowering solutions to effectively remind us to stop inviting troubleinto our homes and souls." -- MELODY BEATTIE, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CODEPENDENT NO MORE


The Heart Of Practical Vampire Slaying, Part II: More On Those Inner Vamps

A friend was telling me the other day about a couple of relatives she has who are fighting like crazy over some property and money issues.

The fight is between a mother and daughter, both adults, and sounds a little like their…what do you call it – “Waterloo?” Because it sounds like it’s a very deciding kind of deal for both of them, wherein each has made up her mind to "make a stand,” and fight to the finish -- however grim that finish might be.

As is typical in every family I’ve ever known, there is in this family a history of divorce, of alcoholism, of co-dependence, of unintended child neglect (in both the mother's and daughter’s histories), and many generations of good old-fashioned inherited emotional family dysfunction – all of the usual stuff, and all of it contributing to years and years of unresolved anger and resentment in both the daughter and her mother.

But what got my attention was a description my friend gave of a conversation she had with the mom in this dispute. In the conversation she was listing for my friend all the reasons her daughter was wrong about the property and the money, and then suddenly in this list she was reciting she mentioned something that seemed out of context to my friend – said something about some totally unrelated offense the daughter had supposedly committed long ago.

Only she said it as though it had just happened yesterday.

So my friend, confused, stopped her and said, “Hold on a second. Didn’t you say that happened over a year ago?" And this woman says, “Yeah, uh-huh: over a year ago,” like it was the most normal thing in the world for her to mention it at that moment and in that context.

And when my friend told me that, suddenly I saw it: I saw exactly how this woman couldn’t differentiate between her current argument with her daughter and all her past arguments and resentments with her daughter.

To her, it was normal to mention the old wound because to her the old wound was as new and as current as ever. One year ago, 30 years ago, one hour ago, what’s the difference when the resentment has never been laid to rest – when the vampire is still feeding and has never been slain?

Suddenly I could see the two of them, this mother and daughter arguing, with all their inner vampires vying for position in the fight – I could see the daughter’s vampires screaming at her mother’s, and the mother’s screaming at the daughter's: a million old vampires trying to take advantage of the chance to express themselves in this seeming "property" fight.

No wonder they can’t resolve the property issue. And no wonder everyone is so hurt and confused -- nobody knows who's doing the fighting here or why!

Their inner vampires – the parts of themselves that they've refused to look at for all these years, are doing all the talking. Like the good vampires they are, they live in the dark and grow in the dark because that's where we pushed them so long ago so we wouldn't have to look at them, wouldn't have to deal with them. But they’re lonely and tired and really, really mad, and they'll insist on being heard, on having their say – just as they did with this mother and daughter, and just as they're sure to do with the rest of us, too.

It was the best argument I've heard yet for practical vampire slaying, for calling our inner vampires out into the light where we can see them and stake them. Because if we don't, it's plain to see that no matter how many years go by, they'll always be hiding in there, and will surely consume every bit of joy we're meant to be experiencing in our relationships today. After all, how can we possibly pay any attention to what's happening in our lives today when yesterday's vampires are doing all that talking? And doing it so loudly, too!

Next time: Calling The Vampire Out


Sherri said...

It's as if you wrote this post for me, though it's not my situation you're describing. I'm struggling with some vampires from the past, who just do not want to come into the light! I can't wait to see your next post.

claud said...

Oh Sherri I'm so pleased! I mean, that this is a good post for you. Not that the vamps are out for your blood.

Sometimes I think that the vampires who seem to fight the hardest to stay in the dark are the ones begging the hardest to be brought out.

I remember when I was struggling with a relationship breakup -- a break I wanted to make but my vampire didn't. We'd been so mean to eachother for years, and it occurred to me one day that although his mouth was saying, "don't leave," his actions had been saying for years -- PLEASE GET OUT! If vampires have a "higher self" I think that was his operating -- the part of him that wanted to be released, brought into the light and staked "good and proper" as Spike would say.

And btw, I DO believe vampires have a higher self, a soul that is obscured by their disease -- their vampirism. It's freed when they're staked, hence their reportedly "peaceful expressions" after staking...sniff! :)

Angela said...

Great post, Claudia, about the ways our vampires can manifest and just suck away. I especially like the visual of it NOT REALLY BEING THE TWO PEOPLE, but their vampires. And how the heart of a vampire argument lives and breathes in the present moment no matter how old it is. And how vampires have higher selves just like all the rest of us. Good stuff!

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Wait a minute...

Are we talking about interpersonal relationships or the history of Israeli-Middle Eastern conflict?

It's a post. It's a parable.

Nicely stated, Ms. Claud.

claud said...

Thank you kindly, Miss A.

And thank YOU kindly, Mr. D. You state things pretty nice yourself!

jennifergg said...

Soooo true, and so well said. I couldn't agree more, and like the others, I can't wait for the next post!

claud said...

Thanks, Jen. I'm sorta interested to see what the next post says, too. :0

Angela said...

Tag! You're it.

Jaye Wells said...

Another excellent and thought-provoking post. Having been int he middle of a few of these myself, your word really hit home.

claud said...

Hi Jaye! And when I pay attention, especially when I'm saying something naggy or impatient with someone I love, I can hear all the old vampires in there, having their petty little say. It's amazing how much unrelated crap they can bring to a situation, you know?

Feemus said...

A timely post for the holidays, Claud!!!

Thanksgiving, when the ghost of EVERYTHING past sits down to dinner. Even though I set that extra plate for Elijah!

Thought about you yesterday when I heard the oddest cover of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." The vocalist sounded a little like Ella Fitzgerald. I don't know who it was. But it made me think of you.

I bought Nashville Syline last week. That's a great version of Girl From North Country--thanks.

claud said...

A timely post indeed, Feemus. Rah-thuh.

And you know I thought about mailing you an illegal copy of my Nashville Skyline, but I thought, "that virtuous Feemus, he'd NEVER like me again if I did THAT."
You know, I'm not sure life gets any better than when Bob sings, "...if there's a poor boy on the street, then let him have my seat, cause tonight I'll be staying here with you."
Some song.
Some singer.

Now to go see if I can find that Ella F. tune. Or whoever.

p.s. who's Elijah?

Feemus said...

Well, ahem, I am certainly glad to know that my reputation for virtue precedes me!

How 'bout "I wish I was on some Australian mountain range. I got no reason to be there, but I imagine it would be some kind of change."

I'm sure it wasn't Ella, but it kinda sounded like her. It was very pretty. That's one of my favorites of the sentimental side of Bob.

One sets a place (or usually just a glass of wine) in case the prophet Elijah returns. And is, you know, thirsty. But the Ghost of Everything Past probably wants that glass of wine more.

claud said...

Oh it sickens me to say this, but Blood On The Tracks was one of the ones I never bought -- I know -- don't say it. Because I know.


Try this one: "Groundhog running by a country stream, this must be the day that all of my dreams come true."

Every time he sings that, I get a lump in my throat.

The groundhog works for me.

Going out in the rain and snow now to buy Blood On The Tracks.

For shame, Claud!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I want to say how relieved I am to read that there is no sign of cancer anywhere else in your body. I will continue to think good thoughts for your regarding the breast cancer, but you seem pretty tough so I'm not sure that you'll need it. Secondly, I wanted to write and let you know how wonderful and insightful I thought your perspective was on the argument between the mother and daughter. I found what you said to be very true, many of our present arguments are truley built up arguments from the past. Luckily it seems as though life provides us with many different circumstances and opportunities to resovle the issues that are really at hand. I hope the mother and daughter have a chance to read your column because often it helps to see things from a diiferent point of view. Thanks for sharing this story.

Claudia/PVS said...

Hi Anon, and please forgive my late reply!

I'm not getting notification of comments these days from blogger...can't say why

But in any case, thank you so much for your kind wishes and kind thoughts on the post. It was lovely of you to take the time to write, 'cause it really made me feel great!

Nicole said...

Oh my goodness! A friend sent me to your blog, and when I got to this post, I knew why. I just got to realize this very thing...for real this time. I think I've had inklings that I was carrying around old stuff and whipping it out at any sign of conflict in the present, but until I went to codependents anonymous and had a sponsor stare me down and say, "Are you hearing this?" I really never had the eureka moment.

The day I forgave my mom for the past...out loud...and walked away from the old relationship (because the WHOLE relationship was built on the pattern of this struggle), was the day that my life really changed...the paradigm shifted...and I became responsible for my own actions, and, as you say in your headnote, what (or whom) I allow into my life. Ah!

Also, I saw your comment about the relationship. WOW. I have felt this too. Currently feel this. And feel like a jerk b/c his mouth keeps saying "stay," but everything he does makes me want to rent garments and gnash teeth. And so, I continue to take responsibility for my role in the relationship and prepare myself to go when I'm ready if I still need to when I am. Something also tells me he won't bother me so much if I don't "play the game" with him. Then, he might just leave on his own. Wish me luck!

Thanks for the post, and congrats on a great blog! =D

Claud/PVS said...

Wow and Hi, Nicole! How wonderful to hear from you.

I know what you mean about how freeing it is to finally be clear with yourself and understand what you are willing to lose (although we usually can't even begin to guess how much we're about to gain! That's the heaven of it, no? :))
to be free -- I can remember feeling as if stones were taken off my chest the first time I consciously did this -- stones I didn't even know where there. And as with your mother, it is always an act of great faith -- even if we don't know it at the time.

As to your rending of garments and gnashing of teeth (you're funny!) -- I devote much of one chapter in my book to the importance of giving ourselves plenty of time to stay with the vampire, even after we realize what we're dealing with. As with all things in life, we are ready only when we're ready, and there's no point in telling ourselves it should be any sooner than the perfect moment that it will (or perhaps will never) be.

Lovely to hear from you!!!