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An Interview with Mark Matousek: Energy Vampires —

Aug 4, 2013 by

energy vampiresMichael F. Shaughnessy

1) Mark, I used to call them Energy Vampires- in fact there is some book by that name, and I have even published on “ Combatting Energy Vampires “. What advice do you give to people who are confronted with these energy sapers ( is that a word ) daily?

Avoid them whenever possible. Not only do they suck your blood, they infect you with their emotional baggage. We now know from neuroscience that emotions are physically contagious. We literally catch each others’ emotions like a cold. The people in our life are our “biological allies,” as Dan Goleman puts it. All friends go through needy times, but when need is the foundation of a friendship, and one person is giving much more than the other — it’s a good idea to avoid the vampire as much as possible if he/she needs to be in your life at all.

2) Now, there are the lenders and the borrowers—and there seem to be more borrowers- How does the typical person deal with the person who wants to borrow a car, money, etc?

Another tricky issue. Reciprocity is the foundation of moral behavior. The Golden Rule is the only thing that all religions and philosophy agree on universally. We must give to others as they give to us. We’re wired for reciprocity, we have a tit for tat counting mechanism in the brain. That’s why borrowing and lending is such tricky business especially if the item that’s borrowed is important to the lender. Much can go wrong in these arrangements. If money is borrowed it should always be done with a written contract on terms and payback. Having said that, friends must help each other if possible and it deepens a friendship to be helped in times of need, I have never forgotten friends’ gestures of kindness toward me when I couldn’t pay my rent. That’s what a true friend is. But advantage must not be taken.

3) Bosses- we all have to deal with them- but sometimes, we have to go to Human Resources about their unrealistic expectations. Do you advise people who are tyrannized by some boss to seek other employment or do you provide some guidance?

This is a two-part question. Should someone tyrannized by a boss seek other employment? Absolutely. Unless employees can file a complaint and have the boss reprimanded or removed, they should get out from under the iron boot. Life is too short to be stepped on, yelled at, or disrespected on a regular basis for a paycheck. AND there are things that we can do when stuck with rotten bosses to make the most of bad situations. Suffering is an inside job. It is possible to be less-then-perfectly treated without losing self-esteem or internal balance. Mindfulness is the place to start. Watch your aversion. Don’t react outwardly to your feelings. Be kind and see how that works. If you see it as self-empowering practice, a shitty situation can get more interesting.

4) The average America has adequate common sense to recognize someone with mental health, psychological problems or “ issues “—but what can you do in the workplace with people who seem a bit unbalanced?

So much depends on the details here. Imbalanced in what way? Aggressively, invasively, sabotaging-ly, where their condition impacts your performance and/or happiness? Or depressed and not interfering with you at all except not wanting to be around them?

There is not a person reading this blog who doesn’t have some psychological issue, so you’re bound to work with complicated people with problems. When their problems become your problem and, thus, your business. deal with them (or the boss) promptly. If their presence makes your life too miserable, and they are there to stay, it may be time to look for another job.

5) A recent politician made a comment about another candidate and I quote “ He needs serious psychiatric help”. Now, how do we go about getting these people the help that they need?

We can’t. It’s none of our business. This sounds like a politician dissing a colleague. When you say “get this people the help they need,’ you presuppose that it’s within your ability to do so – and that’s incumbent on us to do so.

This is false. Unless we’re impacted or asked to help, we should mind our own business and deal with our own issues. Glass houses.

6) Flirtatious Fred is annoying, cloying, and problematic. Handy Hank at a party has his hands over or on everyone. Who is to intervene?

The boss must be notified when sexual sleazing happens on the job — immediately. It’s harder at a party where grownups are consensually drinking together (I assume) and sex is bound to be in the air. It’s up to anyone Handy Hank hits on to knee him in the zipper, throw a drink, scream, or do whatever else it takes to get this creep out of the picture.

7) Mark, there are people I have considered getting a restraining order on. Am I over-reacting?

Not necessarily. It would depend on the circumstances of course. If you are in emotional or physical peril due to someone’s proximity, this can be completely appropriate. But you don’t get a restraining order on somebody that makes me furious — for revenge purposes. That’s just silly.

8) And there are people that I have considered consulting an attorney about. Are people out there pushing the envelope?

I would need more details to answer this!

9) Now, real serious, I am thinking about Aurora Colorado and the movie theatre incident, and NewTown Connecticut. I am sure there were people who “ saw signs “ but did nothing. Are there appropriate steps for your average carpenter, plumber, electrician, who notices someone with a small arsenal in their garage, or guns in their car or even pornography decorating the walls of their home?

Of course! If you know about someone hoarding weapons, tell the authorities immediately. Or weapons in inappropriate places! In a country with insufficient gun control laws, it’s more important than ever to be our brother’s keeper, in the sense of watching each other’s back.

So often with these mass killings, the best friend, or clique, or even a relative, notices strange behavior and doesn’t speak up before it’s too late. Speak up.

10) What about the shameless self-promoters who are pushing their book- what can we do about those scoundrels?

Shun them at all costs. : )

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