When was the last time you got your Vampire Radar cleaned and tuned up? To get a sense of how people play smart and devious games to keep you stuck in the status quo? Where myriad strategies of clever deceit get unleashed from often unexpected quarters, with ruthless precision and a sense of timing that's just deadly! I call these people “Status Quo Vampires”. Although they have several other laurels too to their credit, we’ll look at this aspect of the vampires for now.
No doubt, having a basic trust in fellow human beings is good. But, surely it also makes sense to avoid giving in to spectacular naïveté? Ignoring subtle, yet unmistakably clear signals can be suicidal, when you're up against smooth operators always ready with an extra ace up the sleeve.
As it often happens, life isn't about neat binaries of good and bad. It is the grey area where the real juicy story often unfolds. When the urge for self-preservation becomes paramount, even otherwise good-natured folks won't mind inhabiting this vast expanse of grey, for a while at least. Keeping your competitors and opponents trapped in quicksand is a strategy that's worked for eons! When power and pelf are at stake, the daggers shall get drawn eventually. Morals and lessons can wait!
Is your radar sharp enough to alert you to duck and cover before it's too late?
Let's explore and understand some of the strategies that vampires use to knock you over with a feather and less! It is fascinating to see how well we can manipulate others by playing on emotions. You might like to believe this doesn't happen in genteel circles. Yeah, Right!
These vampires are all around us. They maybe partners, spouses, siblings, colleagues, “friends”, or even “mentors”. It can be particularly harrowing when you get a part-time boss who’s also a full-time vampire!
In this article, we’ll specifically look at how Status Quo Vampires manipulate others by playing on strong emotions and states. We’ll specifically look at these three strategies that work like (black) magic:
For a change, I wont be sharing tips on how to wriggle out of these well-laid out traps. The idea is to become aware of these patterns. The only general advice is to develop a thicker skin, and train yourself to mentally laugh at the vampires. And make sure to hide those smirks too… for therein lies the hint to a solution, that might just work! We’ll have that etched out in greater detail in a separate article. Keep guessing!
The idea is not to launch a witch-hunt, but to arm yourself with awareness. And to let that awareness guide you.
Shame and embarrassment can cause people to activate all their defense mechanisms, and clam up big time. There are several situations where we’d do everything in our power to avoid the pain of public shame and embarrassment. Maybe it’s about particular weaknesses getting exposed, or being called out for your lack of certain competencies. Or, being tactful enough to have your mistakes stay out of sight. Or, even ensuring your lack of success isn’t splashed out on “prime time news”! This pain-avoidance of shame is a powerful away-from motivation in almost every human being. You knew it always, didn't you? Your competitors and opponents know it too, and they know how to exploit it “compassionately”!
Vampires are supremely intelligent beings! When the intention is to keep you stuck in status quo, it makes sense to play smart. Exposing you and pushing you over the edge isn't that smart, and they know it well. Because, that opens the field for possible direct confrontation. They aren't that interested in expending their energy in useless struggles and fights, even with "worthy" opponents. They know you can do that to yourself!
They'd rather have you running an endless marathon on the treadmill, in a constant struggle to avoid embarrassment and shame. To somehow keep up the pretense that you aren't getting disempowered. Or better still, get you to do everything possible to stay on their good books, yeah!
To keep you on the tenterhooks, they'll occasionally exclude you socially, and that too in a not-so-obvious way. Denying information can be very effective too, and often easy. So is the case with denying visibility to you, your efforts, and your achievements.
When they know you're craving for attention and recognition long denied, they've tasted blood! Not that they'll block these little indulgences totally, as that fails the smartness test! Once in a while you will get your little mercies, so relax! You get to keep just a wee bit of attention, recognition, inclusion, or acknowledgement, just enough for you to pine for it at all other times!
They'll look through you imperiously, refuse to acknowledge your greetings... even use your first name sparingly, preferring instead a supremely condescending "Hi There!” if that helps!
And on that rare occasion when they change tack, aren't you feeling so thrilled..."Oh my God, he smiled at me today....Sigh...She stopped by to say Hi...He looked at me, while rushing to that meeting....Good heavens, the tide is turning...or, is it?" The vampire couldn't care less! They have you eating out of their hands and staying transfixed, exactly where they want you to be, the status quo. Why would anyone give up a life of unparalleled ease & comfort, when you're doing their bidding all the time?
Time to traipse around, to unleash the next strategy.
Manipulating people into guilt-trips is another smart strategy used by Status Quo vampires. As is their wont, much of it is executed surreptitiously! As soon as you're spotted struggling with difficult situations, it's time to make the move(s)!
The guidelines are pretty simple. Get you to own up to more than your share of mistakes; Minimize other factors that may have led to poor outcomes; Make other people indirectly "hint" at how you have wronged them or others; "Gently" ridicule/discredit your side of the story as a bunch of bull and convenient alibis; Play the "information rationing" game to selectively "leak out" your weaknesses, insufficient skills, cluelessness, lack of tact, and missteps, while carefully dodging your positives, or in the least making the positives look insignificant; Basically anything goes, so long as you feel inadequate in ways small and big... Well, it can't be that hard, isn't it?
The idea is to keep you stuck in self-doubt, self-blame and self-pity. A time comes when they notice that your confidence levels can't plummet further! Now's the time to don the hat of the "rescuer". To bring out their "magnanimous" side. To "show some concern & compassion", to make you feel indebted to them forever. Grateful that they helped you "arrest the slide"! Grateful that they "helped" you "sort out your life" and retrieve the situation!
Now, don’t you dare step out of the "status quo” and aggravate the guilt and ingratitude. Stay there!
In fact, the vampire knows how to get you stay a bit longer than you thought… Go over to the next strategy!
"Well done, keep it up"! Thus spake the benevolent lordships, and you're all over the moon! Is this chorus becoming too frequent for comfort? Well, you’re on to something big! Welcome to the "Complacency" strategy. Nicely designed to keep you stuck in situations that aren't beneficial for you in the long run. This one is a double whammy, and you'll see how.
The vampire of course, comes across as extraordinarily large hearted, even as you're beside yourself with joy. They'll generously appreciate you so you get stuck doing the same routine things over and over again.
Often, the generosity is interspersed with other strategies we saw, like shame-avoidance and information asymmetry. So, there is a prolonged period where you're desperately hoping for some acknowledgement and praise, even as you're doing mundane things nobody else wants to do. Very often, you're kept out of the loop and denied access to vital information and updates. And then, the sluice gates of empty patronizing praise are opened, for a while. You're praised for "keeping the show running". Your rational brain occasionally alerts you to the fact that there is little real progress in your life, in the long run especially.
Oh, come on! Even Keynes was so clear when he said that in the long run we are all dead. So, stop complaining. Go, write Thank You notes, and stay right there!
As you can see here, the vampires are often very skilled in targeting you when you’re up against tough odds. The really toxic ones are those who do it with least effort, preferring instead to make you do the dirty work yourself!
Although, I am not sharing solutions here, let me just say this before signing off:
It takes two to tango!
And frankly, you might still be having options. Let’s check that out soon. In the meantime, look around, observe and become aware.
And smile… compassionately at them… Their days are getting numbered!