Why we are obsessed with vampires

I can’t pretend to be obsessed with blood-suckers myself, but even those of us who are fairly blind to popular culture cannot have escaped to notice how many vampires have been roaming our TVs and book shops. And because themes in literature are usually reflective of some sort of social malaise, I thought it would be fun to consider the modern vampire phenomenon through my Chinese Medicine lens.

 So here goes!

Vampires share a key characteristic with many people struggling to feel well today, something acupuncturists refer to as ‘blood deficiency’. In vampires this is symbolised by pale skin, being cold and being awake at night time – all things that might be experienced by humans suffering with a Chinese diagnosis of blood deficiency. Conversely, owing to their supernatural state, whilst vampires have superhuman strength and agility and heal quickly, blood deficient people can feel weak, tired, and clumsy – and might also be slow to heal.

When acupuncturists talk about blood deficiency they are talking about the quality of our blood being deficient – not necessarily a full blown western diagnoses of anaemia. Blood deficiency can result from an imbalance in one or more of the organs responsible for blood production and is very often the reason behind menstrual problems and fertility issues. It can also cause anxiety, depression, insomnia and poor memory. So, if any of these are affecting you, read on…

Blood deficiency is on the increase and I believe, is the blight of the modern world simply because modern living prevents us from producing good quality blood for our systems. This is not just because this quality is derived from diet – and the modern diet is full of toxins – but because most of us have lost the ability to inhabit our physical bodies at all – a sort of separation of mind and body if you like. It might well be this separation that resonates with us when we think about vampires  – except that we are still living!  

We spend so much of our time in our heads – which are often anywhere but the present moment; we might find it difficult to focus on one task at a time; many of us spend hours hunched over a desk. Have you ever stopped and noticed how your posture is affecting your breath? Most blood deficient patients who come to see me have no idea that their shoulders are raised up 4 inches higher than they should be, or that every tendon in their neck is in a state of tension. Only when we unify our physical being with our mental and emotional self can we become aware of these things and only by this process can we improve the quality of blood production – which happens at the physical level of the organs.

An interesting myth to have emerged in modern vampire fiction (Miller 1999) is the vampire’s reluctance to feed from the body of humans. For example, Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer lives off blood banks and Louis in Interview with the Vampire eats rats to avoid feeding from humans. What interests me even more is the theme running through all modern vampire literature of the potential for the quality of the human blood taken to have consequences for the vampire. If you have read any Anne Rice, you will know that her vampires die if they continue to drink once their victim’s heart has stopped beating. There is also a case elsewhere of vampires getting food poisoning from a victim with an illness.

This anxiety around feeding closely resembles life today. On a global level there are anxieties around how food is farmed and produced – as well as how much is available. On an individual level many of our meals are eaten on the run, when we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode – or whilst we are thinking (or worrying), or even doing something else. We will often have terrible posture when we eat. And because we are not fully engaged in the act of eating or breathing, our food is not transformed into nutrition for the blood – resulting in poor quality blood supply to our organ system.

This manic eating results in a vicious cycle whereby our body asks for more nutrition (mmmm….pudding) and we then eat too much in an attempt to enrich the blood – which in turn hampers blood production and quality even further! Any constitutional blood deficiency will be exacerbated by poor diet (in particular excessive sugar and caffeine consumption), eating when stressed, shock and trauma, eating too much and – this is the biggie: worry.

The best thing to do if you are blood deficient is to reduce stress as far as possible, improve your diet, relax before eating, stop eating before you are full and take up something like yoga or meditation (see recommendations below). These will give you time to rest, ground yourself, focus on the breath and inhabit your physical being. If you are blood deficient  you may already be attracted to this sort of therapy. Massage is also helpful. In time this will help you to be more grounded in your body and – with the right diet – blood production will improve.  You might also notice that because you are more mindful you can complete tasks, rather than getting distracted.

Try taking a few breaths now and focus on each part of your body in turn…you will be amazed at how many tense spots you find. Perhaps you are hunched in the back. This is an exercise you can do whenever, wherever…even if you are moving – it’s just about having an awareness of the physical body and what it is doing.

Look out for my upcoming blog on How to Eat – some more tips for those suffering with blood deficiency.

Thanks for reading.

Kate recommends:

http://www.cheltenhamyoga.com

Gareth and Chantel have been recommended to me by a patient. They teach Viniyoga and it’s quite a slow style with some flows and some static posture work.  Great for reducing stress and improving the blood. Go on, take a bite!

http://www.mary-pearson.co.uk/

Mary teaches meditation techniques – both 1:1 and in group settings. If you would like to find space to relax, get in touch with Mary and she can give you more information on what is available.

Blog references

Miller, S (1999)
‘Nursery fears made flesh and sinew’
Vampires, the Body and Eating Disorders: A Psychoanalytic Approach
London: Royal College of Art

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