Don’t Desert Your Drainers
You can’t open a self-help book or glance at a psychology-lite article in a magazine without finding an exhortation to avoid bad company. They don’t mean the delightfully dangerous bad company that used to get you smoking behind the bike sheds or nicking sweets from the newsagents, or those who, in later years, will have you ‘twoccing’ or harbouring stuff that’s fallen off the back of a lorry.
What they mean is anyone who is less than sparkling, bubbly and insanely optimistic at all times. They mean the drainers, the ones who suck all the energy out of a room, sap your strength, suffocate your ideas with their wet blankets, and make your heart sink. You are advised to cut these people out of your life. They represent a threat to your prosperity and wellbeing. You are advised to give them the elbow, turn your back on them, show them a clean pair of heels – just generally indicate with any portion of your anatomy that you care to deploy that they are not welcome in your circle.
I find that a bit harsh. There are lots of people like that (come to think of it, I’m probably one myself), and by and large, they can’t help it. I don’t dispute that you should break off relations with people who are actively malicious towards you, but those who are just a bit … meh, aren’t they part of life’s rich tapestry?
Have you ever thought that, although they might not seem to appreciate it, a dose of your invigorating company might be just what they need, and they would be bereft without it. Can you really bear the thought of leaving them to stew in their own negative juices for eternity? Put yourself in their place: if you felt gloomy and pessimistic, wouldn’t you welcome the arrival of someone bright and breezy, and enjoy a blast of their positivity (even if you took care not to show it)?
Eeyores even have their uses. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a particularly vivacious person, but half an hour in the company of a drainer can actually make me feel as fizzy and fabulous as Lucille Ball – whereas half an hour with an effervescent party animal leaves me feeling a bit like, well, David Walliams’s ‘computer says no’ lady.
And on a more serious note, an Eeyore can sometimes turn out to be a Cassandra: a prophet of doom, or at the very least the voice of reason, that we ignore at our peril. Those who predicted the 2008 financial crash were dismissed as doom-mongers, when it would have been far better to heed their very specific analyses of why banks would fail and to do something about it.
Finally, what happened to the concept of duty? No one can pretend that it’s fun visiting an elderly or infirm relative or family friend – mostly it’s downright dispiriting – but to my mind you have to do it. It may even be a family friend who has put up with you at a stage in your life when you were less than stimulating company: inarticulate, with various bodily needs requiring attention. But even in less extreme cases, being shunned by friends who demand a non-stop diet of ego-boosting society often exacerbates a downward spiral for those of a negative disposition. In fact, wouldn’t the guilt you might feel at abandoning such a person cancel out all the benefits derived from seeking out only upbeat company?
Do right by your drainers, I say!