Life Sucks (and that’s a GOOD thing)

Life Sucks?? Seriously?!? I can only imagine what you might be thinking from the title of this post. Especially from someone who is supposed to be a positive, inspirational role model… especially during Thanksgiving Weekend… So let me explain.

I have continued to weather the dark, cold Winter Blues with my newfound drug of choice – the Netflix Binge. As with any drug, there are often side effects. The most obvious negative side effect is a lack of productivity. But there are also positive side effects! Netflix binges have allowed me to see the full overarching themes of entire seasons in a single sitting. By sharing some of the thoughts and perspectives I glean from mainlining complete seasons (and series), I can turn my lemons (lack of productivity) into lemonade (a new blog post).

My latest obsession is The Vampire Diaries. Again, this show may seem a bit incongruent with inspirational, positive psychology, but a deeper exploration reveals themes that are quite poignant. On the surface, TVD is simply a young adult soap opera about werewolves, witches and a love story between a vampire and a human high school girl. The surface-level plots are so cliché that the show’s creative team makes light-hearted references to Twilight and Buffy theVampire Slayer. Yet when one can see past the supernatural high school drama, the storylines explore themes of friendship, family, and what it means to be human.

In one particular storyline a cure for vampirism is discovered. And the big question is… who would want to take it? Being a vampire offers fabulous supernatural powers – super speed, super strength, super hearing, the ability to compel others to do your bidding, self-healing abilities, the ability to heal others, and immortality. Yet being a vampire also has some drawbacks, the insatiable hunger and need for blood seem to top everyone’s list. But, for several characters, simply being a vampire also ranks very high.

In one episode, an Original Vampire named Elijah makes a deal with his sister, Rebekah. If she can go an entire day without using her vampire powers – if she can really live as a human – he will give her the cure for vampirism. Well, of course, she is forced into a situation in which the only way to save an innocent person from dying is to use her vampire healing abilities. And, of course, her other brother is a witness to this event. Upset that her actions would be revealed to Elijah, the following conversation takes place:

Rebekah: She was dying and I acted with human decency. You can’t get more human than that.

Klaus: Actually, you can. You can stand idly by as poor April takes her final breath. You can ask, “Why does this always happen to innocent people? Where do spirits go? Was there anything I could have done?” That is what it means to be human, sister.

Three seasons and a spin-off series later, this scene still haunts me. As a self-help professional, I am surrounded by industry practitioners who claim to teach “The Secret” to harnessing your “inner power” to “manifest your dreams.” The underlying assumption is that if you have the super powers to control your reality – to make Life how you want it – you will be happy.

Yet, TVD clearly illustrates that “super powers” are not only very un-human, they do not necessarily bring happiness. (Most of the super-powered immortal characters on TVD suffer from existential angst.) Furthermore – super powers or not – the quest to control situations that cannot be controlled – the fight against “what is” – only creates more unhappiness.

The few human characters on TVD understand this. They live in a world full of witches and werewolves, ghosts and vampires, and unspeakable horror. Yet through very un-supernatural things like family and friendship, they find their center and their strength. By accepting “what is” – that Life sometimes sucks – and doing what they can with what they have where they are in the moment, the humans possess a strength and depth of character no supernatural creature can match. And in the end, their humanity is the envy of many.