Of the Power of the Imagination

I have undertaken to talk about only what I know how to talk about, fitting the subject-matter to my capacities. Were I to choose a subject where I had to be led, my capacities might prove inadequate to it.
MONTAIGNE, “ON THE POWER OF THE IMAGINATION”

In my childhood, my mother encouraged my belief in the supernatural, much to my fascination and horror. At dusk she called me in from play, threatening that vampires were waking up. Though I grew out of my fears, I am someone for whom the imagination is sometimes a dangerous predilection, especially when in the company of others too much like me: prone to flights of fancy and self-deceit. I need little encouragement to believe the worst and best, and like a sickness, fantasy is catching in my consciousness; so much so, I have lost my grasp of reason with the barest of provocations from others. Delusion in someone else becomes my own affliction as if spread by contagion.

My empathy for others is sometimes so strong that I’d rather be socializing with strangers than in close quarters with a miserable friend. Others’ problems become my own, giving voice to my inner demons. I do not find it at all unusual that giving rein to the dark thoughts that dwell within us can sometimes bring illness, both mental and physical.

When I have, despite my better judgment, put myself into an obligatory visit with someone ill, by the end of the evening he or she may claim to feel much better even as I feel worse. Surely I am not alone in recognizing the ways others can drain the lightness right out of us while they heal themselves. I am reminded of the vampires in my childhood, though now they are of the type that drain happiness and warmth from my spirit and give nothing in return.

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