Have you ever had the experience of having the life sucked out of you by spending time/communicating with a particular person?
I’m talking about feeling exhausted, drained, bored, irritated, stressed, anxious, threatened, overwhelmed or depressed after just a few minutes in that person’s company or after a phone call, receiving a text message, etc.
There may have been times where you felt guilty for having negative thoughts about that person; which compound how you already feel, making you feel even worse.
You may even have thought there was something wrong with you; such as feeling a headache coming on or stressing over a work deadline. Either way, you didn’t understand why you felt so out of sorts.
If that describes a familiar experience, chances are you have been in the company of an energy vampire.
Energy vampires are emotionally immature individuals
who think the whole world revolves around them.
They are almost incapable of seeing things from another person’s perspective. They often lack empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.) They believe that they must take everything they can get from others and that giving anything will deprive them of essential resources. It’s as if the whole world exists just to serve them and you are the latest object upon which they have set their sights for exploitation.
They do more than drain your physical energy. The most malignant ones can make you believe you’re unworthy and unlovable. Others inflict damage with smaller digs to make you feel bad about yourself: “Oh my, I see you’ve put on a few extra KG’s” or “You’re overly sensitive today!” Just like that, they’ve thrown you off-center by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.
Here are five signs you’ve encountered an emotional vampire in your relationships, whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, or even in your family:
- Your eyelids are heavy, and you feel ready for a nap.
- Your mood takes a nosedive.
- You want to binge on carbs or comfort foods.
- You feel anxious, depressed, or negative.
- You feel put down.
How to protect yourself from being drained
First, you need to assess your own emotional capacity.
The extent of your own emotional capacity will determine how much of this person you can handle/take. The most important tool in your kit is your ability to self-reflect (this means being curious about your own reactions so as to understand yourself better). You also need to be kind to yourself by accepting and loving yourself just as you are.
If you have a daily self-reflective practice (e.g., walking, meditation, yoga, cooking, cycling, running, etc), that will increase your emotional capacity. Similarly, so will a good relationship with your partner, family, a steady job, a good place to live and lack of trauma.
Having a mentor, a good education and experience with personal development also helps. Conversely, if you are currently struggling with a disruption in your life, or if you have a particularly harsh inner critic that never stops nagging you and continuously puts you down, you will be more vulnerable to a vampire attack.
The other thing to consider is, what is your motivation for having this person in your life?
If you are highly motivated (e.g., in getting ahead at work) and this person is just a nuisance you have to put up with, then you are likely to be more resilient. However, if you put up with being drained just because you are too afraid to quit your job, then you are paying a very high price indeed for that fear.
Second, assess how much of a threat to you the energy vampire is.
At first glance, energy vampires can seem highly attractive. They often are good-looking, bold, flamboyant or intelligent, and may appear to have a high opinion of you as indicated by their flattering attention. Drawing you into their inner circle may seem like just the boost you need in your usually drab life/work environment. However, be aware that they are “grooming” you — setting you up to exploit you in whichever way best suits their purposes later. What seems quite innocent at first, such as finding a good friend, may lead you to compromise your ethics, morals and values against your will — maybe even breaking the law in due course. And because energy vampires are masters at avoiding responsibility, you could be the one who takes the blame when things go wrong. I’ve found that the biggest energy drain is relationships. Some relationships are positive and mood-elevating. Others can suck optimism and serenity right out of you. These draining people are called emotional vampires.
Weighing both these aspects will help you decide what action you need to take.
To protect your energy, it’s important to combat draining people. The following strategies can help you identify and combat emotional vampires from an empowered place.
Let’s take a look at the five types of Emotional Vampires
How you can protect yourself against them.
1. The Narcissists – “Kiss me quick before I kiss myself, “mwah”; to late!”
Their motto is “Me first.” Everything is all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, hog attention, and crave admiration. They’re dangerous because they lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love. If you don’t do things their way, they become punishing, withholding, or cold.
How to Protect Yourself: Keep your expectations realistic. These are emotionally limited people. Try not to fall in love with one or expect them to be selfless or to love without strings attached. Never make your self-worth dependent on them or confide your deepest feelings to them. To successfully communicate, the hard truth is that you must show how something will be to their benefit. Though it’s better not to have to contend with this tedious ego stroking, if the relationship is unavoidable this approach works best.
2. The Victims
These vampires grate on you with their “poor me” attitude. The world is against them and it’s the reason for their unhappiness. When you offer a solution to their problems they say, “Yes, but…” Eventually, you might end up screening your calls or purposely avoiding them. As a friend, you may want to help, but their tales of woe overwhelm you.
How to Protect Yourself: Set kind but firm limits. Listen briefly to the friend or relative but then say, “I love you but I can only listen for a few minutes unless you want to discuss solutions.” With a co-worker, sympathize by saying, “I’ll keep having good thoughts for things to work out.” Then add, “I hope you understand, but I’m on deadline and must return to work.”Body language that telegraphs, “This isn’t a good time,” such as crossing your arms and breaking eye contact, can help enforce these healthy limits.
3. The Controllers
These people obsessively try to control you and dictate how you’re supposed to be and feel. They have an opinion about everything. They’ll control you by invalidating your emotions when they don’t fit into their own rule book. They often start sentences with, “You know what you need?” and then proceed to tell you. You end up feeling dominated, demeaned, or put down.
How to Protect Yourself: The secret to success is to never try to control a controller. Be healthily assertive, but don’t tell them what to do. You can say, “I value your advice, but really need to work through this myself.” Be confident and don’t play the victim.
4. The Constant Talkers
These people aren’t interested in your feelings. They are only concerned with themselves. You may wait for an opening to get a word in edgewise but it never comes. Or they might physically move in so close that they’re practically breathing on you. You edge backward, but they step closer.
How to Protect Yourself: These individuals don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You must speak up and interrupt, as tough as that is to do. Listen for a few minutes, then politely say, “I hate to interrupt, but I have to talk to these other people/get to an appointment/go to the bathroom.” (It’s a much more constructive tactic than saying, “Keep quiet, you’re driving me crazy!”)If this is a family member, politely say, “I’d love if you allowed me some time to talk too, so I can add to the conversation.” If you say this neutrally, it can be heard much better.
5. The Drama Queens
These people have a flair for magnifying small incidents into off-the-chart dramas. Sarah was exhausted when she hired a new employee who was always late. One week he had the flu and “almost died.” Next, his car was towed, again! Each time this employee left her office, Sarah felt tired and used.
How to Protect Yourself: A drama queen can’t draw energy from equanimity. Stay calm and take a few deep breaths. This will help you avoid getting caught up in the histrionics. Set kind but firm limits. Say, for example, “You must be here on time to keep your job. I’m sorry for all your mishaps, but work comes first.”
To improve your relationships and increase your energy level, I suggest taking an inventory of people who give you energy and those that drain you. Try to spend time with the loving, nurturing people, and learn to set limits with those who drain you. This will enhance your quality of your life.