Don’t believe in vampires? Maybe you should pay a bit more attention: you might have one or two in your life already.
And no, not the blood-sucking kind of vampires. This is about energy-sucking vampires. The ones that leave you feeling tired, overwhelmed, offended or unworthy after an encounter or conversation. And for these ones, garlic won’t be the solution.
Maybe there's a friend that is always focused on their own dramas and expecting you to hear all about it... all the time. Maybe you get a feeling of anxiety before every meeting with a particular coworker. Maybe your partner never seems to own up to any responsibility and talks like a victim all the time.
Keep reading to understand more about emotional vampires and how to banish them out of your life.
What are emotional vampires?
Instead of blood, emotional vampires or energy vampires drain your energy, well-being and confidence. They're the kind of people that will only "take" from you: they demand your attention and time, they abuse your willingness to listen, and they either make the conversation about them or turn on you with criticism and judgement.
While blood sucking vampires are expected at spooky castles and dark mansions, energy vampires can be anywhere. They can be family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, or partners.
Some emotional vampires act knowingly, from a place of manipulation, selfishness and self-preservation. Others, may have inherited their toxic traits from parents or educators, or developed them due to external factors, and not be aware of how their behaviour affects others.
But, whether these energy suckers are aware of their behaviour or not, it is a toxic behaviour that leaves an impact on whoever they cross paths with - and, sometimes, a lasting one. Especially when it's someone that is hard to avoid, like a partner, a parent or a teammate, these people become a source of stress and anxiety, that can escalate into mental and even physical problems for the people they "prey on".
You find yourself dreading meeting or talking to the person, waiting for the next tense moment, feeling overwhelmed with their problems and not paying the deserved attention to your own, or second guessing yourself and your own achievements, not feeling good enough, because of their criticism.
Emotional vampirism can happen in different ways, some are even not that obvious. In order to protect yourself from them, the first step is to learn how to identify energy vampires.
How to spot an emotional vampire
From Dracula to Twilight there's a lot that's different. Like their supernatural version, emotional vampires also come in different shapes and sizes.
There's the vampire that guilt trips people into giving them what they want; the gossiper who'll bad mouth around you all the time, even after you've clearly shown you have no interest in that kind of conversation; the downer who constantly complains to you about life; the jealous one, who can never show true happiness for your achievements and always needs talk about their own accomplisments... the list goes on.
Here are some of the typical emotional vampire behaviours you should keep your eye out for:
- They need the spotlight: you can never share something about yourself with this person and have them be happy for you. If it's not about them, they'll make it about them."I'm so happy for you! After your promotion, your position will be almost as good as mine!"
- Their problems are bigger: if you try to share your struggles or difficult moments, they will shift the attention back to themselves by playing up their own problems."Oh, that's nothing. You should see what I'm going through at work."
- They're a victim: it always sounds like the whole world is against this person, and they never really have a role in their own difficulties. If you try pointing out they could've acted diffently or offer solutions, they get defensive and find a reason to why your suggestion doesn't make sense or wouldn't work."Of course you think it was my fault, everyone is always blaming me."
- They want to do all the talking: they don't leave you much space to be part of the conversation. If you get to speaking, they'll find a way to connect the topic to themselves and take over."Wait wait, let me just tell you what happened today."
- They manipulate: they often prey on your goodwill and if you happen to not be very keen on doing whatever they want you to do, they'll use shame, guilt or ultimatums to get what they want."If you're a real friend, you’ll do this. Come on, I really need you!"
- They criticize: somehow, they can always find a flaw in you. Whether it's about how you say something, how you do something, it might even be about the people you hang out with. With every criticism, they always have a suggestion for you to improve."You're always doing it wrong. If you listened to me, you wouldn't be in this situation."
- They gaslight: somehow, they find a way to make you doubt your own memory or perception of reality. It’s almost like you don’t ever really know what’s going on.”I’m 100% sure you said it, you just forgot again, like usual.”
And, last but not least, you don’t feel good around them. They make you feel tired and emotionally drained and you instinctively want to limit interaction with them. The best tool to spot an emotional vampire is to be aware of how you feel after being or talking to this person and how you feel about them in general. If your gut is telling you something is wrong about them… it most likely is.
Recognizing the typical emotional vampire behaviours is the first step at learning how to keep them at bay.
What to do if you’re a victim to an emotional vampire
We've already established how much of a negative impact energy vampires can have on you - but you don't just have to put up with it, there's steps you can take to protect yourself from toxic behaviour and limit the impact these people have on you. This can go from putting up the right walls,
Put down the garlic and the wood stake and read on to understand what weapons will actually help you to get control.
- Know how to identify “dumping”: everyone needs to vent sometimes. And listening is what friends are for! However, if someone simply uses you to dump all their frustrations and annoyances with no interest in your advice or support and no concern for how it impacts you, don’t feel like you have to listen.
- Lower your expectations: reeveluate why you have a relationship with this person and understand they have not been capable of giving back. Don’t expect them to be there, be understanding or supportive - don’t waste time opening up to them.
- Don’t get involved: don’t let yourself get sucked into their dramas and preocupations. Put it into perspective, donwplay it, keep it light, and move the conversation to neutral ground or remove yourself from it completely - you are allowed to walk away.
- Practice self-awareness and self-worth: understand their negative comments and criticism is more a reflection on them than on you. Remind yourself of your worth and know you deserve positive, caring people around you.
- Have a reality check: if you find yourself questioning yourself or wondering if you’re at fault with this person, make sure you have someone else, a friend or loved one, who can give you a fresh perspective and remind you it’s not on you.
- Set clear boundaries: limit your interactions with this person and have it clear what situations you’re comfortable with or not. Maybe you can handle being together in a group setting for a short amount of time, but not coffee or lunch together. Maybe you prefer an email to a zoom call.
- Cut them out: if it’s an option, you have the right to cut this person out of your life. Your mental safety should come first and you’re in under no obligation of entertaining someone who has a negative impact on your life.
There! You have all the tools to become an energy vampire slayer.The most important thing to remember is that, no matter why you’ve established a connection with this person, it’s not your burden to bear to keep them in your life. It’s not an easy thing to keep people at a distance or completely cut them out, but no relationship should cost us our mental health.
Healthy connections will feed your emotional well-being, make you feel energized, motivated and loved - that’s how it’s meant to be. If someone in your life is turning a good day into a bad one, it’s time to consider going full vampire hunter on them and turning their negative energy into dust.