What is an energy vampire?
When watching a B-grade horror flick the ominous music always alerts the audience to the fact that a vampire is afoot. Within moments, the vampire pounces on their unsuspecting victim as blood gushes from the neck. Ouch!
However, in real life, energy vampires often hide behind a veneer of charm and charisma skillfully pulling innocent people into their clutches so they can feast on your energy. They will do everything in their power to suck the energy out of you in order to bolster their false sense of well-being, ego, or power—leaving you depleted, injured, or defensive. Picture it this way: You set a table with abundant healthy food and generously invite people to enjoy a meal together. The energy vampire is gulping all the water from the pitcher, oblivious to the needs of the other people at the table. While platters of food are being passed from person to person the energy vampire grabs the lion’s share, regardless of the fact that several people have not been served. While you might not see it coming, there are several simple ways to assess if your energy, kindness, and good intentions are in fact being used to feed an energy vampire’s insatiable appetite.
There are hundreds of setbacks or traumas that can damage a person’s self-worth, thwarting the development of healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills. These disruptions include, but are not limited to, intergenerational cycles of non-empathetic behavior and a lack of proper behavior being modeled to them in childhood. Social learning theories detail how children learn behaviors through watching others—namely, parents and other adults who played vital roles in their lives. Studies into childhood adversity show that the way a child learns to cope with stress is largely dependent on the support they receive from the adults in their lives. Often, when a child experiences emotional neglect, they are unable to develop healthy coping mechanisms and emotional responsiveness. Unfortunately, this can result in an energy vampire personality in which the individual is grasping for the reassurance they did not receive as a child. This is not an excuse for such behavior, but it is an explanation.
Take your temperature and trust your intuition. When you are with this person, you may notice that you often feel on edge and you always feel drained afterward. The energy vampire resorts to a playbook of damaging and destructive behaviors to do an energy transfusion, sucking away your positivity, good intentions, good news, and empathetic desire to help others. You notice that drama and instability is always swirling around this person. And they often position themselves in the role of the victim who desperately needs you and others to immediately drop everything and come to their rescue.
An energy vampire believes in a winner-takes-all mentality—always willing to grab more than you can possibly give, without regard to your time, feelings or what you may be going through in your life.
People who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial behaviors (as defined in the DSM-5 classification) can be energy vampires. However, individuals who have experienced physical or emotional abuse or neglect can also develop these traits as unhealthy coping and defense mechanisms to compensate for the lack of self worth they may feel. These traits can also be learned behaviors that are modeled by family members and ingrained in the person’s responses.
Good-natured people are naturally more susceptible to energy vampires because their easy-going disposition and orientation assumes that other people are coming from a place of goodness. This makes them a perfect, unsuspecting target to feed upon. Empaths who are sensitive to the words, actions, and emotions of others are also particularly vulnerable to be exploited by energy vampires.
One of my favorite self-protective strategies against abuse from an energy vampire is the simple adage: “No is a complete sentence.”
Often, the ultimate solution to avoiding a persistent, serial energy vampire is to cut them out of your life. This can be particularly difficult if the individual is a family member, but it is often the necessary course of action. For people who are less central in your life, give yourself permission to implement a strategy of avoidance. This can look like always happening to be “busy” when they call or suggest making a date to get together with you. Once you start editing destructive people out of your life, it’s an excellent feeling not to be pulled into continuously toxic interchanges.
Lowering expectations is a proven way to avoid disappointment or pain. Do not expect the energy vampire to act in a way that is emotionally mature, and do not overcompensate by excusing their behavior when they act badly. Take a few moments before your interaction to breathe deeply and get centered. Setting boundaries—such as saying “I only have a few minutes right now”—gives you an easy out when things start heating up.
Also, making sure not to over-share—or even to share at all—is an effective way to prevent a toxic person from using this personal information against you in a future interaction. Additionally, getting an outside perspective from someone in your trusted circle or from a professional will give you clarity and confidence to extricate yourself from the drama and damage. If you’re going to hang out with vampires, let them be in horror flicks or video games. That way you can turn the remote control off when you’re done.
I’m sending you strength and love.
Soaringwords is the power to heal.