Beware of Emotional Vampires
Dania Dbaibo Darwish
A vital ingredient that spices up our lives is being around other people. We’re blessed with having family members, friends, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances who best serve our social nature. All too often, however, we end up being among the wrong crowd. And instead of being energized by people in our lives, we find ourselves dis empowered, depleted, or upset. Make a connection and reflect for a moment. With whom do you feel totally zapped out of energy? Who have you started dreading being with? If you’re able to recognize a few, then you’ve probably identified those known as "Emotional Vampires”.
Unlike the blood sucking folkloric vampires we’ve heard of, "Emotional Vampires” suck your positive emotions (or your life blood). They make you angry, depressed, overwhelmed, trivial, defensive, or drained. They come in different disguises and flavors: the needy and helpless (the victim), the depressed (always whining), the controlling (the forever bossing you around), the drama queen (that takes everything to the extreme and then the show begins), the narcissist (it’s all about me; you shut up), the perfectionist (the never satisfied and the detail oriented), and the criticizer (can’t ever win with that one; you’re a forever loser).
If you don’t properly control the presence of these "Emotional Vampire” in your life, you could end up suffering depression, anxiety, isolation, substance abuse, or any other maladaptive behavior. Dealing with emotional vampire is very easy if they meant nothing to you, or if you did not need them. You simply terminate the relationship. But what if they were important people in your life – ones you love most and cherish (i.e. your father, mother, sibling, spouse or your best friend). These could be your superiors at work or maybe other coworker. Now, that becomes a tough call!
Two things you need to keep in mind:
- You can’t change them (you can only change yourself or the way you deal with them).
- And that it’s about them; it’s not about you. Something lacks in their lives and they want to fill it up.
They could be in a chronic strife to seek attention, recognition, validation, or acceptance.
Alternatively, they can look tough and assertive on the outside, but underneath feel empty.
So, how do you deal with such emotional vampires?
Consider again, is it possible to take your distance? Can you eliminate all contact with the type? Or maybe reduce encounters drastically?
When contact is inevitable, visualize a protective mental safety shield that protects you from their negativity. Don’t allow their words to seep into you. Above all, resist the urge to be their therapist.
Listen to your body. Is your tension level rising? Do you feel sleepy? Are you suddenly craving for something sweet? Have you suddenly lost all motivation to eat, go out, or do anything? Your body cannot mask the distress; it sends you multiple signals. Don’t allow yourself to react (they want you to).
Breathe deeply and take your time before responding. If you can, listen then forget. Work on up-lifting your mood right after the encounter.
Set your boundaries. Speak up with confidence about what you would, or would not allow in your relationship. Be assertive; yet gentle and empathetic. You can always disagree without being disagreeable; and the only power they have over you is that you give them.
Exhibit that "tough love” you hear about.
Deal with your guilt feeling as you resist being submissive to their influence. Many do actually take you on a guilt trip and that is how you conform to their whims. You’re trying your best to be supportive, but there’s a limit to how much you allow.
Reframe their behavior as that deserving pity. They are immature children who were bitten a long time ago. They will have to outgrow their tantrums on their own. They don’t know why they do the things they do and if you confront them, you’ll find them in denial. Just exercise your patience (you have a golden opportunity there).
Beware of being bitten by those vampires. You don’t want to eventually turn into one, do you? Be mindful of their trespassing your territory and deal with it. Either shut them away, or use the above strategies. Stay in positive motion and spirit. Use a lot of humor. You’ll bewilder them with your action (they are very passive). Empower yourself in their presence constantly (this is how you vaccinate yourself against their poison); else, they’ll bite you; and you’ll be off to find your own prey.