If that describes a familiar experience, chances are you have just been in the company of an energy vampire. Energy vampires are emotionally immature individuals who have the sense that the whole world revolves around them. They are almost incapable of seeing things from another person’s perspective. They often lack empathy and believe that they must take everything they can get from others and 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.
Herein is a method for protecting yourself from being drained. This is a two-pronged approach in which you firstly need to assess your own emotional capacity, and secondly assess how much of a threat to you the energy vampire is. Weighing up both these aspects will help you decide what action you need to take.
The extent of your own emotional capacity will determine how much of this person you can take. The most important tool in your kit is your ability to self-reflect, which means being curious about your own reactions so as to understand yourself better as well as be kind to yourself by accepting yourself just as you are. If you have a daily self-reflective practice (eg, walking, meditation, yoga, cooking, cycling for at least 40-60 minutes), that will increase your emotional capacity. Similarly if you have a stable life situation such as a good relationship with your partner, a steady job, a good place to live and not in the throes of a traumatic event. 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 (eg, 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.
At first glance, energy vampires can seem highly attractive. They are often 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 work environment. However, beware that they are “grooming” you – meaning setting you up to exploit you in whichever way best suits their purposes later. What seems quite innocent at first, like finding a good friend, may lead to you compromising 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.
Here is a quick test to determine how the two prongs add up and what action you might be better off taking, given the results. Answer each question with: False (F), Slightly True (ST), Mainly True (MT) or Very True (VT) and add up your points:
ANSWERS: False (F), Slightly True (ST), Mainly True (MT) or Very True (VT)
1. I am my own worst enemy (F=3; ST=2; MT=1; VT=0)
2. I often tell myself I should do things differently (F=3; ST=2; MT=1; VT=0)
3. I often have feelings that I really shouldn’t have (F=3; ST=2; MT=1; VT=0)
4. I try hard but don’t get the results I want (F=3; ST=2; MT=1; VT=0)
5. I often find myself asking: “Why is this happening to me?” or: “Why is it like this?” (F=3; ST=2; MT=1; VT=0)
6. I have a daily self-reflective practice (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
7. I allow myself the time and space to work out how I feel about things (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
8. I have a lot of social support (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
10. Things are going well for me in my life right now (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
1. I feel exhausted, bored, irritated, stressed, anxious, threatened, overwhelmed or depressed after I’m with this person (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
3. I have caught this person out in a lie (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
4. This person is great at “selling” themselves but consistently fails to deliver (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
5. This person gossips and says mean things about others (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
6. This person is “difficult”7. Intuitively, I mistrust this person (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
7. Intuitively, I mistrust this person (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
8. This person seems to create conflicted and chaotic relationships (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
9. This person is highly critical of just about everything (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
10. This person seems to want something from me that I do not want to give (F=0; ST=1; MT=2; VT=3)
Emotional Capacity = 21 – 30
You have good self-esteem, a well-articulated sense of who you are and you are in a good place in your life right now. You are normally resilient, have a lot of good social support and many resources that enable you to take care of yourself effectively. You have the ability to deal with energy vampires who are bearable and if you are careful, they shouldn’t bother you too much as you are able to set good boundaries. You also have the capacity to deal with draining energy vampires, as long as you have a firm motivation for doing so. For example, if you are ambitious and looking for advancement and if your exposure to this person is limited to short bursts only, then keep going but keep your wits about you. You need to formulate an effective plan of action to attenuate the negative impact of the energy vampire. However, even you will struggle to cope with a toxic level energy vampire, except in the smallest doses. If you have too much exposure to someone that meets this description, it’s time to cut and run.
Emotional Capacity = 10 – 20
Your self-esteem fluctuates and you alternate between good days and bad days. During stressful times in particular you may not be able to cope as well as usual with energy vampires. You really do need a very good reason to maintain your contact with an energy vampire and if “bearable”, you might be able to manage in small doses. You run into difficulty when you have a good reason to stay in the same environment as the “draining” kind of energy vampire. Now is the time to carefully self-reflect with the help of a trusted but impartial mentor. Is it really worth staying for what you have to put up with? You could consider therapy to improve your coping resources or make improvements to your life situation so that it’s more stable and secure. But it may be advisable that you limit your exposure to this person to 3 months, tops. Any more than that could take you on a path to burnout.
Emotional Capacity = 0 – 9
You tend to have a negative view of yourself, which erodes your resilience to energy vampires. You may be able to put up with someone who is just “bearable” as long as your exposure to this person is very limited. However, recognise that you need to be in an interpersonal environment that is positive and encouraging. It would be helpful if you could get some therapy to help curb your inner critic, as this will increase your resilience. If you spend any time with an energy vampire who is either draining or toxic, consider leaving that environment altogether because the potential damage could be quite harmful and it will take time to recover. This applies even if you are motivated for positive reasons to get ahead. There are better environments out there for you to achieve success. If you are putting up with a toxic environment just because you are afraid to let go of the situation and move on, then get whatever help you need to summon the courage to hightail it out of there ASAP.
Vampire Assessment: 0 – 10: “Bearable”
At this level, an energy vampire will be somewhat difficult to put up but he or she may be manageable in small doses, especially if you have some effective strategies that prevent you from being drained. Those in this category may be critical and negative and have a limited point of view, but are generally not ill-intentioned. It is still best to limit your exposure as much as you can.
Vampire Assessment: 0 – 10: “Draining”
At this level, an energy vampire can really drain you dry after even a brief interaction. You may feel irritated or put upon and your mood may be low for several hours afterwards. Unless you protect yourself, you may take out your bad mood on those you love, which could cause some damage to important relationships. Your perception of the world may become temporarily skewed towards the negative. There’s nothing you can do to “fix” this person and they are very unlikely to care about your wellbeing. They are likely to be self-centred and self-serving and take more than they give. Make sure to place firm boundaries around this person and limit your exposure.
Vampire Assessment: 20 – 30: “Toxic”
At this level, an energy vampire will leave you feeling drained and exhausted and may even be dangerous to your health. Toxic vampires can skew your entire reality and swallow up your identity. They can groom you into illegal or immoral activities or bully and berate you until you are a shell of your former self. They are to be avoided at all costs, even if you are highly resilient – after all, it’s your survival that’s at stake here. Think Bernie Madoff, Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe and the ilk and get out as fast as you can. The cost of an association with this kind of vampire will outweigh many times over the cost of getting out, no matter how difficult it seems at the time.