How to spot emotional vampires and not get affected by their negativity
Have you ever interacted with someone and later found that the experience drained you? You may even feel that a person has a “negative vibe”, and you try to consciously avoid them. There is a term for this kind of person: they are emotional vampires, and no, there is nothing supernatural about it.
“There are people who energise us and make us feel positive. On the other hand, there are people who make us feel defensive and negative, and as if we are not good enough,” says Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai.
In August this year, Dr Christiane Northrup, MD, a prominent author and speaker released her new book, titled Dodging Energy Vampires. In the book, she says the energy vampire in your life could be a parent, colleague or someone you consider to be a friend.
“…they can be very charming when they are love-bombing you. That is until they come after you. Soon, you are blindsided with insults, being shamed — for your social status, body size, age, income level, how you talk or where you come from — and even abused. Energy vampires also can become moody and distant, so you walk on eggshells, expending even more of your energy while praising and admiring them just to keep the peace. This can negatively affect your self-esteem to the point where you believe something is inherently wrong with you,” she writes on her website.
Dr Northrup says that living with the stress and low self-esteem can eventually lead to chronic inflammation due to consistently high levels of cortisol. In short, an energy vampire can suck the life out of you until you become physically ill.
Ritika S Aggarwal, consultant psychologist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai, says that being around an emotional vampire can affect you at a physical and psychological level. “They might put you down and make you experience a sense of inferiority. They tend to drain your emotional strength leaving you feeling tired, low, anxious, irritable, and cynical. This, in turn, makes it difficult for you to focus on things that matter and can affect your productivity,” she says, adding that over a sustained period of time, you may find yourself feeling depressed and anxious. Worse, you may eventually become one of them.
What makes it so tough to deal with an emotional vampire is that it is pointless to confront them about their behaviour. “If you ask them why they are doing this, they will act like they don’t know what you are talking about. These are people who expect too much of you and want you to be available all the time, whereas they won’t be available for you. Even if they make a mistake, it’s always blamed on somebody else,” says Chavda.
Types of emotional vampires
Emotional vampires are people who may be frustrated about something, or have gone through life-changing situations which could leave them depressed. “While most people recover from setbacks, emotional vampires may not have done so. Some tend to suffer from low self-esteem due to which they feel unworthy or unloved when they don’t receive the approval of others. Some may have inner insecurities of being weak or wrong, and may behave in this way to ensure they are not dominated or hurt by others,” says Aggarwal.
Here are some of the common types of emotional vampires:
Narcissists: The most important person in their life is themselves and everything revolves around them. For instance, if you say that your chest is paining, they will tell you about their friend or someone they know of who had a heart attack.
The drama lover: This type thrives on exaggerating small problems. While most people, who don’t agree on an issue, will find a cordial way to communicate their message, emotional vampires will attack you if they don’t like what you are saying.
The victim: This type of emotional vampire tends to blame, manipulate and emotionally blackmail others rather than taking responsibility for their lives.
The controller: This type wants to have a say in everything you do, has a rigid opinion on right and wrong, and tends to put others down. They may also make you feel incompetent. They feel that they are doing a favour by doing this.
The talker: This type talks continuously and barely lets you speak. They may also encroach on your personal space.
How to deal with them
Being aware that you are dealing with an emotional vampire and setting boundaries is an important step. You can have a healthy relationship with such people, provided you set the limits and deal with them with humour. “I have told some of my patients to lay down limits and explain that they are not available all the time. You have to look after your own emotional health,” says Chavda.
Also, ensure that your self-worth is not dependent on others. “Make it clear to such people that their opinions lack importance, and you can decide for yourself. Don’t share your deepest feelings or worries with them and don’t try to reason with them beyond a point,” says Aggarwal.
If despite trying your best, things don’t get better, then it’s best to cut off contact.
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