Dealing With Emotional Vampires

Previously, we talked about emotional vampires and how they can suck the good stuff out of relationships. They come in many shapes and disguises such as demanding family members, jealous spouses, manipulative adult children, drama-loving friends, bullying co-workers, or egotistical supervisors.

There are several different types of emotional vampires; however, it’s not easy to recognize the warning signals until you’ve been emotionally drained. Some of the signs you may notice are:

  • You feel depressed after spending time with this person.
  • You’re in a bad mood after having a conversation with this person.
  • You go out of your way to avoid interacting with this person.

It’s important to protect yourself from toxic people, and if you’re a people pleaser this will be somewhat difficult. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent these folks from wreaking havoc in your life:

  1. Set boundaries. This can be done by setting time limits when talking to a toxic person. Let them know in advance that you only have X amount of time before you have to do something else. Then, when that time is up – scoot. They will squawk at first – maybe loudly – but if you are consistent they will eventually come to terms with the new boundaries.
  2. Use appropriate body language. If you’re sitting comfortably in a chair acting all casual and relaxed, this is like an invitation for an emotional vampire to proceed with the draining process. However, if you sit up straight or stand with your arms folded, this implies you are closed off and/or preoccupied. To really drive the message home, you can also turn away from them or get up and walk out of the room while you’re talking.
  3. Don’t try to be a hero. Often we get caught up in toxic relationships because we want to help someone overcome whatever problems they are dealing with. Although the individual may seem to have a mountain of issues, it will eventually become apparent they are not interested in whatever solutions or remedies you may offer. They just want to feast on your positive energy.
  4. Be realistic in your expectations. It helps if you understand up front that this person is not going to put your needs or advice first. So, don’t take anything they say or do personally. Your self-worth cannot be dependent on them; otherwise, you will become gloomy and depressed.
  5. Detach yourself. Detachment is your “get out of jail free” card. While it’s natural to respond with anger, offense, scorn or hurt feelings, these reactions actually nurture the soul-suckers in our lives. Your best defense is to do or say nothing. Just smile and breathe. Walk away if you can. Even if it’s a negative family member, you do not have to participate in their fun and games.

Unless you’re in a destructive relationship, you usually don’t have to cut your ties with an emotional vampire. You just need to know how to manage them so encounters don’t get out of hand and leave you wanting to bang your head against the wall.

Many of these individuals are dealing with some type of psychological issue such as anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, bipolar disorder or other problems that cause them to behave this way. Chances are, they have no idea of the emotional chaos they are creating.

If this is someone you deal with on a regular basis such as a loved one or family member, counseling can be very helpful for both of you. Especially when dealing with physical or emotional abuse. If this is a co-worker, boss or friend that you see daily, talking to a mental health professional can provide a lot of tools to help you cope with the situation.