There are people in my life who seem to always suck me emotionally dry. They either take all my energy or dump all their troubles on me. How do I prevent this from happing?
photo by Joriel “Joz” Jimenez
One of the things that I love about this question is the fact they used the phrase “suck me emotionally dry”. I have always referred to these type people as emotional vampires.
I love the term “emotional vampire” because the moment I use it my clients always get this wry smile. They know exactly what I am talking about.
In this article we are going to look at many different types of emotional vampires as well as what we can do to keep ourselves healthy in the face of emotional vampires.
The Naming of Vampires
This article is not a criticism of emotional vampires. I am not saying they are horrible people, mean people, or even people who are conscious of how their behavior affects other people.
We act the way we do for a number of reasons.
Emotional vampires are no different.
This article is not meant to give you fuel to be even more frustrated with the people in your life. Instead, the goal of this article is to help you to recognize the environment you are in, the people who share this environment with you, how they can effect you, and how you can navigate it in a safe way while continuing to grow and heal.
It is important for us to be able to name the emotional vampires in our lives. This is not an exercise of judgment (thought it can quickly become one). This is not an exercise meant to dwell on the negative (though it can quickly become one).
One of my main goals as a practitioner is to help my clients to become conscious observers of their own lives. When we become observers of our own lives we notice the things that push our buttons and the places that we over react. With this simple knowledge we can make radical changes to our lives. We see the problems as they come and we are able to either avoid the problem or nip it in the bud.
Much in the same way we plan our day by looking at the weather report or the traffic report we can prepare ourselves for our day by notices the experiences and people who can suck us dry.
To make sure we are entering this with the right point of view let’s do a little tapping. (And yes, I want you to tap on this before you read the next section!)
It is important that I examine my life…It is important that I recognize the things in my daily life that affect my mood and my disposition…I choose to know that there are lots of reasons why people act the way the do…sometime they act because they are afraid…sometime they act because they are worried…sometime they act because they are hopeless…sometimes they act because they are lost…sometimes they act because they are overwhelmed…sometimes they act because they don’ know what to do…the people I interact must take responsibility for their choices and their mood…but I choose not to judge them…it is important to understand how they effect me…it is important to know how I allow they to affect me…I am doing this exercise to make sure I am healthy and safe…I am not doing to this judge others…even if that is my natural disposition…I know that when I judge others it is because I am worried…afraid…or insecure…this is an opportunity to also do a little work on the places I would like to heal in my own life.
Types of Vampires
None of the descriptions listed here are going to be a surprise to you. In many cases you are going to be thinking of how this affects you before I get into my description. Again, the first goal is to be able to name what is affecting us. When we name it we can respond to it. Here are just a few.
- Drama Shark
Drama Sharks are so named because of the myth that if a shark stops moving it will die. Drama Sharks will die if they are not in the middle of some type of drama somewhere. It could be drama at work, with friends, with family, or something in the news. They are constantly in the middle of something that is getting them bent out of shape. They can’t stop talking about it and they are always trying to draw everyone around them into the feeding frenzy.
Dump Trucks take their emotional baggage and unload it on everyone around them. They don’t ask permission and they often have no sense of when it is appropriate to talk about emotional issues. At a moments notice they are unloading. Often times Dump Trucks feel much better in the short term because they have unloaded everything on those around them.
We all know the common refrain of Chicken Little: “The sky is falling!” Chicken Little sees danger in every moment and around every corner. The sense of pending doom is not limited to their own life, but often times to everyone else around them as well. They often over react and almost never have solutions. They just point out what they think is wrong and this is not limited to their own lives. They are more than willing to point out what went wrong, what is going wrong, and what will go wrong in everyone else life.
A Sandbag is very much like a Chicken Little, but instead of pointing out what is wrong the Sandbag drags your dreams down by telling you all the things that can’t happen. They might not know what is possible, but they certainly know what is impossible, why it is impossible, and what horrible things are going to happen if you try.
The Black Hole sucks every bit of life and joy out of any room they enter. Sometime they do this with what they say, sometimes they do it with a simple phrase, and other times their simple presents is enough to suck the joy out of the room.
This is not a compressive list by any means (add your favorite or least favorites below!), but it is a good start. Once we are able to recognize who the emotional vampires are in our lives and how they affect us then we can respond.
Before We Encounter Emotional Vampires
One of the easiest things we can do to keep ourselves healthy to simply be aware of what we are about to get ourselves into. You don’t know everything that is going to happen over the course of a day, but you have a very good idea. There are emotional vampires that we interact with regularly. When we know it is coming we can do something about it.
Here is a sample tapping patter for a day when we know we are going to encounter a Drama Shark.
I know today I am going to spend time with [insert name of drama shark]…for some reason they are always in the middle of someone’s business…it is as if they feed on the emotion and drama of those around them…it seems to drive them and feed them…because of their energy for the drama it is very easy to get sucked into what they are doing and talking about…just because they are so involved in the drama doesn’t mean that I have to be…I can choose to ignore it…I can choose to change the topic…I can choose to excuse myself when the Drama Shark get going…just because there is drama…it doesn’t mean that I have to be involved in it.
I know that tapping patter looks very simple, but just by taking 60 seconds to tap on something like that it will make a huge difference.
During Encounters With Emotional Vampires
There are two simple things you can do to take care of yourself when you are encountering an emotional vampire.
The first thing you can do is to be very conscious of what is happening and how it is affecting you in the moment. Like a said before, when we become observers of our own lives we quickly recognize what we have control over and what we don’t.
When you realize you are encountering an emotional vampire you can name the type of vampire you are interacting with and name how this type of vampire normally sucks you dry. When you do this you can choose to not to be caught up in what is going on.
It is very important to be in a place where you are just naming what is happening. By this I mean you are stating the facts of what they are doing and how it is affecting you.
This could be just thoughts that are going through your head or it could be something you tap on:
Right now my co-worker is acting like a sand bag…For some reason, he is pointing out every possible thing that could go wrong with the new project…He is over stating what could go wrong and he isn’t seeing anything that could right…I choose not to get caught up in his negativity.
You will notice that nowhere in this patter are we writing motive for why the person is acting like a Sandbag, nor are we saying the choices they are making are bad choices. We are simply stating what is.
When we get caught up in blame and judgment we are giving our control over to someone else and that exactly what we are trying to avoid.
The second thing we can do in the moment is to recognize that it is too bad for the emotional vampire that they are acting like an emotional vampire. This is not an act of pity, but more of a recognition why things might be the way they are. By doing this it is going to make it easier to not blame or judge the acts of an emotional vampire.
Again, this can just be thought or tapped on:
I am not sure why my co-worker is acting like an emotional vampire…they might be afraid of something…they might be worried about repeating a past poor choice…they might not know they can choose another way…I don’t have to be sucked into the life of an emotional vampire…to be able to see there are many reasons for them acting the way they act.
This simple act of recognizing the possibilities of why they are acting the way they are going to free us from lots of negative emotions making it hard for us to choose the act the way we want to act.
After We Encounter Emotional Vampires
There are two things we can do after we have encountered an emotional vampire.
First, we can tap on what just happened.
Here is a sample tapping patter for being around a Black Hole:
I can’t believe how negative [insert name of Black Hole] is…it is so hard to be positive when I am around them…for some reason they just seem to suck the joy out of the room…I have no idea why they are this way…I wish they weren’t this way because it is hard on me and other…but I am sure it is even harder on them…it must be a good feeling to be in that place all of the time…maybe they don’t realize that they don’t have to choose to be that way…maybe they have forgotten what it is like to feel joyful…I choose to know that even though they are in that space that I don’t have to be in that space…I choose to know that I have access to the light, life, and joy that was just sucked out of me…I can choose where I want to be emotionally…I choose to be in the place of light…I choose to be in the place of love…I choose to be in the place of joy.
Again, this doesn’t look very complicated (because it is not), but it is very powerful. If you take 60 seconds to tap on something like this right after you have encountered an emotional vampire you will make sure the experience doesn’t touch the rest of your day. By doing this you are prevent this one moment from cascading into something bigger.
Second, you can spend sometime tapping for the emotional vampires in your life. I am not saying that you need to tap to change them because you know what is best. What I am suggesting is that you tap for the relationships you have with the emotional vampires you have in your life. When you do this you are going to be able to produce the most profound change because you are changing what you have the most control over. You are changing your part of the relationship.
For more information about this type of tapping and some guidance on how to do it check out the free audio: It’s Not Surrogate But It Helps Others To Make Different Choices
They Don’t Have To Suck You Dry
Just because there are emotional vampires out there doesn’t mean you have to let them affect you in the moment or after the fact. With a little awareness, preparation, and care after the fact you can insure that you continue to be safe and healthy.
I would love to hear what other types of emotional vampires you encounter in your daily life. Please add your emotional vampires in the comment section below.
[Note: Some people are more susceptible to emotional vampires than others. If you recognize that this is something you deal with daily I would encourage you to check out the resources on sensitive temperaments.]