Energy vampires suck the positive energy right out of you.

Do you ever feel like someone is sucking out all of your energy and smothering you with negativity? This is an energy vampire.

I first encountered the term energy vampire a few years ago when I read Judith Orloff’s book Emotional Freedom. No matter what you call these people, we’ve all encountered them. Energy vampires are those individuals who exude negative energy, drain you emotionally, and leave you empty.

Healthy relationships should have a mutual give and take. Vampires only take.

Most people intuitively know when they’re in the presence of an energy vampire. You feel physically tired around them. You dread seeing them. They squash your positive mood. They leave you exhausted.

Energy vampires can show up anywhere in your life. I recently encountered some among the parents on my son’s soccer team. Honestly, the soccer team hasn’t been playing very well. In fact, I don’t think they won a single game last season. And although it’s a competitive team, they’re nine year olds and I don’t think we need to take winning or losing all that seriously.

But it became apparent that some of the parents do take it very seriously or they’re stuck on every mistake the boys make. They groan and complain to each other about how poorly the kids are playing. They yell from the sidelines about all the missed shots. It’s a real drag to sit near them. They ruin the fun. So, I try to sit at the other end of the field in order to avoid their toxic vibes. They aren’t trying to be Debbie Downers, they’re just discouraged and frustrated. The problem is their negative energy ripples throughout the whole team.

Some vampires will bleed you dry intentionally. They’re mean and manipulative. They’re self-entitled and unpredictable. Others are more subtle and needy. They always have a problem, but are incapable of listening and helping when you’re in need. Some are like the soccer parents — chronic complainers who spew their unhappiness on anyone in the vicinity.

Who are the energy vampires in your life?

Does this description remind you anyone in your life? Jot down the names of the emotional vampires in your life. How many are there? How often do you see or talk to them? It helps to be aware of just how pervasive the problem is.

It’s also important to note that some people are more sensitive to other people’s energy in general. If you’re a highly sensitive or intuitive person, you’ll feel the effects of an energy vampire strongly, and you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect yourself.

How to protect yourself from energy vampires:

Unfortunately, dealing with an energy vampire isn’t as simple as wearing a garlic necklace (and fortunately it’s not as gruesome as a spike through a vampire’s heart!).

  • Limit contact. Your first defense against energy vampires is to avoid them whenever possible. Say “No” to invitations where they’ll be present. If you have to be around them at social events, arrive late and leave early. Keep your office door shut. Don’t make yourself available at all hours to attend to their needs.
  • Nurture yourself. Whenever you’re experiencing something that’s taxing your time, energy, emotions, or other resources, it’s important to increase your self-care. Many people find that they need more time to decompress, be alone, and be quiet when they’re dealing with an energy vampire. Keep this in mind and try to slow down, lighten your schedule, and prioritize time alone or with people who fill you up emotionally.
  • Release negativity. Negative energy needs an outlet. You might try journaling, exercise, psychotherapy, a hot salt bath, or a sage smudge stick (an ancient tradition for releasing negative energy). Find a way to release negative energy that works for you; we’re all different.
  • Create some emotional space. One of the healthiest things you can do when surrounded by needy or negative people is to create some emotional separation. Consider saying these things to yourself:
    • These aren’t my problems.
    • I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings.
    • I am not the only one who can help.
    • What do I want to do?
  • Honor what you need right now. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Are you tired? Are you experiencing headaches or back pain? Do you feel overwhelmed or irritable? How can you meet these needs? It’s time to put yourself first and attend to your needs. Remember you can’t be your best self when you’re depleted.
  • Eliminate the “shoulds.” When you believe you should do something you create an unrealistic expectation. The result is either guilt when you fail to succeed or resentment and burn out if you continually do things out of obligation.
  • Clearly state your boundaries. It’s imperative that you set boundaries. Vampires will walk all over you if you let them. You can’t assume that they know how you want to be treated. You need to explicitly and consistently state your boundaries by saying “No” when you don’t want to do something or know it will leave you exhausted, angry, or overwhelmed.

Try using a variety of these strategies to help safeguard your energy and well-being from the negative people in your life.

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Setting Boundaries Without Guilt Workbook

If you need to strengthen your boundaries, Sharon’s workbook Setting Boundaries Without Guilt is available for purchase on her website.

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photo: Aya Demeter at Flickr

©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.