Recovery and How to Deal With Your Energy Vampires

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9 Ways to deal with the energy vampires in your life

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Energy Vampires. Porcupines. Kryptonite People.

No matter how you describe them, they are exhausting people. In my article, Your Healing Manifesto, I wrote:

We leave behind exhausting people, porcupines who delight in making attacks and sticking it to other people.

The names we use to describe the life-sucking individuals in our lives are not flattering. Most times, the people who are energy vampires are either unaware or they simply don’t care that they drain other people. They can be negative and exhausting, or charismatic and powerful. How they make you feel will determine their level of “vampiness.”

Do you really have time for people whose entire focus is negative?

Alethia Luna, author of Energy Vampires: 10 Ways to Prevent Chronic Psychic Fatigue calls this a syndrome, “Chronic Psychic Fatigue.” This may be more accurate because vampires can be people, situations, or conversations that drain you.

Energy vampires can be people in your personal life, your work life or your on-line life. It may be easy to “unfriend” someone on social media, but it may be difficult (or financially undesirable) to unfriend a client or coworker.

The diagnostic signs of the energy vampire are usually clear:

  • Draining – Tiring people who are mostly concerned about themselves
  • Immature – Expecting you to do for them what they should be doing for themselves
  • Problem-focused – Will keep the conversation focused on how their life is worse than yours and pretty much anyone else that they know
  • Move from problem to problem – If they do move away from talking about one problem, they will then move to another problem
  • Powerless – Frequently feel like they are victims, they feel powerlessness. They frequently feel needy and un-empowered to take on their own situation and improve things
  • Change-averse – They take little responsibility and do not make attempts to change… anything
  • Prickly – Offended easily and they let you know about it
  • They take things too seriously
  • Lack energy and vitality – They look to you to give them what they cannot give to themselves, namely energy and liveliness
  • Hidden, undisclosed agendas – Most times they will not tell you what they really want. You need to figure it out, and if you don’t you will face their anger, disappointment and subtle (or not so subtle) lectures about how you contribute to their ongoing woes
  • Critical – They frequently offer few solutions and will let you know that their ideas are far superior to yours. They have little awareness that your ideas may be good and if they acknowledge your contribution, it is only when you support them
  • Gossip and badmouth – They gossip to you, and about you. Gossip is always destructive. It is never focused on what is going well for another person. That’s not gossip, it’s uplifting. Gossip is laced with envy, anger, and judgment.
  • They take five times longer to do something – they can be lazy, ask repetitive questions, and delay the process because of their own needs
  • They may be both charismatic and needy – I have left this one for the end because some energy vampires are difficult to spot. They seem fun and you want to be with them. But they will drain you and cast you aside because they are empty inside and shallow outside. They only care about themselves.

Do you have room in your life for energy vampires?

In recovery, your energy needs to be focused on healing. Recovery demands your attention, self-care, reflection, sensitivity, growth and willingness to change. Do you really have time for people whose entire focus is negative?

We seek the light. We have found life in the light, in joy, and in hope. We refuse negativity and complaining for they exhaust our energy.

To put it bluntly, energy vampires are dangerous to your recovery. They want to convince you to agree with them and they will resist you growing in any way that threatens them. If you are trying to recovery from an addiction, from a mental illness, or heal yourself they will resist and sabotage you.

Energy vampires come in all shapes, sizes, creeds and locations. They can be clients, coworkers, a boss, a spouse or partner, kids, a roommate, or a stranger. And you may even be a vampire…

An energy vampire never moves forward. They are truly stuck and they need other people to be stuck with them.

Each of us will face seasons where we need more support than we are able to give to others. This is not being an energy vampire, it’s being human. The difference is this: an energy vampire never moves forward. They are truly stuck and they need other people to be stuck with them.

You know you are getting close to energy vampires when you feel pulled into a role:

Rescuer or hero mode – rushing in to help, to be the one who really changes things for them. The key phrase is “changes things FOR them.” Anytime we do something for another person, we need to consider whether this will help them to move forward.

Rebel mode – this is the opposite to the hero mode. We raise the walls and bring out the big guns. We go into DEFCON mode, our maximum defensive posture. We are ready for battle. The problem is that this can become an outlook, where we will go on the attack at the slightest warning.

Avoider mode – this is where we deal with a vampire by avoiding them.  The best offense is to go into ghost mode. The trouble with this mode is that if it is a way of life, we won’t live our own lives, we will spend our time avoiding other people. We may even be drawn into gossip or badmouthing the other person without taking any action to better ourselves or communicate our boundaries.

9 Ways to deal with the energy vampires in your life

1.Have a plan – your goal is to heal, change and grow. Be specific about your needs and the direction that you want to go with your life. If you don’t know where you are heading, you cannot resist draining people, situations or conversations.

Some practical energy vampire planning tips include (adapted from Alethia Luna’s article “Energy Vampires: 10 Ways to Prevent Chronic Psychic Fatigue):

  • Set a time limit for how long you will endure the vampire
  • Reward yourself
  • Learn not to react
  • Don’t argue with them, or try to prove your point
  • Don’t face the vampire alone

2.Do your best to work on yourself, your relationships and your work. You may feel pulled off course, but keep your focus on being the best you can be. Work on your strengths and this will help to insulate you from the vamps in your life.

3.Be honest with yourself – name the vampires in your life. Notice when you move into rescuer, rebel or isolation modes. You may be overly sensitive or completely unaware of your boundaries, no matter how you respond to vampires, it is important to understand yourself. In recovery, healthy and appropriate boundaries will let you focus your energy on your own growth. You may need healthy friends who remind you when you are being overly aggressive (rebel mode), rescuing or isolating.

  • Ask yourself, what situations, which people and which conversations pull you emotionally into a place that you don’t want to be? 

4.Be honest about your capacity – you may not have the energy to deal with vampires right now, so you need to be in an isolater/avoider mode more often than you wish. If that is what you need, then be intentional about it.

5.If you can, just let it go. Breathe and know that this too will pass.

6.Remind yourself – If you need to be in a relationship with them, remind yourself of the purpose of your relationship with them. Keeping centered on the reason for your connection will help you to diffuse some of the negative energy.

7.Don’t get pulled into a conversation with them. Sometimes avoiding IS the best strategy. Give yourself permission to just walk away.

8.Speak up – begin by changing the subject. You may need to be assertive and tell a person that the conversation is not good for you right now, or that you don’t want to focus on negative topics. Be firm and repeat yourself. If you are not respected, walk away or consider limiting contact with the person.

9.Consider severing a relationship – If your boundary is not respected, limit your time with a vampire or consider ending a relationship with them. If they are not willing to grow, they will drag you down and possibly back into a relapse of addiction or a mental illness.

To put it bluntly, energy vampires are dangerous to your recovery.

They are dangerous to your recovery: Energy Vampires. Porcupines. Kryptonite People. My hope is that you will take this article and build the tools that you need to address the draining people, situations, and conversations in your life. You may also want to read Healing from the Victim Mentality and Why is the Type A Person’s Mental Health at Risk?

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing.

Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photo by Giles Cook

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One thought on “Recovery and How to Deal With Your Energy Vampires

  1. Especially true for me early on in recovery… and then when I was better equipped at setting boundaries etc, it was important for my self-care to ask, ‘How much time do I want to swim with the sharks instead of with the dolphins?’. Thanks Sean.

    Liked by 1 person

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