How to Spot and Deal With An Energy Vampire
“I feel like all my energy’s just been sucked out of me; I don’t know why.”
“I always feel so drained after visiting her.”
“I feel really off and I can’t put my finger on what it is.”
Because vampires aren’t just confined to pop culture and literary legends of exclusively nocturnal, pale, red lipped, garlic dodging and darkly sexy undead who prey upon the blood of the living to survive.
Because they make for kick-ass fiction, but they aren’t quite a myth.
There are vampires walking among us. We’re dealing with them every day and most of us have no freakin’ idea.
They may not be undead, nocturnal or pale. They may not be averse to garlic and they (hopefully) aren’t actually sucking your blood (if they are, you need to stop Googling and go call the police).
Am I under psychic attack?
If you’ve clicked on this post in the first place … then I’m guessing yes.
Your gut doesn’t usually lie to you about the shit that matters, and that includes when you feel violated. Yes, we live in a society that gets offended way too easily, but I’m not talking about being offended. I’m talking about being involved with an individual who is draining. You know that feeling, right? The one where your hackles go up, you get that pound of lead feeling in your gut, you get shaky, angsty, ticked off and goosebumpy? Ya, that one. That’s a good indication you’re getting attacked.
Acknowledge it. Identify it. Sit with it and accept it. Understand that this is your intuition telling you a line has been crossed. Though we often get a “gut feeling” about someone the first time we meet them, sometimes it will take getting real up close and personal with someone before they show their true colours. It may take a long time before you even notice that your energy is being drained, a feeling like:
Those spidey senses of yours are tingling – something’s not quite right
There’s an oppressive black cloud around you
Being vulnerable or threatened for no reason
Acting out of character, stressing out, jumping on the defensive
Being general unable to handle life: having difficulty remembering things and difficulty doing things you can do effortlessly on the daily
If you’re spiritually in tune – a feel like you’ve picked up some “bad juju” from somewhere, or a dirty, gritty feeling
“Fogginess” –being disoriented, or feeling mild to moderately hungover (without… you know… being actually hung over)
Being drained/tired/fatigued even after deep and restful sleep
You’re less than, incapable or inadequate, which may or may not be uncharacteristic
You’ve suddenly lost your confidence, self esteem and self assurance
You’ve lost your mojo
You’re basically a virus magnet because you’re so run down
You’re shaky, lightheaded and weak
And you might also find you’re having:
A persistent run of bad luck
Recurrent, frequent or seriously fucked up vivid or traumatic nightmares
Sudden/inexplicable pressure and difficulties in your love life or finances
So long as a doctor’s sussed you out first and given you the all clear from a medical standpoint… these things are a sign that your energy and aura have been weakened and you’re dealing with someone in your life who has become toxic, known as an “energy vampire”. As sinister as it sounds, we can’t exactly go around slapping “evil” stickers on all the energy vampires. The truth is, many of them are actually lovely and loving people with whom we interact on the daily. Members of family. Lovers. Friends.
The bad news is if you’re an empath, a sensitive type or undergoing your own spiritual awakening you’re likely to get hit the hardest by an energy vampire because of the very thing that makes you an empath, a sensitive type or spiritually awakening: your increasing and expanding energy field. It makes energy vampires the moths to your flame.
Our overall experience with human connection should feel more or less uplifting and give us energy. Most of us most of the time, after gathering socially with others feel energised and connected on a deep level. This of course is not to say that EVERY human interaction we have must be uplifting and that if anybody is ever negative, critical or talking about some super real shit they’re an energy vampire and you need to fire them from your life. Life happens and shit happens. Sometimes this fact requires conversations or conflict that is less than pleasant to deal with and sometimes we have to help loved ones who are going through some very real pain and grief and difficult times. This is not what I’m talking about here.
What I am talking about are interactions with particular individuals in our lives that consistently leave us feeling exhausted and/or drained rather than uplifted or comforted. When you constantly walk away from a particular person feeling on edge, drained, negative and/or exhausted – or you feel a sinking feeling whenever you have to interact with them – that’s a problem.
How to spot an energy vampire
Those tingling spidey senses are onto something. Listen to them. Generally speaking, when your interactions with a particular person consistently give you the icks, it’s an indicator they could be an energy vampire. In particular:
… they are conversationally draining …
Tending toward the negative or glass half empty all the time – the antithesis to silver linings; alternatively, persistent gossiping, making you a secret keeper (whether by oversharing or blabbing things others have told them in confidence).
…toxic alpha behaviour …
Likes to be the boss of the game, running the show, and orchestrating everyone else. This is “God complex” or “holier than thou” behaviour (qualifier: we are all divine beings – this type of vampire sees him/herself as God and everyone else as less than). There are tantrums, meltdowns, and often aggressive behaviour in the face of disappointment or assertiveness. It involves being overbearing with opinions, the need to ALWAYS be right and never wrong.
Behaviour can be condescending, overbearing or openly aggressive and angry. Also look for abuse of positions of implicit respect, or an authority complex – acting as if they are in a position to deliver their judgement, offer unsolicited advice, treat you like a child or as if you are stupid or incapable, or control you. You’re probably picking up a lot of language around opinions as being “that’s just how it is” or “fact”, or “It’s my way or the highway.”
… they throw criticism, put downs, or backhanded compliments …
Any behaviour that feels like you are being put down or criticised. This involves chronic criticism, nitpicking, shutting you down, or poking holes in your stories – especially in front of others; or less obviously, paying backhanded compliments (“I always love that dress on you”), undermining you, or overstepping boundaries in the spirit of trying to be “helpful”.
… they are the eternal damsel in distress …
Behaviour where the person constantly needs to be rescued, helped, saved or seems forever in the midst of a crisis. Magnets for drama, crisis, conflict or angst who make mountains out of molehills, take offence at everything and create drama where there isn’t one if things are going well. This energy vampire might also be someone who tends to act as if they are a victim, a damsel in distress, or helpless with/stressed out by basic tasks (often subconsciously) and needs to rely on others to fulfill their needs.
… behaviour that is manipulative …
‘Nuff said. Emotional blackmail, unsolicited generosity or gift giving with strings attached, wearing you down with persistence, triangular manipulation (controlling your behaviour through someone else), or being the travel agent for guilt trips: any behaviour that backs you into a corner, makes you feel indebted or obligated to say yes.
… they violate your boundaries i.e. disrespect your time, your property, your personal space, or your privacy …
Often showing up unannounced, chronic lateness, chronic earliness, showing up to gatherings uninvited, arguing with or persisting past your “no”, going through your personal possessions or electronic devices without your express permission (this includes scrolling past a photograph you’ve shown them in your phone, btw), swooping in and assuming that help/rescuing is needed without asking, not showing up at all for agreed appointments, calling at all hours and the expectation that you will always just “be available”.
… they display passive aggressive behaviour …
A fear of direct confrontation or conflict that ultimately leads to expressing dissatisfaction, opinions, or feelings in unresourceful ways. Being on the receiving end of passive aggressive behaviour can be very emotionally draining. Slamming doors or household objects around, muttering under the breath, and silent treatment (sometimes for days).
Stonewalling is a hallmark of passive aggressive behaviour. This involves acting visibly angry or upset but insisting it’s “nothing” or “I’m fine” when asked, sarcasm, and expecting the other person to be a mind reader and just know or be able to anticipate what they want, or what they are upset about (and getting offended when they don’t).
Someone who exhibits passive aggressive behaviour may show up noticeably late to an event that they didn’t want to go to but felt obliged to attend, or show outwardly submissive behaviour but then go behind someone’s back to get their own way rather than deal with the problem assertively.
… they are narcissistic …
So much – too much – to write here in as much detail as this deserves. In a nutshell: a narcissist is outwardly charming, friendly, likable and “nice” … but only so far as it serves their own interests. Narcissists are egocentric, seeing themselves, their interests, their feelings and their opinions as the only ones that matter. They are attention seeking and give the air of expecting special treatment. They have a strong reaction to any perceived criticism or rejection and are prone to reacting with offence or anger easily.
They like the conversation to centre around them and if the conversation is not about them – they’ll find a way to make it so. They magically appear in your life with a poof! when they want or need something – but will act put upon, inconvenienced or hassled if you need something from them – unless, of course, there’s something in it for them, or they will look like the hero who saved the day.
Why are energy vampires the way they are?
We are all of us beings of energy vibrating at a certain frequency. When someone’s energy field is weak or they have zero clue how to manage it, they desperately go about trying to get happiness from external circumstances and/or other people. Because their own energy is weak, in order to not go stark raving mad they have to “suck” energy and resources, psychologically, emotionally and sometimes (in the worst cases) even physiologically from others. Whilst it’s true that some particularly narcissistic individuals act intentionally to serve their own ends, many, and I would argue the majority, are not even consciously aware that they’re doing it.
Whether they are acting intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or subconsciously, and no matter which behaviours they are engaging in, energy vampires are all masters at doing one thing extremely well: and that is smoothing things over. They aren’t assholes all the time because if they were, they would not have any continuing relationships with anybody. Also, they aren’t monsters. They’re just human beings doing the best they can with the resources they have.
An energy vampire will be the first to tell you that their behaviour comes from a loving place, the best intentions or what they perceive to be a genuine need to be rescued, supported or understood. Plus, especially when it comes to dealing with narcissistic energy vampires, they are charming, helpful and likable in between episodes, which can make it extremely challenging to pick a good time to talk to them about the behaviour and work constructively through your difficulties in an assertive and non-aggressive, non-defensive way.
There are no inherently evil or bad people in the world. I don’t buy into that. I truly believe that everyone is a clueless child of God just trying to do life the best way they know how – with varying degrees of success. A Course in Miracles teaches us that every human act is either an act of love or a cry for love i.e. we are all either acting out of love or fear. I also believe that most of us, if not all of us, are guilty of being energy vampires at one point or another in our lives and as Jesus says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
When our energy is weak, we are more prone to act out of fear. When we are not able to feel love for ourselves, we go in search of trying to draw that feeling from others. When we think we are not worthy of love, or fear losing love, we feel that we have to manipulate it from others. When we feel small, it is animal instinct to go out and prove ourselves as the bigger dog by trying to push our dominance on others. What pain we must be in, to resort to this behaviour! Only hurt people hurt others and at their core, an energy vampire’s need to manipulate or “suck” energy from others comes from something they feel is lacking within: love, significance, or certainty. The last thing these people need is our contempt: what they need most is our compassion.
I also need to make it equally as clear that compassion is not the same thing as accepting, turning a blind eye to, ignoring or putting up with this kind of behaviour, especially where it is harmful to another individual. At their least harmful, energy vampires will drain your energy and deplete your emotional, mental and biological health. At their most harmful, energy vampires can cause real psychological, emotional and (in the worst cases) physical damage. In any event, the behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud before the damage becomes too great.
How to deal with the energy vampires in your life
Spotting an energy vampire is one thing – dealing with them is another. Burning bridges is one approach, but in most cases it’s not practical, not possible, or even necessary. And no – you cannot change a person. So how do you deal with an energy vampire in a loving, compassionate way without having to cut them off or let them suck you dry?
#1: The First Step Is Awareness
Once you understand how the behaviour of an energy vampire affects you, half the battle is won. The behavioural pattern becomes predictable and you will be able, to some degree, to anticipate and sidestep.
Know where your lines are – at what point do you feel triggered, put upon or attacked? That’s your boundary. Now defend it. Remember, you can’t change a person: it’s up to them to identify their own behaviour and make a change. What you can do, however, is be responsible for your own behaviour and how you choose to respond.
#2 Reclaim Your Personal Power and Take Ownership of Your Energy
Remember, Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
We’re friends here, right? So let’s not mince words. I’m going to be blunt. The only reason an energy vampire is getting away with their shitty behaviour is because you’re letting them. And the only reason the shitty behaviour is affecting you is because you’re letting it.
The only reason an energy vampire has power over you is because you are choosing – consciously or subconsciously – to give it to them. This is why emotionally intelligent or sensitive people are so prone to getting sucked dry – we’re sensitive to others’ needs, we can’t stand to cause pain to another human being, and we pick up energy and vibration and soak it in like a sponge.
This is not about battling for control over the other person or getting your power back from the other person. That’s not how this works. This is about the strengthening of your own energy, the stepping into your own power, taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions and not allowing yourself to be a victim. This is about keeping grounded, protected and energised.
A compulsive taker or user, for example, can only take what you are willing to give to her – so don’t give any more than you are willing and set firm boundaries. An Alpha will only keep attempting to dominate you if you show submissiveness or, paradoxically, keep competing in the game for dominance and trying to prove yourself to him.
Remind yourself of your responsibility for your own energy and personal power, your own certainty that you are a child of God who is just as valued and deserving of your needs being met as any other. Remind yourself that you do not need to compete, give, or attend every pity party you’re invited to join to “earn” that worth – it is simply your God given right. Stand unapologetically in your own divine light.
Deep breaths now. This part contains some triggers.
The shit an energy vampire can put us through can leave us feeling resentment, bitterness or annoyance but guess what this does? It creates resistance around the person, lowers your vibration and energy, feeds and fuels the energy vampire’s toxic vibration AND you attract more energy sucking behaviour. You’re basically telling the Universe “Yes, please send me more interactions with this energy vampire, which make me feel like ass for two days afterward!” What you resist persists.
When you are able to show forgiveness and are calm, free of resentment or bitterness, you can come to your interactions with the toxic person with a level playing field and a strong vibration, which helps to protect your energy and deal with the energy vampire far more resourcefully.
A disclaimer, here.
Forgiveness is NOT – I repeat, is NOT condoning, tolerating or allowing the behaviour to continue. It is not saying that you shouldn’t have boundaries and limits on the extent of your interaction with this person.
Every human being deserves forgiveness but not every human being deserves to be in your life.
Get the difference?
I NEVER advise allowing a toxic person to continue sucking you dry, staying in an abusive and/or unsafe situation or putting up with shitty behaviour.
The word “forgiveness” is not the implication that you were not hurt, that your feelings were not valid, that the other person was right or justified, or that you must now participate in allowing rotten behaviour that impugns your needs, your safety or your rights to continue.
Forgiveness is a miracle by which you set yourself free, as well as the other person, from the bondage created by the energy of their misbehaviour.
As Marianne Williamson puts it so beautifully: “As you forgive others, you begin to forgive yourself. As you stop focusing on their mistakes, you will stop punishing yourself for your own. Your ability to release what you think of as the sins of others will free you to release yourself… nothing anyone has ever done to you has permanent effects unless you hold onto it permanently.”
Envision the person in question and say to yourself “I forgive you and I release you” or, if you are not ready yet, “I am willing to forgive you and release you”.
#4: Set Healthy Boundaries
Okay, empaths, this is where the rubber hits the road.
What I am proposing to you is something about which a lot of us sensitive types have complex feelings and it’s a challenge for most of us.
The only way to deal with a toxic person in your life without cutting ties is to learn how to be assertive.
If you’re an awakened soul, an empath or a deeply sensitive/intuitive individual, “assertive” can feel like a four letter word.
Please trust me on this.
Assertiveness can be a life saver.
Here is what assertiveness is not: Being aggressive. Being an asshole. Being pushy. Being dominant. Being unfair. Infringing on others’ rights. Pushing your own point of view or agenda. Blaming. Name calling. Not considering the other’s feelings, point of view or needs. Getting your way. Getting revenge or getting someone back. Invalidating.
It is also not: Passively accepting another person’s opinion or will. Putting up with bullshit. Being “nice”. Being a doormat. Getting walked all over. Offering up your needs on the altar of sacrifice so that someone else’s get met.
Here is what assertiveness is: “My needs are important too.” “This is what I need.” “This is what I am willing to do.” “This is what I feel is fair/unfair.” “This is what I am not willing to tolerate.” “I hear what you are saying and I understand. Here’s what I can do for you.”
I have dedicated a whole post on this in more detail, but to be assertive is to set boundaries, to stand up for your own rights and make it clear that they matter just as much as the other person’s without taking away the rights of the other person. It does not give you license to be an asshole, but it gives you permission to not be a doormat.
To be assertive is to stand up for your rights or for those of another person in a calm, positive and fair way. According to the Oxford Dictionary it is “Forthright, positive insistence of the recognition of one’s rights.” In other words, standing up for yourself in a direct, appropriate way while not attacking another person. You can be empathic, kind and compassionate while making it clear that you will no longer accept, tolerate or feed the behaviour. Remember your own self worth. You are a child of God who deserves a happy existence and to be surrounded by love and light. You deserve to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. Pull back when you need to and feel good about claiming that space for yourself.
In the absence of the whole post this communication style deserves, some Cliff’s notes:
Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. The latter gets people defensive.
Call them on the shitty behaviour, don’t attack the person. For the same reason as above. Also remember it’s the behaviour you’re addressing, but the person is your brother/sister in God.
State facts, not opinions or exaggerations. For starters, in the art of negotiation or argument, exaggerations can quickly be disproven and get you off on the wrong foot. Secondly, opinions are not necessarily true.
Avoid argument. A person’s defensiveness to a boundary being set is common, especially when they are not used to them. Your line in the sand is not negotiable. Avoid getting sidetracked into a the rabbit hole of an argument.
Establish what you want from them. It’s hard for an empath to ask for what they want but it is CRUCIAL. We assume that just because we feel a certain way, the other person should just know or anticipate what we want. Not so. Everyone is not a mind reader and everyone has different rules for life. Be upfront about your needs and what you want from the person, don’t expect them to guess.
Stand your ground. When you suddenly start to be assertive, people who are not used to it and are used to getting their own way probably won’t like it. They will tantrum. They will behave unresourcefully. They will try to argue with you, defend their position, or start slathering on the guilt. In situations like this, it’s best to just repeat your position like a broken record.
Stick to addressing one behaviour at a time. Anything more can feel like an attack on their person and make them more likely to be defensive, rather than receptive to your request.
Listen to their point of view. When they express a need, be willing to listen. Be willing to tell them what you are and are not prepared to tolerate. This is not about “winning”. This is about expressing your needs and setting boundaries whilst respecting the needs and boundaries of the other person and establishing where you both stand.
You’re always late and you never even give me notice. Every time we meet for lunch I sit here for my whole lunch break waiting for you and you don’t show. You just don’t care, do you? You’re so inconsiderate of my time. It’s just rudeness. I can’t rely on you for anything, can I? And while we’re on the subject…
I think you were late meeting me for lunch twice this week, on Monday and then again on Wednesday. I feel like my time is not respected and like I cannot rely on you when you are late without calling first. I understand that we can’t help being late from time to time for reasons beyond our control, so from now on I want you to call me ahead of time if you know you are going to be late.
Notice the difference? Which phrase would you respond better to if it were said to you?
The important part of this dialogue is being able to establish a boundary. This is a standard for how you want to be treated from this point forward. Remember, we teach others how to treat us based on the standard we set for ourselves. Make it clear what you will and will not tolerate.
Often a toxic person will test the boundaries you set. It may be a shock to them, especially if they have gotten away with their behaviour for a long time. They may continue the unwanted behaviour despite you asking for what you want and setting the boundary. Remember, you cannot change their behaviour. You can only ask for what you want, set standards for what you will not tolerate and consequences when that boundary is crossed. Most importantly of all, you must then follow through. If you do not, the energy vampire will likely think that you didn’t mean it. Worse, it reinforces to them that your needs matter less than theirs.
For instance, you might ask a compulsive gossip not to talk about your mutual friends in a negative way. You might tell her that if she continues to do so, you will change the subject or leave. If she persists (and she probably will), it is not up to her to recognise it and change the behaviour. Rather, it is up to you to follow through by changing the subject or cutting your meeting short.
It’s especially tricky if you are deeply sensitive to others or have been a people pleaser all your life (take it from a recovering people pleaser). But ultimately, by setting boundaries and communicating in a compassionate and assertive way, you will save your relationship. Why? Because it prevents all the resentment and tension brought about by a line in the sand getting walked all over like there’s not even a line at all. This allows you to be fully present with them – sans the energy sacrifice.
#5: Look After Yourself
Make sure you’re looking out for Number One (yes, that’s you). When your vibration is low, including when you have been interacting with an energy vampire, illnesses, injuries and other stressors are prone to rearing their heads, weakening you even further. That’s why it’s important to bolster your immune system and protect your body and your psyche as much as possible. Take your vitamin B and vitamin C. Make time for daily exercise in whatever way is most joyful for you. Eat healthy, wholesome meals. Sleep. Avoid sugar, as it sends your energy haywire. Most importantly, take time for the things in your life that make you feel amazing. Read your favourite book, watch your favourite comedy or go and get a heavenly massage.
#6: Cleanse your energy
I am all about going full woo-woo when my vibes are low and I feel susceptible to some bad energy floating around. This mostly involves:
Taking a shower. Running water cleanses and restores the aura. Amplify this by visualising the water literally washing the bad juju away from your body.
Meditating daily. Goes without saying. Check in. Be still and present. Come back to yourself.
Doing yoga. The physical movement and concentration of your breath allows you to reclaim your focus from the negative situation at hand. It stirs energy from within, strengthening your field, reawakening your energetic body.
Wearing purple. Because, aside from being my favourite colour, purple is a colour of psychic protection and can raise your vibration, warding off negative vibes.
Burning white sage. It’s the first thing I whip out when there is a bad energy lurking around. It purifies the air and cleanses it of bad energy.
Wearing a crystal for protection. Protection crystals, like quartz, tiger’s eye or lapis lazuli, are my go-tos.
Fuck off spray – This goes with me everywhere. A few spritzes of this when I’ve had to interact with an energy vampire has me feeling better in seconds. I keep it in my purse, on my desk. You can get it here.
An energy vampire can be a real drain on your emotional, psychological and physiological wellbeing, often even without realising that they are doing it until your interactions with them become a chaotic negative energy shitstorm. But by being aware of the behaviour, becoming rooted and grounded in our own light and setting healthy boundaries, we can help to protect our energy without having to cut loose from our lives every person guilty of being an energetic drain, and may in some (not all) cases even be able to strengthen our relationships with them and keep the toxic shit at bay.