How to handle 5 types of energy vampires, from a drama queen to a guilt tripper
Relationships are always an energy exchange. To stay feeling our best, we must ask ourselves: Who gives us energy, and who saps it? Difficult people can leech the energy right out of you. To successfully deal with these “energy vampires,” you must be methodical.Your attitude is important. I like to view difficult people as Bodhisattvas, spiritual teachers who are meant to awaken us, even though they aren’t conscious of their role. But nobody said awakening is always pleasant, or easy. Most difficult people aren’t trying to harm you; they are just unconscious or self-absorbed. Very few are truly dark or driven by evil motives.
Your tone of voice is important, too. A critical tone only inflames people. To get the attention of chronic talkers or those on a rant, it helps to open your remarks by lovingly saying their name. Hearing one’s name aloud instinctively makes us pause. Remember, we all can be difficult at times. Let this sobering fact curb your enthusiasm for chastising the shortcomings of others in word or tone.
Do your best not to vilify people, even when they’re obnoxious or unkind. Realize that anger addicts, guilt trippers, or the other types of difficult people are insecure, wounded, and disconnected from their hearts. Your challenge around bad behavior is to maintain your power and priorities while setting clear boundaries, no matter how annoying, negative, or full of themselves others can be.
From my book, The Estasy of Surrender, here’s how to spot, and protect yourself from, four types of energy vampires:
1. The Drama Queen
They’re the Sarah Bernhardts of energy vampires (though they can of course be male or female). They have a breathy flair for exaggerating small incidents and turning them into off-the-charts dramas. Life for them is always extreme, either unbearably good or bad. They spend life flitting from crisis to crisis, energized by chaos. Histrionics are their middle name. The roller-coaster antics of a drama queen can put you on overload, and wipe you out.
Self-defense tips: Setting limits will reign in drama queens’ emotional extravaganzas. Understand: These vampires don’t get mileage out of equanimity; they only win if they succeed in jangling you. To keep your calm, the moment you sense a drama queen revving up, take a slow, deep breath to center yourself. Then keep concentrating on your breath. Let your breath release tension and ground you. This will keep you from getting caught up in a drama queen’s schtick.
2. The Passive-Aggressive Person
These types express anger with a smile or exaggerated concern but always maintain their cool. They are experts at sugar-coating hostility. They often use procrastination or the exasperating excuse of “I forgot” to avoid commitments. They don’t give straight answers. These people are infuriating because of their innocent or seductive veneers. They appear eager to please, but know exactly how to make you mad.
Self-defense tips: If their mixed message feels confusing or underhanded, trust your intuition. Address the behavior head-on: “I don’t appreciate that you brought me ice cream when you know I’m trying todiet.” Being specific with passive-aggressive people pins them down. Let go of the idea that you can change them. Passive-aggressive energy vampires often developed this behavior in response to a childhood where expressing real anger was unsafe. Sabotaging others is a way for them to feel in control.
3. The Narcissist
These vampires have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, and crave attention and endless praise. Some narcissists are obnoxious egomaniacs, but others are charming, intelligent, and masterful seducers. If you’re needy or vulnerable, they love being your white knight to save the day. Narcissists know how to play you like a fiddle so that you become enamored with them. However, once your admiration stops or you dare to disagree, they turn on you by becoming aloof, punishing, controlling, or passive aggressive.
Self-defense tips: Because they value control and power over love, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get a narcissist to truly care about you. Keep your expectations realistic. Don’t make your self-worthdependent on them, and don’t share your deepest feelings with them; their reaction will only disappoint. Complaining or getting angry won’t work with a narcissist. Instead, stroke their ego and show how your requests fulfill their self-interest.
4. The Fixer-Upper
This vampire is like a fixer-upper house that requires endless repairs. There are two types to watch out for: The first makes you into her (or his) therapist, calling at all hours desperate to have you fix her problems. As a friend you want to comply, but her conundrums are endless, and her tyrannical neediness lures you in and takes you for all the energy you’re worth. A second type of fixer-upper is someone who you perceive needs an overhaul and you take him (or her) on as a project. This vampire is so seductive because he doesn’t put up enough of a fight to dissuade you from trying to fix him, yet he’s not really interested in change.
Self–defense tips: If you’re susceptible to fixer-uppers, try to understand what ropes you in so you don’t repeat this going-nowhere pattern. Ask yourself: Am I motivated by the desire to be liked? To feel wanted? To control? Guilt? An inability to say “no”? When a fixer-upper emerges, start by setting the ground rules of how you’ll interact with them by offering emotional support without compulsively spewing solutions. If you’re consistent, many will be dissuaded from calling; others will be spurred to rely more on their inner wisdom, or an appropriate health-care professional.
5. The Guilt Tripper
These types are world-class blamers, martyrs, and drama queens. They know how to make you feel bad about something by pressing your insecurity buttons.
Self-defense Tips: Let go of the notion that you have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. If you really do feel guilty, find a private place and let yourself cry. You can also reply with a positive statement such as, “I can see your point of view. But when you say X or Y, my feelings are hurt. I’d be grateful if you didn’t keep repeating it.”
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Judith Orloff MD is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and NY Times bestselling author. Her latest book is The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your life. Dr. Orloff's other bestsellers are Emotional Freedom Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Intuitive Healing. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness.