I think most people are familiar with the relatively recent term “emotional vampire”, which is used to describe people who “feed upon the emotions of others to bolster their self-esteem and to gain attention. “ (www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=emotional+vampire). Albert Bernstein considers them to be “people with various personality disorders (defined by the WHO) that are often considered to drain emotional energy from others. (Bernstein, Albert J. Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, 2001). There are other terms for an “emotional vampire”, such as “energy vampire”, “psychic vampire”, and “emotional leech”. These terms, and a few others, I will use interchangeably.
When dealing with emotional vampires, a person tends to feel depressed and drained. Perhaps not immediately, but—if not—then, over a period of time. These vampires are, basically, social parasites, who tend to feed off those who are in precarious emotional, physical, and/or spiritual situations and, therefore, vulnerable. I am not talking about people who are just annoying here, nor am I referring to people who need a shoulder to cry on, or help in other ways, but people who, in the guise of friendship, or even love, literally drain off the life forces of others. They, quite literally, feed off the emotions, kindness, and personalities of their victims to allow their own warped psyches to flourish.
An emotional vampire, or psychic vampire, often appears at first glance to be very attractive and charming. They do not usually appear to be “mean”, or “bad”, but—like the fictional vampires in literature and the movies who avoid actual mirrors—are devoid of the ability to self-reflect. Everything, to them, is someone else’s fault. They deny responsibility for their own actions; more importantly, they do not, in any way, recognize that these actions are reflective of their need to live off the emotions or energy of others. They often initiate themselves into a victim’s life by first becoming a friend. Or, even a lover. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a stranger who insinuates him/herself into a potential victim’s life in this manner. The are the ultimate narcissists.
As a brief aside, I also believe that PLACES can be vampiric. There are buildings, villages, cities, towns, businesses, and homes so full of darkness that they “pull” on the soul. They suck out energy as effectively as a human vampire. Perhaps because they have negative imprints: they are built on places where they should not be built, that are the scenes of tragedy and horror have been inhabited by evil people, and so forth. The popularity of the idea of a “haunted” house, I feel, supports my theory. Usually, a place that is reputed to be “haunted” just feels different. This is borne out by testimonies of even those who claim not to believe in the supernatural. Many people, even those not in tune with psychic awareness, feel uncomfortable, somehow drained, after living or visiting certain places. I think the same awareness can be used in the recognition of the human version.
Most vampires are highly insulted and exhibit self-righteous denial when confronted with what they are. Some people, such as myself, have a tendency to be drawn to these life-suckers, and some of us, myself included, are drawn more than others. I believe many potential victims, especially during critical “stress” times, are confronted with, or even drawn to, emotional vampires because we do not recognize our own vulnerability on spiritual, physical, or emotional levels, so we put out “vibes” that draw other forms of negative energy. We are like a well in a desert to those who live off the emotions of others. And, I believe , as a result of this, we can be, to an extent, blindsided—and often drawn in too deeply– before we can recoup our strength to avoid long term, and potentially permanent, damage.
I’m an easy target. Or, I used to be an easy target. Sometimes, because I like to please people, I hate to be rude, I have a very low sense of self-worth (which I’m working on), and I am, by nature, empathetic, I go against my better judgment and allow people to get closer than I should. For some reason, many times, people will just unload on me, which can be pretty uncomfortable. My husband calls this my “Dear Abby” syndrome. But, generally, I like people. I am, however, very, very cautious nowadays to avoid letting new people into my life, simply because there have been so many times when I was emotionally exhausted, physically ill, desperately lonely, and spiritually confused (which isn’t so at the present time, but has been the case often in the past) and I let someone start talking to me and unburdening their woes in order to be polite. Some of these people ended up emotionally sucking me dry, psychically draining me; making demands of my time, and my energy, while they go away feeling better about themselves. These experiences which make me even more vulnerable. Emotional vampires, who seem to possess a type of radar for vulnerability, sense that in me; they are as drawn to me as I must be to them—because I do think the draw goes both ways, just as it does in vampire myth: vulnerable (and oftentimes self-negative) energy draws negative energy. In the Dracula story, the Count feeds off Mina, but also feeds her, which binds her to him. Lucy fades away and, ultimately, dies. She has no more life force inside her. Likewise, it is with emotional vampires. Those too weak to resist will suffer horrible damage, which may, in turn, attract other negative relationships, other emotional vampires; those needed for the long term will be fed enough to keep them on the leash. One needs, not only strength to resist, but strength to see and break away.
Nowadays, I am sometimes able to spot potential feeders fairly early in a social relationship. Some people see auras. I sometimes do, but more often, I either sense or smell them. But, that is something I have only recently, within the past decade or so, allowed to develop. It wasn’t always so. In fact, when I started to take notice of this “talent”, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I literally could not tolerate the odors surrounding the vampires who were feeding off me. It was odd, because they all were clean people, and had no poor personal grooming issues. But, because this odor made me physically ill, I began to pull further and further away. The farther away I pulled, the less they could feed, and the less control they had. And, the stronger I became.
Finally, I gained enough strength so I was able to completely escape from these toxic relationships (one in which I was being emotionally fed off; another, in which I was being reciprocally fed enough to, like Mina to Dracula, bind me). It was afterward that I began to realize what the smell was, and I began to use that sense for protection. However, this sense only works well on those vampire types who are, intrinsically, bad people. Or, maybe bad is not the correct word–maybe incredibly self-centered is a better description. Not all energy vampires are like that, however. Some are only emotionally needy. And, it is portrayed thus in literature: there are the Count Dracula types who eagerly seek out victims, and enjoy feeding, and there are others who have been somehow infected who are, by and large, good people, and only feed off others to save their own lives. These people are more difficult to detect before they grow hungry enough to seek out a food source.
It is easy to handle these energy drainers when they are just acquaintances or casual friends. The best way, for me, is to eliminate or otherwise adjust the contact, keeping my distance as much as possible. It becomes much more difficult when the vampire is someone with whom avoiding contact is almost impossible. I’ve been in those situations, and, though right now, the contact with those particular people is limited, the draining of my psyche still occurs once in awhile. Usually, when I am in a vulnerable state. Then, the question is how to remain protected, shielded, and let the attempted emotional feeding bounce off when contact is unavoidable. Sometimes, imaging a large glass barrier—sort of like a bubble—where I can see, hear, and even commiserate with the needy person, without having my energy resources drained, works. My therapist recommends developing a “safe space”, of which this blog is one, my husband another. I find energy and solace in books, as well. These are all safe spaces. But, I’m trying to find that spot within myself that can handle being around energy suckers without being drained when my safe space is not available—and that is difficult.
Coincidentally, (or perhaps not), I recently re-read one of Margaret Atwood’s books, The Robber Bride. The book is a feminist take on the theme of the old Grimm Brothers’ tale about the Robber Bridegroom, sometimes referred to as Bluebeard. A brief review of the book can be found here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17650.The_Robber_Bride . I’ve really attempted to “listen” to my senses nowadays when, serendipitously, what I read coincides with a current dream cycle, or something with which I am attempting to deal. Reading this book brought up a lot of old memories that I had stashed away in a small, locked closet in my mind—almost like the locked room in the Grimm Brothers’ tale. Clarissa Pinkola Estés also has a segment on Bluebeard in Women Who Run With the Wolves. Although one book deals with an external vampire type, and the other deals with developing the senses with which to recognize archetypal predators, they both illustrate the vampire pattern, as well as its commonality. That the Bluebeard segment is at the beginning of the book is illustrative, I believe, of how common emotional vampirism is in society, of how easily we can fall prey to them. While Estés’ book deals with the problem in the feminine psyche, it exists for men, as well. Zenia, the soulless vampire type in The Robber Bride , feeds off men AND women—and SYSTEMS. Her “type” is also addressed in Estés., who writes:
“Bluebeard continues his destructive plan by instructing his wife to compromise herself psychically; ‘Do whatever you like,’ he says. He prompts the woman to feel a false sense of freedom. He implies she is free to nourish herself and to revel in bucolic landscapes, at least within the confines of his territory. But, in reality, she is not free, for she is constrained from registering the sinister knowledge about the predator, even though deep in the psyche she already truly comprehends the issue.” (Estés, 51).
This passage, as well as Zenia’s, activity and the method with which she insinuates herself and her problems (which include several elaborate, but believable, stories about illness, her past, and so forth), as well as the non-awareness and helplessness of her “victims” as they grow increasingly more vulnerable and drained, is an articulation of just how difficult it is to recognize and extricate oneself—while growing weaker– from these types. And, how ingenious these “soul predators” are in drawing in victims. That the victims may often find themselves willingly and trustingly drawn into the orbit of the vampire is evidence of the ease with which one person can prey on the kind, the polite, the acquiescent, and the vulnerable. We start out wishing to help. That the vampire doesn’t recognize her/himself as a feeder does not negate the damage done to the victim. Or the importance of recognizing a vampire before it is too late.
The first step is, of course, recognition; difficult, if one is, through adversity, illness, unhappiness, exhaustion, youth, naivete, or merely a low sense of self-worth, vulnerable. There are several good books, written by clinical psychiatrists, that demonstrate how one can recognize an emotional vampire (because they do not recognize themselves, of course), and deal with them. One of these books is the previously mentioned Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry, written by Albert J. Bernstein. On page 132, Bernstein asserts: “The most important thing to remember is that Narcissistic vampires are not thinking of you at all. “(p.132). I think this is very important, especially since we become, in certain instances, most vulnerable when we offer ourselves up as solace, when we expose ourselves as a potential emotional food source. Because, while most of us realize the importance of the “Golden Rule”, and apply it in our relationships with others, emotional vampires do not. According to Bernstein, they are wired to be completely narcissistic, a trait which, after awhile, becomes evident. A brief overview of the book can be found here: http://www.albernstein.com/id55.htm
Why am I blogging about this? Going back to my post on “Dreams”, I am convinced that my subconscious is trying to tell me that what is hidden in the dark closets of my mind needs to be exposed to the light. As long as my experiences with emotional vampires, with psychic vampires, huddle frightened and shivering in the deep recesses of my mind, I’m going to have some very disturbing and even traumatizing dreams. I am going to be afraid of new friendships, of every new person I meet, even though I do listen to my senses–because that sense doesn’t work with every vampire type. I won’t have the energy to comfort, nourish, and help my friends and family when they are in need. I won’t be able to completely heal and enjoy my incredible husband, my wonderful new life. Although, idealistically, I never want to be vulnerable again, that is a fairly unrealistic hope, as we all experience many periods of vulnerability throughout our lives. My dreams indicate that at least a part of me IS still vulnerable, so exposing my fears to light—since vampires die in the light—will, hopefully, allow me to live the life I have now without fear, with anticipation and enjoyment. And, I hope that perhaps, in some small way, I have encouraged others to be able to recognize the vampires in their own lives, so that they, too, can protect themselves and heal.