"Emotional Vampires"…we've all been forced to deal with them at some point or other in our lives.
But what exactly is an "emotional vampire"?
Well, definitions vary slightly, depending upon which expert you ask, but for the most part, anyone who seems determined to "feed on you" emotionally in a desperate attempt to build up their own reserves of emotional strength would fall into this category.
I have a dear friend who puts it like this: "There are people in this world who do everything in their power to boost your spirits and fill your heart with hope and joy, but then there are also people who will do everything in their power to bring you down and drain you of all your hope and joy, and those are the ones who can be considered 'emotional vampires.'"
For example, you may have an emotional vampire in your life if, upon experiencing something truly wonderful, such as a big job promotion, you have a friend or a romantic partner who then takes the opportunity to knock the wind right out of your sails by saying: "Oh congrats, but don't you think you're getting in way over your head? I mean now you'll have to work late most nights. Plus, you'll probably have way more responsibility than you can possibly handle."
So-called 'friends' who drain your reserves of emotional energy may actually be emotional vampires.
In other words, rather than focusing on the countless positives associated with receiving a big job promotion, an emotional vampire (like the one in the example above), would typically zero right in on several possible-though as yet unproven-negatives.
What Motivates Emotional Vampires to Behave in This Way?
Well, the simplest, most straightforward explanation would have to be plain old jealousy.
But actually, there is quite a bit more to it than that.
Many-perhaps even most-emotional vampires struggle mightily with a wide variety of "self esteem issues." Because they don't feel good about themselves and their own accomplishments in life, they try their hardest to deflate everyone around them, often in a misguided effort to boost their own self-esteem.
Albert J. Bernstein, PhD, literally "wrote the book" on emotional vampires. Indeed, his 2000 book on the subject is called Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry.
One of Dr. Bernstein's main contentions is that emotional vampires are in fact mentally ill, and that most of them could probably best be diagnosed with one of several personality disorders described in the , which is the primary reference book/diagnostic manual used by psychologists and other helping professionals to diagnose and treat their patients.
On his website, Dr. Bernstein accurately-and rather cleverly-characterizes personality disorders as, "Those strange mental illnesses that drive other people crazy."
Some of the specific "personality disordered emotional vampire types" that he describes on his website include Anti-social, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Obsessive-Compulsive, and Paranoid "Vampires."
His website also includes some very useful information about how we can best protect ourselves from getting ensnared by emotional vampires, who often appear to be charming and seductive at the outset of a relationship, but who tend to turn emotionally lethal after they have already drawn you into their emotional lair. For example, Dr. Bernstein points out that one of the best ways to determine if someone is going to act like an emotional vampire with you is to spend some time finding out how they have behaved in their past personal and/or professional relationships.
Of course, if someone in your personal life is behaving like an emotional vampire, it is advisable to make every possible effort to cut that person out of your life for good.
However, if the particular emotional vampire that you happen to be dealing with is someone in your professional life, getting that person out of your life may be easier said that done.
For instance, if you have a boss who falls into the category of what Dr. Bernstein would call a "Histrionic Vampire," that person could alternatively be described as a major "drama queen."
A histrionic 'vampire' of a boss can deplete your emotional energy unless you take steps to protect yourself.
And, as you can probably imagine, what makes "histrionic vampires" so unbearably draining and exhausting is their tendency to needlessly turn every little problem that arises into a crisis of major proportions.
In the workplace, this can be particularly stressful, especially if the "Histrionic Vampire-Boss" in question views every typo or missed phone call as a catastrophic five-alarm fire.
One option, if you are working for such a boss, is to quit. ]
But of course, quitting one's job is not usually a realistic option; and if that is not a viable alternative for you, then you definitely need to learn how to make your life easier when dealing with such individuals.
Seven Tips For Dealing with Emotional Vampires
Who Cannot Be Avoided (Such As Bosses And/Or Colleagues)
Remind yourself (constantly) that their horrible behavior is their problem, not yours.
Don't get sucked into their endless series of melodramas.
Limit your interactions with them as much as is humanly possible.
Always keep your cool and maintain your composure when dealing with them. (They will likely try to get you just as worked up and upset as they tend to get. After all, as we all know, "misery loves company;" so don't fall into their emotional traps.)
At the workplace, you are compelled to socialize with them, at least on a minimal basis, but if they try to get you to socialize with them outside of the workplace, do not accept any of their invitations.
Use a tone of voice that is not cold or cruel, but that does send the message that you intend to keep your emotional distance.
Once they see that they cannot easily engage you or rile you up, the emotional vampires in your midst will likely figure out that you have already "got their number"; and chances are that they will give up and stop targeting you for emotional harassment.
About the Author
SixWise.com contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships, published in 2006 by Fictionwise.com, and the print book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in 2000 by White Hat Communications.
Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, Conflict911.com and other publications. After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997, she provided counseling services, first at a methadone clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment facility.
Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines, newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine, Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State Parent Magazine, TheBridalBook.com, Babyzone.com, Momstoday.com, The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.
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