How to Handle Emotional Vampires
The people in your life can drain your energy for a number of reasons. They could be narcissists, needing constant attention and praise. Maybe they’re just a little too dramatic, negative, or complaining a lot. On the other hand, they might engage in toxic positivity, giving absolutely everything a happy spin in a way that you find wrong and tiring. Or maybe they’re perfectly good people but just a bad match for you.
Whatever the scenario, if you are dealing with an emotional vampire, there are things you can do to deal with the situation and protect your energy.
“If you can avoid this person, this is my first recommendation,” says Natalie Dattilo, PhD, psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “If it’s not [an option], become good at setting boundaries and limits and sticking to them. “
“It’s important to limit contact,” says Susan Albers, PhD, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “You don’t have to answer the phone. You don’t have to respond to an email. Always have an escape plan. If you answer the phone you can say, “Oh, the laundry is here, I can only talk for 5 minutes. Setting limits is the key. “
Another important step in dealing with an emotional vampire in your life is recognizing what the problem is for you in the first place.
“It’s easier to point the finger at the other person and say, ‘This is how they are,’” says Dattilo. “But there is nothing you can do to change them. It’s always a good idea to start with self-awareness. Acknowledge how you feel after the interaction. “
Ask yourself: what exactly is going on with this person to make me feel exhausted?
“It’s important to distinguish between what is a crisis and what is a drama,” says Albers. “Is what this person is causing really a crisis or is it just dramatic?” Reducing your own feelings and reactions can help you conserve energy when you need to spend time with them.
“You might think they’ve got a potato,” says Albers. “They throw their feelings at you and want you to catch them. You can reverse the trend. Tell them they can handle this. It is not for you to take responsibility for it. “
Self-care and compassion
Practicing good personal care can help. “When we’re in a better place, we’re better at communicating and tolerating others,” says Dattilo. “We will burn out because life is stressful. But when we take care of our own emotional needs, it protects us from others and their emotional needs.
She also suggests looking for ways to regain control. Reframing the situation in your own mind can help. “Use it as an opportunity to practice compassion, to be present, to tolerate discomfort, to be attentive, to listen. You can engage differently in a way that feels more like a choice than a step. Do you have something to say. You can control your experience of this person. It’s a good way to protect your energy. “
It is also helpful to prepare for these interactions and seek help. For example, says Albers, if the person draining your energy is a family member, ask your spouse or someone else in the family to help you out or not leave you alone with that other person.
A little creativity sometimes helps too. If they don’t like the word “no,” says Albers, there are other ways of saying it. Try “I can’t at the moment”, “Let’s do this tomorrow”, or “I’ll come back with you”.
Energy vampires at work
Another place where you might meet emotional vampires is at work. In this case, it can be particularly difficult to avoid the person or even to set limits. This is especially true when the emotional vampire is your supervisor or boss.
Joel Carnevale, PhD, assistant professor of management at Syracuse University, has studied the impact of narcissistic leaders in the workplace. His studies show that such attention-seeking leaders make their employees feel undervalued.
When employees don’t feel valued, their productivity slumps, Carnevale says. People become less willing to speak up. They rate their work energy as lower.
It’s probably not an option to simply avoid your supervisor, but there are still things that can help. First of all, try to understand why the person is doing this. If a supervisor is threatened by your success, for example, stroke their ego by asking for help. It can also help when a narcissistic leader at work sees that acting in a more inclusive, cooperative, or kinder way would benefit them. Ultimately, it’s all yours.
“Focus on what you can control,” Carnevale says. “You can’t control their behavior, but technically that’s not what causes burnout. It is your reaction to these situations. I am a fan of mindfulness and meditation. This can be a useful tool in becoming more aware of your own reactions to these situations and in learning not to get carried away. “
When to ask for help
If you’re so deep in the situation that you can’t find a place of self-awareness or calm, a mental health professional can discuss it with you and help you sort things out.
“An advisor can help you find clear and kind ways [to address the problem]Albers says. “They can also reassure you that there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Energy vampires can make you feel guilty.
Dattilo says that a counselor could be especially helpful if the energy vampire in your life is someone important to you, such as a parent or partner. In this case, the counselor could help with communication, especially if the relationship interferes with everyday life. And if your relationship turns into emotional abuse, seek help.
“It’s not something you want to learn to tolerate better,” says Dattilo.
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