Beware Of Emotional Vampires
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Intro_v01a1 of 11
Vampire 1012 of 11
While a mythological vampire takes a victim's blood in order to remain immortal, an emotional vampire feeds off you mentally, emotionally or financially, says Wanis. The goal of both is the same: to take for their benefit, even if the process ends up harming someone else. You might recognize some of the common emotional vampire types: drama queens, narcissists, control freaks and people who constantly play the victim.
Spotting A Sucker3 of 11
There are only two types of relationships, says Wanis: symbiotic (when two people mutually benefit each other) and parasitic (when one person feeds off the other). "We can equate an emotional vampire to a parasite," he says. "When we're around one, we'll feel sleepy or drained. Ask yourself, 'Does he or she care about me aside from what I can do for them?'" If the answer is no, then you're dealing with an emotional vampire.
Why Me?4 of 11
If you're already plagued by low self-esteem, then an emotional vampire is more apt to make you their prey, says Wanis. "And the worse you feel about yourself, the easier it is to fall victim." But in some cases, he says, vampires can allure us by appearing exciting. "Drama queens and narcissists in particular tend to have larger-than-life personalities," he says. "Before you know it, we get sucked into their webs."
How To Deal5 of 11
"Sometimes, even when we are aware of them, we don't know how to break free from the bites of vampires," says Wanis. And in certain cases, we can't. If you have emotional vampires for family members, then you may be obligated to spend time with them, particularly around the holidays. While you probably can't change their ways, he advises adopting the following tactics to manage your interaction.
Distance Yourself6 of 11
When trapped in conversation with a vampire, Wanis says to maintain your composure by reminding yourself that, no matter how hurtful or hysterical the person gets, you're not responsible for his or her behavior. "Separate yourself mentally and emotionally by saying internally, 'I understand that the way others respond to me is about them,'" he says.
Keep Your Calm7 of 11
"When you hold tension in your body, you respond with tension," says Wanis. Breathing deeply allows you to release that tension and make mental space to "remind yourself that an emotional vampire's whole intention is to get a reaction." He advises taking their power by not giving them what they want from you.
Play Pretend8 of 11
Imagine that you're dealing with a 5-year-old, suggests Wanis. "Vampires are limited in their emotional awareness and by their negative emotions," he says, noting that they may not know how to break through the issues that make them they way they are. When you pretend that you're dealing with a child, you'll have more patience, he says, and you'll also be firmer.
Fight Back9 of 11
At some point, you will need to confront the vampire. "You can say, 'If you want to continue to have a relationship with me, then I need you to speak to me another way,' or, 'I know I've done some things wrong in the past, but if you continue to criticize me, then I will end our relationship,'" says Wanis. He also warns against socially isolating yourself. "Don't give the vampire all your time, energy or heart. Build new, healthy relationships. "
Don't Be A Victim10 of 11
"We teach other people how to treat us by the way we allow them to treat us," says Wanis. "When you state your boundaries, you'll feel better about yourself." For example, if you tell a needy friend that you will no longer answer her late-night phone calls—and stick to it—she will learn not to call you after the time you designate. "The better you feel about yourself, the better you'll make sure other people treat you," says Wanis. "You won't be a victim of an emotional vampire for very long."
Do You Suck?11 of 11
"If your primary behavior in your relationships is playing the role of the victim, the drama queen or the criticizer, then you're the emotional vampire," says Wanis. But don't fear if you fit the profile. "All of us have the ability to gain awareness," he says, suggesting you change your behavior by practicing its opposite. "If you're a criticizer, you likely grew up with a critical parent and also criticize yourself," he says. Start praising instead of putting people down.