Protecting Our Energy From Energy Vampires
The Gift of Boundaries that only Comes in Sobriety
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I watched a TED talk that spoke on “Energy Vampires” — those people who drain your energy and leave you spent after a single conversation. We all know an energy vampire. And if we don’t know of any, perhaps that’s because we are one.
Energy vampires rob us of our energy, enthusiasm and optimism. They are either angry, despondent or miserable and feel threatened by our energy, positivity or happy life experiences. They don’t want us to be happy because they are not happy, and it doesn’t seem fair that we can have it and they can’t.
Wow. Energy vampires sound a lot like my relationship with alcohol! Although, I never saw alcohol in this way until after I quit. I needed some distance to see just how toxic and troublesome, not to mention quite simply exhausting, alcohol was in my life. Hangovers are basically the definition of an energy vampire. But also the mental load, the hyperfixation on the what, when and how we will get our next drink, and the emotional drain of keeping secrets.
But today I want to talk about the energy vampires of other people, specifically. I wish we could all just avoid energy vampires. I wish we could block their numbers and turn the other way when we see them approaching. Unfortunately, these vampires are everywhere. They are coworkers, friends, acquaintances, and even family. And maybe they’re just in a stage of life, or maybe they are just exhausted from being dealt bad hand after hand, or maybe it’s only geared towards certain people they are jealous of or feel threatened by. And in total honesty, I am certain that I played the role of energy vampire to many. Probably mostly as my drinking problems progressed.
I am an empath, meaning I can sense people’s energy and emotions and have a tendency to let them affect me deeply. When I first heard the definition of intuitive empath, I felt seen in a way I never had before but I thought it was just who I was. What I’ve learned in recovery is people who carry empath tendencies are often the result of childhood trauma. In my case, my father’s alcoholism taught me to cautiously read the room as a child. It was a survival mechanism.
The problem is my childhood survival mechanisms followed me into adulthood, as they often do. When a friend of mine lost her baby in a tragedy a few years ago, I carried that trauma like it was my own and sank into a dark depression. I was so haunted, my body would convulse in the horror that I can only presume a mom would feel in losing her young child. Many people thought I’d lost my mind. And I thought I’d lost my mind too. Why would I take on this nightmarish experience as my own? It did no service to my friend. It did no service to me or my family. And it came at a steep price, requiring therapy, medication, and a lot of time to heal.
I will stop for a moment and say there is certainly a need for empathy in these experiences. And it seems inhuman to NOT experience deep emotion when a friend or family member experiences trauma. The difference between what I did and someone who could express empathy in a healthy way is my body and mind could not discern someone else’s tragedy from my own. That’s the rub, and that can be dangerous.
When someone with empath characteristics meets up with an energy vampire, you can see the trouble that can arise, right? Suddenly, you’re not only being robbed of your energy but you are beginning to feel the weight of that person’s negativity and discouragement as your own. When I cross paths with a vampire, I tend to carry that back home with me. It rubs off onto my kids, my husband, my mom… suddenly I’m the energy vampire and I’m draining everyone around me.
When I feel the energy-shifting sensation of an energy vampire, I do a few simple things. 1. I visualize a gold bubble around me that is impenetrable, like a security shield that keeps my energy safe and others’ energy away. 2. I try to talk through the experience in my head, both before and after the path-cross. Like a pep talk reminding me no one else can access my energy unless I give them permission. 3. I create boundaries to minimize the time I spend with some people.
In my drinking days, I would respond in a fawning way, where I tried to make them laugh or litter them with compliments. Other times, I would share my insecurities or problems in hopes of making them feel better or like me, in a Stockholm Syndrome toxic twist.
But since I got sober, I do it very different. I now know that energy vampires are not people you share your heart with. They are not people you bear your secrets to. I focus on what I can control — like the gold bubble that protects me, and I leave the rest. Elizabeth Gilbert says it perfectly: “Not everybody gets to have full access to you.”
You do not owe an energy vampire a piece of you. Hold onto that and carry that with you. And if that means having to avoid people, places, or events, so be it. For your own mental health… so be it.
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