Dealing with Energy Vampires

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Energy VampireIn every contact with others there is an impact on our energy level. Most of us are conditioned to think of others as either giving or taking energy. When we are sapped of energy we view the person on the other end of the relationship as an energy vampire–people who are either on the attack or are trying to suck us into their drama.

I’d argue that we allow both positive and negative energy exchanges to take place–it is within our control. We can search out and plug into energy boosters or engage in energy boosting activities. Conversely, we can deliberately go into power-saving mode and detach when dealing with energy vampires who might otherwise sap our reserves.

Going into power saving mode takes some practice. We’ve all had the experience of having the life sucked out of us by spending time with a particular person or gaggle of negative individuals. Within minutes, if our guard is not up, we can feel stressed, irritated, depressed or overwhelmed.

I remember a particular woman I dated briefly in my single years. She was strikingly pretty but very negative. I was a dumb guy so I kept asking her out. She had an unresolved resentment that impacted every date we had–her first husband had cheated on her. It was all that she could talk about. It was nonstop; it was incessant; it was draining.

I came home from dates literally exhausted. But she was pretty, so being a dumb guy I kept going back for more. But dumb as I was, even I finally realized that the situation wasn’t improving anytime soon.

It’s easy to think of energy vampires as the enemy. Many of the articles written about such individuals cast them in a negative light. But I think there is a more healthy way to view such individuals.

First, it is important to get truthful with yourself and answer the question: Have I ever been an energy vampire? We all have at one time or another. If you answered “no” either pat yourself on the back and ascend immediately into the heavens or start getting real.

I recently read an article by a psychologist that suggested we view energy vampires as emotionally immature individuals who see the world as revolving around them. They fail to see the world from the perspective of others. They often lack empathy. Hmmm … if I get honest with myself I have been that person at times.

That admission puts me in a place to see energy vampires as is suggested in Twelve Step literature: they, as I have been, are perhaps spiritually sick. I am to show them the same compassion I would a sick friend. Remember, every interpersonal interaction is either loving or a cry for love. Though when dealing with an energy vampire we may want to drive a stake through their heart, the most effective stake is not wood, but a loving response.

I’m not naive enough to think that a loving response will nix every raging vampire. If a loving response doesn’t diffuse the situation, we need to learn to go into power saving mode. Or, as they say in At-Anon: “Detach with love.” I’ve written about detachment here. I might also add that detachment can, and often does, mean cutting ties of communication. There are people I care about and pray for that I don’t necessarily interact with on a regular basis.

Energy vampires are typically one of two types–those that deliberately go into attack mode and those that try to suck you into their drama

When dealing with a vampire of the attacking variety remember that when people undermine your dreams, predict your doom or criticize you, they’re telling their story, not yours. It’s important to note that we are most susceptible to these overt attacks when we are not keeping our own inner critic in check. When our own inner critic is harsh and nagging we are far more susceptible to the assaults of others.

The “welcome-to-my-drama” vampires are a more subtle sucker of energy. Be honest, we can love us some drama. What better way to avoid looking at ourselves than to get caught up into someone else’s little tragedy play?

My wife, a recipient of a lung transplant, is typically battling one illness or another as the immunosuppressants that prevent organ rejection have the unfortunate side effect of leaving her susceptible to whatever viruses or bugs are floating around. Her energy level is rarely at a full charge. She protects her remaining energy with a vengeance.

Since she too is in Twelve Step recovery, she is often dealing with women new to the process of recovery–women often mired in one drama or the other. My wife has neither the patience nor the energy to get caught up in their drama. So when it crops up she nips it in the bud.

With the women she sponsors no one is allowed to play the victim card. There have been those who have tried, but it doesn’t fly. My wife is from the streets. She has known the lowest of lows and has dealt with a whole slew of horrors and abuses. She has the credibility to say “get over yourself, I’ve been there and you don’t see me playing the victim card.” Sometimes the most loving response is a tough response.

No matter how detached or on guard we are, there will be occasions where energy gets expended in our interactions with others. For this reason I will continue to stress the importance of having a regular reflective or meditative practice. This doesn’t mean necessarily squatting down in the lotus position. We can reflect as we walk, jog, cycle, cook or read. But there is a definite need to unplug and recharge on a regular basis.

Additionally, we need to seek out experiences that boost our energy. Though many think Twelve Step recovery is about overcoming addiction, it’s really about overcoming self-centeredness–that obsession with self that depletes our energy stores. How do we overcome self-centeredness? Service. This is hardly an energy draining proposition. Millions in recovery have proven that a candle loses nothing in lighting another candle. And when two candles are lit, there is more light.

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