Keep Energy Vampires On Their Side

There is one almost fail-safe way to brand energy vampires and un-invite them to your life.  Set boundaries.

For those of us who are highly sensitive, Energy Vampires can make a huge difference in our level of physical, mental, and emotional energy levels.  Severe drops in energy can appear to come “out-of-nowhere,” but if there aren’t health reasons for them, Energy Vampires may be stepping onto your side.

I discuss different kinds of Energy Vampires here.  I talk about what I learned about Energy Vampires and ways you can identify relationships with Energy Vampires here.

I talk about what draws Energy Vampires to us in this post.  And I ask how it is that you might invite Energy Vampires into your life here.

But I haven’t yet talked about what to do with Energy Vampires.  That is, once you’ve decided that you actually need to do something to change what isn’t working for you.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a neat and simple concept, but rarely is it so neat and simple to put into practice.  So, here are some things to keep in mind when you set boundaries with Energy Vampires.  The first step is to observe yourself and observe yourself in interactions.

  1. Know when someone crosses your boundaries
  2. Know what you need

This is another one of those “fuzzy” suggestions, but let’s make it more concrete.

  • When and in reaction to what events or interactions do you find yourself feeling frustrated, angry, or irritated?
  • What was hurtful, when did you feel angry, unappreciated, ignored, or dismissed?  Fatigued?

Be a detective for using your own internal reactions as sign-posts for moments that crossed your boundaries.  You will find that there is a pattern around how you deal with these situations, and what leads you to feeling drained

 

Compare these reactions with how you feel when you’re excited or joyful.  This difference can provide clues to understand what you didn’t get in those moments, and what you would’ve liked instead.

What you would’ve liked in those moments = your needs.

One way I do this at times is to record a daily log of my interactions and my feelings.  If you write them down, you will begin to see patterns that can help you figure out what you need more clearly.  It will also help you build your intuitive strengths.  One strength of INFJ’s is that we see the patterns in things, so this practice will reinforce that natural gift.

Prepare for possible responses

People in your life who are healthy might have a range of responses to you asking for what you need.  They might listen calmly, they might get upset, or have a hard time hearing what you have to say, especially if you’re not used to asking for what you need.

But at some point, these people will want to know more and will want to do what they can to meet your needs because they care about you.  This is healthy.

Energy Vampires may have a range of initial responses as well.  The key to Energy Vampires, though, is in their pattern of responses to you when you ask for what you needs or set boundaries with them.  Some telling signs include:

  1. Ignore you or change the subject (avoid subject, sometimes in a charming way, that presses the issue of them having to do something different)
  2. Make the conversation about what you haven’t done, how you are wrong, or how they have been mistreated by you (blame you, or show how you’ve victimized them to avoid any focus on them)
  3. Be passive aggressive in tone of voice, withhold emotional warmth, or withdraw from you as punishment, or capitulate (try to get a response from you to draw you into communication that veers away from what you need)
  4. Call you names, threaten or intimidate you, raise their voice, or physically attempt to harm you (attack your worth and whether you deserve to ask for what you need, threaten your safety)

You will see a pattern of these tactics emerge from Energy Vampires on a consistent basis.  The overall tell of an Energy Vampire is when you are able to bring the conversation back to what you need.  They might be unwilling or unable to have the conversation, or if they are able to have the conversation, nothing will change and your needs will still be unmet.

Be wary of “feeling bad” for asking.  It is part of what Energy Vampires count on to be able to turn the tables to take advantage of you.  Be alert if you you feel like you are “asking for too much,” or if you hear yourself saying “the next time it happens…”  Why wait for the next time?

Feeling ashamed, like something you did wasn’t fair, or like he or she “deserves another chance,” are good indicators that you were on the receiving end of one of the tactics above.  When in doubt, bounce what happened off of a few people to get a more objective view.

Ask for what you need and set your boundaries

It’s easy to get drawn into the details of exchanges that are upsetting.  Instead (or in addition to those conversations), focus on what you’ve identified as important to you: having more space or quiet, being appreciated for what you do, being able to talk about x subject, spending time together doing x, etc.

Practice asking if it’s hard.  Write it out.  Practice out loud to yourself, with a close a friend, or into your phone and listen back to it.  It’s a good idea to hear yourself say the words, even if you start with writing.

There’s something about the vibration of the words in your body that is important.  You will know if they ring true to you and it will help you feel more confident about the conversation when you’re ready to have it.

You want to pay attention to the content of what you say, but also to the tone you use, and the timing of when you ask for what you need.  Some risks include:

  • Words – in particular “you” statements: “you need to do,” “you haven’t done,” “you always,” “uhhhh, ummmmm”
  • Tone – angry, sad, sarcastic, blaming, unsure (making statements sound like questions – “I really need to speak with you?”)
  • Timing – when either of you is involved in another activity or preoccupied, or just after a tense exchange.

Evaluate and say “no” to the relationship if necessary

Compare Energy Vampire tactics with your experiences.  Ask yourself questions to evaluate your relationship.  Set boundaries and ask for your needs and pay attention to the responses.  Their pattern will tell you a great deal about the kind of person with whom you are involved.  Get support from friends or family.

It might mean that the person needs to be out of your life completely, or it might mean that your relationship form needs to change so that it’s appropriate to what you can give and receive and still feel like you are connected in a satisfying way.

Be careful, though, if you maintain relationship.  It’s easy to think you can manage it, but still be left drained.  Energy Vampires suck your energy even when you’re aware of it.  They don’t stop sucking.

It’s a lot of work to keep firm and protective boundaries up.  I personally think you’re worth saying “no” to anyone who drains your energy, and finding new and different people who uplift your energy.  I hope this post helps you get better at it.

Do you have other telltale signs of Energy Vampires, or other strategies you use to say “no” to them?

Image Credit: Leonid Kostrykin

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Eva Rubin, MPH/LCSW

Hi! I'm Eva Rubin, LCSW. I study the psychology and the art of how to live well as an introvert and sensitive person so that I can learn and share it with you.
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