Emotional Vampires: The 5 Most Common Types -- And How to Slay Them
Now Dr. Judith Orloff has written an entire book, "Emotional Freedom," teaching you how to free yourself from those who feed on normally-happy you. When she published a story on Huffington Post exploring the phenomenon, it became clear it was a topic that resonated deeply with a lot of people. We called her up to see what she could teach us.
Luckily she agreed to let us pick her brain about how these soul-suckers are created, how we can spot a emotional vampire at 10 paces and what emotional garlic we can wear in their presence.
(Our sincere regrets if you recognize anyone you know.)
MyDaily: To get everyone up to speed, what is an emotional vampire?
Dr. Orloff: As a psychiatrist, the biggest source of energy drain I see in my patients is their relationships. Emotional vampires are people who can drain your energy and suck you dry. They are the people who make your mood take a nosedive, who you feel sick or tired around -- you may even want to binge on comfort foods. Basically, it's a person who changes your mood for the worse just by being around.
What's the most common type of emotional vampire out there?
Of the five types -- Narcissistic, Victim, Controller, Constant talker, and Drama Queen -- I would say that the victim is the most common. That's the friend you have who keeps you on the phone for two hours complaining about everything, but she never seems to do anything about how miserable she is. You start avoiding her phone calls after a bit because she is exhausting, and you feel like there's nothing you can say about it.
That feeling that you can't do anything about an emotional vampire -- part of what I got out of the book is how we're not paying attention to the voice inside of us that says "this person is trouble" -- we're too afraid of being seen as impolite. What is that about?
A lot of people don't speak up for themselves because they are afraid of offending someone or being impolite. I wrote the book because I wanted to give people strategies of how to deal with situations like this. It's just a skill that people aren't taught, but my hope is that if you can learn a few simple tools, you can deal with emotional vampires in a loving and sensitive way.
Do you have any tips of how we can protect ourselves from getting into relationships with emotional vampires?
First, you have to notice how your energy is when you're around the person. If you're on a date and everything seems to be going great, but you notice that you're exhausted, do not marry that guy.
Other than that, I ask people to sit down and think of their top five buttons, the top five things that set them off. Things like guilt trips, petty criticisms, anger -- everyone has buttons, and emotional vampires happen to be able to see these buttons more than other people, and they will push them. Once you know what sets you off, it can help you take the emotionality out of dealing with them, because that's key. It may take a while for you to be calm enough to respond, but at least you'll know when to go and calm yourself.
Once you have your head in the right place, what can you do?
I call it the "Warrior's Way" of dealing with people who want to push your buttons. Your tone of voice is critical -- you have to talk to an emotional vampire in a very matter-of-fact or compassionate manner, rather than trying to deal with them the way they are talking to you. You don't want to turn them off, because you have a goal -- you want to change their behavior. You have to stick to that goal. If you take the bait and get emotional, then nothing will change.
I recommend techniques like limit setting -- for instance, calmly telling a person who criticizes you that they hurt your feelings and you'd appreciate it if they didn't do it again. Get in and get out quickly, with a smile. You do not want a dialogue. For a boss who is narcissistic, frame the things you want in terms of what they're going to get out of it.
If you want a vacation, saying, "Me taking off time here and returning here will benefit the company" will get results faster than "I'm exhausted and I need time off". For a drama queen coworker -- by the way, never ask a drama queen how they are doing! -- I recommend using "not interested" body language. Turning away from them, crossing your arms, and calmly explaining that you have work to do. It takes practice, but it's definitely worth it.
Need extra help? Dr. Orloff is now offering an Emotional Vampire Survival Course online through her website for $25.
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