I first came across the term 'Emotional Vampires' when I read the book 'Emotional Vampires: Dealing with people who drain you dry' by clinical psychologist Albert J. Bernstein. The book details a number of different personality disorders which include Antisocial, Obsessive-Compulsive, Paranoid, Histrionic and the one I will focus on in this post- Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Emotional vampires disguise themselves as regular people, living and working amongst us. They wine and dine you, tell you what you want to hear, and play on your emotions only to draw you in and drain your emotional energy dry.
At first emotional vampires look like normal people. They're smart, talented and very very charming. Your immediately drawn in, their charismatic charm and energy is magnetic. You begin to like them and very quickly trust them. It's not long before you're hooked, and with that they break your trust, lie, manipulate and drain your emotional energy dry. They leave you with broken promises, constantly disappointing you with their sweet whispers of everything you desire. They are very quick to adapt and figure out your needs and desires, and just when you think they will meet them, they disappear into the night. Even at this point you second guess yourself and question if it was your fault. Trust when I say it is NEVER your fault.
It's like love at first sight, everything seems perfect about them. You're blinded by their charm, intelligence and their thirst to achieve big things in their life. Everything about them is what you have been looking for. The cold hard truth is that they use their power to aggravate you, hypnotise you, and worst of all to cloud your mind with false promises until you are so deeply caught and tangled in their spell you can't find your way out. Emotional vampires live in your neighbourhood, down the street and maybe even in your house. Their charming, happy self mask is on until their internal needs change them into energy draining predators.
You may be thinking this all sounds a little crazy right? Or maybe you can relate in every shape and form. It's a big deal to label someone with a personality disorder when 'all they have done' is mistreated you whether it be a relationship or friendship. Like with any mental or emotional illness/ disorder, symptoms and behaviours can vary and are measured on a continuum ranging from mild (where people seem difficult to deal with) to severe (when people are hospitalised). What Albert describes in the book is the behavioural patterns which characterise these personality disorders.
The fact is emotional vampires see the world through different lenses. Their perceptions are different, often immature and highly unobtainable. They crave and NEED everyone's attention and they demand love and adoration without giving anything in return. They have a strong need and desire to fill their life with wild adventure and excitement. They avoid responsibility, ordinary life experiences, boredom and uncertainty like the plague. On the outside emotional vampires look like normal people, but on the inside they really are just young children, not able to meet their own emotional needs.
The mind twisting and confusing part about emotional vampires is that they are not fundamentally evil. The problem is the fact that their immature nature allows them to behave in ways that are inconsiderate and often very destructive to other people. They see others as a potential to get what they want in that particular moment. They don't understand that other people have needs and feelings of their own. As you can imagine getting involved with an emotional vampire is a roller coaster of emotions and a one way road to insanity.
So how can you protect yourself from an emotional vampire?
If you have the opportunity to leave then do so. The sad truth is that emotional vampires will just continue to lie and manipulate their way into getting what they want, at the expense of other people. Their complete disregard for other peoples feelings and emotions makes it almost impossible to get them to see things from your point of view. You will end up defending yourself for everything that the emotional vampire doesn't agree with. As hard as it is to detangle yourself from them you will be much better without them in the long term. With some time and understanding away from the emotional vampire you will regain your mental clarity, emotional stability and will value yourself like you used to.
2. Set boundaries
If leaving is not an option, or you want to try and make things work with the emotional vampire then you must be very firm in your boundaries. Emotional vampires are always trying to get what they want at the expense of others, so it is vital for both your emotional health and overall sanity that you take care of yourself. By setting boundaries you are making it clear to the emotional vampire what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to the way their behaviour impacts your life. Be aware though, just because you have set boundaries doesn't mean that the emotional vampire in your life will stick to them. Remember they are notorious for doing what they can to get what they want at any cost, so don't be fooled thinking they will stick to your boundaries forever.
3. Reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour
Emotional vampires have the same emotional capacity as children, as so as with children you will need to focus lots of time and energy rewarding the good behaviour and ignoring the bad. Over time with a lot of patience and energy emotional vampires can learn to improve their behaviour when they understand the nature of their behaviour and the consequences that they have.
Lastly I just want to add that I have been through an absolute huge roller coaster of emotions dealing with an emotional vampire. With the highest highs also come the lowest lows. It is so easy to become tangled in their crazy web of lies and deception. They use their charisma and charm to get you hooked, like a drug you want more. If you think you are dealing with an emotional vampire in your life look at for the signs and most importantly listen to what other loved ones in your life are saying about that person. Seeing the destruction and emotional turmoil from an outside perspective is always so much easier than when you are caught in the centre of it all.
ALWAYS listen to your intuition, if something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't.
The destruction that emotional vampires leave behind is huge, and you will be the one left to pick up the pieces.
Let me know what you think in the comments below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you are struggling to deal with an emotional vampire in your life.
So much love