We all have had experiences where we have come away from social interactions, whether in person or online, feeling drained.
In energetic terms, what has happened is that something about that interaction– either what we have put into it or what we have gotten out of it– has depleted us. In many cases this may mean doing things like looking at how we spend our time and what we put our energy towards.
But it may also have to do with the people you are interacting with, and by you recognizing and knowing how to handle interacting with people who may be depleting, energy sucking, or lacking in boundaries, that you can stop yourself from being depleted and develop healthier relationships in the future.
Most energy vampires (EV’s for short) have no idea what they are doing: it is a way of being that they have learned because to connect authentically, to ask for what they need with healthy boundaries, is not something they learned in their emotional and spiritual development. They may even be suffering due to childhood trauma in which to ask for anything or to have any needs at all was seen as detrimental (or may have even caused for them to be punished) and so there is a lack of awareness that healthy, life-affirming relationships with successful boundaries can be developed.
Many EV’s have little awareness of much beyond themselves. They are not some evil “other”: they are frequently people who lack awareness that the world doesn’t center around them and their immediate wants and needs.
The first thing we can do with EV’s is to recognize clearly the mechanism of action that they use, or the “types” of EV’s. By doing so, we can become aware of our own responses (or how and why we might be successfully drained by an EV)
#1: The General Sucker
How the bulk of EV’s operate is to deplete the emotional energy of the other individual. We can look at the common internet troll and see this mechanism in action– they are saying something provocative in order to garner a response. In getting your outraged response, they can take in those heightened emotions (and thus energy) that you are offering them.
Energetically our emotions fluctuate like a big storm cloud. They create a lot of energy, and our emotions are created and pass quite quickly. The EV is counting on this: they desire to create emotions within you that have a lot of energy (that big storm cloud) that they can quickly and effectively drain. Except that this isn’t lasting, and so like any addict, the EV will need their next “hit” shortly after.
It is rare that this is a conscious thing (see #5 however). This type of EV is in a low place and they are seeking your energy in an attempt to fill what is in pain, or feels empty and missing, within.
Also in this category are people who have experienced trauma or health (mental-emotional-physical-spiritual) issues who also lack awareness of other people. Trauma and health issues understandably make us a bit self-absorbed… if we are in a lot of pain, it is hard to see outside of it. If we are drowning in our lives, we are not going to be aware of who (or what) we are attempting to grab onto to make it safely to shore.
But this self-absorption comes at a cost: a lack of awareness of what we are asking of others, what we are asking of their time and energy. So it is common for EV’s in this category to seek support for their pain from friends and others and not be aware of why people may not wish to take their calls, respond to their texts, or want to go out with them.
It is because there is a one-sidedness to the relationship where the EV is taking up all the space in the relationship, and the other person comes away not only feeling depleted by the encounter, but also frustrated because they were not heard or seen in any way by the EV.
Also in this category are garden-variety narcissists and others who lack empathy or awareness of how one-sided their relationships might be. If you ever have had an encounter with someone where they may be quite charming but all they can do is talk about themselves (without any type of emotional reciprocity or care for how you are doing) it is a type of EV encounter.
#2: The Buffet Table
You have lovingly created a buffet table that is filled with every kind of mouth-watering treat possible. It is laden with food, with the effort and sacrifice that is required to make such a large meal.
This type of EV will look at that buffet table and ask for something that is not on it– like popcorn. Never mind that there are a hundred other treats, that there is more food than they could ever consume in an evening, let alone a month, they want something that isn’t present specifically (like popcorn).
The reason that they are doing this is not because they want that popcorn. They cannot be satisfied with what is present, what has already been created and offered, and they are counting on a caring, compassionate person to feel guilty or to caretake for them in a way that is detrimental to their own health and well-being.
You have already offered them a buffet of who you are, and them wanting something different, something else, is rooted in their wanting much more than you are willing to provide energetically. They are counting on you having low self-esteem, to feel guilty for not jumping up and offering them popcorn.
By saying “no” this type of EV can then look towards the buffet table… but more often than not, they will not. They want the type of individualized attention and care that they did not receive in their own upbringing (from their primary caregivers), and will be disappointed that you do not have popcorn for them as if you were their primary caregiver (mother/father/other) much like a small child gets upset at not getting a candy bar that they really want at the grocery store.
You realizing that they are attempting to recreate a role like this for you can allow for you to move beyond the guilt or the idea that what you offer isn’t enough into confidently offering the buffet table of all that you are… and to say “no” to people who want more or different than what you have to offer.
#3: The Foot in the Door
This type of EV will often start by asking you something simple or innocuous. When you respond, they will ask for more and more of your energy and time until you say “no”. This is much like someone getting their foot in a door– by doing so, they have access to you, your energy, and your time.
There can sometimes be a slow build with this, such as an employee who has low self-worth (or is fearful of losing their job) who gradually takes on more and more work from their boss and/or company.
This can also be a very quick turn-around. You answer one question, do one thing for someone, and then they ask for something large.
Both situations are based on gaining initial access to you and seeing how much you are willing to offer to them (while they offer the least amount of energy and effort possible in return).
#4: The Professional Victim
This type of EV has often experienced the hardship and traumas that many people in the modern world have. Trauma and abuse is a modern epidemic, and we no longer have the resiliency, the connections to ourselves, to the earth, to the safety of a nurturing and caring early attachment (parents or guardians), to one another, and to the divine that allow for us to successfully resolve trauma.
So what has happened are generations of individuals repeating their wounds and a world that is thickened with unhealed traumatized individuals that feel separate and disconnected in ways that are quite painful.
When we do not get the healthy connections that we need in early childhood, we get stuck energetically at that phase of life, that age. While we may currently be a thirty years old, or sixty-five years old, a part of us may be stagnated in an infantile or early childhood state because we did not receive the care and support we needed to initiate into further stages of development successfully.
Additionally, our childhood brain will always protect our caregivers. So what does this mean for someone who was abused and victimized as a young child? They cannot process that their parents or caregivers were “bad” and so their minds shield them from fully acknowledging this. Until this pain is acknowledged and worked through, they will be stuck in a victimhood mode, casting the world (and the people in it) into a projected role of “bad guy”… with little awareness that their outlook on the world may be quite skewed (as in, there are plenty of horrible, abusive people in the world. There are also some wonderful people, and many people who are both horrible and wonderful, or may be horrible on a Tuesday and wonderful on a Friday evening).
What this means is that the people who tend to be fixated on others being EV’s are often quite stuck: they are stuck in a state where they cannot recognize that they are the EV.
When we are infants, it is the time in our lives where we should have our needs and wants attended to in a way that is energetically quite depleting to our caregivers/parents. Of course, there is a lot of love and much the infant can bring in terms of joy and satisfaction to the parent/caregiver, but it is a trying time energetically for most parents for good reason.
If the infant never had an opportunity to truly be nurtured, they are likely stuck in this phase and cannot become initiated into further stages of autonomy and development. What develops is someone who points out this aspect of their nature, again and again, in the outer world, and someone who is rightfully stuck in a victimized state (a state where they did not get what they wanted or needed from primary caregiver) who cannot see that they are an EV because to do so would mean seeing fully the pain and trauma they experienced, as well as to fully acknowledge the lack of abilities, skills, trauma, or simply bad parenting that they experienced as a child.
If we cannot see that we all have aspects of ourselves that are EV in nature, or are fixated on others being EV’s, or continually feel as if all people in the world are a certain way (EV’s, “stupid”, “sheep”, out to damage/“get us”) it is a good sign that looking within and taking back those projections and healing fractures of mind, body, and spirit due to previous trauma is in order.
#5: The Conscious EV
When I talk about EV’s, I always get a few letters from people who want to point out that there are conscious EV’s– people who know how to work with energy, basically. There are some conscious EV’s who have established boundaries and consent in their relationships to establish emotional and physical links to drain the other person. There are also rare EV’s who know how to work with energy to the extent that they can consciously drain others without consent.
However, people tend to get fixated on this category, which is sort of like our fixation on serial killers: yes, there are some out there, but in focusing on this category, you are missing the rest of the (more likely) picture.
Also, there are many individuals who are freely giving away their emotional energy, who are triggered and outraged about a lot of things these days. Finding someone to supply that quick fix isn’t that difficult, and so it is much better to focus on boundaries and looking within as there are likely many unconscious EV’s in your life that are creating much more difficulty than any conscious EV would. Also, see #4… those who tend to worry about such things are often looking away from their own nature.
What to Do about EV’s
Ideally we would have solid boundaries modeled to us by our parents/caregivers growing up. We would learn consent and most importantly, how and when to say “no”.
Even more ideally there would be showing (modeling) as well as explicit discussions about emotional health and boundaries that are a part of our development. However, this rarely happens, and so many of us as adults have to learn a new skill and develop boundaries.
Learning how we want to offer ourselves and through which avenues is an important thing to consider. Boundaries are not a static thing– we may need to have different boundaries with our boss than a friend. We may also need to have stronger boundaries with an EV (who likely has not developed any boundaries or awareness of them, as we learn that through successful and authentic attachment and healthy interaction with others) or someone who lacks boundaries than another person who can respect your time and energy.
#2 Boundaries and Self-Worth
Boundaries require us to consider our self-worth. If we have poor self-esteem or self-worth and cannot see what we bring to the world as valuable and helpful, we will have a harder time creating and maintaining boundaries.
Learning to see how we shine, what we have to offer, is both a difficult and extraordinary task. Sitting with what you have learned, what you have developed within yourself through struggle and sacrifice and willingness to learn (through life or educational pursuits and professional development) can allow for you to own what you know and to move beyond offering yourself to people who wish to “pick your brain” because they cannot be bothered to put in the energy and time to develop themselves similarly.
This type of awareness can also allow for you to recognize when people are looking to be mentored, to successfully move through this world to a place where you are, and who appreciative of your efforts (and is willing to engage in some form of reciprocity, either energetically-emotionally or financially).
#3 Become aware of your energy and what it is doing
Recognize the signs and different types of EV’s. Realize their purpose and what their effect on you is. By doing this, you can inwardly (or outwardly) say “NO” to their attempts to drain you. Trust me, they will find someone else to drain.
But also, begin to become aware of your own energy. My Shamanic Workbook 1 is a great way to begin doing this (developing discernment and energetic skills to become aware of your own energy).
By starting with a basic– such as what your energy levels are as a baseline (on Tuesday you may have more energy than Wednesday this week, for example)– and if your energy is going in or going out in your encounters (energy going out without consent equals depletion, for example… as opposed to being of heart-centered service, where both parties may be lifted and energized by the encounter) you can begin to develop the type of awareness that allows for you to have control and awareness over your own energy.
#4 Realize that we are all EV’s
This is a difficult one for many of us… but we are all, or have been at some time, Energy Vampires!
When we point outward without seeing ourselves in the other person, we are typically projecting or disowning aspects of ourselves. In doing so, we dehumanize, “other”, and make unidimensional villains of the other person.
We do this because we have some relationship, something in our past, something within us, that needs healing. By looking within we can see how and why we cast others into roles and stop ourselves from casting others into the role of dehumanized, unidimensional villain.
We are talking about human beings here, and just like us, EV’s didn’t decide to wake up and start draining people. They had life experiences, trauma, and either don’t feel worthy or don’t know how to maintain or be in successful, life-affirming relationships.
We all know what it feels like to feel lost, alone, or wanting for someone else to give us answers. We all have times when we can, and should, reach out for support in a way that is a bit more one-sided. However, if our whole relationship with someone is one-sided (always about you, or always about them) that is much different than you going through a difficult week, or phase, or year.
If we do need support (and telling ourselves we do not is often traumatized, rugged individualist ideology that only perpetuates the trauma and isolation at the root of this ideology) we should contact friends, family, and mind-body and spirit practitioners who can help us come to a better place in our lives. That, in fact, is what they are there for! There are many practitioners that have devoted their lives to being of service to others, and have gone through similar pain as you have.
Realizing the parts of ourselves that have, or do, fall into one or more of these categories, can allow for us to reconcile these aspects of ourselves (for doing so, I suggest my book, The Body Deva, where you can ask where your inner EV is and work with varying manifestations of it), and more importantly, to not fall into the trap of pointing outward when we should be looking within.
I should mention that having compassion for people, including EV’s, doesn’t mean that you allow for them to drain you. What having this type of compassion allows for is a clear recognition of what is going on in terms of the dynamics of your relationship and to do the inner work required to set up healthy boundaries.
Sometimes the most compassionate thing you can say to someone is “no”.
This, of course, is more difficult when we get to troublesome power dynamics, such as abusive relationships, employees and their boss, or family. In those cases, clear recognition is still required, but acknowledgement of the difficulty and power dynamics of such relationships is also required.
At a certain point, healthy boundaries can mean the need to realize that certain people are too toxic to have in our life in a healthy way. Realizing and going through the stages of grief and acceptance regarding this is helpful. Just because we desire healthy boundaries or a healthy relationship doesn’t mean that the other person will be willing or able to offer it.
But standing up for ourselves, rather than making ourselves small to suit others, and making clear, adult decisions regarding what we do and do not accept or want in our lives, as well as what we are willing to offer of ourselves to others, can only allow for us to grow and to accept that we cannot change others, only ourselves.
And it is by looking within that we can have the strength to know our worth and to stand strong in our boundaries.