Dione Fortune and Anton LaVey both coined the terms ‘Physic Vampire’ and ‘Energy Vampire.’ Granted, both of these people were heavily influenced by the occult and therefore literally meant “A supernatural creature that sucked the energy and life force from a human.” I on the other hand prefer the broader meaning. E.g. A person who saps all of your energy, to the extent where you need to spend the rest of the day face down on the couch.
In general, people with anxiety are fine detectors of human emotion. I suppose you could call it a shit super power, a heightened sense of awareness of the general mood/vibe that surrounds us. Unfortunately this is far more draining than it is useful, particularly if the environment is negative. For example, if I’m hanging out with a group of people and I notice that the mood is low, stagnate or sullen then I immediately feel it’s my duty to ‘fix it.’ I personalise the situation too much and presume it’s my fault that nobody is having fun. So I spend the whole time apologising and desperately trying to think of ways to improve it. The whole ‘great power great responsibility’ thing is seriously f**ked up.
It tends to be easier in the summer because the sunshine puts everyone in a good mood.. am I right?
In the last year I’ve cut an energy vampire out of my life completely. There wasn’t a sudden moment and she didn’t do anything specific, I just couldn’t cope with her mentally anymore. We met during the initial stages of our careers and bonded by necessity, but we never really fit. Most social interactions were agonising for me, because I spent so much time trying to keep her ‘entertained’ and happy.. but it never worked. I shouldered all of her negative energy and felt like a failure because I couldn’t make it better. She took the piss out of me relentlessly in front of others… and I let her. At events she would drop me like a bad habit whenever someone ‘better’ arrived… and again, I let her. Then she would email randomly, asking me out for a drink like we were best friends or something. So weird!
Looking back I’m perplexed by my own behaviour. These days I would’ve been like ‘f**k it. We clearly haven’t clicked’ and leave it at that. But I was more impressionable in my early twenties and in particular the move to London made me more desperate for human interaction. The sole reason that we stayed ‘friends’ for so long was work, nothing more.
Energy Vampire profile
- You don’t enjoy their company and instead feel obliged to spend time with them.
- You feel nervous, uncomfortable and ‘on edge’ when you’re with them.
- They spend the majority of social interactions talking about themselves and complaining about X,Y & Z.
- Nothing that you do makes them happy.
- They use ‘guilt trips’ to get what they want.
- You get very little from the friendship.
- After spending time with them you feel tired, disillusioned and physically drained.
Most ‘E Vamps’ (that’s my cool nick name) aren’t bad people. On the contrary they probably have no idea how much their behaviour has an impact on your mental health. But they DO and it’s up to you to resolve this.
- Try and limit the amount of time that you spend with them. You don’t have to accept every invitation to meet up. The E Vamp I cut out of my life used to ask me to do things in front of other people, thereby increasing the level of awkwardness. Initially I would pretend to be busy, but after a while I simply said. “Thanks, but I’m not up for it tonight.” I’m not saying this was an easy thing to do.. In fact it increased my anxiety and stress levels in the short run, because the taunting and peer pressure was brutal. She would call me “boring” and “a loser.” But I simply smiled and repeated that I wasn’t up for it. DO NOT explain yourself, as there is no need.
- DO NOT make up elaborate excuses or tell lots of ‘white lies’ to avoid seeing them. This might work in the short term, but it will only increase your anxiety levels. Lies are a dead weight on the conscience. Being honest can be awkward, but in time it will get easier and you will feel empowered. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Thank you, but I’m not up for it.” If they query this, respond politely with “I’m just not.” Or if it’s via text then leave it completely.
- You don’t have to reply to every text. It isn’t YOUR responsibility to fix their problems. Texts might be cluttered with phrases such as “nobody understands/support me” and “I really need a friend” – but that doesn’t contractually oblige you to take over. If you respond frequently then they will come to expect this level of interaction. Phrases such as “I’m really sorry you feel that way. I hope you feel better soon” are perfectly acceptable. Then turn your phone off. Sure there might be some back lash the next day, but it will gradually improve. Unless this person is a key part of your life then what is there to lose?
- Put yourself first. Simple, but true. Over the last few years I’ve started to realise that it’s better to be alone sometimes, than spend time with people who make you feel unhappy.
The situation is more tricky when the E Vamp is a member of the family, or indeed a close friend who is going through a bad time. So you can’t simply cut them out of your life because you love them. In this case a certain level of patience is required.
Family E Vamp
- Again you can limit the amount of time that you spend with them, but also ‘mentally prepare’ yourself for the visit. For example, when my friend Lucy visits her sister, she’s always asked “Are you still single?” Along a host of other inflammatory personal questions. In the past Lucy would dread these questions and answer them with excuses such as “Yes, but I’m trying a new dating site.” This was draining and made her feel bad about herself. So one day she simply said, “I am yes” with a smile. Nothing confrontational, just assertive. The five second awkward pause that followed was excruciating, but it forced Lucy’s sister to think of another topic of conversation. You might not be able to control the interaction, but you CAN control how you respond. So be kind to yourself when you can.
- Mental prep can also include ‘accepting and letting go’ – Take a deep breath, accept that what they’re saying is hurtful/offensive and then let it go. Try and remind yourself of why you love them so much and why this conversation isn’t important.
- Ask for help – if there’s another family member that you can confind in for support then do so. They might be able to get more involved or at least be aware of how you’re feeling.
- A friend going through a hard time will require extra patience. I usually give them a ‘hall pass’ for a month… because heck we all need one now and again! True friends feel and live each other’s pain, so if they matter and have supported you over the years, then they deserve a little more of your energy.
E Vamps are greedy bastards… so STOP FEEDING THEM!