Ghosts, goblins, zombies, vampires?? Perhaps most of these are not real, with the exception of one…vampires. No, I am not referring to Dracula or the Lost Boys; I am talking about real vampires. You may not know it but they walk amongst us, interacting with us daily. They don’t have long fangs or fly; they may even like garlic and placing holy water on their foreheads. Detection is difficult as they blend into society well.
Be very careful as you could get bitten and may not even know it. Now that I have you completely confused and scratching your head let’s explore vampires. I’ll explain why you should believe in them, how to identify them, and how to protect yourself from them. After all, it is Halloween and vampires can be scarier than any haunted house.
The type of vampire I ‘m referring to is what I call a life vampire—which can suck the life right out of a person! Have you heard of them? Perhaps you haven’t heard of them by this name but I assure you that you know them well. I was first introduced to them back in 2007. I attended an amazing conference in Connecticut with speaker Dr. Judith Orloff, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and a bestselling author of many books. It was at this conference I was introduced to the “emotional vampire” as she refers to them. Dr. Orloff described the various types of vampires, how to recognize them, and how to avoid them. You can learn more about emotional vampires in Dr. Orloff’s book “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011).
What I have found in life, as well as in my practice, is very similar to what Dr. Orloff describes in her book about combating these vampires. Here are some characteristics I have found when encountering these life vampires: energy draining, constantly complaining, negative attitude, gossiping, inconsistent in actions and words, dramatic, self-absorbed, never at fault, never good enough or happy, victimized, controlling, and judgmental to name just a few. Ask yourself, “Have I ever hung up the phone and felt completely exhausted?” If the answer is yes then it is very likely that you have had an encounter with a life vampire, who has literally just sucked the life out of you! You could actually take a nap because you feel so tired and emotionally drained after that conversation. This happens frequently to many people and it is not healthy. Now you may be thinking, “Who are these people? Don’t we all go through tough times in life where we need someone to rely on?” Yes we do, but it is not about one bad day, but rather consistently having bad days. These people are demonstrating this behavior consistently and as a result you often feel drained after every interaction with them. They can come in the form of your mother, brother, sister in law, father in law, friend, boyfriend, coworker and even your boss. They surround you and you encounter them every day. The next step to consider is how to stop them from draining you and/or how to rid yourself of them. It can be difficult to create healthy boundaries with life vampires because many lack awareness of their existence, and some have very strong beliefs, values, and even culture than can make the boundaries skewed. It is not easy to tell your mother you will never speak to her again or avoid your boss. While some vampires can be avoided, such as a friend or boyfriend whom you realize is unhealthy for you, a family member or boss may not be that simple. To aid in this process I have outlined a few simple steps to combat life vampires by identifying, accepting, and protecting you against a vampire.-these are the ultimate stakes that will drive straight through a vampire’s heart..
Identify: First step is to identify who the vampires are! Remember they are cunning, manipulative, and blend in well. You need to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of a life vampire in order to identify who they are in your life. If you are spending time with them and you end up feeling drained afterwards because of their negativity, gossip of others, talking about themselves, narcissism, judgement of you or others, or lack of the ability to take responsibility for anything, you have encountered a life vampire.
Accept: Many say acceptance is the hardest part in life. Change is hard for many people, even if it is for the betterment of your self. Humans are creatures of habit and find comfort in routine.. Perhaps you have identified the vampire but have a hard time accepting it. This is common- you are not alone. After all, this vampire could be your father! You may have spent many years in a relationship with this person and don’t want to believe that they have been manipulating you for such a long time– that is hard to accept! You struggle with the idea of changing them but know that change comes from within. It is likely you have had conversations with this person about change, but he is not receptive or willing to change. This is what makes acceptance so difficult. You are now at an impasse with two possible outcomes- 1) you are drained for the rest of your life and remain a prisoner of the vampire and/or get bitten yourself and become a life vampire to others. or 2) you make the decision to move on. Once you can accept he/she for who they are you can move on to the most important piece of the plan.
Protect: The final step in vampire slaying comes in protecting yourself. Once you have identified who the vampires in your life are and have accepted them for who they are, realizing you can’t change them, you can take the steps necessary to protect yourself. There are two ways to protect yourself depending on the role the vampire plays in your life. For the easy vampires, such as friends, coworkers, boyfriends/girlfriends, or even bosses, you can simply make the decision to take them out of your life. You can stop spending time with them, end the relationship, ask to be moved in the office, or find a new job. The second type is a little trickier and can take some strategic maneuvers. When dealing with family members, depending on your culture, values, and beliefs, removing these vampires from your life will be more difficult. You can keep them in your life by creating a safe boundary (it’s like wearing garlic around your neck, they won’t get too close!). You identify, accept, and now place boundaries where necessary to keep them from sucking the life out of you. For these types of situations I have come up with a few boundaries that have proven helpful to many people:
~Limit your phone calls with them.. “Hey dad I have about 10 minutes and then I have to go help Johnny do his homework”
~Just say no! Learn to assert yourself and say no to events, gatherings, visitations by others etc. to limit your time with these vampires. Your time is important and you are not obligated to all invitations. “Thanks for the invitation to dinner but I am going to pass this time, I am not feeling up to going out tonight”
~Stop feeling guilty. You have done nothing wrong and there is no reason to feel guilty. Again, just say no, vampires are notorious for changing the situation around and making you feel guilty as if you are at fault. “Jenny why don’t you call me often or come visit, I am your mother! Don’t you love me anymore?”
~Be kind to vampires. It is easy to get angry and feel defensive. However this behavior can be a pathway to your own negativity. What’s the old saying? Kill them with kindness. Precisely! Tell the vampire that youhave learned much from him and even enjoyed him at times, and that you are moving on. Thank him and bid him adieu “Mr. Morris I appreciate your feedback on the report I submitted. I will utilize this moving forward, thank you.”
~Most importantly do what makes you happy, be with people who make you happy, and have a career that makes you happy. In other words the more you surround yourself with happiness the easier it is for you to avoid the vampires. Life vampires thrive on vulnerable prey. When you are happy, you are confident and secure! Let the sun shine in as we all know how much vampires hate sunlight! Things they say roll off your back easier and you are less likely to be pulled into the vampire’s coffin. You are no longer fun for a vampire anymore! They will then move on to the next person who will listen to their victimization or allow them to control them and get sucked into the vicious cycle. While this is the most effective strategy of all, (better than holy water, garlic, and a crucifix combined-the definitive stake) it is the one that is most difficult to master. “Iknow we have been together for 3 years but I think it is time to end our relationship. We had some good times and now I am moving on with the next chapter in my life. I am heading to lunch with one of my friends to celebrate my new job that I have been working so hard for, I’m so excited! Good luck to you in the future.”You are now well equipped and ready for the vampire apocalypse, should there be one. At the very least you are equipped to take back control of your own life. Remember you are worth love, friendship, and much more. Our relationships are a very important part of our health. Take care of yourself!