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Reflections: Who is Your Emotional Vampire?

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“An (emotional) vampire goes in for the kill by stirring up your emotions. Pushing your buttons throws you off center, which renders you easier to drain. Of all the emotional types, empaths are often the most devastated.” Judith Orloff

Reflections: Who is Your Emotional Vampire?

(Listen here: podcast) Miracles Can Happen
“This program includes two stories featuring improbable events. The first, Joyce Johnson’s “The Fall of Texas” chronicles a pivotal moment in the 1960s, when both the terrestrial world and the personal life of the heroine seemed about to collapse. “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon reads. Next, in Percival Everett’s “The Fix,” read by host Isaiah Sheffer, the story’s central character can fix anything—anything: toasters, heartaches, lives. Who is he?” via NPR/PRI Selected Shorts

Who is your emotional vampire? Or are you one?  Sometimes, when we are under enormous stress, we might unwittingly become quite demanding of those around us that we sap all oxygen out of the air…  The Sirens of old Greek mythology were quite beautiful and engaging but drained every bit of life out of their unsuspecting victims… Recently on NPR/PRI/  Selected Shorts readings, I heard a harrowing tale; The Fix by Percival Everett.  It’s a simple story that made me think about this matter too. I’d call it a psychological drama about a man named Sherman who fixes things freely and happily for all who ask. He has a gift to fix everything;  even bring people back to life… But as is the case with emotional vampires and sirens, he is soon slowly and insidiously hounded by needy people until, in an attempt to escape, he meets a fate I will reserve sharing so those of you who choose to read the short story can find out.  More below.

“They’re out there . . . masquerading as ordinary people. They may lurk in your office, your family, your circle of friends; perhaps they even share your bed. Chances are, you know all too many of them. Bright, talented, and charismatic, they win your trust, your confidence, and your affection­­ then drain you of your emotional energy.”  Albert Bernstein, Ph.D

Reflections: Who is Your Emotional Vampire? Empathize but be vigilant…

A mistake we often make is that we tend to think emotional vampires are all drama queens and paranoid antisocial types, but they exhibit other behaviors as well. They can be charismatic, charming, brilliant types who want their needs met first and always.  We can be compassionate and caring but we must draw a line in the sand and be firm when the behavior becomes overbearing. A classic emotional vampire type is the boss in The Devil Wears Prada… There are many others out there, and we know them; or at least, a few of them.  A few excellent books on the subject include: Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein, The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner and Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward. I’ll add a few more titles below.

“A great numb feeling washes over me as I let go of the past and look forward to the future. Pretend to be a vampire. I don’t really need to pretend, because it’s who I am, an emotional vampire. I’ve just come to expect it. Vampires are real. That I was born this way. That I feed off of other people’s real emotions. Search for this night’s prey. Who will it be?” Bret Easton Ellis

Reflections: Who is Your Emotional Vampire? Armitage Siren

We call those who sap our energy with their endless negativity, drama, demanding nature, toxic or narcissistic people. We call them sirens, emotional/psychic vampires; even manipulators. However we wish to address them, what is imperative is that we learn how to ease them out of our space with compassion, and encourage them to move on and focus on what ails them. The challenge is that such folk do not, I repeat, they do not see themselves in that light and might accuse you of abandonment, insubordination or cruelty. But we must stand our ground because we know how we feel in their company.

We can start with a simple NO! to yet another request or story. We must be honest about the behavior without being accusatory and then encourage them to seek professional help. As per The Fix, the story sheds a sinister light on human behavior; that given the chance, we all have a vampire tendency…   A few more good books on the subject are: Vampires: Emotional Predators Who Want to Suck the Life Out of You by Daniel Rhodes and Kathleen Rhodes, Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates … and Other Difficult People: Using Emotional Intelligence to Survive and Prosper by Roy H. Lubit and Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by Judith Orloff.
What about you? What are your thoughts? Do you have an emotional vampire in your life? What do you do to avoid having the life drained out of you? What helps you cope if this is a family member? What impact have they had on your life? Do share! Thank you. 😉

This post was inspired by a prompt from Soul Pancake: Who is Your Emotional Vampire?

*Please bear with me as I continue to catch up on your blogs and commenting… Thank you all for your patience! 🙂

Positive Motivation Tip: Emotional vampires are needy and sometimes unaware. We can help by pointing them to a trained professional for counseling.

More Wellness Boosters/Affirmations & Resources

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All photos Munch vampire, Siren, Empathy, via Wikipedia via Flickr  The Fix is in Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story   The Podcast is shared via NPR – National Public Radio/PRI – Public Radio International/WNYC – Public Radio New York City

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

59 Comments leave one →
  1. 25/05/2012 12:04 am

    My husband’s brother and his wife loathe me ever since we got married because they wanted him to remain a bachelor and leave them his half of the farm. As we live just across the road I find this very hard but I have forgiven them 75×7 times and have now banished them from the property because of their abusive, malicious behaviour.

    • 25/05/2012 9:01 pm

      You did your best and it was probably wise to move on… If they couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he married you and created his own life, then they left you with the option you exercised. I pray they turn a corner on this… especially given your hubby’s health matters. Blessings to you!

      • 25/05/2012 9:23 pm

        Thank you! They turned the corner a couple of times then reneged – they have only visited him twice in all these months – argh. Good riddance!

      • 25/05/2012 9:46 pm

        Blessings to you…. Sad but true! Have a lovely weekend dear one!

      • 25/05/2012 10:12 pm


  2. 25/05/2012 12:04 am

    Eliz, what a loaded question, emotional vampires and or toxic people, or narcissistic people. I know I have these types in my life with work and co workers, family, friends..but not online! So yes I have them and forever want to get them! Just how do I do that? I cannot avoid family. I wonder maybe this post is for me to think about. I work and go home and read books that is it. I feel animals are more loving and forgiving than family and friends. I am making progress with the doctors and my I need to find a dr for scars on my face. I miss you Happy Memorial day and see the ME in that day for yourself! Love Jackie

    • 25/05/2012 9:03 pm

      TY Jackie and sending prayers and blessings your way… It is not an easy situation to push through but it is worth the effort. Speaking up and creating boundaries is a great start… Sending you Memorial Day weekend blessings too.

  3. 25/05/2012 12:50 am

    We all know people like this, it’s a fine line between wanting to comfort or help and being used as a venting post. We must strive to understand and empathise using our compassion but at some point those reserves must be replenished. Great post. 🙂

    • 25/05/2012 6:05 am

      Stu, you took the words right out of my mouth…verbatim!
      Since I’ve been in recovery, I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries with toxic sorts, but have found it best to be VERY direct! Because of their issues, emotional vampires don’t pick up subtle/nuanced “back off!” messages the way healthier people do.
      Great post (and discussion/replies) Elizabeth. If you haven’t been “Freshly Pressed” yet, you should be!

      • 25/05/2012 7:45 am

        We’re on the same page Karen. 🙂

      • 25/05/2012 9:08 pm

        TY SmallHouseBG! We have to be direct as it is the key way to start regaining control of the situation and establishing boundaries… As I said in the post, some EVs are not fully aware of the behavior and need help redirecting their energy into seeking appropriate professional help or even exercises that calm the tendency.

    • 25/05/2012 9:05 pm

      TY Stu and yes, it is a fine line that we must all pay attention too. Sometimes we do have people around us in need and helping is key… However, when the behavior crosses a line and we begin to feel uncomfortable, it is time to address it. Each of us has a gauge for that and we should follow our instincts accordingly.

  4. 25/05/2012 2:12 am

    I’ve seen Munch’s VAMPIRE in New York: great colors!

    • 25/05/2012 9:13 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it… Where did you see it?

  5. 25/05/2012 3:32 am

    Unfortunately me too. It’s hard though because like vampire’s they appear to be able to get in behind defenses almost hypnotically. And garlic won’t work! It’s hard to get rid of the ones you love even though they are sucking your energy.

    • 25/05/2012 9:16 pm

      I had a good laugh over your garlic comment… I understand! For the ones we love, we still need to establish healthy guidelines to help them and help us manage the endless energy sapping… Honestly, it is imperative that we act even with family or it will make us physically ill… TY!

  6. 25/05/2012 3:43 am

    I was so into this a couple of years ago and have known a few. As soon as you become aware you can react differently. I think this is also related to introvert/extrovert behavior too. Great post!

    • 25/05/2012 9:17 pm

      TY Catherine! Once we become aware, it is important to act to stem the energy draining. If we don’t, it will eventually destroy us.

  7. 25/05/2012 3:47 am

    Going through this right now…offered to “help” but, turned into so much more…that I dread their phone call…I will face them today…and stand fast to taking “me” back…No one should make you feel this way…As was said by “Stuartart” above…comforting or helping is one thing…but, being used… is another”…~mkg

    • 25/05/2012 9:19 pm

      Exactly… and the key to all is this is that once we begin to get the feeling of discomfort of being drained, it is our body intelligence communicating to us that it is time to put a stop to the behavior… TY!

  8. 25/05/2012 5:42 am

    Great topic Elizabeth. I have an emotional vampire who is very close to me and I’m so afraid of isolating her because she has two little kids and she’s already very isolated in her miserable world. Sometimes when I’m talking with her I get so worked up I get heart palpitations. She will not do anything to empower herself to get out of her situation. I feel really bad for the kids.

    I listened to the short story “The Fix” and it was amazing!!! I was so engrossed in it. It was great a metaphor for this topic! Thanks.

    • 25/05/2012 9:22 pm

      TY Rose and glad to see you here… The story is a terrific metaphor for the subject; especially because it shows us what could happen if we don’t stop the energy drain… eventually we are consumed by it. Please encourage the person you mentioned to seek the help of a family therapist… I mentioned above that it can make us sick and it will. Please do!

  9. 25/05/2012 5:46 am

    I have not heard the term emotional vampire used before with these people but it is so fitting! You describe it so well! And yes, specifically one woman I know comes to mind. It’s very sad because she is do obtuse to it but even in the midst of someone else’s life threatening event, this woman turns the event into her own and tries to garner sympathy for herself! I really dont think there is a way to get through to her that she will see so I have had to get away myself. It’s very draining. Your description really hit home for me!

    • 25/05/2012 9:25 pm

      I’m tempted to say send her the post… but maybe not. What matters is that you protect your space and encourage her to seek help. Some people become this way from life challenges, and some from being able to manipulate others to indulge their whims… Either way, we don’t have to get caught in the cross fire. TY for your comment and Happy Birthday!!!!!

  10. 25/05/2012 6:00 am

    I only wish I’d read this piece 10 years ago, before I got drained. I know a few emotional vampires, one in particular, that by himself, managed to take me down for awhile. I finally got fed up and threw him out of my life altogether, but it’s taken years to recover from the scars. Like a fool, I ignored so many red flags telling me to let the guy solve his own problems. In my younger days, I had the caretaker attitude, which I suspect was the result of having children young. No matter, the reason why, having that guy in my life left me empty, bitter, and hesitant to give anyone else a chance to share my life. My advice to others is to pay attention to those red-flag feelings and confront them at once. Sometimes(in my case) no relationship is better than a bad relationship. Of course I realize that emotional vampires are not limited to a man/woman relationship. At least you can walk out when that is the case though … I’m sure the solution is not so easy if it is your parent or child, etc. Good Article, Elizabeth. Of course, I’d expect no less from you, my dear. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

    • 25/05/2012 9:33 pm

      I couldn’t have said it better… Your sharing elucidates the problem quite well and again reminds us that we must ACT! We must stand our ground and firmly and lovingly draw a line and encourage them to seek help. I have used the words compassion and care in my post because, we do want to understand that people with these tendencies are hurting too and masking their pain with this type of behavior. Firmness with compassion will help avoid an ugly blow out. TY!

  11. 25/05/2012 9:20 am

    Wow–this post sure opens up a lot of emotions, Eliz. There are people who are emotional vampires in my life. But the biggest recognition is knowing that we are all capable of being an emotional vampire to others and to ourselves. Balance is the way to get through.

    • 25/05/2012 9:35 pm

      TY Freedom and I’m glad you brought this point up again… I started my post with it because it is easy to forget that we can be the oppressor too or that we have walked that path in our lifetime. If we can keep that in mind, then dealing with others will help us operate from a place of concern not superiority… All but for the Grace of God….

  12. 25/05/2012 9:36 am

    Great references. Sometimes we are just too open to being used by others, a personality trait or emotional/mental state, that gives to the point of self destruction. Personally I’ve had to cultivate self-protective factors and learn to say no without feeling guilty.

    • 25/05/2012 9:37 pm

      Exactly… It is definitely the first step to self-preservation from those exhibiting the behavior… TY!

  13. 25/05/2012 9:39 am

    I can identify Elizabeth! I’ve been dealing with one at the office this week!

    • 25/05/2012 9:39 pm

      Ugh! Be careful and firm… You must address it though and put a stop to the energy drain. I’d even encourage you to read the first book and handle the behavior firmly and clearly.

  14. 25/05/2012 9:56 am

    Great article Elizabeth! I know a few 🙂 Keeping them at arms length isn’t always easy.

    • 25/05/2012 9:41 pm

      No it isn’t but we must continue to work at that… Engage and disengage. Be clear, firm and compassionate, but create that boundary to protect your energy. TY!

  15. 25/05/2012 10:14 am

    They are everywhere, even in the offices. Thank you for this, Elizabeth.

    • 25/05/2012 9:43 pm

      They sure are and we know them because of how we feel after time in their company… drained. Some would use sage to clear the air but I’d say, use wisdom and clarity to create some distance. TY!

  16. 25/05/2012 10:11 pm

    You know them when you have them in your life! Whew! I don’t have any emotional vampires in my life right now, Eliz, but I have in the past! Counseling helped me 🙂 Debra

    • 25/05/2012 10:25 pm

      TY Debra for adding another important dimension to this conversation… If we are the victim of an emotional vampire, we would also benefit from seeking professional help! Both will need it… TY!! Glad you are doing much better.

  17. 26/05/2012 7:14 pm

    I have a very well-honed emotional-vampire radar, haha, and run in the opposite direction

    • 26/05/2012 7:17 pm

      Lucky you… Some of us aren’t quite as fortunate. 🙂

  18. 27/05/2012 1:33 pm

    My mother was one, and now that she’s sadly passed away, my oldest sister has taken over the spot. Although my mother in law, a very talented life coach, helped me see how I had been trained to enable her vampirism and “victim” status! For instance: Her response to me when I called to tell her I was engaged to my second husband? “Well, I guess everyone’s been married besides me.” Hmmm, no congratulations? Of course I jumped into my usual mode of supporting her. That was the last time I let her do that, but it’s hard finding the fine line between supporting and being drained. My husband always helps me see when I’m crossing that line so I hope I never get to the point where I have to cut her out of my life altogether!
    Great post, Elizabeth, as always!

    • 27/05/2012 1:40 pm

      I hope you never get to that point too. But it sounds like you have good support around you and have found ways to ease into a different conversation with your mom. I believe we can be supportive and then get refocused on the original conversation or a new direction… TY for your feedback.

  19. 27/05/2012 9:49 pm

    A great post and yes, known a few EVS as I like to call them…just wish we could be wiser back when these EVS are doing their damage and we are simply clueless…until one day you realize what destruction they left your life in. Thank you, again and again…

    • 28/05/2012 8:46 pm

      TY for sharing your insights from experience… It would be great if we could all go back and tweak the day we met those evs. 🙂

  20. 28/05/2012 2:39 am

    Let me add to the list of emotional vampires: fear, uncertaintity, useless worries, superstition can also be eating others up emotionally!

    • 28/05/2012 1:17 pm

      True… and the list can go on even further into other more subtle behavior patterns; such is the insidious nature of EV. 😉
      BTW, how come your old blog address doesn’t re-direct to your new sevdery address?
      TY for your feedback! 🙂

      • 29/05/2012 1:16 am

        Thanks for letting me know about the anomaly in my blog. I really don’t know how it all happened, I was trying to upload an image for my gravatar. thanks for the heads-up will check it, but let me know if its still not redirecting.

      • 29/05/2012 2:09 am

        Will do! 🙂

  21. 28/05/2012 12:20 pm

    Loving the term “Emotional Vampire”, Apt description for a few people that I know.

    • 28/05/2012 8:47 pm

      TY Leanne and I won’t take credit for its creation. 🙂

  22. 29/05/2012 7:35 am

    It’s good you brought up the emotional vampire subject. It’s hard to be aware of our own vampires, I suspect, and easier to see it happening to others. Regarding the painting of the redheaded siren, look at her hand and then her feet. Doesn’t her hand seem over-sized, i.e. not in proportion, whereas her feet look fine?

  23. 29/05/2012 8:44 am

    I, too, like the term “emotional vampire.” It is so fitting. We all know people like this. I just hope I’m never one! 🙂

  24. 31/05/2012 4:01 pm

    The emotional vampires in my life have appeared when I was being shunned and/or criticized and/or misunderstood by all the folks around me. This “vampire” would then pose as my “soulmate” in order to drain me of my energies and my talents and skills for their own selfish purposes!

  25. 11/06/2012 6:39 am

    I’ve suffered a few throughout my life, but I think I’m free of any now. 🙂

    Very good article, Elizabeth.

    I have two days off, (1 left) so I am trying to catch up. You and I seem to be suffering similar time constraints of late!

  26. Dawn permalink
    12/05/2013 6:59 pm

    My husband is most definately histrionic. Im at the end of my sanity. I cant win. Ive tried everything I know to help him see he needs help. I dont know how to convince him. Im give out literally and emotionally drained. The Happy Me has left the building. Please….some advice…

    • 12/05/2013 8:32 pm

      I’m sorry to read about your frustration in your comment and encourage you to seek couples therapy with your hubby. Having a trained professional serve as an intermediary will give you a safe place/space to be heard. Also, it would do same for your hubby. I don’t know the details of your situation but I bet there was a time when both of you enjoyed the love that brought you together. Think back to that time and consider what worked and how some of the same approaches might help him hear your concerns… then follow up with a professional for the help you both deserve. Wishing you peace and blessings! Happy Mother’s Day!
      Thanks for sharing


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