I’m not a licensed therapist (yet), but I have spent years dealing with folks who will drain your energy. The easy answer: LEAVE! I could end my post with that statement, but I know that’s not always possible in most cases. Maybe you deal with energy vampires at work. Their negative energy meets them at the door before their presence ever does. Perhaps you have family members who never have anything pleasant to say and you have to mentally prepare yourself to be around them. Or co-parenting with an ex who won’t seek counseling services and still exhibits controlling behaviors. Whatever the case may be, you may have one or several in your life.
I have been in several of these situations over my lifetime. It’s not easy to deal with, but there are ways to manage these situations. I don’t know your specific situation. I can empathize with your situation. I remember growing up and feeling disempowered because I had to be around family members I didn’t like. Their energy was off to me. They weren’t engaging (to me), some weren’t kind, and I didn’t feel connected to them. As soon as I got old enough to make a choice, the visits stopped. One thing I keep in mind is that you can’t help who you’re related to, but you can choose your family. People now see what I saw growing up. I always want to yell, “I TOLD YOU!!” but the Lord wants me to remain humble. What I gather from these situations is that you don’t have to sacrifice your peace for someone else’s happiness because you may have some resentment.
Over the last couple of weeks of intentionally trying to be more patient, empathetic, and aware of my time, I realized I was tired of managing other people’s emotions, rationalizations, and energy. It became too much to manage on top of my own emotions. Plus, folks may not even be aware of their role as energy vampires. It could be they’re in survival mode, self-absorbed, judgmental, exhibiting cognitive dissonance, and/or they are fully aware of their role as energy vampires but they refuse to acknowledge. Whatever the case may be, I decided I’m not going to stress myself out. In relationships, there’s give and take. If folks just want to take (hence being energy vampires), then I will gracefully bow out. My health is the reason. By health, I mean the many facets of health including mental, physical, spiritual, financial, and emotional health. Toxic stress is real and can have physical ramifications. It’s costly to manage toxic stress, so it does take time to determine what’s worth the fight and worth your energy.
It’s important to take time to reflect on who these energy vampires are, their role in your, and your role in their lives. For me, I’m very sensitive, so as soon as I sense someone being negative and draining energy, I call it out or remove myself from the situation. I know that may not be the case for everyone. So I encourage you to assess how you feel when engaging with folks. Do you roll your eyes as soon as you see a text message or phone call from them? Perhaps you have to have a pep talk with yourself before you have to meet with this person. I know the feeling. But here’s where the empathy part comes in. Maybe it’s a one-time occurrence and they’re having a bad day. However, if you notice a pattern, then there you go. You have an energy vampire on your hands.
Friends, be careful. They will notice when you begin to pull back. Some may not even notice their behavior. I wish there was a clear answer on how to deal with an energy vampire in your life. I’m still trying to figure it out. The method I currently use is avoidance. It’s probably creating more of a problem, but I’m not ready for the victim mentality, shaming, or blaming. It’s not easy to learn that you’re actually the problem. I know I would have a problem if I learned I was the problem. In some cases, I am and it doesn’t always feel good. When you’re ready to grow, you’ll welcome the feedback and implement solutions.
Another way you can deal with these energy vampires is to create boundaries. Clear ones. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation. If you’re only available for one hour, they get one hour. Folks will take that mile when you give an inch. Your time and energy are important.
You can also speak with the person about how their behavior impacts you. Now before you do, know your audience. If they have been working on self-improvement or have suggested they recognize their energy and attitude, it’s worth a try. But if everything is everyone else’s fault, you may want to wait. If you’re not a trained therapist or counselor, proceed with caution.
Whatever approach you take, do what’s best for you. Preserving your health and energy matters. Make time for rest, movement, reflection, and other healthy practices that will sustain you. I lived my life for others for the longest time and I suffered for it. Pleasing others is different from serving others. I had those concepts confused. Let me break it down.
Pleasing others looks like sacrificing your plans, time, or energy to do something another person wants to do even though your time is limited. Serving others would be dedicating time to support someone else. The difference – sacrificing time vs. dedicating time. When you dedicate time you can bring your favorite or best self to the cause rather than sacrificing time which means you’ll most likely have to rearrange your schedule – usually at the last minute. This is just an example. There are other situations that could apply to pleasing others vs. serving others.
Knowing where your time and energy are spent can be beneficial with self-preservation. It begins with self. There’s a saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If we’re constantly giving to energy draining people, things, and tasks, where will we get more energy? You’ll end up depleted. We can show up energized when we’re self-aware, refreshed, healthy, and intentional.
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”Aristotle, The Philosophy of Aristotle
What are ways you deal with energy vampires? I’d love to see your ideas.