Energy vampires are people who cross our paths, leaving us drained, stressed, irritated, anxious or just downright depressed … often after only a few moments in their presence.
That may be the most cathartic sentence I have written in years.
Don’t get me wrong; I am glad I committed to those words, but I also don’t want to offend anyone who may, by the end of this article, realize they have been guilty of a little energy sucking.
Lest you think I am going to rely on some esoteric, nebulous interpretation of energy feeders, let me lay down some science to build my metaphorical case upon.
2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras suggested “nothing comes into being or is destroyed.” Others co-opted Anaxagoras’ theory, including Francis Bacon and French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who developed the law of conservation of mass (stuff is neither created nor destroyed) at the end of the 18th century.
Decades later, German physicist Julius Robert Mayer realized light energy from the sun was transformed into chemical energy by plants. Mayer’s law of conservation (or the first law of thermodynamics) states energy is neither created nor destroyed, just transformed.
Fast forward to the 20th century and Albert Einstein mashed both laws into his e=mc2 law. In a nutshell, Einstein suggested the sum total of energy and mass in the universe is fixed, but energy and mass could be exchanged for one another. At the end of the day, the balance of energy and mass remains the same. And those words – exchange and balance – are key to understanding energy vampires.
Don’t get me wrong: Einstein contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the world, but I suspect he never expected his law to be applied to the common energy vampire. I imagine he would be offended. Perhaps he would wad up his research, toss it in the trash, and storm off to study something far more useful like dentistry, accounting, or art history?
If you believe in universal laws, then you agree energy and matter aren’t created nor destroyed, only exchanged, but the sum total of both must remain in balance. Therefore, it stands to reason when others consume your emotional energy (such as attention and compassion) or your physical matter (including finances and goodwill) and make it their own, they shift the balance in their favor.
If you find others consuming your energy and matter, even if they do so unconsciously, you may be in the company of a modern day energy Nosferatu.
There is nothing wrong with helping others, but when mental, spiritual and creative energies are consistently drained by energy vampires, and you constantly feel depressed, anxious and frustrated, then something needs to change. Your personalized “Dracula” receives sustenance, attention and adoration, and you transform into a modern-day Johnathan Harker and lose yourself to the vampire’s madness.
Ok, that analogy was a little too strong, but consider the energy vampires you probably have hanging in your belfry — the victim who constantly blames others for their inability to address their own faults, the chronic complainer who never offers solutions, the perpetual martyr who drags others into self-pity, the sanctimonious judge who twists insecurities and victimizes others, and the all-too-familiar drama vampire. This melodramatic species may be a great source of entertainment, but you know their stories are heavily embellished and they rarely offer a fair exchange of energy. Drama vampires need all the attention, so there is never balance in the relationship.
Consider the deadly guilt-layer who manipulates shame to force others to act. Or the jealous vampire who refuses to acknowledge the achievement and success of others. How about wet blanket vampires who deny themselves (and others) joy, fun and laughter? Or insecure vampires who consistently question their self-esteem. These vampires take indiscriminately, and often unconsciously, from others as they struggle to nourish their own existence.
Other, more subtle types of energy vampires, are known to haunt offices and workplaces. These packs of suckers include the naive vampire who simply lacks self-sufficiency to make life decisions, the passive-aggressive vampire (a close cousin to the sanctimonious vampire), and the all-too-common gossiping vampire.
Point is, energy vampires usually lack empathy, behave selfishly, have plateaued emotionally and are incapable of recognizing the perspectives or needs of others … and they may not even realize it. Metaphorically, their victims revolve around them like a big galaxy. In extreme cases, the energy vampire is the proverbial black hole at the center of the universe, absorbing everything with an inescapable hunger to exploit everything possible.
Wow … I didn’t mean to paint such a dark picture. All of us have been either an energy vampire or a victim. We have either contributed to, or made a withdrawal from, this universal energy bank account. And, more often than not, if you fed off others, you likely received nourishment from an initially willing, but eventually uncomfortable, friend, coworker, bartender, parent, child, sibling, partner or spouse.
While no one should feel guilt about being an occasional energy vampire, folks should be self-aware enough to understand when they are taking from others more than they are contributing. If you find yourself constantly dealing with energy vampires who lack that self-awareness, then you may need to take action to defend yourself from their constant feeding.
Recognize your energies are being drained unfairly by others and remove yourself from the situation. Compose and protect yourself through prayer, breathing or meditation. Set and enforce boundaries which control how, when, where and under what conditions you interact with energy vampires. And if you find yourself constantly surrounded by energy vampires, consider changing your environment, before you become so drained you stake a permanent claim in the vampires’ metaphorical graveyard.
My wife, Donna, often says “surround yourself with light when others bring darkness upon you.” She is right. The complex dynamic between energy vampires and their victims really is about two things — a fair exchange of energy and maintaining balance among everyone, which brings us squarely back to the balance which exists in the universe.
No matter where you fit in this continuum, surround yourself with those who want the best for themselves and others — this transfusion of positivity will nourish the hungriest of vampires and restore the most drained of victims. If you are feeding a vampire, learn to protect yourself. If you are an energy vampire, try to recognize how your hunger impacts others.