Happy September everyone! How fast did summer go? Hope everyone had a terrific summer and is looking forward to the transformative beauty fall has to offer.
For this month’s blog I have decided to discuss and open up on a very important topic: Energy Vampires (bear with me if you have never heard this term!).
Earlier in the summer I read a book that was not only informative but also truly insightful: Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath's Guide To Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power by Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD.
In her book, Dr. Northrup discusses how certain personality types are highly conflictual and toxic, and how they can have major ramifications for the physical and mental health of those who are close to them. She refers to these toxic personality types as "Energy Vampires".
In discussing the power of this personality archetype, she also explores the role and often the mission that Energy Vampires have in targeting others who present with a more empathetic personality (she refers to these personality types as "Empaths").
In breaking down these two different sets of personalities, Dr. Northrup clearly shows that when intertwined they can be a recipe for chaos, turmoil, and lots of emotional and physical pain.
So what is an “Energy Vampire”? Why do they have the potential to cause so much harm?
Dr. Northrup is a Medical Doctor who has had a long and illustrious career as a woman's health practitioner. In the introduction to Dodging Energy Vampires, she writes: “During my decades in the front lines of women's health, I have seen countless women suffer from seemingly inexplicable health conditions. These women eat well. They exercise. They take care of themselves. They manage families, jobs, homes. On paper, everything looks great, but each time I dig deeper into their lives, I find that there is another person at the root of their problems- a person who seems to literally sucking the life blood from them. I refer to these people as Energy Vampires."
So let me ask you this. Is there someone in either your professional or personal life that eight times out of ten makes you feels emotionally and physically drained after any sort of interaction, whether it’s a brief conversation or a longer period of time together? Do you experience stress when it comes to this individual, feeling as if you are on a hamster wheel, constantly trying to appease and please them? Does your body or state of energy feel different either before, during, or after your time together? If you do notice changes, do you feel them in other areas of your life and at different times?
If you have read my past blogs, hopefully you understand that I see mental health and most mental health disorders on a spectrum. In other words, there are different levels and intensities when it comes to a person's diagnosis and how they present.
Some Energy Vampires have a stronger, more obvious presence, while others might be less noticeable. That’s why it is vital to continuously reflect on the relationships in your life, and whether they are serving your emotional and physical health. If you notice that there is someone who is relentlessly draining you, you may very likely be giving your energy and spirit to an Energy Vampire.
Once we have recognized a possible Energy Vampire in our lives, it’s our own personal responsibility to set appropriate boundaries, choosing to put our own state of wellbeing first, in order to give them less power.
What is an Empath? And is being an Empath a bad quality?
If you have ever been called “super sensitive”, there is a high chance that you are an Empath.
Being called sensitive-- actually, “super sensitive”-- is something that I have experienced for the majority of my life. Although it’s been a quality that’s been praised a lot and although I’ve had lots of support, there have been times when I’ve felt like being sensitive was a bad thing, or that it somehow made me weak.
As a therapist, I believe that my empathy is one of the strongest gifts I can offer my clients, but I still have to be careful about protecting my empathetic energy.
Some Empath’s are seriously affected by other people’s energies, to the point where they actually feel the physical and emotional pain of others in very real ways. These individuals tend to get sick easily and often suffer from autoimmune conditions or stomach issues; the list goes on and Dr. Northrup has the research to prove it. So, if any of this sounds like you and you feel like illness is always wreaking havoc on your life, an Energy Vampire may be at the source.
Being an Empath can be a wonderful part of your personality. It means that you care about others and about the world around you. If you ask me, during these times, being an Empath is valuable. Again, the only possible problem we can run into as Empath’s is not being supported in a world that is full of Energy Vampires.
Dr. Northrup writes, “The thing about Energy Vampires is that they target the people who are most likely to put up with their tactics- and those people are Empath’s, because we have extremely high levels of compassion and empathy. The Energy Vampires know just how to use this to their own benefit- and to the detriment of the Empath.” (Pg. xi).
Knowing and understanding your empathetic capabilities is important in navigating the land of Energy Vampires. If you are interested in reading more about being an Empath, I highly recommend Dr. Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide- Life Strategies for Sensitive People. In this book you can take a quiz to see whether or not you are an Empath, and you can then learn a series of wonderful strategies for optimizing this gift.
Understanding how Energy Vampires project their narcissistic features onto Empaths is an important lesson from Dr. Northrup’s book. We all have to decide which relationships serve us, while helping to bring out our highest selves.
Speaking from my experience as a therapist, Energy Vampires are people who have been hurt, and who lack compassion and self-awareness. The narcissistic injuries from their past make it desirable for them to become enmeshed with a “safer” person who has the ability to listen to them and to take on their pain. Again, however, this can be a dangerous combination when you consider the intensity levels of both the Energy Vampire and the Empath.
As an Empath, again, it is important to understand and acknowledge that you might have a softer and more sensitive side. And that’s wonderful! Welcome to my world! There are fewer people out there who are like us, but don’t ever forget that empathy is an admirable quality.
The caution that we need to take is, again, taking inventory of our relationships and how they either serve or hurt us. Once we suspect that someone is hurting us, it is time to examine the relationship, and take action. Where, as the Empath, do you start and finish? Where do the Energy Vampire and the issues they inflict on you start and finish? These are important questions to ask, because they offer you recourse in renegotiating the relationship with healthier and firmer boundaries that serve YOU!
Both Energy Vampires and Empaths are personality archetypes that are being recognized more and more by the mental health community today. Books like Dr. Northrup’s and Dr. Orloff’s are doing a great job of demonstrating the emotional and physical impact that toxic relationships can have on our overall physical and mental health. I encourage all of my clients to take stock of their relationships, while being open to these fantastic resources.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy the resources I am providing. Please feel free to email me or comment on this post if you have any questions.
I will leave you with an Empath Affirmation written in Dr. Orloff’s book:
“I vow to honor my sensitivities and treat myself lovingly as I explore what it means to be an Empath and embrace my gifts. I appreciate myself every day.”
Till next month,