Are you aware of the energy vampires in our midst? Do you feel drained after spending time with certain friends, family members, or other people in your life? Is it possible that you are someone that drains others? If you or someone you know is an energy vampire, how might that affect one’s ability to feel cared for, respected, and equal in the relationship? The good news is that we all have some level of vamp within us, and it’s something we can work on!
What does it mean to be an energy vampire anyway? Collin Robinson, a character on the show What We Do in the Shadows, is an energy vampire that feeds on others by lulling them into a hypnotic state with boring stories, anecdotes, and useless information. At times within the show, he wonders aloud why others don’t include him in their activities. He feels hurt and seems to only have a vague sense, or none at all, that his taking without giving back ensures that he will continue to be a lonely vampire.
Just as Collin Robinson weaponizes his words to sap his victims of energy, we humans sometimes do the same, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I recall an interaction with a person that was speaking so rapidly and with such dominating presence that I could not get a word in edgewise. They even said, “I hope I’m not being overbearing.” If someone is saying that, they are likely being just so! I know that this person suffers from feeling alone. They are not always so overbearing, but they do it regularly, probably when their inner child is feeling the need to be seen and heard. This person sabotages their need for connection by denying others their own voice in conversation. I think the energy vampire model could broadly include those that suffer from lack of healthy communication skills and have a history of trauma and/or neglect that leaves them simultaneously terrified of and craving for human connection, nurturance, and love.
Relational-cultural theorist Dr. Judith Jordan calls these tendencies “strategies for disconnection.” These are ways in which people learned to cope with abuse or neglect by disconnecting with others. These strategies were useful for surviving through abuse and neglect but no longer serve us as adults — yet they still manifest in our behaviors.
This exploration of the energy vampire phenomenon is not intended to judge or condemn others, nor ourselves. We all have some energy vampire within. Our individualistic society conditions us to be self-centered, and trauma only multiplies the effect.
I think it’s important to ask ourselves: How often are we taking more than giving in relationships? You do this for me, I do this for you. Even someone that is caretaking is also taking. Caretaking can have a smothering effect and creates the conditions for the other person to struggle with learned helplessness or otherwise feeling they contribute little to the relationship.
Genuine caring involves having both parties in a relationship get their needs met. We all need to be heard, to be understood, to be loved, and to have others share in our experience, to be delighted in. Unknowingly, our wounded inner child that so needed this, and would do anything to get it, still manifests in our adult lives, not knowing how to live any differently.
Many people today feel they lack power in their life to assert themselves in relationship. Dr. Judith Jordan speaks of learning to practice sharing power with others rather than attempting to have power over them. Energy vampires seek to have power over others, and it may seem useful in the moment, but ultimately this manifests in the person feeling powerless to be included in others’ lives. It’s a lonely road with so many bridges burned along the way. There is always hope and we can learn to build bridges instead and receive the love and connection that is our birthright.
So if you feel you are suffering from energy vampire syndrome, here are some ideas for cultivating connection with others:
If any of this sounds like something you might want to work on, I encourage you to seek the support of a therapist or other helper. Deepening your understanding of yourself is part of the journey, resolving the hurt that lies beneath these behaviors is another.