Now that Halloween is upon us, we delight in seeing images of ghosts and goblins, interspersed among the pumpkins, although what I love most is seeing is the little kids’ outfits. Our kids both started out as a cow, then a duck, then a bear, and then branched out into superheroes and heroines. One of my favorite recent Halloweens involved two little guys with capes who sat with me as I gave out candy even though I’m not their mom. (They were tired and wanted to rest their muscles.) Even though Halloween today is a secular neighborhood ritual, it is believed to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and dress in costumes, hoping to scare off roaming ghosts. After Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day, which honored all saints and martyrs, All Hallows Eve marked the night before, which later became Halloween.
Now that vampire literature is really hot, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of teen vampires showing off their fangs and pretending to suck others’ blood. While I’ve never really liked vampire novels, I do understand the allure of those characters, since they are kind of exciting and sexy. It never occurred to me, however, that vampires really existed, but if you Google “real vampires” you will find that there a number of people who believe that they really are vampires, in that they need to take other people’s energies consciously to feel good, as well as drink others’ blood if anyone is willing to offer some! It’s not really clear how they go about actively stealing someone’s energies. But they are aware that it makes them feel better.
What is amazing is that lots of people who don’t identify as vampires unconsciously steal our energy all the time, and we don’t even notice it often until after they’ve left. In Judith Orloff’s book, Positive Energy, the author coins the term “energy vampire” to describe people who, as a result of childhood trauma (whether abuse or neglect or illness), feed off other peoples’ positive energy to strengthen themselves. Unlike like self-described “real vampires,” these people have no idea of the effect they have on others, but the negative impact is real nonetheless. Orloff lists a number of types: the sob sister (the victim/whiner), the blamer or criticizer, the drama queen (who feeds off crisis), the constant talker or joke teller, and the fixer upper who makes you her therapist.
Whether we realize it or not, some people makes us feel joyful and energized, while others drain us with their negativity, whether it’s the guy who insults you and then adds “just kidding” or the friend who calls you when you have a newborn to whine endlessly about her love life. Then there’s the new book club member who talks non stop or the relative who criticizes endlessly. I once had to sit next to a woman for four hours at a swim meet who bragged non-stop about her Olympic athlete, adding how “blessed” she was to have a child with so much talent and such good looks, compared to most of the slackers on the team. I had to do a lot of breathing to handle her.
The first step to dealing with energy vampires is to recognize them, by noticing how other people make you feel. Who drains you or makes you feel slimed? If you do feel drained, ask yourself why? What kind of person are you dealing with: a blamer, a non-stop talker, a drama queen, a constant complainer or criticizer? Is it the drama queen who needs to talk for hours even though you have an important interview the next day? If so, maybe you start screening those calls. Is it the gossip who assures you that your secret is safe with her, only to find it on social media being discussed among people you barely know? It’s time to stop sharing with that person. Is it the know-it-all who corrects everything you say and insists that he’s always right? Sometimes leaving the room can be effective to get him to stop. Or is it the control freak who always has to have everything on her terms or there’s hell to pay? Having less contact in general is often a good idea.
While it may seem negative to list all the types of energy vampires that we encounter, it is in fact empowering to realize that you’re not imagining feeling sucked dry. Whether people self-identify as vampires or not, they are out there and it’s our job to make sure we protect ourselves, through clear boundaries, and deep breathing, to name just a few ideas. To find your world stage, watch out for people who drain you. The most important antidote to vampires is surrounding yourself with positive people who inspire and delight you, and creating a life you love filled with what empowers you, whether it’s nature or music or books or travel or sports or cooking. This week, identity one vampire in your life and take steps to distance yourself just a bit from that person. And in his or her place, spend more time with someone who makes you laugh and fills your spirit.
This is my daughter on Halloween 10 years ago.