When reationships drain you
Co-dependent friendships and needy people ~ Sonya Green
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Lately I have been tired, actually I have been exhausted. I just wanted to
lie in bed and close out the world. Fatigue is a symptom or Rheumatoid
Arthritis and I have accepted that sometimes I cannot push myself
through it. I have learned to pace myself and most of the time I can re-
energize myself by paying attention to diet, stress management,
meditation and breathing techniques. Every now and again, I become
wiped out and have to surrender to it. That’s how it was a few weeks ago.
A friend rang and she desperately needed my help. I was aware of a cold
and detached feeling overtake me as I told her, “You are inviting me
into your despair and I am declining your offer.” I shocked myself
by saying it, and I also felt very bad about saying it. The amazing thing
though was that I became aware that when I hung up the phone I felt light
and energized and free.
I knew at once what this was about, it is something I have experienced in
many ways over the years, and it is a lesson I have had to learn over
and over. Sometimes, no matter how many epiphanies we have, we still
fall back into the same old patterns. This time I finally drew my line in the
sand and affirmed, “This is my boundary”. In this case, the boundary is
defined by what energy I am prepared to give and the other side is about
how much of my energy you are demanding or taking from me. This
might seem harsh, but this woman had been sucking the life force out of
me for weeks. Actually, it had been years on and off, but this particular
session was over a few weeks.
Because I have been in a similar place with other people, I could define it
as an ‘Energy Vampire’ attack. That is: Someone who unconsciously or
deliberately robs other people of vital energy to fuel their own supply. I
am aware that this does happen and I am usually able to catch it pretty
early in the game and protect myself. Too often though, it happens in
such a subtle way that by the time you are onto it, you are too drained to
recharge or defend yourself. I experience it as physical and mental
exhaustion and if I don’t get on top of it, it can lead to an arthritis flare
up. For me, arthritis is my weakest link. Prolonged depletion of vital
energy will weaken the immune system which can lead to disease and
Vital energy is hard to define, but for the sake of simplicity, you can think
of it as healing energy, vitality, wellbeing and psychic or spiritual energy.
In essence it is the ‘You’ part of you; the spirit or soul; you as an
energetic being. This energetic draining could also be described as a
In normal healthy relationships we exchange energy. It’s like a battery
being recharged with leads. (When one is depleted and the other is full –
a small exchange is all that’s required to help the depleted battery to
recharge itself. This is key: One helps the other to help itself. You can
not recharge another battery if yours is too low, if you insist on trying to
do so, you will flatten your own and end up with two dead batteries.)
Passive – Aggressives
An energy vampire does not want a jump start; they want or need to feed
off your supply. I don’t think that they are always aware that they do this.
What I have observed though, is that there are certain types of people
who operate by this system. Of course, any one of us can be a bit
draining on our friends from time to time. Sometimes we genuinely need
help from others and require their time, effort and energy to get us up
and going again. The difference here is that energy vampires manipulate
you to feed them consistently. Often they are passive/aggressive people.
They appear weak or helpless and very nice, but you always end up
feeling like you have been bullied into giving or doing something that you
didn’t want to do or give. Usually they are lonely people; estranged from
their families or in some degree of conflict with other people. These
people will often refer to you as their best friend or make comments
about what a good friend you are. They have a tendency to ‘suck up’ to
you with little gifts and big compliments. (They actually dominate by
appearing fragile or weak and sweet)
Victim personality types go from one hard luck story to another. It’s never
their fault and they have no control over their endless bad and sad
situations. The interesting thing about the victims is that they never take
advice, but are masters at extracting your time, generosity and
assistance. They are usually broke, but don’t offer them a job or
investment advice – just give them money! If you study these people
closely, you will find that they have a long history of terrible things that
have happened to them. They look pathetic and seem helpless, lonely,
unlucky or ill, but the reality is that this is what works for them. This is
what gets them what they want. They don’t take responsibility, don’t
make smart or hard decisions, don’t do the work themselves and they
keep ending up in a heap and getting someone else to bail them out.
Some people love drama in their lives. They write, produce, direct and
star in their own movies. You are the audience. These people will speak
for hours about me, me, me. Everything is dramatic and exaggerated.
When you speak they cut you off and continue with their stories. They
set you up to compliment, approve and reassure them. (Applaud them!).
They make it sound like they have a problem but really they are just
holding you captive to their story. They rarely listen to you and usually
have a number of other people to contact and retell their dramas to.
People who constantly whinge, complain and speak endlessly about what’
s wrong with everyone and everything are another group who will drain
An energy vampire can be anyone who consistently leaves you
feeling drained. You can recognize an energy vampire when:
The phone rings and you find yourself saying, “Oh, please don’t be…”
You often feel guilty, mean or sorry for someone, even though you know
that you have no reason to feel this way.
You often feel resentful or used by this person.
You want to lie about how busy you are.
You feel indebted to someone’s hidden agendas.
You think YOU are the only one who cares and YOU are the only one
who can help.
You find yourself, ‘walking on eggshells’. (These people often use anger,
bossiness or criticism to manipulate you)
Your body feels tense when you are listening to this person
You feel drained almost every time you interact with this person!
I was with a few people not long ago, when someone started to tell
another one of her ‘poor me’ stories. Another girl said to her, “Too bad,
so sad, build a bridge and get over it!” What was interesting about
this is that the sad story was coming from a person who had everything
going for her but habitually complained about everything. The ‘too bad’
comment was made by a girl who had just gone through a mastectomy,
chemotherapy and all that that involved. What amazed me most about
this is that the sad story person stopped abruptly and changed the
subject. She didn’t seem offended or hurt – she just changed channel
when she realized no one was buying into it. What I clearly understood
was that the second girl had in fact sent the message, ‘You are inviting
me into your despair and I decline your offer.’
An Energy Vampire has certain habits, techniques and personalities.
But, so do their victims. I would not be boasting if I said that I consider
myself to be a warm, sensitive, caring and nurturing person. I am also
practical, compassionate, empathetic, optimistic and kind. I would
probably help anyone at anytime and ask nothing in return. When it
comes to friendship, I am fiercely loyal and my word is my bond.
What I have had to face up to recently is that I am also a little vain and
can be manipulated by flattery. That is, anyone who reinforces what a
‘good guy’ I am can take advantage of me. I also don’t like confrontation
or conflict so I easily back down and make myself the fall guy. Because I
see myself as a strong person I take on people’s pain - foolishly
believing that I am relieving them of it. I think that by not hurting peoples
feeling I am protecting them. I view myself as a healer or spiritually
motivated person, so I think it is my duty to lift and lighten anyone who
reaches for me. And really some of this is just plain ego on my part.
Well after much reflection I find I am all of those things and much more
as well. I will continue to be available for anyone who needs help. There
are many people who genuinely need a hand to get up and running –
they need a jump start. What I have had to accept is that I can only give
out when I am full. I can’t afford to allow myself to be ‘bled out’. Energy
Vampires need an enabler- someone who assists them in maintaining
their dependence. That is not healing; it’s not helping, it doesn’t
empower or support – it simply makes us their source of supply.
If you have some food – bring it to my banquet and ask along a friend. If
you have nothing, then that’s okay – I have plenty and I am more than
happy to share. BUT, you must not reach down my throat and take food
from my stomach. “My dear, it’s just bad manners!”
Copyright Sonya Green March 08