Nurturers in Relationships Need to Protect Their Light

Yana Bostongirl

This article was originally published on Medium as "Emotional Vampires are Real and Thriving!)

I like to divide my life into two parts: how it was before and how it is after I learned that I am an empath.

The reason why is because that discovery was a life-changing event for me.

Even though textbooks gave me knowledge that enabled me to obtain college degrees, that didn’t necessarily translate into wisdom. By wisdom, I am referring to self-awareness which I never sought.

I had always known of my ability to pick up other people’s emotions but I never quite knew the name for it. Until the revelation that I am an emotional empath, I assumed the people close to me behaved the way they did because that was just the way they were. I never for a moment guessed it was part of being manipulated and being taken advantage of.

Call me naïve but folks like me are bound to be taken advantage of repeatedly by others who latch onto our energy and siphon off every last drop of affection, sympathy and pity until all that is left is a husk of ourselves. And they have the audacity to turn around and say it is our fault?!

It comes as no surprise therefore that I considered myself weak. You see, my compassionate and giving nature is also my greatest vulnerability.

It is also the primary reason I used to attract emotional vampires.

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Judy Orloff describes a relationship with an emotional vampire like this “ Some relationships are positive and mood elevating. Others can suck optimism and serenity right out of you.”

Emotional vampires want their emotional needs met at the cost of yours. Their complete disregard for your feelings can wreak havoc with your mental health.

I found myself spiraling into the depths of depression because I did not have the tools necessary to combat this constant drain on my energy. This went on until I decided to get off this merry-go-round from hell I was stuck on. I made a decision never to let myself be treated that way ever again by taking responsibility for myself.

5 ways you can protect yourself from emotional vampires

1.) I learned to say NO: Setting boundaries is perhaps the single most powerful tool in the emotional toolbox of an empath and often the least used. It is a vital tool to utilize when dealing with emotional vampires.

Before discovering that I am an empath, I didn’t know how to cope with this constant onslaught of other people’s emotions. My anxiety levels increased and my social interactions shrunk. I used to close myself off from people and withdraw into the safety of my shell. I recall feeling helpless and wondering if some crucial element was missing in me.

That was no way to live.

Laying boundaries is not about shutting people out but is about authentic connection. Life coach Andrea Leda puts it this way: “Setting a boundary is how we connect most authentically with people. If you take all your triggers and baggage out of the equation, what’s left over is your most authentic self. Your most authentic self can easily connect with others because you know where your line in the sand is and YOU don’t cross it.

2.) I learned strategies that helped me ‘self protect’ from absorbing other people’s emotions. Their feelings are theirs and I stopped beating myself up for feeling responsible for their feelings.

A strategy that has benefitted me the most is the glass wall technique where I visualize a glass between me and the other person so that even though I am with them in the moment, I allow their emotions to bounce off the glass wall back to them rather than absorb them.

3.) I trust my intuition and give a wide berth to those who I feel are going to be a drain on my energy (aka giving myself permission to walk away ).

4.) Relaxation techniques help in managing stress levels and maintaining emotional equilibrium: Empaths can experience a high amount of stress therefore it is important to have a variety of relaxation techniques to help combat it.

According to Diane Kathrine at Empaths Empowered “Pained emotions, either your own or those you pick up throughout the day from others, are also stored within the muscles.” She further elaborates on the negative effects of stressed muscles “When your muscles are constantly contracted, they are fueling the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). Not only is this depleting the body of vital energy, that most can ill-afford to lose, but it is also prematurely aging, it raises blood pressure, lowers the immune system, and unnecessarily heightens Empath stress.”

Other relaxation techniques that I have found helpful are meditation and nature walks. My go-to quick fix is putting on my Air pods and listening to music which I find to be instantly soothing and also helps tune the world out.

5.) Being aware of what my limits are and pacing my energy has helped me manage how I respond to other people’s energies.

The Moving Into Balance blog explains this concept “Pacing is knowing how long you can spend in a particular activity, and stopping when you have reached that point…..Through experience and carefully noticing our responses to particular activities, we become aware of what we can manage.”

Being an empath is a beautiful gift. But this gift can come at a great emotional cost to the empath. There will always be people who will look down upon this as a weakness and tell you to grow a “thick skin.” It is important to remember that people who react like that have no idea what it feels like to be in your shoes or how much it drains you.

I cannot emphasize how important it is for us empaths to protect ourselves from becoming leeched dry by emotional vampires. It is not an act of selfishness to do so - on the contrary, it is the perfect example of self-care.

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Writer @ Medium

Boston, MA

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