How to Deal With Emotional Vampires? Savvy Psychologist Tips


There are a lot of people that are emotionally exhausting for us: it could be our friends, our partners even our families. The question is: how can you deal with them and is it worth it to keep them in your lives? What to do when you genuinely care about them and are there some positive sides?

Dr. Albert Bernstein wrote an interesting book called Emotional Vampires: how to deal with people who drain you dry. It could be categorized as a self-help book, but don’t write it off just because it is in the genre of popular psychology. Most people have a defensive attitude towards this type of literature because there are a lot of charlatans in the field. But this book is interesting and useful, let me show you how.


The book has a certain disclaimer: you should not consider it as a guideline – if you plan on curing the vampires from themselves. No one can do that. Emotional vampires hardly ever change, there is no cure. The one thing you can do though is to find your way around them, don’t fall into their manipulative traps and realize that no one is responsible for what you are feeling. It is all about the expectations we have. The key to happines, according do dr. Bernstein – is to have none.

Emotional vampires are on the borderline to be called persons with personality disorders, but it’s a shady area and they usually aren’t that dangerous for people around them.

So who are emotional vampires?

They are the people who have the power to disturb you and hypnotize you, to attract you with their false promises. They seduce you and then they drain you out. They see the world in a different way than other people and can be immature in various ways.

Dr. Bernstein makes an interesting typology of emotional vampires: anti-social vampires, histrionic vampires, narcisstic vampires, obssesive-compulsive vampires and paranoid vampires. The book offers tips on how to protect yourself from them and a guideline for therapy (for every type). However, Dr. Bernstein says it shouldn’t be a manual for actual therapy. It should only serve as tips on how to deal with them or how to change ourselves, if we recognize ourselves in some of the types.

1. Anti-social vampires are the ones who attract us with their charisma. Anti-social doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy socializing – on the contrary. They are called anti-socials because they don’t follow any social rules. They are super fun, they are adventurous, you have crazy Hangover-movie-like nights with them. Everybody wants to be them. They spread their live-in-the moment philosophy. All they want is fun, which often comes with drugs and alcohol. They can be fearless, sexy, exciting, but also violent and big liars. They are the people who don’t follow rules, they often have no sense of guilt; they go through life fulfilling their own desires, they are happy and always in a quest for new adventures. They put themselves first and can have a weak sense of empathy. That is how they can hurt you. In case of the fearless vampires, there is a Ferrari vs. Toyota dilemma. Toyota is reliable, predictable. You can count on it, it’s safe for driving, it’s solid. But it is boring! Anti-social vampires are actually Ferraris. They are fast, they are fun, they are exciting. And they are expensive. If you ever fall in love with a Ferrari, don’t try to make a Toyota out of it. You will never make it. This can explain why most of women fall into the trap of losing their head for bad boys.

2. Histrionic vampires are the ones who feed on drama. They enjoy the attention, they are constantly pretending and presenting the false picture of themselves to others in order to be more appealing. They are more interested in gossiping than actual conversations, they are like social cameleons: they adapt their personalities depending on their interlocutors. They always act like they are acting a role, like everything is just a big show and they have the leading part. They can be extremely irritating in their attempt to be in the spotlight. They are often pasive-agresive. This type of people tend to seek for approval and to act childish and immature. They will never speak openly about what’s bothering them, but will communicate in different way. It is interesting that the whole process happens subconsciously, which makes it harder to talk it through with them. The role of psychosomatic is huge here: given the fact that they are incontent with themselves and always feel like victims, they won’t communicate through words, but their bodies react to it. They get sick and usually doctors cannot say what’s wrong with them, because it’s on a deeper, psychological level. And that is how they draw attention to themselves.

Dr. Bernstein offers nine ways to deal with them. Let’s just point out the two of them: when dealing with pasive-agresive type, you should seek for outher objective perspective. Talking to the vampire can be confusing and make you feel like you are the one who’s crazy when you’re actually caught up in their manipulative web. If you seek for an opinion of a third person, you should get a clearer perspective. It is also very important not only to listen to their words, but to observe their actions and behaviour.

3. Narcisstic vampires suffer from a firm belief that the world revolves around them. They seek to fulfill their fantasies to show everyone how they are the most brilliant, magnificent, intelligent, etc. person in the world. Their biggest fear is to end up looking plain to other people. The paradox about narcisstic vampires is that – they truly can be talented and fairly intelligent. But, that doesn’t stop them from being stubborn and suppressing others in order to shine even brighter. They can not take well-intentioned criticism because, according to their own opinion – they are already perfect. They are emotionally exhausting to be around because all they talk about and all they are passionate about – is themselves. They would never take a bullet for you and they are full of excuses. They feel privileged and that’s why they don’t follow the rules. The paradox about narcisstic vampires is linked to self-respect. Most people believe that narcissism is an obvious symptom of low self-respect. This claim should not be easily dismissed, of course. However, that would lead us to the conclusion that the cure is just one step away: if we teach these vampires how to love themselves and feel good about themselves – they could finally relax and be normal. Boy, if it was that simple.

Dr. Bernstein offers tips on how to cope with the nacisstic type as well. Let’s single out the two of them: you shouldn’t pay attention to the outbursts of anger and you should choose your battles wisely. This type of vampire tends to use emotional explosions as manipulative techniques. When it comes to picking your battles: if you want to criticize this vampire, you should combine it with bragging. This is how you will make them listen and your critic has more chance of being accepted. You should define your goal and give your vampire a chance to justify and explain their actions.

4. Obssesive-compulsive vampires or people who cannot function if they don’t have everything under control. It’s not only they try to be walking perfections but it’s also that they will always criticize you, if you’re not living a perfect life yourself. Everything has to be in its own place, that’s why this vampire finds it hard to relax. They also tend to view everything through black and white frame and that is why it is exhausting to talk to them. They cannot understand the ambivalence and paradoxes of someone’s actions, so it is draining trying to explain ourselves to them. They can be judging and irritating. They control their emotions, they are indecive and they… Well, they hate people. To be exact, they hate people who like them: who aren’t as tidy and perfectionist as they are. And that is the vast majority of people. They don’t take risks and are mostly introvert. Also, they have anger issues, because – deep inside they want to be rebellious.

Some of the offered tips on how to cope with these vampires: if you are hurt, you should explicitly say it, loud and clear. If you choose to pout and don’t speak up, you give an additional reason to this vampire to criticize you for you immaturity and you justify their anger. And you will get annoyed. Also, lower your expectations: you will never hear an apology from them. As far as they’re concerned, you weren’t hurt by their actions, you were hurt by the truth. The best you can hope for is: Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s not that they don’t wish you well, it’s just that they don’t find their way when it comes to empathy.

5. Paranoid vampires see in people all the details that others don’t. They crave for a simple world where everyone would just say what they mean, especially when it comes to the opinon of others about them. They attract us with their power of observation; they drain us with endless questions they have about uncertainties and inconsistencies in our nature. They dwell between being completley naive and being completely cynical. They cannot bear the uncertainty, that’s why they overanalyze everything. Listening to their stories can be overwhelming, and not in a good way. This vampire is too suspicious of everything and has very few friends.

If you ever end a relationship with that person, avoid her and cut off every contact. Just go and don’t look back. If you choose to do otherwise, you will get caught up in a messy relationship that isn’t going anywhere. Also, you should be aware of your own limits. Paranoid vampires are the most dangerous and most complicated type. They will love you and protect you, but it could grow to obsession and ultimatums: the all or nothing point isn’t that far. One thing’s for sure – in order to understand a paranoid vampire, you have to fully understand yourself. And that is a long quest.

Every type has its positive and negative sides. World would be an awfully boring place without the fearless vampires; we all need a bit of drama in our lives – that’s where the histrionic type kicks in; narcisstic type offers a great lesson on how you should turn yourself to life long learning and constant improving; obssesive-compulsive type creates a balance to the anti-social vampires, they keep the world in order; paranoid vampires teach us to question everything.

It rarely happens that a person fits in perfectly into a description of one particular type of vampire. Usually, it’s a combination of a few. We all have flaws and that’s a fact. But it is important to take into consideration other peoples feelings. Sometimes, vampires can function well with one another. You should drive away from people that are exhausting for you, if you esstimate that you don’t get anything (or satisfactory enough) out of the relationship. Also, be true to yourself and try to correct your behaivour if you recognize yourself in these types. The most important thing is to surround yourself with people with whom you feel love and warmth. It is very important that you feel the reciprocity in the relation. Sometimes, people can draw out the worst in one another. The ultimate rules are: you get what you give and don’t do to another what you don’t want to feel yourself.

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