Protect yourself from energy-draining forces with these practical, effective techniques from renowned healer and bestselling author Judith Orloff, MD.
I’d like to talk a bit about one of the most relevant topics to my patients: energy vampires. It’s amazing how many people are being drained by others and have absolutely no idea what to do about it. In this article and corresponding exercises, I’ll introduce you to what an energy vampire is, how to recognize one, and how to combat one. Once you have these skills, you won’t be so prone to being drained by others’ energy.
Many of my patients go years allowing themselves to be drained by energy vampires, including relatives, bosses, or peripheral people in their lives—and they tolerate it as normal. I define an energy vampire as somebody who sucks your energy dry. You need to use your body’s intuition to sense this; it’s not something you can get with your mind.
For example, you’re talking to someone at a party who looks perfectly nice—yet as you chat, your energy bottoms out and you start feeling seasick or tired. Your energy is being drained by this person even though there might not be an obvious cause.
In that situations like this, the rational mind tries to talk you out of your realization that you’re being drained by another person’s energy. Your mind makes excuses: “I’m getting the flu, I’m not feeling well, or I’m so neurotic.” As a psychiatrist and a physician, I’m here to say that this energy vampire phenomena is real, and I’m asking you to trust your intuition whenever you feel your energy being drained by other people.
What my patients report, unfortunately, is that when they encounter an energy vampire, they’re afraid to excuse themselves—to flee the situation—because they’re afraid of being impolite. This is a big hindrance to self-care because as you’re being drained, your mind is having a dialogue convincing you why this isn’t happening and why you should stay there. You need to use your intuition to gauge your energy level around somebody who’s draining your energy—and then take appropriate action.
I want you to trust yourself with people on the deepest level. We’ll talk about what kinds of energy vampires there are and specific techniques to deal with them. But to begin, look at your life and begin to analyze people who give you energy versus people who drain your energy.
Make a list, and be absolutely honest about who are the drainers in your life. This is your private list, so don’t worry about hurting other people’s feelings. It may be hard to really take a look: Are your vampires family? Is it your mother, father, sister, brother? Could it be your cousins, or your co-workers, your boss, or your friends? It could be someone you love very much, but he or she still drains your energy.
Take a total inventory of your life and write down the names of these people in your journal so that you can honestly assess where your energy is going. As we go through this exercise, you’ll be able to see what type of energy vampire they are and what to do about them.
Many of us experienced energy vampires when we were children, and sometimes these vampires came in the form of loving parents who didn’t mean to be vampires—yet they were.
My mother was a very large, “movie-star” energy. She was flamboyant, expressive, and loving, but she also had opinions that used to decimate me when I was a girl, so she was an energy vampire in that sense. She would get me with zingers such as, “You have such wild hair,” or “Why do you wear those clothes?” or “If you only wore different clothes, you’d be so beautiful.”
Zinger comments like that make you feel about two inches tall and drain your energy—proving that words have energy. My mother didn’t mean to hurt me; in fact, she loved me with all her heart. Yet the unconscious part of her—or the tape that was in her head—would say hurtful things. In fact, I felt so damaged that it’s taken me years to feel comfortable going shopping and buying clothes that I like without hearing my mother’s voice.
Energy vampires have the propensity to say things that drain your energy and take a really long time to get over. So as you’re taking inventory of the energy vampires in your life, reflect back on your childhood and ask yourself, “Now what did my mother say? What did my father say?” Try to remember words, behavior, or any kind of activity that might have drained your energy.
Our energy is very sensitive. A child is especially open to the body’s subtle energy fields, so having an energy vampire in your life at a very young age can damage your energy field. That damage can come from simple things a parent says or from more extreme energy vampires, such as alcoholic or abusive parents. You carry this damage with you all your life until you begin to heal it. And you can heal it if you’re conscious of how childhood experiences with energy vampires affect your energy level as an adult.
As you take stock, also look back on the people who gave you energy. This gives you a clear sense of the origins of both the positive and negative energy so you can become attuned to areas in yourself that need healing or repair. This way you can have the maximum amount of energy now in your life.
On the following practices, we explore some common varieties of energy vampires: the sob sister, the blamer, the drama queen, and the constant talker. You’ll learn to recognize these energies in your life and learn some practical techniques for combating them to keep your energy strong, grounded, and balanced.
Guided Practices to Protect against Energy Vampires
I’m excited to share with you some positive energy practices to deal with energy vampires. There are separate practices for each type of vampire, but you can use each practice with any vampire you choose. You must use your intuition and common sense to determine which practice fits each vampire.
- Energy Vampire #1: The Sob Sister
This practice protects your energy by helping you set clear boundaries with a sob sister, the chronic complainer, so that he or she won’t continually run over your energy.
Settle into a comfortable seated position, close your eyes, and breathe deeply in the moment. Begin to center yourself and let all the tension release. Relax and open to this visualization.
When a sob sister is complaining, take a breath, center yourself, and tell yourself you can handle this. And then gently, lovingly, sensitively you begin to set boundaries.
If this is a friend calling you on the phone, visualize yourself saying, “You know, I love you, but I can only listen for five or ten minutes—until you get into solutions.”
The sob sister might get angry or resist, so you’ll have to be very consistent every time this happens and keep saying, “I love you, but I can only listen for five or ten minutes. When you’re interested in talking about solutions to this problem, I’m here for you.”
I’d like you to visualize being able to open your mouth, speak up, and set boundaries for this sob sister, so you don’t feel victimized by this energy vampire’s complaints.
- Energy Vampire #2: The Blamer
Now here’s a practice you can try for the energy vampire who’s a blamer. Again, settle into a comfortable position, close your eyes, center yourself, and breathe deeply in the moment.
To deflect a blamer’s vibes and words, you can use your own energy as a shield. I’d like you to visualize yourself being around a blamer—at a dinner table, at work, anywhere you might encounter him or her. Now imagine yourself enveloped by a cocoon of white light.
Picture it as a shield that totally surrounds you. Then when you’re at the dinner table and the blamer starts up, you’ll take a breath, tell yourself you can deal with this, and visualize white light all around your body, a protective shield covering every single inch of you.
This covering lets positive energy in but keeps negative energy out. When you’ve erected this shield, you may hear the blamer’s words and see their mouths moving, but the energy doesn’t affect you. In the visualization, I’d like you to feel this shield strengthening.
This shield isn’t meant to numb you out. What you’re doing with this visualization is to build a buffer zone where these negative vibes cannot get to you—that you can erect anytime—to protect you from an energy vampire’s drain.
- Energy Vampire #3: The Drama Queen
In this positive energy practice you again deal with the drama queen, or any vampire, from a centered, calm place. Settle into a comfortable position, close your eyes, center yourself, and breathe deeply.
The moment you sense the drama queen revving up, take a slow, deep breath to ground yourself before he or she has the power to throw you off.
Breathing is a wonderful way to quickly connect with your life force that gives you the strength to know that you have the wherewithal to deal with a drama queen.
It’s critical not to give person’s dramas any mileage, so when he or she starts revving up, tell yourself you know what you’re dealing with—and that you can handle it.
Practice saying to the drama queen, “I’m so sorry all of this is happening to you, but I have to get back to work now.”
The idea is to set limits quickly and continue with the next activity.
The point of the visualization is to practice denying the drama queen any mileage so that she or he goes to somebody else. You need to do this from a calm, centered place, and you need to practice it over and over again.
- Energy Vampire #4: The Constant Talker
Here’s a positive energy practice to deal with the constant talker or joke-teller. As before, I’d like you to close your eyes, center yourself, and breathe deeply in the moment. Visualize that you’re in the presence of a vampire who won’t stop bombarding you with words.
Imagine you’re at a party, and he or she has you cornered and is going on and on about something without pausing for a breath when you could interrupt.
Constant talkers don’t respond to nonverbal cues, so when dealing with a constant talker, you must visualize yourself being ready to interrupt them. As you hear the constant rant, you say to yourself, “As hard as this may be, I will interrupt this person.” Then practice saying, “Excuse me, I’m so sorry to have to interrupt you, but I’m really going to have to go on and talk to this other person. It was nice talking to you; goodbye.”
This might feel awkward at first, but with the constant talker there are no other options. You must open your mouth and speak up, but with a kind, sensitive, loving tone. Interrupting the constant talker with anger or irritability will only keep them talking. The key is protecting your energy by staying neutral, interrupting in a kind way, and then excusing yourself so you can escape the barrage of their energy drain.
Practice this over and over again. It’s typically very hard to interrupt someone, and we’re not taught to do that in our society. Inwardly tell yourself, “This is irritating, but I want to treat this constant talker respectfully.”
The constant talker will go on to someone else and immediately start up again. So the idea is to gracefully express yourself and remove yourself from the situation.
The Buddha proposed so many ways to practice to reduce the pain in your body and in your emotions, and to reconcile with yourself.
You can reduce physical pain through the practice of releasing tension in the body. Pain increases as a function of tension, and it can be reduced if we release the tension. You can practice relaxation in the lying or sitting position.
You can also practice relaxation when you walk, and with every step you can help release the tension. Walk like a free person. Put things down, don’t carry anything, and feel light. There is a burden we always carry with us.
The skill we need is how to lay down our burden in order to be light. If you sit, walk, or lie down like that, it’s very easy to release the tension and reduce the pain.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
There are many ways to cope with stress. Regular exercise, connecting with others, yoga, and massages are a few. However, there’s also a Japanese self-relaxation technique that can be done anywhere in 5 minutes. To give a quick background, each of the fingers in our hand represents a different kind of emotion or feeling.
- The Thumb helps fend off emotions like worry and anxiety.
- The Index finger helps you fight your fears.
- The Middle finger helps control feelings of rage and bitterness.
- The Ring finger aids in fighting melancholy and depression.
- The Pinky helps relieve stress and boosts your optimism and self-esteem.
Here are the steps!
Your goal is to balance all the opposing energy forces in your body. Start this by taking one finger at a time, grasping it with the opposite hand and wrapping every finger around it.
Hold each finger for one to two fingers. Wait until you feel the pulse. This is when you know it’s working.
To aid in relaxation, apply slight pressure to the center of your palm with your opposite thumb and hold for at least one minute.
If you practice this technique every day, your spirit becomes balanced, enabling you to deal with stress much more effectively.
Here’s a how-to video:
In a classic research-based TEDx Talk, Dr. Lara Boyd describes how neuroplasticity gives you the power to shape the brain you want. Recorded at TEDxVancouver at Rogers Arena on November 14, 2015.
Our knowledge of the brain is evolving at a breathtaking pace, and Dr. Lara Boyd is positioned at the cutting edge of these discoveries. In 2006, she was recruited by the University of British Columbia to become the Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology and Motor Learning. Since that time she has established the Brain Behaviour Lab, recruited and trained over 40 graduate students, published more than 80 papers and been awarded over $5 million in funding.
Dr. Boyd’s efforts are leading to the development of novel, and more effective, therapeutics for individuals with brain damage, but they are also shedding light on broader applications. By learning new concepts, taking advantage of opportunities, and participating in new activities, you are physically changing who you are, and opening up a world of endless possibility.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx