Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Emotional Vampires

I’m not a big fan of vampire films.  I don’t quite see the appeal of pale creatures who roam the night looking for victims to sink their teeth into and suck their blood dry.  Even though they can be as good looking as Robert Pattinson.  It’s not because I don’t believe in vampires, mind you.  If anything I find the vampires in the movies implausibly insipid and way too nice compared to their real life counterparts.

Yes, that’s right.  Real life vampires.  And they are everywhere you turn.  Just switch on the television, watch and read the news, look round the office or anywhere you find yourself with people.  They are there.  People who are pains in the neck and experts at sucking your energy and draining you dry.  Making you a victim of their predatory nature, whether in the forms of their power hungry ego, attention-seeking self-pity or just incontrollable anger.

They may seem perfectly ordinary on the outside, but you know when you’ve been attacked by one of these creatures because they invariably leave you feeling deflated, powerless, emotionally drained or confused.  Or even hypnotised into believing everything they say, like those religious preachers or political party candidates whose strength lie in the gullibility of others.  Like their fictional characters, these real life vampires can leave you fearful but fascinated at the same time. 

You might even work with one.  You know who they are, because every time you pass the person or the office, the aura of the vampire is enough to  make your stomach sink and leave you feeling like a complete half-wit.  Once caught in the trap, it’s a struggle to get away from these creatures with your senses in tact.  

They are what psychologist Albert J. Bernstein called ‘Emotional Vampires’ in his book of the same name:  people who drain you dry.  And like the blood-sucking vampires that inhabit the darkness, they come in many different personality types.  In his book Bernstein gives examples of some of the more common emotional vampires and their characteristics:  self-serving Narcissists, hedonistic Antisocials, exhausting Paranoids, over-the-top Histrionic drama queens to name a few.

So, what are emotional vampires?  These are people who, like immature unruly children, play by their own rule.  Their needs are always more important than others; rules apply only to others - they have entitlement; things are never their fault; they want to get their way and they want it now. 

‘Emotional Vampires lack integrity.  This is not a moral judgment; rather it is a comment on the structure of their personalities.  Vampires are hollow inside.  They have very little idea of who or what they really are; they only know what they want.  Not only are vampires confused about their own identities, they can confuse you about yours as well.  If you get too closely involved with them, you’ll hardly know yourself.‘  In other words, you’d become a Vampire too.   

The trick of course is to protect yourself against them.  Other than becoming a hermit or putting a string of garlic around your neck wherever you go, the best way is to recognise them when you see them coming and respond to them in a way that would make Van Helsing proud.  That is, by knowing the types of vampires they are and outsmarting them.

Let’s meet some of the more familiar Emotional Vampires.

Narcissitic Vampires according to Berstein, are people with big egos.  ‘What Narcissitic vampires want is to live out their grandiose fantasies of being the smartest, most talented, and all-around best people in the world.  It’s not so much that they think of themselves as better than other people as they don’t think of other people at all.’  These people believe the universe revolves around them.  And if you work with them, they demand a lot from you.  Narcissists however, can achieve greatness. 

What is the best way to deal with Narcissistic Vampires?  With Narcissists, unless you’re willing to take, you will be taken.  ‘Regardless of what they say, Narcissistic vampires seldom do anything that isn’t self-serving.  As long as you can tie your interests in with theirs, they’ll think you’re almost as great as they are.’

Vampire Bullies.  For these vampires, their drug of choice is anger.  They like to show their power by yelling.  They are one of the most emotionally draining types.  And what’s more, they use that primitive power to manipulate the animal in you.  They either make your hackles rise in anger, or cower in the corner with fear.  If you have one for a boss, your life is a misery.

Yelling or punching them back might satisfy the animal in you, but unless you’re sure of coming out the winner and really want to succumb to that level, the best way to deal with Vampire Bullies is to ignore their tantrums.  Bullies don’t think.  Your best defense is to use your reason.  ‘Vampire Bully hypnosis attempts to transport you to the steamy jungles of your genetic past.  If you don’t go, you discover there are many more options than kill or be killed.’

Another vampire type that is not so obvious but equally deadly to your emotional health is the Vampire Perfectionists and Puritans.  The Obsessive-Compulsive vampires ‘who are not above using the powers of hell to achieve what they consider to be heavenly goals.‘  They are always finding faults in everything. Unbeknownst to them however, they are actually angry people.  They are angry ‘because they’re good people who are somehow stuck in a bad world.’  And they often don’t have a clue what a pain in the neck they can be, especially when you don’t hold as high standards as they are.

There’s also the Paranoid Vampire.  According to Bernstein, ‘Paranoid Vampires believe that the answers are out there, and they’re willing to do what it takes to find them... They can draw you in with elegant theories that are often more convincing than mere facts...’

Hmmm, somehow this type sounds a lot like me...

(Desi Anwar:  First Published in The Jakarta Globe)

1 comment:

  1. After reading this I feel like we all are emotional vampires, at least a specific type or multiple types from time to time.


I welcome your comments on this article. Thank you!