images feelings emotions How to Defend Against Five Emotional Vampires

By Judith Orloff, MD
Adapted from the new book, “The Ecstasy of Surrender”

 Emotional vampires wear many different disguises–from workplace bullies to needy relatives to poor-me complainers. Intentionally or not, these people can make us feel depressed, overwhelmed, defensive, wiped out, and angry.

Without effective self-defense strategies to keep them at bay, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued. They also get drawn into unhealthy relationships.

Here are five common types of emotional vampires we often encounter, adapted from the book The Ecstasy of Surrender, along with some “silver bullet” tips for fending them off.

Type #1: The Passive-Aggressive Person. This type of vampire expresses anger with a smile or exaggerated concern–but always maintains their cool. They are experts at sugar-coating hostility.

Self-Defense Tips: Let go of self-doubt and trust your gut reactions. Tell yourself that you deserve to be treated more lovingly. Address their behavior. In a calm, firm tone you might say, “I would greatly appreciate it if you can be on time when we go out to dinner.” If nothing changes, keep setting limits with this person and scale back on the time you spend with them.

Type #2: The Narcissist. For this vampire, everything is about them. They are ego-centric, self-important, and starved for admiration and attention. They may be charming and intelligent–until their guru status is threatened.

Self-defense Tips: Enjoy their good qualities, but have realistic expectations. Their motto is “me-first,” so getting angry or stating your needs won’t have any effect on them. Beware of this type, because narcissists lack empathy and are incapable of unconditional love. You may be able to get their cooperation, however, by appealing to their self-interest and showing them how your request will benefit them.

Type #3: The Anger Addict. This vampire deals with conflict by accusing, attacking, humiliating, or criticizing. Some anger addicts withhold things, or resort to using the silent treatment to punish you.

Self-defense Tips: Don’t let their anger wear down your self-esteem. Pause when agitated. Take a few slow breaths to relax, and do not respond until you are in a centered place. Try to stay neutral and balanced, and disarm the person by agreeing with them or acknowledging their position. Then state your case. It’s also useful to empathize with anger addicts. Ask yourself what pain or inadequacy makes them so angry.

Type #4: The Guilt Tripper. These types are world-class blamers, martyrs, and drama queens. They know how to make you feel bad about something by pressing your insecurity buttons.

Self-defense Tips: Let go of the notion that you have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. If you feel really guilty, find a private place and let yourself cry. You can also reply with a positive statement such as, “I can see your point of view. But when you say ___, my feelings are hurt. I’d be grateful if you didn’t keep repeating it.”

Type #5: The Gossip. These busybodies delight in talking about others behind their backs, putting them down, and spreading catty rumors. When they do this, everyone around them feels slimed.

Self-defense Tips: Don’t worry about what this person thinks about you, and don’t take gossip personally. Rise to a higher place and ignore it. However, you may be able to get them to stop by saying, “Your comments are hurtful. How would you like it if others talked about you like that? Please stop saying these things about me.” If you’re in a group, change the subject. Also, never share information with a gossip.


* * * * *

Judith Orloff MD is a UCLA psychiatrist and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. A New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Orloff teaches workshops nationwide, has given a TED talk on this book, and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Today, PBS, CNN, NPR, and many others. Learn more at
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axstj img 5772 1013 3007 300x200 work from home marketing entrepreneur Recently I was talking to a fellow military spouse entrepreneur and the conversation turned to how difficult it was to build her business in the ever-changing atmosphere of military life. We spent some time going over her actions and uncovering the challenges she faced and what we discovered was fascinating. We discovered that while she had tried lots of new marketing “things” she had been marketing to the same people over and over!

No wonder she was so frustrated with her stalled growth!

Within 20 minutes she went from frustration to excitement. She had a new outlook and was eager to hit the ground running again. She was thinking out of the box about new ways to grow her business and had begun to see the obstacles as stepping stones to growth. What changed?

Quite simply it was her mindset and it became a light bulb moment for both of us.

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall trying to turn it into a door”

Similar to the glass 1/2 full or 1/2 empty concept, this quote pretty much sums up what  happens when we looked the marketing challenges that often come with military life. So often we try to make our new situation (or marketing idea) fit into our old patterns don’t we? We think if we put a new twist on things or we put our message out there in a new way we will get the results we are looking for. However the reality is that instead of searching for the open door, we often continue beating on the wall  trying to create an opening where there isn’t one.

How many of us do that each and every day? We revise our message or tweek our content hoping that the people we feel need to hear it will magically open their minds. We continue to try to convince others to join us or buy our product even if they don’t see the need for it. Maybe we market the same way we always have, or expect different results when we continue to do the same things. Perhaps we are just saturating our warm markets rather than reaching out to new ones. And that’s the problem.

The military community while it’s big is also very small-because we tend to stay in our comfort zones and reach out to our “warm” markets. What would happen if we tried new things and looked for openings that expanded our reach. Wouldn’t it prevent us from wasting our time and energy “beating the wall” with nothing to show for our efforts?

Think about it, the only way to grow and break out of your warm market is to find innovative ways in which you can reach the people who don’t know who you are or what your message is. It may be uncomfortable but it’s the key to growth and success.

Walls don’t turn into doors unless you have the tools to create the opening. What tools do you need to open yourself up to new opportunities? What would your business look like if you spent your time opening doors to new opportunities and contacts? Think out of the box and take some risks you may be surprised at what this quarter may bring.

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