Are you a highly sensitive person? Do you feel like you soak up other people’s energies like a psychic sponge? Do you frequently feel drained by social interactions? Do you sometimes feel doomed to be a magnet for energy vampires?
If you can relate to any of those feelings, please read on, because you’re not alone and there’s a reason why these things happen. If you can understand these energetic and behavioral patterns, where they come from, how to recognize them, and how to heal them, you will be free not only of energy vampires, but the underlying causes that create a range of unpleasant dynamics in relationships and life in general.
Where It Most Likely Started
The state of the world is such that sadly, most children grow up in toxic cultures that include dysfunctional families, peer groups, and school systems. If the dysfunction is bad enough, which is often the case, the child will respond with one of two styles of coping mechanisms: they will be hyper focused either on the self or on others. For the child that focuses on self, they collapse into feelings of victimhood and end up emotionally shut down and self-absorbed. These are the folks who become energy vampires if they don't get help and healing. For the child that hyper focuses on others, they become highly empathic and lose their sense of self completely. They try to get their needs met by giving to others who will hopefully be able to take care of them someday, but it never works out. These are the people who end up as empaths.
It should be noted that neither pattern is healthy. In both cases, the child has been abandoned and has not had their needs met. Both patterns create imbalance in the individual. A child who grows up in a healthy environment with healthy role models learns how to care for the self and for others in a balanced way.
Empaths learned in childhood that in order to keep themselves safe, they had to focus on another person’s needs (usually an abusive parent) and meet them, while simultaneously repressing their own needs, because it was too painful to not get them met. The empathic ability and focus on others was a necessary coping mechanism that helped them survive in the only way they knew how and it can therefore be a highly charged and very persistent pattern to release later in life.
Think about it this way; if you had a self-absorbed/distracted/unavailable/abusive parent who couldn’t meet your needs at an impressionable age, you would most likely be imprinted with a program of “not receiving/not getting needs met.” These programs that are installed at an impressionable age have a very high chance of repeating in subsequent relationships if the pattern is not consciously addressed and healed at the root cause.
One of the problematic ways that the “not receiving/not getting needs met” pattern tends to show up in relationship is that the empathic person will attract a self-absorbed, abusive person to balance the energy, because the only possible match for a non-receiver is a non-giver. In this sense, empaths and energy vampires are made for each other, but it’s a match made in hell.
So how to break the cycle? As empaths we need to own our part of the pattern to heal it, which we’ll get into, but first, let’s look at how we can recognize the pattern when it arises. Recognizing patterns is key to raising consciousness. As you read the following list, see if any of these things sound familiar.
Ways to Recognize Energy Vampires in Relationships
Here are some energy dynamics to consider when determining whether or not you’re in a relationship with an energy vampire:
1. It literally sucks. When you hang out with the person in question you feel drained afterward, like someone sucked the life force out of you, because they did. And of course, you let them. If after an interaction you feel more exhausted than uplifted, that’s a sign that something is off in the relationship and you may be dealing with an energy vampire.
2. The relationship feels unbalanced. If you feel like you’re giving and giving, but not getting much in return, that’s a sign that the relationship is unbalanced. Do you feel like you’re doing all the emotional labor? Do they offer to help, but don’t follow through? Do you believe them when they say they’re there for you? These are important clues to pay attention to.
3. You feel like the caregiver. Do you play the role of the therapist, mom, big brother, or helper in the relationship? Does it seem like the other person is always struggling with some drama and needs your help? Are you able to have needs in the relationship? Does it feel like you’re the adult in the relationship and they’re the child? That might be a sign that the relationship is unbalanced.
4. You’re on your own. Because the relationship isn’t reciprocal, you may feel like you’re on your own. You probably don’t feel supported. Maybe you tried being vulnerable with them and they couldn’t hold space for you. Maybe you shared something that was meaningful to you and they responded with lack of caring. Maybe you had success with something and they didn’t feel happy for you or were even jealous or dismissive. Those could be signs that you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship dynamic.
5. It’s never about you. The relationship is set up to revolve around them and their needs. Even if you are going through something big, the other person will make it about them, what they think you should do, how they feel about it, how it affects them.
6. You start feeling worse. You may need to ask, “who does this belong to?” because you tend to take on the other person’s pain, whether it be emotional, psychic, or physical. Do you feel anxious or depressed in the relationship? Do you find that you feel better and have fewer symptoms the less you engage with them? That could be a sign that you are taking on their pain.
7. You've got a hope-ium addiction. You feel like it’s going to get better after this crisis or that problem, but it never does. You may find yourself holding on to the little scraps of affection you are able to receive as evidence that there’s something positive in the relationship, and it’s true, these things are usually complex, but if it feels like you keep waiting for the dynamic to shift and it doesn’t, that’s a good sign you might have a hope-ium addiction.
8. You’ve experienced boundary backlash. In a healthy relationship, if you say no or have a boundary, the other person will honor and respect it. Not so with energy vampires. Because they feel like they can’t meet their own needs, they need your energy to fill the void. If they respond to you having a boundary with something snarky, go into a shame loop, try to get you to change your mind, or straight up attack you verbally, emotionally, psychically, or physically then there’s definitely something off.
9. It’s never their fault. Energy vampires don’t take responsibility for what happens in their life. It’s always the other person’s fault. Because they don’t have a healthy sense of self esteem, they can’t handle any perceived criticism and have to have their ego constantly propped up by others. If they feel criticized, they will go into shame and blame.
10. They leave a wake of destruction. Once the energy vampire gets called out or cut off, they rage at the other person and then look for the next empath to take adventage of. They don’t self-reflect or heal anything, so they leave a path of burnt-out exes in their wake. If you notice they have been fired from every job, don’t have any long-term friendships or relationships, have a new best friend every other week, can’t seem to hold any stable work, personal, or creative relationships, or complain about how everyone has fucked them over, that’s a really good sign that something is amiss.
11. Your energy probably isn’t the only thing they’re addicted to. When someone feels like they don’t have what it takes to face the reality of their inner world or the outer world, they will often self-medicate to buffer themselves from reality. Because energy vampires don’t have the skills of self-soothing, they have an insatiable need for external soothing. If they aren’t plugged in to someone’s energy, they will find other means of avoiding their feelings, like over-using their phone, tv, drugs, alcohol, shopping, or porn.
It’s Not Just a Personal Issue
Unfortunately, for highly sensitive people called to being of service and spiritual communities, there are also energy vampires drawn to such community spaces. They know, often on a subconscious level, that there’s a good chance of connecting with empaths, or other loving folks with sketchy boundaries, who they can draw energy from.
There are many core similarities between empaths and the people who use them. It’s just that the core wound manifests in different, complimentary ways. For example, both empaths and energy vampires have poor self esteem and lack of boundaries. For the empath it manifests as being focused on the other, being unable to say no, and not being able to receive for the self. For the energy vampire, it manifests as being focused on the self, only being able to take, and not being able to have true empathy or care for others.
Sometimes it can be difficult to discern who is a real empath and who is a fake empath, because many energy vampires have become very good at pretending to be empathic. One of the dead give-aways of a fake empath is that they will exhibit displays of emotion, usually in a disproportionate or inappropriate way, in order to gain sympathy or attention for themselves. Something will feel off or manipulative about their behavior. For example, they post a picture of themselves crying on social media and the caption says something about how they're so upset at the state of the world, but really they are doing it for likes. If someone was really upset, would they post it on social media? Maybe, but most likely they would be too caught up in taking care of the thing that was upsetting rather than posing for selfies.
If you notice something feels off, or someone's actions don't match their words, pay attention to it! Most empaths are total suckers for gaslighting and manipulation by abusers, but they are also so sensitive to energy they always know when something isn’t right. They usually bypass it to take care of the other person, but on some level they always know. With practice, you can get really skillful at trusting your empathic intuition and using it in a healthy way. The first step is to start paying attention to what you are feeling and give that more credence than what the other person might be saying.
Sadly, we even run into energy vampires within the healing professions. Some people who decide to go into healing as a profession are not real healers at all. Rather than having a deep personal interest in healing themselves and a true care for helping others, they are coming from an egoic place of self-centeredness without self-awareness. They want to avoid their own problems by focusing on what's wrong with other people and they have a desire to get their self-esteem needs met by becoming an authority figure, telling other people what to do, or making other people dependent on them. Some do it just to make sure they always have people around who are paying attention to them.
Another thing to note: just because somebody may be popular or have a large following doesn't mean they have done their inner work. It seems obvious, but notice how many people equate the two. Someone could have a popular blog or social media page, but that doesn't make them an authority over you, your spiritual practice, or your health and well-being.
Again, if something feels off, it probably is. If you have a session or interaction with a so-called healer where you feel like you’ve been slimed, had the life sucked out of you, or picked up a demon from them, that is really important to pay attention to. It’s one thing to have an occasional healing response of needing some extra rest after a session, but it’s another thing to feel possessed or more unwell than before.
So We Got Energy Vampire Issues, Now What?
First and foremost, we have to take responsibility for our part of the equation. When we can recognize how we are participating and the root cause of where those behaviors come from, we can shift the energy dynamic into one that is truly helpful and healing for everyone.
So, if you have identified a pattern where you’ve been attracting energy vampires, read on for some ways that you can make that shift:
1. Catch it quickly. The sooner you notice the pattern, the better. It is far easier to shift a relationship dynamic in the earlier phases of the relationship than it is to change a pattern that is deeply entrenched. If it feels unbalanced now, chances are very good that it will only become worse with time. That being said, anytime is a great time to have a relationship healing. And sometimes that healing means taking space, taking a break, or walking away from something that’s not working for you. Chances are, you already have several existing relationships that could use some healing. Know that you don’t have to figure it all out or heal it all right away. If you focus on the inner work and the relationship with yourself, the outer relationships will start to shift. Eventually anything that’s toxic will fall away and you will stop attracting energy vampires and unhealthy relationship dynamics. In the meantime, do your work and cut yourself some slack. You didn’t create all this overnight, so it’s going to take some time and attention to sort out.
2. Work on your boundaries. This is key. If you have been an unconscious empath all your life, you may not even know what the heck a boundary is. Basically, a boundary is the aspect of healthy self-esteem that allows us to say no, take care of ourselves, and know the difference between what is ours and what is someone else’s. To have healthy boundaries you have to strengthen your resolve to take care of yourself and have an energy and consciousness that is balanced. You must have equal access to the internal divine feminine principle of non-aggression/compassion and the divine masculine self-defense/protection principle. Most empaths have serious problems accessing healthy anger and the ability to say no. If this is you, work on some boundary strategies. For example, if you have a hard time saying no, come up with a plan ahead of time. Practice saying “not now” or “let me think about it.” See if you can buy yourself some time. Don’t reply to messages right away. Let yourself have time and space to tune into your needs and what works for you. If you have a hard time telling what’s your feeling and what’s someone else’s, take time by yourself to question your feelings and tune into the truth. Ask yourself, “Is this my feeling/belief/thought/pain?” Notice what happens when you ask that question. Practice tuning in to what you’re feeling in your body. Feel the edge of your skin, and your feet touching the ground. The more in your body you are, the easier it is to have boundaries. Recognize that as a child you probably were taught that you shouldn’t say no and that other people could do whatever they wanted with your body and you had to go along with whatever they wanted you to do. That is a recipe for crappy boundaries, but you can heal that! Learning how to have healthy boundaries is awkward at first, but just like anything, it gets easier with practice.
3. Figure out your needs. If you weren’t allowed to have needs as a kid, you have probably had a hard time knowing what they are until now. It’s not too late to figure it out. Make knowing your needs a priority that is at least as important as everyone else’s. Get clear on what those needs are and give that to yourself. If you can’t give something to yourself, you won’t be able to receive it from someone else, but when you build that trust and love within yourself, you will see it reflected in external relationships too. One of the things that can help you tune into your needs is to notice the things that get on your nerves or annoy you about other people. Are you annoyed by how selfish someone is? Maybe you need to focus more on yourself, too. Are you jealous of someone’s free time? Maybe you need to take more time off or get more rest. Do you find yourself being critical of someone else’s work? Maybe you need to focus more on your own work and work that is meaningful to you. When a need isn’t being met, it is painful. If you have a childhood pattern of suppressing your needs and focusing on others, you might find that your needs will often show up in your feelings about others. This is another great opportunity to take time by yourself to tune in and be curious. Why do you feel that way? What does it feel like you’re lacking? What do you really need? Journaling can be really helpful for this work. It might sound weird, but writing out your needs is really powerful. Simply taking the time to tune in is a demonstration of caring for yourself and that in itself is helping to meet your needs and healing the old painful pattern.
4. Practice impeccable energy hygiene. If you are a highly sensitive person this is really non-negotiable. You aren’t going to have the energy to do your inner work and heal these relationship patterns if you are bogged down with energetic crud in your space. Really everyone needs to know how to take care of themselves energetically, but it’s especially important for empathic folks that are susceptible to energy leaks, energy drains, energy vampires, being a psychic sponge, and taking on other people’s psychic trash. Boundaries are key for not taking it on in the first place, but if you notice you got whacked by some nasty energy, you need to know how to clear it. Take classes and read books on energy work. There are tons of free or inexpensive resources online. The minimum skills you need to learn are: how to ground and center, cut energetic cords, clear energy, clear entities, revoke agreements, reclaim your energy, create shields, and return to sender any energy that’s not yours. I have some free meditations on my LBRY page that teach some of these processes. I also teach them in my book: Lightworker Training: A Practical Guide to Healing with Energy + Consciousness and in the Lightworker Training classes I teach.
5. Do the inner child work. This is essential, because this is where the root causes of the issues are. It's not fun to feel the stuff that started the cycle of empath-vampire attraction, but it's necessary and it does get easier with practice. There are various ways of engaging in inner child work and trauma healing, but the important thing is to start by building a healthy relationship with your inner child and give them the love and protection they need instead of giving it to the energy vampires. Recognize that the love and compassion you are giving to energy vampires who only care about themselves is actually a dysfunctional way of avoiding dealing with your wounded inner child who desperately needs your help. For most empaths, it can be easier to exercise healthy boundaries when they see it as protecting the inner child who needs help. If that works for you, I invite you to see your inner child as a separate being who is outside of your adult self and imagine that you are going to do whatever it takes to protect that sweet, innocent child from any toxic people or abusive relationships.
Another important note I feel I need to make here is that it is currently very trendy to talk about trauma-informed healing, but not many people who have jumped on that bandwagon have actually done sufficient inner child healing themselves or even had sufficient training and apprenticeship before they put themselves out there as a trauma healing specialist, which really sucks for people looking for qualified help, but it's true.
Hopefully that will change, but in the meantime, I urge you to be cautious, yet open minded when selecting someone to work with or learn from, especially if you have significant trauma to heal. Find out what qualifies them to be your facilitator and how many years of experience they have. Sadly, there are a lot of unhealed healers out there, especially on social media. That's not to say we can't be helpful if we still have some work to do, but it is to say that inner child work and trauma recovery requires a rock solid container of trust and the practitioner must be very skillful and have good boundaries. Someone who hasn't done their own work has neither. If you are healing childhood trauma and you're looking for a safe place to start, I highly recommended the book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker.
Moving Forward in Love
As we rebuild trust with the inner child, heal the deep wounds and trauma of the past, learn how to have healthy boundaries, and receive the love and care we so freely give to everyone but ourselves, we will no longer be a match for non-givers. We will stop repeatedly playing out the dysfunctional patterns from the past, find new ways of being in the world - as awkward as it may be at first! - and at last be free of the magnetic and destructive attraction to energy vampires.
It is my sincere wish that this little bit of information based on my own experience will help you save time and energy spent suffering by getting some tools and awareness I wish I had when I was learning all this through one painful relationship after another. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Do you have any experience with energy vampires? What are your favorite techniques for dealing with them? What are some ways you've helped yourself heal? Do you have any helpful resources to share? Please leave a comment below!
Tatiana "Phoenix" Sakurai is a lightworker, teacher, and author of Lightworker Training: A Practical Guide to Healing with Energy + Consciousness. She facilitates sessions, classes, and circles for students, clients, and community members through the projects of Phoenix Lightwork, Lightworker Training, and Cosmic Fire.