Let me begin by saying that all of us have some level of emotional vampire within us – unless we are enlightened, elevated beings i.e. perfect, and of course, we are not! The danger is when we tip the balance and this sort of behavior dominates or begins to destroy our life. One of my favorite daily mantras/affirmations is “I observe my own behavior” which leads to self-awareness and allows me to admit that there are aspects of me that I need to change – daily.
Accordingly, step one to all change and transformation is Awareness; in this case becoming aware of your behavior and its consequences.
Step two is Understanding; understanding the roots and origins of the behavior which of course is driven by subconscious beliefs and emotions.
Step three is Reprogramming; shifting your perception and beliefs, and releasing negative emotions which, in turn liberates you.
Of course, given that this is the process to healing and therapy, it cannot be done all on your own. But, there are things you can do to begin the process.
Identify exactly what you are doing. For example, one of my clients, Robin, behaved like the Emotional Vampire – the controller. She would always criticize, dictate and dominate her husband, friends and family to the point where the invitations to events stopped and people avoided her at all costs.
I asked Robin to indentify how she felt when she was engaging in this behavior. Her response was “powerful and in control.” Therefore, what she was saying translates to: ‘most of the time, I feel weak and out of control.’
I asked her, “And when did you first feel weak, helpless or out of control?” As a child, Robin’s parents were alcoholic and she always felt out of control and yet she had to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. Her mother would criticize, dictate and dominate her. Robin survived by trying to maintain control over everything and everyone because she never felt safe or in control of her world or emotions.
Our next step was to help her release all of the pain, hurt, trauma and feelings of helplessness, as well as her belief that controlling and criticizing is the only way to stay safe. I also helped her to regain her power by understanding at a subconscious level that those events are over, finished (and therefore she is safe); there is nothing innately wrong with her, no one will hurt her now, and that she can now make new choices in each moment about the way she will respond and show and receive love.
So, now let’s look at some of the ways you can liberate the vampire within you. Here are some practical steps and then further below I will elaborate on a few of them:
1. Admit what your behavior is and how it is affecting others; do not label it, just identify it.
2. Do not say hateful words or feel hate towards yourself over the behavior (you probably already have subconscious self-loathing which is driving the behavior); instead adopt a neutral approach i.e. become an outside observer of the behavior but decide that you will do what is necessary to change.
3. Find a quiet place and relax and ask yourself, “When I am engaging in that behavior, what am I feeling? What do I really want?”
4. Start referring to the behavior you wish to change as “that behavior” and not “my behavior”; doing this separates your identity from the behavior and begins to give you the feeling that you are not the behavior, it does not control you and therefore you can change it.
5. In the moment, when you are engaging or feel you are about to engage in that behavior, say “stop’ and then consider another approach.
6. Begin to give away what you want.
7. Who do you need to forgive?
I said last week that it is critical to understand that all of the emotional vampire behaviors stem from negative experiences and programming, and ultimately are driven by the motivation to get what is missing inside such as validation, recognition, attention, approval, love, acceptance, reassurance, personal power, etc. No matter how confident and assertive they may appear, underneath, they often suffer from self-hatred, low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame and so forth.
So now, let’s look at the vampire types, what each one subconsciously seeks and my suggested new behavior. Remember, these are only generalizations and starting points to understanding and releasing that behavior.
You seek validation and praise because you feel empty, meaningless and not good enough.
Your inner desire: to feel that you are worthy, unique and special
New behavior: Praise yourself sincerely (when you are alone); write out the qualities you have that are special and meaningful; praise and validate other people and practice an entire conversation without speaking about yourself, instead listening and asking questions about the other person. This will be hard at first but will feel easier as you practice it.
You seek to control, dominate and dictate because you feel or fear that you are not in control of your life.
Your inner desire: to feel safe and in control of your feelings and self.
New behavior: Remember that when you are controlling others you are making them feel the very thing you fear – feeling unsafe, dominated and intimidated. Instead, identify small areas or occasions where you can begin to practice handing the reins to someone else. Give yourself permission to let your hair down, play and have fun at special occasions. Do silly things like draw, dance, paint, play in the park, etc. These are activities that bring out the child in you, helping you to feel safe to express yourself.
You believe that the only way you can get love, approval, attention and empathy is to have people feel sorry for you or pity you.
Your inner desire: to feel people care about you, to feel wanted and loved and to get attention.
New behavior: Talk about your minor achievements and accomplishments. Praise other people’s achievements and accomplishments thus reinforcing that accomplishments and success are more positive and pleasurable than being a victim. Express love, warmth, excitement and attention to others for their positive achievements.
You criticize, judge and correct people because you were taught do that – it was done to you.
Your inner desire: to be praised, encouraged and accepted; to be allowed to make mistakes
New behavior: Look for reasons to praise, encourage and express acceptance to others. Allow others to make mistakes, understanding that we are all imperfect. Forgive your parents for not living up to your expectations. Forgive yourself for your idea that you did not live up to their expectations. Focus on being a “positive judge” – praise people’s good behavior and practice ignoring mistakes where appropriate. Ask, “How important is this really?”
You seek constant attention and approval, and create drama and outbursts believing that the intense emotion is a healthy connection.
Your inner desire is to feel a deep, intense emotional connection with others
New behavior: Be economic with your emotional energy. Remind yourself that when you have outbursts, you frighten other people and stop them from freely expressing themselves. Express approval to others calmly and sincerely. Establish a deeper connection with others through joy, sharing and giving.