Flourishing with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
Upcoming HSP Workshops
HSP Workshop in Chicago!
HSP’s in Relationships: the Arduous, the Agonizing, and the Amazing
Come join us at Collective Hope in Chicago on Friday, June 30th, 2017
1142 W. Madison St.
9:00 am-12:00 pm
Watch for ad in Event Bright!
Come join us in Santa Cruz, CA this July! See more info below:
4 Strategies to Survive Emotional Vampires – Dr. Judith Orloff
As an energy psychiatrist I know that to come out ahead with drainers, you must be methodical. Emotional vampires can’t savage your peace of mind or prick you to death with corrosive remarks if you’re onto them. This survival guide from my books, “The Empath’s Survival Guide” and “Emotional Freedom“ covers everything from recognizing an initial exposure to deploying techniques to deflect negativity. It will enable you to stay centered in difficult relationships.
The First Strategy: Determine Am I Being Sapped By An Emotional Vampire?
Anyone who has ever shared an office, car pool, or attended a family dinner with a vampire can attest to experiencing some common emotional side effects. Even after a brief contact, you feel worse; they feel better. To find out if you’ve been bled, watch for these signs. Experiencing even one indicates you’ve met a drainer on the prowl.
Your eyelids get heavy–you’re ready for a nap. You feel put down or like the rug was pulled out from under you. Your mood takes a nose-dive. You have a yen to binge on carbs or comfort food. You feel sniped at, slimed, or agitated.
In addition, sometimes intuitive flashes and dreams can raise a red flag. Pay attention. For instance, following a dinner I attended where the guests had something negative to say about everything, I dreamed I was bombarded by a storm of leeches. Similarly, after a critical friend skewered one of my patients, she felt as if she’d fallen to the bottom of a well. Another patient dreamed that a pigeon pooped on her head–splat, there it was: her reaction to a nasty altercation with her apartment’s superintendent. Whether you’re awake or asleep, notice telling imagery that conveys emotion. This will help you identify a vampire.
The Second Strategy: Practice These General Do’s and Don’ts With Emotional Vampires
Whenever possible, eliminate drainers from your life. However, with those you can’t or don’t want to remove–for example, friends going through a rough patch or relatives who are fixtures–follow these tips:
Take a breath to center yourself. Listen for intuitions signaling danger (i.e. you get “the creeps,” a bad taste in your mouth, a tired or tense feeling). Stay calm and matter of fact instead of going for their bait. Pause…develop a plan to handle the situation before you react (refer to the fourth guideline describing these strategies). Communicate clearly, firmly, with a neutral tone when setting limits.
Panic. Talk yourself out your intuitions or call yourself “neurotic”. Blurt out what you’ll regret later or use an accusatory tone. Fight with the person. Overeat to medicate stress.
Also consider what kind of emotional vampires you’re facing; we often attract what we haven’t emotionally resolved in ourselves. If you’re fearful, you may find yourself surrounded by legions of fearful people. However, once you’ve begun to heal an emotion, you’re less likely to magnetize it towards you, nor does it possess the same ability to wear you out.
If you decide that the pros outweigh the cons of remaining with an emotional vampire, say a bullying colleague or mate, you must take responsibility for that decision and the way you respond. Ask yourself, “How can I stay in the relationship and not feel oppressed?” This means concentrating on the good and accepting someone’s limitations.
The Third Strategy: Could I Be An Emotional Vampire? How Do I Know?
We’ve all got a smidgeon of vampire in us, especially when we’re stressed. So, cut yourself a break. It’s admirable to admit, “I think I’m emotionally draining people. What can I do?” Can’t be free without such honesty. Then you can change. These are some common indications that you’re becoming a drainer.
People avoid you or glaze over during a conversation. You’re self-obsessed. You’re often negative. You gossip or bad-mouth people. You’re critical, controlling. You’re in an emotional black hole, but won’t get help–this strains relationships and won’t free you
The solution is always to own up to where you’re emotionally stuck and change the related behavior. For instance, one patient in computer graphics kept hammering his wife with a poor-me attitude about how he always got stuck with boring projects at work. Instead of trying to improve the situation, he just kvetched. She started dreading those conversations, diplomatically mentioned it to him. This motivated my patient to address the issue with his supervisor, which got him more stimulating assignments. Similarly, whenever I slip into vampire mode, I try to examine and alter my behavior or else discuss the particulars with a friend or a therapist so I can change. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance when you’re stumped.
The Fourth Strategy: Identify and Combat Emotional Vampires
To be free of vampires, you must know the nature of the beast. Each one has a special talent for emotionally disabling you. The good news is that vampires are predictable. Once you get their number, you won’t be caught off guard. Understanding vampires from multiple angles gives you the upper hand. So does having empathy for their emotional wounds–intuitively, these feel as real to me as physical injury. Think about it: No one becomes a vampire because they’re happy! Whether or not they know it, vampires are driven by insecurity and weakness, infirmities that impede goodwill. This doesn’t excuse their predatory acts. Rather, it allows you to show compassion for people you may not like while setting limits, a paradigm for emotional diplomacy that frees you and reduces drain. This framework will help clarify your relationships, but realize there’s much more to a human being than any single definition. Stay focused: your aim isn’t to rehabilitate vampires, merely to counter them with uncommon grace.
Can You Tell When a Friend is No Good for You? – Karyl McBride, Ph.D. “The Legacy of Distorted Love”
Realizing why you’re vulnerable is the first step to moving on. I recently got an email from a lovely woman saying she feels she repeats in her choice of friends the dynamic she had with her narcissistic mother. She says she befriends narcissistic women who then, like her mother, end up rejecting her.
Is this you?
If you were raised by narcissistic parents, it is common to be attracted to the familiar. It often becomes a secondary trauma. We may feel like we have to master it and make it work: If my own mother or father can’t love me, then I have to make this friendship work or it shows that I am unlovable and they were right.
But there is another answer.
We attract people into our lives who are on the same emotional level we are. Without recovery, adult children of narcissistic parents are very vulnerable in relationships. This can happen to you, as it does for many. You are not alone.
But how do you tell if your friends are narcissistic? Consider these questions:
- Is there reciprocity in the relationship? Is there give and take, or is one person always the giver and the other always the taker?
- Are you able to be yourself in this relationship? Do you find you have to play down your talents to make the friend feel less threatened? Or does this friend celebrate you and allow you to shine in your own right?
- Is there a sharing of vulnerability on both sides? Can you both discuss your real feelings?
- Do you trust this person with your feelings or do you find yourself on guard most of the time? Have your feelings been used against you?
- Can your friend give you empathy on a peer level?
- Does this friend bring out the best in you? Do you get to be your real self in good times and bad?
- When issues need to be discussed, can this friend be accountable for their own behavior?
- Do you find it acceptable to have boundaries with this friend? When setting boundaries, does it cause problems? Or is this understood and easily worked through?
- Do you care about each other as people, in addition to what you do together?
- Does the friend exploit you for his or her own ends, or just cherish what you bring to the relationship?
Choosing and keeping cherished friends can be a challenge. If you are an adult child of a narcissistic parent, you learned the wrong definition of love, so it has to be re-learned through your own recovery work. As you do recovery, you may find that some friends are not healthy for you and you may need to begin to develop healthier connections. This is not only OK; it’s good for you. It’s important to find friends who add to your life rather than drain you. Search for friendships that offer a match to your strengths, and honor your authenticity and passions in life. Don’t allow competitiveness and jealousy to get in the way.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”—Oprah Winfrey
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”—Henri Nouwen
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”—Albert Schweitzer.
In this together,