The Emotional Vampire: Science Confirms It, Some People Consume Our Energy

The Emotional Vampire: Science Confirms It, Some People Consume Our Energy
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

According to scientists, this kind of dynamic can completely drain our psychological well-being. It has a strange effect on our brain.

It’s interesting how popular psychology likes to use words that describe certain behavioral processes really well. “Emotional vampire” is a very good metaphor for people whose actions, words, or attitudes drain our blood — our energy.

“If someone only needs a trash bin, don’t let it be your mind”
-Dalai Lama-

But any expert on the topic will tell us that on top of stealing our energy — which they do, and that’s how they’ve scientifically proven it — they also manage to infect us with their own emotional state.

Let’s use an example: we get a new coworker. As we get to know them we realize they never talk about anything positive that’s happened to them. They’re always in a “state of complaint.”

When we’re with this person, even if we’re almost constantly asking ourselves “why do I have to listen to these things,” we can’t keep them from infecting us with their characteristic negativity.

Sometimes it even affects our work. In fact, there are interesting studies that call these kinds of people “rotten apples.” 

That is, through their negative attitude they can “infect” the whole workforce with their own emotional burden. They manage to create genuinely hostile environments where employees might even take a sick day because they feel literally “burned out.” 

But the phenomenon of the rotten apple or emotional vampire goes much further than that…

an apple in the shape of a butterfly

What Happens in Your Brain When The Emotional Vampire “Sucks” Your Energy

To understand what happens when we have to interact with or be near a victimizing, negative, or simply tiring person day after day, we’ll take a short trip to the past.

Think about how our brain, because of natural selection, is programmed to see sociability and contact with our fellow humans as not just positive, but necessary. 

So, what our ancestors did to increase their chances of survival was to form small groups.

That’s why we need other people in order to feel good, connect, and create meaningful bonds. When we do that, our brain releases oxytocin.

But when we aren’t able to “fit together” with someone else, and instead get hostility or suspicion, our brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. A specific feeling lives in our brain: the sensation of threat. 

There’s more. Something happens in the sophisticated network of interconnected cells that forms our mirror neuron system.

This system isn’t just programmed to register and process a person’s every facial expression or body language. A lot of the time it also infects itself with the same emotions as the people around us.

Scientists also tell us some people are more susceptible than others to this “impregnation.” Little by little, it creates a poison.

mujer triste con pájaro en el cabello agotada por la pérdida de energías

How Do We Keep Up A Good Energy Level?

We’d love to be able to tell you that when you’re confronted with an emotional vampire, all it takes is to get away from them. But it’s not that easy.

Because if there’s something we all know it’s that not many people can leave their job just because there’s a emotional vampire there. 

We also can’t put permanent distance between ourselves and that mother or brother who steals our happiness and energy whenever we’re with them.

A good book for learning about this topic and digging deeper into scientific studies is “Emotional Contagion, Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction.
They explain how the best thing to do is to learn how to “waterproof” yourself to this kind of interaction. The goal isr to safeguard our physical and emotional well-being.

Next we’ll give a few tricks to get started.

emotional vampire

3 Tricks to Conserve Your Energy

  • You have defense mechanisms to control them. One very effective way we can train ourselves is by “deactivating” the impact they might have on us. For example, say this mantra to yourself every so often: “they’ll consume my energy only as much as I let them.” 
  • Rationalize. Some people are in the habit of only talking about negative things and how badly life treats them. One way to stop them is to assertively rationalize: “instead of complaining, stand up to what you don’t like.” “I wish you would talk to me about something positive sometimes.”
  • Learn to say “no.” This strategy is as simple as it is effective. From now on make it clear to your emotional vampire that you don’t have time to listen to their criticism. You won’t join in on their gossip. And you especially won’t let yourself be mistreated in any way at all.

To finish up, there comes a time when a person should become aware of their own needs to keep others from draining their peace — their life. 

Given that it’s not always possible to surround ourselves with people who’ll bring us balance and happiness, we need to learn to manage negative people, with respect but firmness.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.