|Histrionic Vampires. Albernstein.com|
Imagine someone jumps you. Their jaws tighten around your coronary artery. You feel blood reroute from your brain to their maw. At first, you struggle and try to scream, but you can't shake them. So eventually you go limp and stop fighting. The light gets fuzzy and pink-tinged. A strange, tingly warmth creeps over you as you start to think that spilling your life down your attacker's gullet isn't so bad after all. Maybe it's your great calling. You feel altruistic, selfless and loving, as your world goes black. Enabling an emotional vampire goes just like this.
The term "emotional vampire" is trendy, a little cruel, and overly simplistic. Unfortunately, it's also accurate. Let's demonstrate.
Back up and imagine your saber-toothed jumper is your partner, parent, sibling or friend. Let's call him or her "Vamp." Now Vamp is (probably) someone you love, or at least can't get away from. Vamp is an important part of your life and has lots of wonderful qualities you value highly. However, Vamp also has some not so good behaviors....
For starters, usually, to Vamp everything is always about Vamp. It's your birthday? Vamp wants to celebrate with five hours of stories about Vamp's latest triumphs. You're getting married? Vamp is so happy because Vamp is in a relationship too.
It's also likely Vamp can't let you have anything Vamp doesn't. You get a new car? Vamp buys a new house. You get a new watch? Vamp thinks you're so vain. You're off to Europe? How could you travel while millions starve? At least Vamp puts Feed The Children first.
More importantly, Vamp typically breathes drama. Vamp knows their boss enacts a megalomaniacal plot. Vamp is sure their cramps are septic appendicitis. Vamp's abusive checker "forced" them to hysterics at customer service and "made" them drunk-type rant Target corporate.
Therefore Vamp's life is chaos. Vamp "has to" buy all new furniture because plaid suddenly gives Vamp nightmares. Jerks should stop being judgy about how Vamp's last three cat adoptions just didn't work out. Vamp couldn't not borrow $200 grand to launch Vamp's dream ceramics shop. It wasn't Vamp's fault it closed after a month. Customers were stalking Vamp.
Mired in constant chaos (and this is the key thing) Vamp needs you. Vamp relies on you to take Vamp to the ER at 3 a.m. for that crampy (non)appendicitis. Vamp depends on you to be there for Vamp's three-hour scream-cry about that megalomaniacal boss. Vamp will feel so abandoned if you don't help Vamp haul all Vamp's old, plaid stuff out.
Should you resist Vamp, set boundaries, or do anything possibly loosening Vamp's death-chomp on you, Vamp probably won't react well. You admit your girlfriend hints at marriage. Vamp melts down and harasses the girl for being a skanky slut. You say you can't rush over to check Vamp's "probably-fractured" spine because it's 2 a.m. and you have an 8 a.m. presentation. Vamp maligns you as a selfish non-friend. You get promoted to Manhattan. Vamp accidentally cancels your flight. Then Vamp "repays" you by driving you out, where Vamp wants to live together.
Vamp can't ever -- ever -- let you go. Because to Vamp, you are a human life preserver. You keep Vamp afloat in a constant emotional storm. Unfortunately this blood-sucking smooch drowns you both.
The injuries to you are obvious. Your birthday becomes a Vampalooza. Your trip to Europe is soured by Vamp's ire. You snap at your kids after Vamp's cry-a-thon leaves you weary. You're late to your presentation after assuring that, indeed, Vamp's back is fine. You have to pay double for a new flight to New York.
Vamp's injuries are subtler. Because Vamp is an addict, and Vamp's drug is you.
"Emotional vampires" are not evil people. They're hurt ones. They're often gravely-injured, one-step-from-The-Walking-Dead ones. And they may not know it. But you probably do. That's probably why you keep giving Vamp "one more chance."
You're not healing Vamp when you let Vamp use you. When you conceal your bite-marks with fake smiles and faker forgiveness. You're killing Vamp, with kindness.
When Vamp uses you to boost Vamp's mood, reassure Vamp's insecurities, reassemble Vamp's life or fend off Vamp's fall-out, Vamps stays sick. When you "make everything okay," as Vamp spins in Vamp's whirlpool world, the hole sucking Vamp's universe down gets bigger. Your relationship becomes like the jack in a crack-addict's arm. Every hit widens the wound. And no hit ever satiates the hunger.
No matter how much love, empathy, forgiveness or energy you pour into the heart of whomever drinks your psychic life dry, it will never be enough. You will never be enough. You will never fix them. They will never feel fixed. Suck and suck and suck and they will still thirst.
Only they can fix them. Only they can fill them. And they can only find, fix and fill themselves when you're out of the way, and they face the light.