Five types of toxic personalities.
If you read part one of the Emotional Freedom series about combating emotional vampires, you got a sense for how to know when someone is sucking you dry. In part two, we’ll tackle how to hone your X-ray vision so you can spot an emotional vampire from miles away, so you can protect yourself from getting depleted from those who long to suck your life force right out of you.
But first, a bit about Dr. Judith Orloff’s classification of emotional vampires (all of this info comes from Dr. Orloff’s rockin’ book, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life — thanks, love!).
Types of Emotional Vampires
Type 1: The Narcissist
You know the type. Regardless of what you’re going through, it’s all about them. Me me me me me! Narcissists can be compelling, attractive, even addictive. As long as you stroke the narcissist’s ego, she purrs like a kitten. But the minute you stop, beware — the narcissist can get downright vicious. They also tend to have very little insight into their own shortcomings. Trust me, I know. My ex was a classic narcissist. After a really nasty fight, we agreed to write each other letters so we could express how we were really feeling. I wrote a ten page letter about what was wrong with me and what I was willing to change. My ex also wrote a ten page letter about me and what I needed to change. I was sobbing the whole time and his response was, “Shut the f-ck up.” Ouch.
Dr. Orloff says, “These vampires are so dangerous because they lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love.” Tell me about it. I’ve forgiven him, but I learned a valuable lesson about how to protect my own energy around people like this.
Are You In A Relationship With A Narcissist?
You can tell if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist if you answer yes to at least one or two of these questions (ignore the gender pronouns — this can apply to men or women!):
- Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
- Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
- Does he constantly steer the conversation back to himself?
- Does he downplay my feelings or my interests?
- If I disagree, does he become cold or withholding?
How To Deal With Narcissists
If you can avoid dealing with toxic people — do. But invariably, we will all be faced with emotional vampires in our lives — in our families, work relationships and friendships we choose to continue. So what’s a girl to do?
- Keep your expectations realistic.
- Never make your self-worth dependent on them.
- Show how something will be to their benefit.
Type 2: The Victim
Poor me. Poor me. Nobody loves me. I think I’ll go eat worms. (Yeah, you know the type.) You want to empathize with these people but it’s always something. Her boyfriend ditched her — again. Her neighbor keeps playing the music too loud. She never gets promoted at work even though she works her butt off. No matter how you try to lift her up, she won’t climb out of victim mode.
Are You In A Relationship With A Victim?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does this person often appear inconsolably oppressed or depressed?
- Are you burned out by her neediness?
- Does she always blame “bad luck” or the unfairness of others for her problems?
- Do you screen your calls or say you’re busy in order to dodge her litany of complaints?
- Does her unrelenting negativity compromise your positive attitude?
How can you deal with these people?
SET LIMITS! SET LIMITS! SET LIMITS!
Kindly, gently, lovingly refuse to acknowledge her victim status. It’s not your job to fix anyone, and enabling victims only backfires.
Type 3: The Controller
These people are black and white thinkers and they want to run your life. They have an opinion about everything and they want you to agree 100%! They’ll spout unsolicited advice right and left, and they tend to be perfectionists holding themselves and others up to impossible standards. They love being right and may have little insight into their controlling behavior.
Are You In A Relationship With A Controller?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does this person keep claiming to know what’s best for you?
- Do you typically have to do things his way?
- Is he so domineering you feel suffocated?
- Do you feel like you’re held prisoner in this person’s rigid sense of order?
- Is this relationship no fun because it lacks spontaneity?
What To Do: Pick Your Battles And Assert Your Needs
- Never try to control a controller.
- Try the caring, direct approach. Say, “I appreciate your comments, but I’d like to express my opinions too.”
- Set limits. When someone tries to control you, kindly remind them that you don’t need their advice.
- Size up the situation. Understand the limitations of dealing with such a person and don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re going to change him any time soon.
Type 4: The Criticizer
A close cousin of the controller, the criticizers know what’s best for you and will cut you down “for your own good.”
Are You In A Relationship With A Criticizer?
Ask yourself these questions.
- Do I always end up feeling inadequate in this person’s eyes?
- Am I the frequent target of her judgmental zingers?
- Does she spot a flaw in me from across the room, then tell me about it?
- Is she always putting others down?
- Is she harshly self-critical?
How To Cope With A Criticizer Without Getting Demolished
- Always consider the source (and don’t take it personally!).
- Graciously let the spiky comment pass without internalizing it. The Dalai Lama suggests, “Sometimes silence is the best answer.”
- Address a misplaced criticism directly. Let her know you feel criticized and kindly ask her to back off.
- Strike a compromise but don’t get defensive.
- Set off a love bomb.
- Express appreciation for the criticisms that are useful.
Type 5: The Splitter
In my opinion, splitters (also known as borderline personality disorder sufferers) are the most draining of the emotional vampires. They split people into all good or all bad (and you can go from being one to the other in their eyes in the matter of seconds!). One minute, you’re an angel — the next, you’re Satan incarnate. Splitters can be absolutely vicious with their anger, and you may find yourself walking on eggshells. They try to polarize people against each other, and can be so crafty with how they do it that you may never see it coming.
Are You In A Relationship With A Splitter?
Ask yourself these questions.
- Do I censor my true feelings because I fear this person’s anger?
- Do I go to great pains to keep the peace?
- Does he keep me on an emotional roller coaster?
- Is he adoring when I meet his needs, a rageaholic when I don’t?
- Do I frequently feel wrongly accused?
How To Stop The Emotional Blackmail
- Establish boundaries and be solution-oriented.
- Avoid skirmishes.
- Refuse to take sides.
- Quickly release negativity (don’t let the turkeys get you down).
- Visualize a protective shield around you.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but this chapter from Judith Orloff’s book Emotional Freedom spun me in circles. Not only did I find myself better understanding some of the difficult people in my life. I also found myself double checking these qualities of emotional vampires against myself and finding some uncomfortable similarities between these vampire types and me. (Um, am I a criticizer? A controller? God, I hope not!)
What about you? Ring any bells? Trigger any junk? Does this sound at all familiar? What works for you when dealing with these kinds of emotional vampires? Do you seem any of these traits in yourself? How might we be more loving to each other and less energy sucking?
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Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.