The first enemy we discussed, was Approval Addiction. Today, we discuss Psychic Vampires. We all know them and likely are related to more than a few. These are the complainers, the whiners, the neverending-vortexes-of-need, the flakes, the wafflers, the haters, the critics and the bullies.
Writing is a unique profession. We are in the entertainment business which means we wear many, many hats. We are artists, but we are also entrepreneurs in a marketplace with staggering competition, where discoverability is nothing short of a nightmare.
Our profession is also distinctive because our emotions and state of mind cannot be separated from our work. Anything that drains us, distracts us, discourages us can spell death if not dealt with early and swiftly. Toxic people will poison our muse, the root system of our art.
Things to Understand About Psychic Vampires:
Psychic Vampires are Never Full
They feed because that’s what they do. We can’t give them “just a minute of time” because they will take an hour, a day, a week, our lives.
We Can’t Change Psychic Vampires
We can’t negotiate with them, change them, rehabilitate them or rescue them. All we can do is set boundaries and avoid them at all cost. Often these people may not mean ill, they simply can’t see the truth of what they’re doing. Thus, trying to rationalize and negotiate is a waste of time that drains our creative energy.
When It Comes to Psychic Vampires, Stand Firm
In our society, we are taught to be polite, but psychic vampires don’t take hints and they don’t go away easily. Sometimes we have to be “not nice.” Boundaries aren’t “being mean.” All healthy relationships have boundaries.
Don’t Change to “Appease” a Psychic Vampire—There IS NO Appeasing Them
Recently, a writer friend of mine posted something rather innocent on her FB page. A “friend” of 20 years went nutso, ranting on her page and then unfriended her. My friend was contemplating starting another private page to avoid insulting anyone, and I stopped her, saying something akin to:
Why are you fracturing your platform , your focus, and your time to make ONE jerk happy? He unfriended you. Good. Dead Weight did you a favor and removed himself. Be grateful.
Psychic Vampires Start Drama to Feed
This person who started the digital row on my friend’s page fully expected her to pursue him and ask what she did wrong and how she could make it right and blah, blah, blah, drama, drama, drama….
BAH! That’s crap. Let the vamp start drama elsewhere. Eventually, if enough people starve the PV, he/she might get a little enlightenment and be forced to grow up and change.
Common Psychic Vampires and How to
Stake Handle Them:
Friends who repeatedly go back to deadbeat exes and then want to whine.
Family members who continually make stupid decisions because they know you’ll be there to “fix” things.
Tip: Voicemail. We all learn by failing. When we rescue others from their failures we aren’t doing any favors. We are actually setting them up for a harder fall with harsher consequences.
Remember, we learn to swim faster if we aren’t provided water wings.
Writer pals who believe in luck not work, who want to gripe non-stop about how unfair publishing is.
Tip: Change writing groups before they poison your attitude and work ethic.
Pals who start dumb drama on social media and drag you into it.
Tip: Unfriend. They are tarnishing your author brand. If they don’t value your brand, they don’t value you. If they genuinely apologize, let them back. ONCE.
People who want you to be their personal free therapist.
Tip: Be unavailable.
Friends who take and don’t give.
Tip: Distance yourself and make better friends. Be too busy with REAL friends to cater to deadbeats. Hopefully, Deadbeat will get a clue and mend her ways. No company is better than BAD company.
Friends/family who change their minds what they want to do with their lives all the time, and want your unwavering support and advice. But, since they never make up their minds and stick to anything, the effort stresses and exhausts YOU.
Tip: They will never make up their minds. Cut bait. Or simply be quiet and wait. Something shiny will distract them soon enough.
Friends, family who can’t be trusted to keep their word.
Tip: Don’t rely on them or we’re the fool.
Friends or family who only remember you when they want/need something.
Tip: Again, voicemail.
I know it seems like I am recommending a lot of avoidance tactics. Yep. We’re writers, not shrinks. Feel free to try some loving confrontation, but most Psychic Vampires are so steeped in their own immaturity and self-centered ways they will only defend, attack, or fight and then we are right back feeding their need for drama.
What are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? What would you recommend? Do you have some Psychic Vampires in your life and no idea what to do? Have you effectively dealt with Psychic Vampires and have some tips to offer?
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I love the term “psychic vampire.” I believe you are neither too harsh nor too kind. You nailed it.
Check you out. Just when I think you can’t get better, you do. As Marilyn said, you nailed it.
You know when you open a good self-help book to a random page and the information there is exactly what you needed at that moment? Your blog post today was like that. I have a long-time friend who calls and breathlessly downloads all of her hopes, dreams, desires, complaints, doubts, exercise goals, dating woes, and re-hashes of her past boyfriend’s crimes against her. It’s like drinking from a firehose of bitterness when she calls. I will become unavailable and send her to voicemail. Thanks and keep up the good work.
The best way I have found to deal with the Psychic Vampire is to just say “I’m really sorry you are having that problem” and keep on with what you were doing. Don’t offer a solution (they will have 15 excuses why that won’t work), don’t give them a shoulder to cry on (it will just keep going forever), etc. Basically just saying “I hear what you are saying but I am not getting involved” will eventually put a stop to the behavior — they will find someone else to prey on.
Good post — a good reminder that it is easy to fall into a pattern with a PV before you realize it and it eats up time, not to mention using up your emotions that are more productive feeding your writing!
The timing on this is just perfect. My boyfriend can’t understand why I don’t like one of his “friend”s even though she regularly blow off plans with him and is constantly trying to get him to do things for her (help her move, work events for her unpaid, etc.) or complaining that we never visit.
…and forwarding the link!
Excellent advice, Kristen.
Giving attention and trying to help people who only take, and never give, might sound like it’s morally laudable, but it’s completely useless. It’s MUCH better to spend that energy and help on people who EARN it, people who USE it, while depriving those who ABUSE us of an incentive to continue in their ways.
“Psychic Vampires Start Drama to Feed” Truer words have never been spoken. I hear a lot about Psychic Vampires from the Middle School kids. Sad they start so early. Great post!
I use caller ID with some of my *friends.* The ones who can’t stop talking about someone behind their back, eventually talk about me.The nature of a psychic vampire is non-exclusive and doesn’t discriminate. Ironically,, they become a total time-suck!
Love this Kristen!
I spent some time studying psychology, mostly as research to better understanding minds unlike my own to make my characters different and less like clones of me. During my studies, I stumbled across something like what you’re describing and unfortunately found several close friends and family members fell into this group I called the “Leeches” and then suddenly became very busy writing when they wanted to chat. I realized then how much energy I spent dealing with them. It was like I stepped out from under a thundercloud that I didn’t even know was there. Those first rays of sunshine have strengthened me to never allow myself getting sucked into the drama again. I’d rather write it. I’ve got plenty of drama with my kids as it is. Good drama. 🙂
I appreciate your giving me some tools to use on the vampires within my own circles. Thanks. I am embracing my writing as a part of “my dreams” to tell my story and they are great distractions I am working to eliminate.
It certainly does help to have a thick skin when it comes to Psychic Vampires. Thanks for giving a check list to remind us what to do when those PVs strike!
Oh. My. Goodness. I have a “friend” who always has a huge drama going on and no matter what problem I might be dealing with hers is always ten times worse/bigger/better. I’ve come to realize how much all this drama sucks my energy and am definitely limiting contact as a result. Thanks for the reminder of what is really going on.
I have a psychic vampire that’s been draining me lately, but this tactic really does work:
“People who want you to be their personal free therapist.
Tip: Be unavailable.”
She still emails to rant and rave and talk, but the less I respond, the more coherent her emails become. Now it’s like talking to a normal person instead of a spaz.
I resemble the “Approval Addiction” posterboy so this blog was a good follow-up for me (not that I need anyones approval to hit my facebook delete button…) Thanks, Making stakes.
This made me smile. Thanks for sharing. 😉
I have a long-time friend, a real “she’s been my best friend for almost 30 years” kind of friend. But we got into a bad way, because I had to help her through trouble – not of her own making. She was worth the effort, but as she got out of said bad way, we couldn’t shake our dynamic together as she was so used to coming to me and I was so used to helping. One day I realized we were codependent. And we took steps back, so she could spread her wings and I could not feel responsible. She’s doing well and we’re rebuilding. She’s not a psychic vampire by any stretch, but our relationship was headed that way until I realized it needed to change. And I’m thankful it has, cause we’ll be in a better place for it. But in this case, it was me who needed to redefine my own boundaries.
I’ve just started reading your blog and sometimes it’s like your reading my mind. I have a Psychic Vampire right now! I’m still trying to figure out what to do with her. She wants to have lunch, to catch up because we haven’t spoken in a while. The reason we haven’t spoken in a while is because her drama drains me. I’m thinking about having one lunch with her and then running for the hills. Thank you for this.
Kate, maybe give the lunch a time frame. You have to be out no later than a specific time. Then book something for right after, even if it’s a spa time just to recover from the vampire!
I say, if you haven’t scheduled lunch yet, don’t. Once she gets her hooks in, you’ll have to play the bad guy. Take Kristen’s advice and: be unavailable.
Well, no plans have been made yet and they may never be made.
I’m lucky – the couple psychic vampire friends i did have fell by the wayside once I started actually getting my work published. They couldn’t handle it, which is too bad. Or not. lol…great post!
Good advice, Kristen – these people are worth watching out for and avoiding. I thought it also worth considering ‘Am I a Psychic Vampire in someone else’s life?’ – it can be too easy to dump on a friend, and sometimes that’s what they’re there for, but it has to be a two way system with lots of giving as well as taking.
And let’s face it, none of us want to find out the hard way when everyone else is avoiding us, so probably worth reading through the list again to see if we recognize any of these traits in ourselves!
DH & I had friends who were alcoholics and constantly in some kind of drama with their loser kids – and always trying to drag us into it. I managed to avoid them most of the time, but DH finally cut ties when they were so drunk and obnoxious they offended him (and that’s saying a lot) to the point he no longer speaks to them. It’s been so pleasant in our home since then!
Thank you, Jennette Marie Powell, I was thinking the same thing.
I seem to attract Eeyores. It could be raining dollar bills and they would complain about having to bend over and pick them up. The problem comes when you realize some Eeyores you actualy care about. Yes, they suck time worse than Mahjong Titans and you end up with nothing to show for the effort. But, as with many things, it is a decision. The ones I care about get a little time and I try to encourage them. But there are those people who enjoy being unhappy and it’s always been easier to pull someone off of a chair than it is to pull them up to stand with you – not that I stand on many chairs, but you know what I mean. The solipstic others you mention I usually avoid, but a woeful Eeyore usually gets a little of my time.
You aren’t too harsh, on the contrary. Look at Neil Young. He often went his own way in the face of industry and hanger-on pull. He served his art first and that is what a writer must do to do it well and succeed. Whether the voice of negativity is in our head or our exterior life, ignore it AT ALL COSTS and move forward.
Psychic vampires abound in this culture. And sometimes it’s not easy to get away from them in the physical, but spiritually we can fill ourselves with the truth, the Word of God, so that there is no room for the claws of the psychic vampire to take root.
It’s called tough love for a reason. And you’re absolutely right. If we constantly cater to the people in our lives we’re not helping them grow. Sometimes you just have to throw them in the deep end and see how well they swim.
This is spot on advice, Kristen. I had to surgically remove a number of vampires from my life in order to get my career on track. These people thrive on your failures. Your failures reinforce their negative view of the world and give them open wounds to feed on. Especially the ones who want to blame their own lack of success on the unfairness of the publishing industry. It’s so much more fun to whine on the phone for hours a day than edit their manuscript or polish the query letter. Kick them to the curb. Even if it means being alone for a while. (You’ll have more time to write!)
I don’t think you’re being too harsh at all. Maybe even not harsh enough.
A couple of years ago my mother’s side of the family got into a huge row. It started over something silly (that, as it turns out, hadn’t even actually HAPPENED), and just exploded outward into a huge domino effect. Everyone was mad at everyone else for a variety of different reasons. Everyone was trying to defend themselves while harshing on anyone else who was doing the same, and it was just this enormous ball of nonsense. For a while, I tried to play some kind of referee, standing in the middle and trying to assure everyone that I knew they had a point, and they were totally justified in being mad, and so on and so on. It was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever dealt with.
Then you know what I did? I said “F this,” and cut everyone off. Whenever anyone tried to reason with me (including my own mother), I would tell them, “I don’t care, I don’t care. I don’t think ANY of you are right, I think EVERY ONE OF YOU was wrong, you’re all ENORMOUS CHILDREN, and I don’t want to hear about it anymore.” And I stood by my word. Whenever anyone would bring any of their nonsense up, I would just turn around and walk away, because I did not need that stress on my shoulders. Eventually, I think, some of them started to see the point, and over the past couple of years things have been slowly repairing, or at least come to a quiet understanding.
Psychic vampires. Stake ’em, for the love of puppies.
Yes, indeed. I have a writer friend who lives at drama central. Her career is successful, but her personal life is messy. My immediate group calls her an energy vampire. Same dif. Anyway, life is good. Until the next crisis. I still can’t believe so many people hop in the sinking boat with her.
Got relatives in the same boat – I have caller ID and when things go awry in their lives, I listen for a respectable amount of time, then point out something shiny and exit the conversation.
Thanks for the timely post.
I don’t know about writers, but I just copied a link to this blog to one of my divorce clients who needs this advice! Great article!
Oh yes. Too many in my past. I’ll aim for zero in the future, forgive myself if I don’t make the magic number, and take corrective action ASAP.
I hate vampires, especially Psychic Vampires.
I like the term psychic vampire as that exactly describes an ex-friend of mine. Dumped by text I’m afraid but my life is the better for it!
My family and friends do not understand that a writer’s state of mind is tied to their writing and creativity. You worded that beautifully.
I’ve tried to be diplomatic with some of my psychic vampires. They just don’t get it. You have to be harsh. I’m learning that I need to put myself first.
Thanks for the post, Kristen!
If you have a hater, you are doing something right! Otherwise, she wouldn’t have a reason to hate (ie be jealous of) you. Let the hater hate, just don’t invest time and energy on her.
You are NOT being too harsh. PV’s don’t take no for an answer then blame you for cutting them off. They wallow in their own crap until their stench alienates everyone. Set your fasers to stun and run before it wears off. You are just a well of energy from which to drink and they never do anything to help refill the well.
Kristen, I’ve known enough psychic vampires to cast them all in PSYCHIC VAMPIRE: THE MOVIE, if there was such a thing! As a loved one of mine once said (not about me, thank goodness), “Company loves misery.” These people are more interested in feeling sorry for themselves and/or getting angry at others because these others won’t play their controlling little game. I have a relative like this, and happily, a wonderful therapist taught me how to outfox her. I got my life and self-esteem back, HOORAY! Thanks for a great post; you’re really helping a lot of people!
P.S.: I think the PSYCHIC VAMPIRES’ favorite song must be
“I’m Only Happy When it Rains” by Garbage! 🙂
Like college, the macho guys that I could not get along with, I avoided or I ignored. They were fraternity men claiming that they were just trying to help you succeed. When they start introducing you to the campus drug dealer, it might be a different road to the top since you found out later that they sold drugs. They did not want you dating women, all women. They were either a priest living as laymen or they might have been the modern men in the military according to the government. I told people that they have to use Psychology today because their volunteer army is not that tough. It is the fast foods. Avoid and ignore and just write the novel.
PVs don’t have any power unless we let them have power. I love your advice on this. Stake ’em all!
Another home run, Kristen 🙂
I used to be a chronic victim, er, food source to my PVs. I got the nickname TAG, the answer girl, from one. I was the only one in a ‘stable’ relationship (still am, same one even, 19 years in July) and everyone wanted the secret/to unload their unhappy relationships on me. Funny, whenever I tried to actually impart my so-called wisdom, A.K.A. common sense, no one wanted to listen.
I got wise and got distance.
As you said, something shinier comes along sooner or later 😛
We call them “Emotional Hemophiliacs”.
I also love the term and think it is, sadly, apt. You’re definitely not too harsh. Great post!
I agree with this, I just always struggle with the degrees of people like this. I have people in my life who can get bad sometimes, or in some aspects, but are fine the rest of the time. I have no problem cutting the really bad ones out of my life, but… well, when it comes down to it, we’re all human, and I suppose sometimes I’m a little too forgiving.
My family had an emotional vampire and we got into a lawsuit, because it seemed like the court was the only way to come to agreement on a money matter. Her lawyer went ballistic and demanded discovery of all e-mails to, from, or about her. That’s when we saw the light. Reading the toxic crap one after another, the pattern was obvious as it never was when we were mired in the details at the time.
She’d agree to something, change her mind later when it was too late, squawk about how upset she was at the decision taken, demand an apology, all the while flinging insults. As the dispute escalated, she’d start demanding compensation. When everything died down, she’d still want some sort of tribute (ranging from an abject apology to things worth significant money or would take significant time to do) to compensate her for the unpleasantness we put her through!
We cut her from our lives and she still doesn’t understand why.
Yeah, I have a couple of those in my family, too. Like I said. Cut bait, and RUN!!!
The EXACT SAME THING is happening in my family right now! It is DRAINING my father and I hardly ever see him. He looks so tired! I can’t believe one’s own sister can be such a psychic vampire!
The PVs offer confirmation that one’s writing isn’t bland. That still doesn’t give them the right to try and suck out one’s time or even self-esteem. You are so right. Bin them.
Agreeing with everyone who chimed in that you’re not being too harsh. It’s amazing how much better one feels after dis-attaching a psychic vampire, the air smells sweeter, food tastes better, and life has more promise.
I’ve had a LOT of psychic vampires through my life. Ironically I also once had a friendship where we were BOTH psychic vampires. I know that sounds like a contradiction – after all friendships should be give/take equally – but this friendship got to a point where we just weren’t helping each other anymore. So sad, it used to be a very good friendship.
I’m a fan of cutting off. I’ve too many times experienced the pain of NOT cutting off and being used endlessly by people who didn’t deserve my time.
When I realize somebody’s got to be cut off, I arrange a last meeting where I conveniently want my books/movies back.
I have a friend who is a psychic vampire, in the guise of being helpful. I’ve known her for years, but we’ve become close through my blog….for the last couple of months though, she keeps advising me to not “be so personal” in my blog writing. I look back, though, and find that I’ve gained more likes, followers, etc. when I DO write about personal things. I understand where my friend is coming from, like, word could get back to “who” I’m writing about, but, it’s causing me to not want to post on my blog. Any advice?
This is excellent. I attracted them in droves until I realized that a lot of the reason was because I enabled their behavior. I cleared them out of my life and was shocked to discover that I was pretty much alone after the fact. That’s okay, though. I’m starting over and am being more careful about who I let close to me as friends.
A great reference is a book by Joe H. Slate, “Psychic Vampires: Protection from Energy Predators & Parasites”. Had read this many years ago, and thankful for the information he provides in depth on this topic. They come in many forms, and attack in various ways. The internet is a feeding ground. I discovered just how intricate the web they weave to “feed” upon others when I was cyberstalked for 2+ years by another writer (still lurking actually). Slate’s book is a must-have. I’m about to start writing in depth on this topic…a healing journey for me and I hope it helps others.