As a therapist, I have discovered that the greatest energy drain on my clients is relationships. Some relationships are positive, supportive, enriching and mood elevating. Others can suck the optimism, positivity and peace right out of you. Individuals that drain your emotional energy are unhealthy. They accomplish more than drain your physical energy. Unhealthy individuals can make you believe and feel that you are unworthy and unlovable. Others inflict damage with insidious implicit jabs that end up making you feel bad about yourself.
To protect your emotional and physical energy it is important to establish healthy boundaries with draining people. First, let us identify reactions in yourself that may serve as signals that you have interacted with someone that is unhealthy.
- You feel tired or fatigued
- Your mood declines
- You want to binge on comfort foods
- You feel anxious, depressed or negative
- You feel put down
Types of Unhealthy Individuals
Their motto is “Me first.” Everything is all about them. These individuals operate from a place of self-centeredness. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, monopolize attention and crave admiration. They can be dangerous because they lack empathy and have a limited capacity for unconditional love. If you do not do things their way, they become punishing, vile, rageful, withholding or cold.
How to Protect Yourself: Keep your expectations realistic. These are emotionally limited individuals. Try not to fall in love with one or expect them to be selfless or love without strings attached. Never allow them to define your self-worth or confide your deepest feelings to them. To successfully communicate, you must convey how something will be to their benefit.
2. The Victim
These individuals try to elicit sympathy through the “poor-me” narrative. The world is always against them, which explains the reason for their unhappiness. At the same time, they would like others to solve their problems for them. When you offer a solution to their problems they always say, “Yes, but…” Their continuous sorrows, criticisms and judgments overwhelm others and push them away.
How to Protect Yourself: Set kind and firm limits. Listen briefly and tell a friend or relative, “I care and love you but I can only listen for a few minutes; unless you want to discuss solutions to these problems.” With a coworker sympathize by saying, “I’ll keep having good thoughts for things to work out.” Then say, “I hope you understand, but I’m on deadline and must return to work.” Then use “this isn’t a good time” body language such as crossing your arms and breaking eye contact to help set these healthy limits.
3. The Controller
These individuals try to control you and dictate how you should think, feel and behave. They use various tactics to control others in their lives. They may invalidate your emotions if they do not coincide with their beliefs. They offer feedback without elicitation. As a result, you end up feeling dominated, disempowered, oppressed, demeaned, put down and unworthy.
How to Protect Yourself: Be healthily assertive. You can say, “I value your advice and need to work through this myself.” Be confident and hold an empowered stance.
4. The Constant Talker
These individuals are interested in their own feelings. They are only concerned with themselves. You wait for an opening to get a word in edgewise but it never comes. Or these individuals may intrude on your own personal space.
How to Protect Yourself: These people do not respond to nonverbal cues. You must speak up and interrupt, as difficult as that is to do. Listen for a few minutes. Then politely say, “I hate to interrupt, but please excuse me I have to talk to these other people… or get to an appointment… or go to the bathroom.” If this is a family member, politely say, “I’d love if you allowed me some time to talk to so I can add to the conversation.” If you say this in a nuetral tone, it can improve your chances of being heard.
5. The Drama Queen
These people have a talent for exaggerating small incidents into award winning dramas. They are seeking a reaction from others. It is their only way of relating to others.
How to Protect Yourself: Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths. Set kind and firm limits. Say, for example, “You must be here on time to keep your job. I’m sorry for all your mishaps, and work comes first.”
To improve your relationships and increase your energy level, take an inventory of people who give you energy and those that drain you. Try to spend time with the loving, nurturing people, and learn to set limits and contact with those who drain you. This will enhance the quality of your life.
Source: Judith Orloff, MD
A.C.T. will provide free resource information for individuals and families to help promote education. For more information, please contact Dr. Drecun at Dr.Drecun@a4ct.com or (858) 792-3541. You may also visit us online at www.a4ct.com. ACT serves the Del Mar 92014 and Rancho Santa Fe 92067 area.