Selfish, controlling, paranoid – and they’ll drain the life out of you
You’d probably describe the majority of your friends as kind and supportive people who make you feel happy. But if you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ll also have a few you might call friends, but actually make you feel quite the opposite.
You can’t necessarily spell out why, but somehow you always come away from their company feeling anxious, paranoid or as if you’ve given a lot of yourself and they’ve given nothing in return. You feel as if you’ve been bled dry. Why? Because your friend is an emotional vampire.
That’s the name that Albert J. Bernstein, the clinical psychologist, gives to people who appear bright, talented or charismatic on the surface, but who, once they’ve won you over, drain your emotional energy.
In an exclusive adaptation from his new book, we show you how to spot four types of emotional vampire, and how to defend yourself against them.
CONTROL FREAK VAMPIRES
HOW TO RECOGNIZE THEM: This type of vampire is always immaculately dressed and ridiculously organized. There’s no such thing as a simple decision with them; the positives and negatives of every option have to be weighed up and analyzed, but once the decision is made, it’s made, and there’s no changing their mind.
HOW THEY LURE YOU IN: Control freaks can be loyal friends. If they’ve promised you something, you can be sure they’ll deliver. Their attention to detail can be irritating, but it’s frequently something that will save you time and money.
HOW THEY DRAIN YOU: They’re perfectionists with a clear moral code and expect other people to behave in the same way — if you don’t, their disappointment is apparent. Though they’d never intentionally hurt anyone, anything that threatens their sense of being in charge will prompt what can be a hurtful reaction.
You might think you’ve been thoughtful by picking a restaurant for dinner, but the control freak will make you feel as if you’ve picked the wrong one and taken over, purely because she didn’t have the chance to research all the options first.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: For all their flaws, the world would fall apart without control freaks — they’re the ones who get things done, so in a lot of ways it’s easier to let them get on with it. Accept that you will never do things as well as they would have, but always tell them when they’ve upset you. Because they see things in black and white, if you can tell them why you’re hurt, and explain how to avoid the same situation in the future, they can learn from this.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE THEM: Quick to take offense, and with the ability to hold a grudge for an inordinate amount of time, the paranoid vampire can make a mountain out of even the smallest molehill. Things never just happen to them, in their eyes they’ve always been picked on. With the paranoid, everything is personal and nothing is taken at face value. Tell them you like their dress and they’ll read that as you don’t like their shoes.
HOW THEY LURE YOU IN: While they can be suspicious of almost everything, paranoids are fiercely protective of their family and of one or two close friends. Their penchant for saying to people’s faces what the rest of us would only say behind their backs can be uncomfortable, but it’s actually quite refreshing sometimes.
HOW THEY DRAIN YOU: Paranoids abide by concrete rules they believe everyone else should live by, too. Their eyes are peeled for any evidence of transgressions, and they’ll usually find it.
They’re incapable of forgiving and forgetting — if you once told them in passing that your husband cheated on his first girlfriend, they’ll always believe he’s a serial adulterer and will look for anything that confirms this. They’re also jaw-droppingly honest, so never ask for their opinion unless you’re prepared for the brutal truth.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: If you have anything to hide at all, a paranoid will find it. The only way you can protect yourself is by being scrupulously honest with them — even the tiniest of white lies will prove their theory that you’ve been deceiving them all along.
But crucially, don’t get bound up in their paranoia, otherwise, after an evening spent solely in their company, it’s all too easy to become convinced that your husband really is cheating when he’s doing nothing of the sort.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE THEM: They are always the ones who want to drink more, stay up later and go that step further than everyone else. They’re impulsive, happy-go-lucky types who have no qualms about lying to get what they want.
HOW THEY LURE YOU IN: They’re charming, good company and fun. They are who you’d like to be if you didn’t have responsibilities or a conscience.
They say the things you think, but would never dare say, and have an aura of cool that makes you feel special if you’re picked to spend time with them.
HOW THEY DRAIN YOU: They’re only there for the good times. You might think you’ve got plans together, but if a more exciting prospect comes along, you’ll be ditched.
While a party vampire will get the evening started, don’t expect her to help clear up — or foot the bill.
They can be financially irresponsible, goad you into doing things you didn’t really want to do, and their child-like approach to life means they don’t want to hear about your problems — if you’re not in the mood for socializing, you’re of no interest.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: Enjoy the good times, but don’t expect anything more. Don’t get drawn into doing anything you feel uncomfortable doing, and for goodness sake, hide your wallet.
ME, ME, ME VAMPIRES
HOW TO RECOGNIZE THEM: While they’re undoubtedly very successful people, the me, me, me vampire not only knows this, but is at great pains to make sure you know this, too.
Within minutes of meeting them, you’ll be all too aware of their achievements and probably of where they live — and knowing the right people is very important to them.
HOW THEY LURE YOU IN: They try hard to impress, so you can easily think you’re important to them.
They can be incredibly charismatic. Some of the most successful people in the world are me, me, me vampires.
They genuinely are talented individuals and it’s easy to admire them from afar. It’s not until we’re close up that we realize how inconsiderate they really are.
HOW THEY DRAIN YOU: If they’re not talking about themselves, they’re probably not going to be interested in the conversation.
The only way you’re of interest to them is if you can massage their ego, make them look good or help them achieve their next goal.
They might feign empathy when they want something, which is why they make great politicians. But they lack genuine warmth.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: If you want anything from them, strike a bargain where they get something, but only when they’ve done what you want. Their self-interest is the only thing that motivates them.