Emotional Vampires – the interview

“An emotional vampire is someone that feeds off other people to get their own energy or value. An emotional vampire is like a parasite: he/she simply feeds off the other person. Emotional vampires engage in this behavior because inside, they feel they have no power.” – Patrick Wanis PhD

“An emotional vampire is someone that feeds off other people to get their own energy or value. An emotional vampire is like a parasite: he/she simply feeds off the other person.
Emotional vampires engage in this behavior because inside, they feel they have no power.” – Patrick Wanis PhD

The following is a transcript of a journalist researching for the German magazine PM (which focuses on science and psychology) interviewing Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior Expert, Patrick Wanis Ph. D.  about Emotional Vampires.

Click here to read Patrick Wanis’ Success Newsletter: Dealing with emotional vampires: https://patrickwanis. com/blog/dealing-with-emotional-vampires/

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: What got you interested in Emotional Vampires?

Q.  Well, at the moment, there’s loads of vampirism around us, particularly in the media.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: You mean movies?  Movies and books?

Q.  Yes, exactly. Like this “Twilight” material, you know that?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Yes, yes, it’s huge in America.

Q.  Yeah, also in Germany.  And so the questions that arose were “What’s behind it and what’s the reason that people still believe in vampires?   And what does it give to the people?  ”So we came to the point that we saw that it’s not primarily about the blood that the vampire sucks from the victims but rather it’s about the energy. And so we saw a bridge to the Emotional Vampires.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Right. And I would argue that there’s always been an interest in vampires, but it comes and goes in cycles and I would say the reason that it’s so big now is because of what the vampire represents: first it’s the sense of power and invincibility. And the power and invincibility adds security, a sense of stability and a sense of safety in a time when in the world we, as individuals, don’t feel secure; we don’t feel stable and we don’t feel powerful. We feel the opposite.  We feel helpless and we feel afraid.  But the vampire has no fear.

Q.  Okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: The vampire has no fear. I mean obviously there is something that can kill the vampire, whether it’s the garlic or the stake or the silver bullet. But generally speaking, the vampire has no fear of anyone.  The vampire has ultimate control and ultimate power. And the concept of immortality, I think, also relates to the concept of having power and that you have no fear of anyone. Immortality is about power, safety and security.  It’s the antithesis of fear.  So I think we turn to this world of fantasy any time that our world of reality is painful. But in the world of fantasy we experience two levels. We experience the romance & the passion as well as the power. And for women, it’s not just about the power. It’s often about eternal love – as in the case of the movie, the original, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that this vampire has an immortal love for her and nothing can break that love; and even if she dies and she comes back reincarnated and even if they try to kill him, his love lives on and that love is greater than anything. So for women, there’s the fantasy of the romance. But for both women and for men, there’s not just the fascination but the love and adoration of power. Power is very, very potent on many levels but above all, power is an aphrodisiac.

Q.  Definitely.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: But again, I think the concept of power and immortality also gives us a sense of safety, a sense of security at a time when we feel so very afraid and uncertain. You know, we have fear of war, we have fear of nuclear war, we have fear that the planet’s dying, our economy is not stable, etc.  Thus we turn around and ask “Where can I, as an individual, find the sense of control over my life when I feel I have no control?  ”And the answer is in the fantasy, the dream, the illusion of being a vampire that can live forever, can do anything and cannot really be harmed.

Q.  That’s interesting. Switching to the topic of emotional vampires, do you think that this could be a reason why we have this phenomenon of the people we would call ‘emotional vampires’; they have this power or they show this power and other people become their victims because they want to feel safe?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Well, I haven’t thought of it that way before but yes. I definitely believe that’s the case because if you look at it now, an emotional vampire is someone that feeds off other people to get their own energy.

Q.  Yes.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: To stay alive. And there is a sense of power; and let me put it this way. Emotional vampires engage in this behavior because inside, they feel they have no power.

Q.  Yes.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Their power comes from doing things to other people and that means feeding or draining the other person, either feeding off them mentally, emotionally or energetically. So if you’ve read my various articles on emotional vampires, then you understand that what I’m also saying is, an emotional vampire is like a parasite: it simply feeds off the other person.

Q.   Yeah.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: And what it’s doing is trying to fill itself up to try and fill up that inner emptiness. So the emotional vampire, (I use the word ‘it’ but really, it’s a he or she), emotional vampire feeds him or herself with affection, attention, validation, praise, recognition, sympathy, empathy, pity, et cetera.

Q.  Yeah.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: So the vampire needs blood. And for the emotional vampire, the “blood” is all of these emotions that are summed up in one way, and that is intense attention.

Q.  Attention, yeah, that’s it.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Intense attention and the sense of power. So if you take someone like the Drama Queen or the Criticizer or the Controller, they’re all about power.  The Criticizer is telling you there’s something wrong with you, you’re bad and I’m smarter than you. The Controller says something very similar and tries to control you because by controlling you, the Controller feels that he or she has more power and that her life is in control because sometimes, an Emotional Vampire, the Controller will try to control you because they can’t control anything else in their life.

So there is a similarity, but the similarity is about power in a different way. It’s about the Emotional Vampire feeling that they have no power unless they are controlling someone else, doing something to someone else or feeding off someone else.

Q.  Yeah, I agree and that’s interesting, that’s very interesting. And if we look at it from the perspective of a victim, why does someone become a victim?  Does the vampire decide or does the victim decide?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: The answer’s very simple.

Q.  Is someone more affected or more endangered to become a victim?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Well, in the case of every Emotional Vampire, it’s all learned behavior or learned responses to experiences and programming as a child. So let’s use your question or your scenario of the victim. As a child, maybe you saw your parents fighting or screaming or they didn’t give you any attention. And the only way that you could get sympathy or affection or attention from them was to play the victim. And it’s something that we as children learn, and in a way that I call almost innate. We always find a way to get our parents’ attention. Maybe we’ll annoy them and anger them. Maybe we’ll shout and scream. Maybe we’ll go quiet and hide. Maybe we’ll run away or maybe we’ll play really, really sick and play the victim.

Now, I discovered this pattern and programming through some of my own behavior. And I didn’t realize this until I was in my early 20s, no, in fact, I was probably about 17 or 18, and I noticed that every year, I would have a major accident:I would be riding a bicycle and I ran into a parked car and I would knock myself unconscious; I would get hit by a cricket ball, and I would get a black eye; each year, I would have some sort of major illness, etc. And then one day, I thought to myself, “How is it possible that every year I’m having a big accident?  ”And one day, I realized that whenever I had these accidents, whenever I got really sick, that was the time that my parents gave me a lot of attention.

Q.  Uhm, okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Now, was the lack of attention creating the accident?  Or was the accident simply a way to get attention?  It didn’t matter. I found a way to get attention. And I realized that the only way I could get attention without being criticized for it was to have an accident.

Q.  Yes, okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Because when you have an accident, you say, “It wasn’t my fault. I’m a victim. It was done to me. It was an accident. ”Meaning I had no control over it. But that’s different to me going and hitting someone at school and getting in a fight. Then, I get in trouble and then my parents are called to the school, then, they give me attention but they get angry at me.

Q.  Yeah.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: So, as a child, we find ways to get what we need to survive. And sometimes, for us, survival is about getting attention and approval and validation and recognition or even getting our parents to show interest in us. So as a child, if we learn this behavior, we will continue it throughout our lives because suddenly it becomes a habit. So as a child, if you learned “the way for me to always get attention is to be ill, I’ll keep being ill my entire life because I’ll always have sympathy and empathy from people. And then people will be doing things for me and going, ‘Oh, you poor thing. We feel so sorry for you.  What can we do?  ’”So I don’t think that being an emotional vampire is something that’s alien or from another planet. It’s simply a behavior or response that we learn and that behavior then becomes programmed as a habit.

Q.   As you say, this is not something like an alien; this is something very human-like that people become like this?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Yeah, I think we need to understand that we program ourselves so that we find the means and the method to get what we need.

Q.  Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: If and when we don’t get what we need, then that’s when we become really, really ill – physically, mentally and emotionally. So if we’re not getting any love, we’re not getting any attention, we’re not getting any approval, any affection and we become lonely and alone and isolated, then we become very sick.

Q.  Do you think that you can say that men or women are more affected by that?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: I would want to be very careful in answering that because if I’m going to say, “It’s men more than women or women more than men,” then, it’s almost like I’m making a judgment. It’s probably a situation that women play it more than men because women tend to be more emotional than men. And I’ll explain what I mean by that.

The female brain is very different than the male brain. One of the things about the female brain is that the limbic system is larger than in the male brain.  The limbic system is the emotional brain. And because the emotional brain – the limbic system in women are larger, relationships are more important for women; bonding is more important and nesting is more important. And because that’s more important, women place a greater significance on relationships. This is why a woman’s happiness is determined primarily by the quality of her relationships with other people – with her husband, with her children, with her parents, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s probably a situation that women being more emotional by nature, might use more emotionally vampirical methods than men. But men can be just the same because if you look at today’s society, men can be just as narcissistic as women.

Q.  I have one question about that because I read an interesting hypothesis and I would like to know what you think about that hypothesis: That celebrities are pretty much all narcissistic.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Narcissistic?

Q.  Narcissistic. Could we even call them Emotional Vampires then?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Well, I guess if we say that a Narcissist is an Emotional Vampire, then, yes, a lot of celebrities are emotional vampires.  But not every celebrity is a narcissist. We have different kinds of celebrities. We have rock stars, movie stars, athletes, reality TV stars and we have other people who have done nothing and are celebrities. For example, here in America, we have a husband and wife who entered a White House party without being invited. And we call them gatecrashers. And they instantly became famous.

Q.  Okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: They are celebrities. Now, not all celebrities are narcissists but some people who want to become celebrities often are narcissists.

Q.  Like Paris Hilton, for example, would for me be a narcissist.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Yeah, Paris Hilton is the classic example because a narcissist doesn’t contribute anything. An Emotional Vampire doesn’t contribute; an emotional vampire is like the parasite.  The Emotional Vampire just feeds off the other person but doesn’t give them anything.

Q.  Yeah, exactly.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Now, a Narcissist, in my definition, also is someone who is only interested in receiving praise and attention, is only interested in promoting him or herself, cannot handle any form of criticism, tends to be very promiscuous (he or she sleeps around and has a lot of different sexual partners) and cannot establish a deep and meaningful relationship with other people. So all of their relationships tend to be very fake, very plastic, very superficial. Therefore, many of these celebrities such as Paris Hilton would be easily classified as narcissistic, because they’re not interested in helping other people; they’re interested only in getting attention. So, yes, it would be easy to say that many celebrities are actually Emotional Vampires.

Q.  But do you think this could have an effect on other people; so that in turn, they learn from celebrities about how to behave?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: It has a terrible effect on other people.

Q.  It does, right?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Celebrities like Paris Hilton teach the world that you can be famous for doing nothing. You can live a glamorous life.  Yes, celebrities like Paris Hilton teach women that you can live a glamorous life, you can dress in beautiful expensive clothes; remember Paris Hilton’s cell phone is diamond-studded.

Q.  Okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: That means she has diamonds all over her cell phone. So she’s telling the world, “You can dress like me, you can be paid to show up to parties, you can just go out and party every night, you can just look good, you don’t have to work, you don’t have to do anything, you can just be a queen, a princess. And the world will love you and the world will give you attention and the world will give you money and all these men will want to be with you. ”So in effect, what she’s teaching the world is to become an Emotional Vampire:simply take from the world but don’t give anything back. And that’s a really, really dangerous example because what you’re saying to the world is, “Don’t be interested in helping other people. Don’t be interested in making a difference. Don’t be interested in doing charity or serving other people or giving; just take, take, take. ”And then what happens is when we become like her and all we do is take, we end up feeling very, very empty. So the example that she’s giving is actually a dangerous example. It’s like the drug addict who says these drugs make you feel really, really good and for a while you feel really good and then you feel really bad and then you lose control of your life and then you can die.

Q.  Yeah.  What do you tell people who have to handle, who have to interact with an emotional vampire, people who are not themselves an emotional vampire but whose partner is an Emotional Vampire or boss is an Emotional Vampire?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Every one of us, Johannes, has an Emotional Vampire in our life. We’re going to encounter someone, and maybe it’s not a celebrity, but it could be someone in your family, it could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father. It could be one of your friends; it could be someone at work. We’re all going to encounter Emotional Vampires because, remember where Emotional Vampires come from. They come from not having received something that they needed as a child. And every one of us, has, to some extent, some sort of pain, some sort of wound. And to some extent, every one of us, on certain day, can act like an Emotional Vampire. If today, we’re a Drama Queen or if today we’re a Controller, if today we’re a Criticizer, we can play that role of Emotional Vampire.

But your question is, “well, how do you handle an Emotional Vampire?  ”And the first thing you have to remember, the number one, is: It’s not about you!That means the other person is responding to you in a certain way because of who they are. So if this person is throwing a fit or a tantrum or if this person is attacking you, this person is criticizing you, or if this person is playing the victim and saying, “You don’t do enough for me,” understand it’s not about you. Become aware that this is about them.  That’s number one.

Number two: understand why they are that way.  It’s because there’s something missing in them.  There’s an emptiness in them and they have been programmed to think that this is the only way they can get love and affection and attention approval.

Number three – and I have a whole article on the top10 tips of how to deal with Emotional Vampires (click here to read “Dealing with Emotional Vampires”: https://patrickwanis.com/blog/dealing-with-emotional-vampires/ ) – but one of the keys is: Get away from this person. Can you actually cut them off from your life?  If you can, do it. Can you spend less time with them?  If so, do it. Make sure you don’t spend too much alone time with them. If it’s one of your workers, someone at the office, don’t go and hang out with them and have a drink or go out for dinner with them outside work.  Why?   Because the primary intention of Emotional Vampires is to drain and take all of your energy.

Q.  Right.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Number four, (remembering and understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about them), stand back and take a deep breath before you respond to them. Observe them. Imagine as if you’re just responding in a matter-of-fact manner, “Okay, all right, I hear you,” and you don’t get emotionally sucked into their drama or their way.  In other words, respond without emotion – calmly, maintaining your poise.  And always keep looking at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “How do I reflect them or how do they reflect who I am?  ”

So for example, maybe this person is a Criticizer and he makes me angry and so I ask myself, “Why is he making me angry?  Am I angry because I also am a Criticizer?  Or am I angry because I can’t handle being criticized?  ”So look at yourself and do the best you can to change yourself because you can’t change the other person.

Q.  That would be my next question. Is it reasonable to tell the other person that he or she is an Emotional Vampire or to try to change him or her?   Is it worth it?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Well, that’s about three questions you just asked and that’s okay. But I want to answer all of them. I’m going to start by saying recently, I recorded an interview for a TV show here called “Extra. ”And the producer asked me the question, “Can you change someone you love?  ”And I said, “That’s an interesting question. We love someone so much we want to change them. Why?  ”And we cannot change any one else. Often we think that we’re helping other people by trying to change them and maybe they do need to change and maybe we would be helping them if we could change them but we can’t change anyone else. We can influence them, we can persuade them, we can affect them, we can inspire them, we can motivate them but we cannot change them.

And what I said to this producer is: “Imagine how hard it is for you to change you. Well, imagine then how much harder it is to try and change someone else. ”

Number two: be careful when you label someone. When you say to someone, “Oh, you’re an emotional vampire, you’re a Narcissist, you’re a Drama Queen or you’re a Controller, even if you are correct, the problem is that if that person then takes that label and starts to internalize it, then they will walk around and say, “I’m a Narcissist, I’m a Controller,” and they’ll use that as an excuse for their behavior. Or instead of saying, “Hi, my name is Johannes,” they’ll say, “Hi, my name is Johannes, I’m a Narcissist. ”And it then becomes part of their identity; in the same waythat people will quickly say to you “I am ADD or ADHD or Bi-Polar, etc. ”

What you’re better off doing is saying something like, “Look, the way you’re behaving is not helping our relationship. ”Or you could say, “You are behaving like a Criticizer” rather than saying you are a Criticizer and you’re a Narcissist. You could say “Your behavior is really narcissistic” and then talk about THAT behavior not the person. But try to avoid the labels and you’re better off saying, “Look, often when I’m around you, you’re telling me that the world is bad to you. Do you really feel like a victim?  ”In other words, try to ask questions.

Now, because of my expertise, if I say to someone, “You’re acting like a victim,” they listen a lot more closely than if their friend says that. So avoid using the labels. Understand you can’t change the other person. Try and change yourself. But, yes, bring to their attention, not just what the behavior is doing but how it’s affecting your relationship. So you could say to someone, “Every time that you play the victim’s story with me, it turns me off or it stops me from being closer to you or it makes me not want to be with you. ”So you could say, ‘When I come here, I often hear you telling me how the world is so bad to you. And then, I don’t feel like I want to come here anymore because I’m not having fun with you and we’re not connecting. ”Or you could say, “When we are talking or when we are together, I feel that you’re often talking only about yourself. And, so, therefore, I don’t want to spend time with you because I feel that you’re not interested in me.  You’re only interested in talking about you. ”Another softer approach is to say “When you do this…I feel this. ” For example, “When you criticize other people, I feel cold towards you and I shut down. ”

Q.  So they need clear words and clear reflection about their behavior.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Excellent.  That’s it.  You’re right. They need clear words and clear reflection about their behavior. And that’s much better than just giving them a name or a label. But again the key point: you cannot change the other person; don’t try to change them but make them aware of how their behavior affects you and how it affects your relationship and whether that inspires you to want to be around with them more or be around them less.

Q.  Okay. How many people come to you and ask you for help in such a situation?  Very often or rarely?  Do people know the term of emotional vampirism or is it they just come pass by and then hear it?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: I think they do know the term Emotional Vampire because a lot of people have read it on my website on my blog, written to me and some people have even said, “Look, I’m an Emotional Vampire. I don’t know how to stop. ”One lady said, “I’m an Emotional Vampire and it feels good for a while but I know it’s not right. Can you help me because I don’t know why I’m doing it?  ”

Q.  Okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis:  So, some people do come to me aware that they are engaging in this behavior, but the majority of people do not know and are not aware that they are behaving like Emotional Vampires.

Q.  So, then you would, as we discussed, talk to them; you would ask them about their behavior; you wouldn’t introduce the term of vampirism?   I mean it’s also a negative word for most of the people, they would hear just that because of the word of vampirism?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: Well, really, that’s what it is. It’s the reason I’ve used this term on a number of articles: to alert people to be aware of the other people in their life who act that way. Remember, if you can cut out from your life any one that is unhealthy for you, you will be happier and healthier. There was even a recent study done which you might like to research that says that loneliness is contagious. Meaning when we hang around people who are down or unhappy and they keep talking about that, it affects us. On my blog, you can read other articles about the power of focus and the power of word association also known as “seeding” and “thin slicing”. For example, there were studies done, I think in Europe, where college students who were asked to think about professors scored better in the game “Trivial Pursuit” than did the students who were not asked to think about professors.  And those students that were asked to think about soccer hooligans performed worse than those who were not.

Q.  Is that true?  Really?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: You can go to my blog and read the article I wrote as part of my Success Newsletter on “Secrets to Persuasion” https://patrickwanis.com/blog/secrets-to-persuasion-and-influence/

Q.  Okay. That sounds very interesting.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: An in another study, it was revealed that if you hold in your hand a cup of warm coffee, you’ll tend to be friendlier towards other people, see people as friendlier and you will be more giving.

Now, the significance of the first study, not the last one, is that we are affected and influenced by the people we hang out with and by the kind of things we talk about. If we’re talking all day about being a victim and “the world is bad and I have no power and the world is bad to me”, eventually, we will feel bad.

I created that term to make people aware first of those emotional vampires in their life thus empowering them by also giving them choices about the ways to respond including ways to cut them off from your life. And then I also wanted to help people by saying, “If you are one of them, here’s how you can work on helping yourself. ” So I didn’t create the term to label people or to criticize people; ultimately, I introduced it to empower people.

Q.  Okay. So the term was invented by you, introduced by you?

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: No, I’m sure it was around before because I also remember hearing a client once say to me, “Oh, you know, that person’s like a vampire. They just drain me. ”

Q.  Oh, okay.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: And the word “psychic vampire” I think has been around for awhile as well. I don’t know who is the first person that created that term but I introduced the term Emotional Vampire because so many people (clients and readers) would talk to me about people in their life who were draining them emotionally.  Further, many reporters and producers interviewed me about Narcissists and I made the connection between Narcissists and emotional vampires, particularly as I gave more and more interviews and commentary about celebrity behavior – antics, ego, stupidity and meltdowns by celebrities.

Q.  Okay. That’s a lot of information and insights I’ve written. And is there something else you want to add because I don’t have any other questions?  I’m very happy with what I have now.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: I think the main thing is that you can refer back to my two other articles as well.  (click here to read “Dealing with Emotional Vampires”: https://patrickwanis.com/blog/dealing-with-emotional-vampires/  and click here to read “Freeing the emotional vampire in you” https://patrickwanis.com/blog/freeing-the-emotional-vampire-in-you/

Q.  Yes, definitely.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: And I always teach that “Every relationship begins with you.” So the more work you do on yourself, the happier and more fulfilled you will be; such as looking in the mirror and saying, “Here are my strengths, here are my weaknesses, what can I do to be better around my friends or in my relationships? ” That would be my advice to people.

Q.  Okay. That’s good advice.

Dr.  Patrick Wanis: My pleasure. Have a great day.

Q.  Yeah, you too. Bye.

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