Updated: Mar 7
Image courtesy of Unsplash
As an empath, you may have noticed that people come to you with their problems. What you may not have noticed is that many times they are also actually (unconsciously) draining your energy in the process.
Is there anyone in your life that makes you feel exhausted after you talk to them? Again, all people are aware of energy, even if unconsciously. They know who will give up energy and who won’t. There are even people who chronically drain others’ energy. Some call them energetic vampires.
The name is appropriate, but a bit harsh, in my opinion. Most people drain energy from others without intending to hurt them in any way. They’re just focused on what they need, not on how it will affect others.
These “vampires” don’t know how to protect and maintain their own energy instead of stealing it from others. In childhood, they may have gotten very good at getting others to give them energy. Pleasing the teacher, kissing up to adults, giving gifts to win friends, you know. And, before you point the finger, empaths are pros at this. I know!
Why? Because we are especially sensitive to energy. I knew how to get adults to give me the loving energy I needed by being especially well behaved or quiet. Even when, it would have been developmentally correct to rebel or be myself.
The idea is that people who drain others are energetically drained themselves from work, stress etc. and just want to feel better. So, a person who is emotionally drained may seek you out as a source of energy.
When children do things for attention (energy), that is usually another matter.
In general, children do need adult energy for natural development and growth. Have you ever seen what happens to neglected children in overcrowded orphanages who fail to develop and grow? That’s what that is - lack of development due to energetic neglect.
Children who are given normal, consistent undivided attention (energy) do not drain others unnecessarily. But, that’s another post!
Back to being drained by adults. We all have unconscious agreements we made with our family and those around us as children. Unless there was a clear, conscious understanding and acceptance of the fact that we were empaths, there may have been unconscious agreements to give energy away just to meet our basic needs.
By the way, non-HSPs also participate in giving away energy as well. Anyone could be involved with this. The difference for an HSP or empath is that the energetic discord between themselves and others is much more painful and difficult to ignore. So, we are more likely to give in to people's demands for energy than others who aren't hurt by it as strongly.
I learned early on that giving away energy made my life seem better, even more comfortable. And, with no one to tell me I was really just hurting myself, I wasn't the wiser.
I learned that when someone was threatened by my talents, appearance, etc., I could give energy away to “make a friend,” or if a caregiver was stressed, I learned I could give away energy to get a happier, more kind adult.
This isn’t about blaming your parents, teachers or peers for the past. This is about learning that you may have unconsciously created energetic agreements with the people around you to make your life more pleasant and avoid discomfort. Your energy may have been your only bargaining chip in a sometimes harsh world.
You may even have had to trade energy for conditional love from the ones you needed it from most. Parents who weren’t able to meet all their own needs for rest, love and overall satisfaction with their quality of life, may have manipulated you for your energy. Even though this sounds absolutely horrible, it’s important to realize that this is most likely how they were treated as children.
Now, let’s make this idea of trading energy for love or attention more real. Let’s say your parents, also sensitive to energy, were struggling to balance a career and home life. They may come home in a bad mood and been very surly with you. They knew (probably unconsciously) that if they made you uncomfortable enough, they could get you to give them some energy or allow them to dump their stress energy on you.
You, being very empathic and thus very uncomfortable with this treatment, may have done one of a few different things. You could have retreated to your room or outside, you could have catered to your parents’ every whim until they calmed down or you could have acted out to force them to give you the attention you needed. Obviously, there are many different ways that you could have responded that aren’t even listed here.
Now, retreating would get you relief, but not the love energy you were craving. Maybe you had good friends to give you the love you needed. Only you would know if the parent may stay surly until you take their verbal/emotional/physical abuse (a potential combination of draining and dumping energy), and you would just have to deal with the onslaught later. Maybe you saw your caregiver's partner or other child(ren) take the energetic "hit," shielding you from being an energetic battery charger or dumpster.
If you chose to cater to them and allow them to dump stress or drain your energy until they were kind and gentle, it may have felt like it worked. Many children choose this because it affords them at least some measure of energy, when they might not have gotten any. Unfortunately, they had to endure energetic abuse for it.
This may have helped the adult return to their normal, pleasant self the rest of the evening. All of this may seem like absolutely awful treatment, like denying a child food or enough sleep if they don't behave. Energy is indeed as important as air for survival. The problem is that energy dumping and draining are largely unconscious and invisible, so energetic insults go largely unnoticed and unpunished.
I remember feeling palpable relief once I had allowed an adult to dump or drain energy as needed to stop their angry tirade. I can still feel the tension leaving my system as they finally calmed down. What I didn't know was that years of taking on their stress and allowing myself to be drained took a toll on my own physical body and self-esteem. More on that later.
As dysfunctional as this cycle sounds, it is a reality in many homes, with parents bribing, guilting and neglecting children to meet their own energetic needs. It’s also the reason some sensitive children leave home as soon as they can.
Again, don’t rush to judge the parents and caregivers who do this. And, don’t beat yourself up if you see yourself in their actions. These behaviors are generally learned in childhood, seen as effective (they do get results!) and are repeated generation after generation.
If you were in a different type of energetic agreement, you may have acted out yourself, demanding the adult's attention and energy, to either get the parent to stop their own fit or in a desperate attempt to fulfill your own natural desire for love and acceptance. And, that style, depending on your caregiver, may have worked. These are just some examples of a caregiver - child dynamic where energy is used as a manipulative currency in meeting our basic needs.
Now, as an adult, you may have the vestiges of these parent-child energy relationships that carry over into your everyday life. Here are a few examples: an overly needy friend or significant other, children who are disrespectful or prone to tantrums (inappropriate for their age) or just being assaulted by people who talk too much. Yes, talking too much is a major way that people drain your energy.
People will use guilt to try to make you stay in the conversation/argument for their benefit. “You don’t listen to me”, “you don’t care” etc. If you find yourself hearing these phrases when you really are doing your best to be attentive and listen, they may be attempting to drain your energy.
You may think, I am exhausted all the time, how can there be anything left to drain? You would be surprised how much energy you really have. It’s just not available to you.
Besides draining from others, negative beliefs about yourself and others can be draining your energy as well. It’s like carrying around invisible 100-pound weights on your shoulders. After a day of dragging around heavy thoughts like, I’m not good enough or I’ll never be like ________, you can really be exhausted.
So, what can you do?
As always, you cannot change the people around you. But, you can change the treatment you attract from others. If you make a decision not to be drained (or dumped on) energetically by others, that’s an important first step. Then, it requires identifying how, why and who you are allowing to violate your energy.
Again, it’s not about talking with someone, saying “you’re draining me.” Though you can feel it and it is real, most people don’t consciously know what they are doing - even though it may seem that way.
It’s about pinpointing the beliefs you have that allow energy drain and dumping to happen. Beliefs are energy themselves, which means that energy work can help you to change them.
Do you allow others to drain you so they’ll like you? I did. Do you accept conditional love from others that says “I’ll love you in exchange for allowing me to dump or drain energy from you?” I used to. Do you carry false negative beliefs (energy) about yourself that are heavy burdens draining your energy as well? I certainly did!
If you’re not sure, look at the examples below and see if any resonate with you. If so, start journaling about why it isn’t productive, why some of those untruths don’t serve you any more. You can let go of the false narratives that helped you survive as a kid.
I’m not good enough
I don’t deserve to be rich/happy/attractive/successful/in a loving relationship
Comparing yourself to others
Judging others (to feel better about yourself)
Assuming someone is better than you by outward appearances
Lack of gratitude for what you currently have
See if anything here has been draining you. Find it’s opposite (ie. I deserve love from myself and others) and write it out as an affirmation.
If the affirmation feels false or too positive, dial it down a bit. For example, I’m beginning to feel worthy of love. Don’t push yourself too hard with the affirmations, it’ll make things worse instead of better. Shoot for a little better than where you are.
If you’re ready to have help releasing some of these energy draining and dumping habits, let me know. We can always have a chat.
Did you see yourself in one of the childhood dramas above? I’d love to hear your thoughts.