First: how do we identify a Qi Vampire? Basically, Qi (Chi) is the Chinese term for Life Force, that same energy runs through us all. We are all made of the same energy, the God-force in us all gives us the power to manipulate that energy how we see fit. Once we understand this, it’s empowering, and it lifts the veil when we truly get it - we create our own reality, and we are all powerful. So when I call someone a Qi Vampire, does it make the description more clear if you can imagine a person who sucks the energy from you (like a vampire drinks blood) and leaves you feeling drained, less powerful, your mood altered? You can conjure this person up in your mind right now. We all know someone like this, or have known them. They’re the person who calls you and tries to draw you into their latest drama. You listen and offer feedback because you care about this person or at least want to make a show of being respectful, but that criticism never moves past one ear to the Qi Vampire. In other words, they’re talking to you to vent and not actually seeking help for their constant situations. They use your energy because you’ve been known to give it to them before. Others, perhaps, have drawn a line in the sand and created boundaries, have rejected them. They might even flatter you by complimenting your listening skills, your ability to always be there for them when they need you. This is how they trick you into listening to another episode of Drama City.
A toxic person can be a Qi Vampire, and vice versa, but they’re also mutually exclusive. A toxic person is someone who is subconsciously (sometimes consciously!) manipulating you, harming you, or deceiving you in order to benefit themselves in some way. Lots of people with genuine mental disorders fall into this category like narcissists and sociopaths and manic-depressives or bipolars. But there are also plenty of people who are just straight toxic and they have no medical issues to attribute their behaviors to. I’m not saying people who have a legit mental illness deserve a pass, but at least their behaviors are justified/qualified by something they can’t really control. These people need to be handled with kid gloves, if you choose to associate with them (a lot of times these are our family members we must “deal with”) but it’s completely up to you whom you choose to cut out of your life due to their toxicity. This is the important point here: we must learn to discern who is preventing us from elevating our own situations and personal evolution, and who is bringing us down or keeping us stagnant. When there’s no balance of energy exchange, we must create boundaries. Toxic people manifest in myriad ways. Some theoretical examples:
- Your hypochondriac grandmother, who manipulates those around her into caring for her various ailments, excusing her from participating in events or household duties, and elicits sympathy from anyone who will listen to her complain.
- Your ex-boyfriend who drove you away from the relationship with his behavior but keeps orbiting well after the relationship has ended. He threatens suicide if you won’t take his phone calls, yet tells everyone who will listen what a crazy bitch you are and how much you hurt him.
- Your co-worker who causes drama within the workplace, makes things uncomfortable for you if you side with or even associate with those she perceives are “against her”. She may even bring you into HR as an ally, compromising your own position within the company. You dread going into work knowing she’s there waiting to pounce and tell you all the minute details of her latest personal affront.
- Your drug addicted father who has run up credit lines and bills in his kids’ names, destroying their own reputations. He is a grown man who cannot stand on his own two feet and expects his children to bail him out of his self-created situations. When his children refuse their help he stonewalls them, cuts them out of his life (until he needs help again), or punishes them. He panics when his support system is threatened. He blames his issues (including addiction) on outside influences and other people.
- Your childhood best friend who has repeated the same relationship patterns throughout her adult life, and expects you to support her decisions. Every new relationship is exciting and different, yet you know it’s the same relationship in a new body. She may disappear from social life while things are good, then reappear as soon as the shit hits the fan. She expects you to take her phone calls at all hours, come and console her as she cries over the latest fight or breakup, and refuses to listen to your advice (even when you suggest she seek counseling rather than consult you). Especially then. Toxic people never seek self-reflection, and are scared to death to discuss their own glaringly obvious issues with anyone who will put it to them straight. When someone refuses to consider counseling, that’s the biggest red flag to alert you that you are dealing with a toxic person.
Time to share a personal experience! And yes, that last example of toxic people is a direct cause for me revisiting this topic today. You see, over a decade ago I had a coworker whom I became very close with. We went through a number of challenging situations together, including her husband (#2) attempting to cheat on her with me, same husband (#2) actually having an affair with his secretary - my high school friend, her divorce and subsequent relationships, and her children ALL (3) choosing to cut her out of their lives one by one. The kids identified her as a toxic person well before it occurred to me that the greatest common denominator in all her myriad issues is HER. When your own children turn their back on you, that’s pretty intense. I did feel sorry for her, I admit, throughout the many years we were close. But I also quickly felt drained by just being around her. Every day she was on the phone with me wanting to discuss in detail all the shit she’d been through that day. We went over and over the same situations, and she never changed tack or tried out my suggestions (and believe me, I had plenty). She’d ask me to go out for a beer and then proceed to get falling-down drunk every time. This became a pretty much daily exercise for us to hit the bar after work, and of course that’s not a good habit for me, either.
After rehashing the same situations and advice she ignored for the umpteenth time, after she introduced me to a man I ended up marrying (starter marriage - doesn’t count!), I was enlightened by my husband, who pointed out how much time and energy I was spending helping her out, and actually I wasn’t helping her anyway; I was enabling her. I began to be resentful of it, and was relieved when she transferred to Oklahoma and she was effectively out of my life. Now I didn’t have to run into her at work, or join her for beers, and I could pretend to be busier than I was with that physical distance between us. But….Facebook. Through that social media medium she was able to keep that connection, and frequently posted on my page or sent me PMs when she couldn’t contact me on the phone. I recall giving it to her straight one night when I was in my cups, and she went off on me like you wouldn’t believe. Called me every name in the book, pointed out all of my flaws and mistakes, insulted me; you name it. She effectively burned that bridge, and all I felt was RELIEF. But I noticed she didn’t block me, nor did I block her. I’m not a blocker, unless you’re actively harassing me.
Fast-forward to last year: after several years of no contact, didn’t even really think about her much if at all, and I get this FB message from her. First thing I noticed was that she didn’t address our falling out, not at all. She basically just said she’d been dreaming about me lately and wanted to reach out. I responded that I recalled our last conversation as pretty much a flame war towards me, and where was the acknowledgement of that? I was asking for an apology, but I didn’t get one. Instead, she glossed over it and proceeded to tell me about all her problems with husband number 4 or 5 (Frankly, I’ve lost count!). She also told me she couldn’t be my FB friend because someone we once associated with (the secretary #3 had the affair with) might gleen some information about her (??? I know - made no sense to me either). First of all, that bitch has me blocked, so….Anyway...I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reconnecting with her in any sphere, so I let it go. I asked her in my last message whom she was referring to when she threw a name my way I didn’t recognize. She didn’t answer…..
Until last week. Again, no acknowledgement of our last exchange, which went nowhere. Just started asking me if I professionally counseled families dealing with a certain brain disorder. I said I didn’t but was interested in educating myself about the disease as it somewhat pertained to people in my family. She responded by telling me cryptic things about what she’s dealing with, all the while describing herself as the person with this condition but not outright saying so. I was very confused. I then asked her to be more clear: are you asking me to give you marriage counseling? Because she was asking me marital advice. She said no she wasn’t interested in counseling for herself and #5; she wanted my perspective because #5 is Hispanic and so am I. Again...very confused, but I responded that HAD she come to me for advice beforehand, I would have advised her not to get married again, and certainly not to a man whose loyalties still lie with his mother instead of his wife. Big no-no! Please do not make this mistake, Ladies. As soon as that man puts a ring on your finger, he transfers his loyalty and your relationship decisions should NEVER be deprioritized. BIG RED FLAG! I digress….I truly thought I was giving her sound advice, not trying to be insulting or anything, just plain talk like she knows to expect from me. My replies to her were very brief, because I consciously did not want to give away my time and energy to her. If she’s offering to pay me for my work and expertise, that’s different, but she clearly said she wasn’t seeking my professional help so….Drew the boundary line there. Her response was off the handle, insulting me, asking me what was wrong with ME that I would say that to her, blahdiblah. I wasn’t having it. Left her on Read. She tried to draw me in again and I left that on Read as well. Here’s the kicker: in the interim I found myself devoting my time and energy to this situation and kicking myself because I let down my walls even temporarily for someone I know to be extremely toxic. I found myself taking down notes on how to respond to her message, and then I got mad at myself for even doing that much. Why respond to her at all? Her next message came a couple days after that, telling me she hopes I will listen to her because my (family member) is crying out for help. Wait -- what?? I didn’t share anything personal with her about this family member. I simply said she had similar symptoms that I’d like to learn more about. That’s it. Well...that did it for me. I cannot respond to her; to do so would be inviting more of this exchange, and this after she outright attacked me (again). NOPE! Bye, Felicia!
So, all of this to say I experience these toxic people, too. These Qi Vampires. I’m able to deal with and recognize them more easily and quicker than before only because of my training. And I still (almost) fell for her classic tricks. ALMOST. So now you ask, how do I deal with these people? I’ve already shown you some of how to identify them. But how do you cope?
First, I want you to analyze the relationship directly by removing yourself from the situation as much as possible. Take yourself out of the equation and imagine your very best friend, your partner, or your child/parent in your own role. I want you to ask yourself if you saw this toxic person behaving towards your loved one as they display to you, what would you advise your loved one to do about it? This can be very helpful in putting things into perspective. And then while you’re still in this outsider’s perspective mode, ask yourself what are the real-world consequences involved in choosing to either (1) draw boundaries with the toxic person, or (2) cut them out of your life altogether? Like, is this person a coworker who doesn’t affect your personal life and can be cut off with impunity? Or is this toxic person a close, intimate person in your life with whom it would be extremely difficult to have a relationship with if you either put your foot down or effectively broke up with altogether? Will you have to see this person at family or friend gatherings, or do you live in the same house? This changes things. Either way, determine what the consequences are and what is within your comfort zone to do.
Second, decide what your boundaries are. If you’re not going to cut this person out of your life, then what are you willing to put up with, and what are you not willing to put up with? Make these points clear, because you’re going to communicate these points with that person the next time they try to suck your Qi. That sounds dirty, but I promise it’s unintentional (smile). Some examples: (1) Limit phone calls/conversations to 20 minutes, 3 days per week, max. (2) We cannot discuss your relationship/addiction/drama. At all. (3) If behavior continues, I will have no choice but to cut ties (giving prior warning). These examples may or may not fit your situation, so tweak at will. Alternately, if you have decided TO cut ties with the toxic person, you need to plan out the breakup discussion. Ensure you are both in a safe space where it’s less likely the person can cause a scene or likewise have the privacy to discuss sensitive matters. Public but not overly public is the best bet. Have notes ready to discuss the key points you choose to ou make. Tell them with direct examples of several notable occurrences where you’ve felt personally harmed or manipulated, and let them know you value yourself above all, so these things cannot be allowed to ever happen again. Assure them that you care for their welfare, but the best way they can help themselves is to seek counseling from a professional who is trained to guide their individual issues to elimination.
Third, for those whom you choose to keep in your life, after you’ve established and communicated your clear boundaries to them, show consistency. They WILL test you, and try to toe the line. It’s up to you to confront the occurrence and remind them that behavior will not be tolerated, and if they value your relationship they will reel it back in. With ALL toxic people and Qi Vampires, what happens when you turn them away is they will simply seek another host. Don’t feel guilty about this, because you are not responsible for anyone else’s dilemmas. That new host will have to draw the same boundaries. YOU are choosing to respect yourself and value your time and energy, and people learn from example. Create an example by showing up for yourself constantly! The best part of this process is, the more we practice valuing ourselves, the more quality people will be magnetically drawn to us. Toxic people learn to read energy - that’s how they found us in the first place - because they sensed in us a willing host. Teach others not to see you as someone who can be manipulated, abused, or undervalued. Quality people will gravitate toward you because they also sense in you a person they want to be around. And I know we all want to attract quality people! Right?
On my Facebook page @Newhorizonslifetherapy, I will be posting some Q&As my followers have brought to me, specifically about toxic people and Qi Vampires. If you have a situation you need advice on, PM me through here, the FB page, or e-mail me at email@example.com, and I will respond on my Facebook page, keeping you and your issue anonymous (I may change identifying details for your privacy’s sake). Hit me with those questions!