The Emotional Vampire. Narcissist. Sociopath. These special creatures may fall under the ‘guise of many a name but do not be fooled.
Emotional Vampires display eerily similar traits to their fictional namesakes. They like to carefully select a victim – usually, somebody who is vulnerable – then suck every last inch of life from them, bit by bit. They lurk in the dark, being extremely careful never to be exposed to the harsh glare of daylight; that’s their weakness, you see.
On the milder end of the scale, we have the Moaner, the Pessimist and general ‘Negative Nancy’. You know the ones; Sheila in the office who takes great delight in telling the rest of her colleagues how miserable she is or your neighbour Peter, who reels off every single one of his new found ailments whenever you dare to glance in his general direction.
You come away from these interactions feeling drained and heavy, dreading the next time you may find yourself in these uncomfortable situations. Don’t get me wrong, we all like to grumble on occasion (I know I do. I’m a cliche Brit) but these folks almost seem to enjoy creating their very own ‘storm in a teacup’ and rarely have a positive word to say.
The Narcissists and Sociopaths are a different level completely and can be very dangerous breeds. They are subtle in their ways, making them almost impossible to identify at first. To the outside world, they are high achievers, charming, successful and sociable. However, once you begin to scratch beneath the surface, the Narcissists true colours slowly begin to show.
In reality, these creatures are cunning, scheming and masters of manipulation. This behaviour gradually manifests itself in a variety of ways. You may find yourself being made to apologise for things that are categorically not your fault or becoming fearful of confronting the Narcissist about their unacceptable behaviour.
Another tactic is projection. If they know deep down that they are crappy parent, it’s one of the first things they’ll accuse you of. If they lie, you become a liar. If they envy your lifestyle, they will seek to destroy this in any way they can. This means that whilst you’re busy attempting to defend yourself against these accusations, their own bad behaviour gets overshadowed.
They will slowly turn your loved ones against you, using underhanded means and very subtle behaviour. Relentless in this systematic and carefully curated dismantling, they will prey on anyone who will listen, seeking sympathy and attention. They will tell friends, family members and even employers of the victim just how cruel/untruthful/lazy the person in question is until the unsuspecting participants actually start to sympathise with the Narcissist. This leaves you isolated and eventually, feeling unable to trust those around you.
Ironically, the Narcissist is great at playing the victim. They will never, ever admit fault nor be held accountable for their actions. One of the saddest parts is that they will never be truly happy or content as they are simply incapable of forming meaningful relationships or friendships. The Narcissistic actually enjoys living in a heightened state of drama, relentlessly provoking others and seems to thrive on the emergency situations and confrontation that most of us try to avoid. They have no concept nor particular care about the vast emotional damage caused to the people around them and are convinced that their views and options are correct, instantly dismissing small details that may contradict this delusional belief, such as the truth and actual facts.
A Narcissist will take great pleasure in attacking the things you love dearly (they know that these are the things you will defend the most) and nothing is out of bounds, including their own children. They are incapable of co-parenting, instead choosing to counter parent. They play the role of a caring, loving Mother or Father beautifully in public, yet the admiration that they are actually craving is that of strangers, not of the child or other family members. They value control and material possessions over the well-being and happiness of their own offspring. These impressionable children become scapegoats and are often left emotionally damaged by the erratic and confusing behaviour of the Narcissist parent.
The Narcissist is far more than just a ‘bit of a drama queen’ or storyteller. We all have our demons and behave badly at times but most of us adhere to a general moral code. Beneath their confident exterior, Narcissists are actually some of the most insecure and cowardly people you will ever meet. They demand respect and authority, without ever actually earning it and have an overinflated sense of entitlement. To them, other people are simply disposable pawns in their quest for power, however, they tend to not let them too far out of sight as they need to be able to keep control.
They are also incredibly clever at realising when their victim is close to ‘escape’. Suddenly, you may find yourself bombarded with lavish gifts, pleading, declarations of love and apologies. Their behaviour may seem to improve for a little while as they lure you back into a false sense of security. This does not last and before long, the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Being on the receiving end of a Narcissists notorious rage is intensely traumatic. They may even occasionally resort to physical violence – but never in public (that would shatter the illusion they have carefully created). The Narcissist will use silent treatment, constant criticism, threats, mockery, humiliation, denial of basic human rights, mind games, tantrums, blackmail and sabotage to punish you for daring to question them, making them angry or presenting evidence of the truth to challenge their lies.
The Narcissist is an expert in the art of lying and deception. So much so, that they actually convince themselves that this fantasy world they have created is the truth. The bigger the lie, the easier it is for people to believe. My unpleasant first-hand experience of this was hearing the words: ‘My real Mum died of cancer when I was a teenager.‘ Cue instant sympathy and condolences offered. Then I met this persons ‘Mum’ and naturally began to question the initial statement. Apparently, the woman I met was his step-mother. It wasn’t until several years later, when I was already in far too deep, that a birth certificate and old photographs confirmed that this was indeed another lie. It was then that I finally realised things were very, very wrong.
Once they have you in their clutches, escape can seem impossible but the harsh truth is that there is no way to have a healthy relationship with an Emotional Vampire. Just remember that you do have a choice. As daunting as it may be, I promise that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I won’t pretend that it’s an easy move to make nor without repercussion but it may well save your sanity and even your life.
Smear campaigns often come at the moment of panic for the Narcissist. When there is a risk that you may actually ‘out’ them, leave or reveal the truth, they will incite a tireless, hurtful campaign against you and everything you love, with their only goal being to discredit and humiliate the victim as much as possible. They will make this their sole mission; trying to defend yourself against this slanderous injustice is futile. Even after years of no contact, they will persist, baiting you with untruths and telling anybody who will listen how awful you are but stay strong. Cutting them off tends to escalate this as they cannot stand to be out of control but cutting off all contact with the Narcissist is the only way to truly break free.
If you find yourself stuck next to a ‘Negative Nancy’, the best thing to do is simply refuse to entertain their whiny ways, steer the conversation on to a more positive topic or failing that, go and hide in the stationery cupboard for while. (I jest, of course. Your boss may not approve of this one!)
If you’ve had the misfortune to come across a Narcissist or Sociopath and are unsure of what to do next, my only advice to you is…run.