I’ve Been Thinking … Exploring the Vampire-Empath Relationship

With our natural proclivities for taking care of others, along with the wounds we empaths have endured—and the work we have done to gain acceptance—it is no wonder that we are desirable prey for people who feed off the energy around them. This is especially true for old-soul empaths because we believe in the goodness of people. Deep in our hearts and souls, we see the best in everything and everyone. We can see the potential of another person from a mile away, and we’re naturally drawn to helping that potential come to fruition. We’re the enthusiastic, loyal, can-do cheerleaders who fan the flames of love and light—even when others can’t see it. We come into the world with centuries of healing wisdom.

The natural tendency of an empath is to want to uplift situations. To improve people’s lives and to provide others with opportunities that very often we ourselves didn’t have.

And so we find ourselves naturally drawn to the “fixer-uppers” of humanity—the ones who need our light. Helping feels good. In fact, it’s one of the true joys of being on earth. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching an underdog come from behind and win, especially if it’s because that person has finally found someone who sees and supports them. For example, I met a man this spring who went from being in a foster home to becoming an internationally known boxer. The turning point came when a man saw him at practice and said, “There’s something about you. I see something in you. I want to help.” That was the key that turned the whole thing around. We know that having just one person believe in us and see us can make all the difference in whether or not we manifest our dreams.

When a relationship works for mutual benefit—whether that’s creating a home, a family, a business, or being of service to those in need—an alchemical magic happens. The unbridled healing energy of two or more people working in harmony for good creates a third energy that is greater than what each person could do individually. This is the quantum healing energy that Jesus was talking about when he said, “Whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there will I be also.”

However, on the other end of the spectrum are non- supportive relationships. This is where the problem comes in. If we happen to get in a relationship with someone who isn’t in the relationship for healthy reasons, our wounds become activated. Because of our belief that we have to offer something of value in order to be accepted, we strive to make others happy—even at the expense of our health and our sanity. Since we don’t believe that anyone will value us for who we really are, we don’t dare share our vulnerabilities in relationships lest we be rejected. I once had a man refer to me as “bulletproof” compared to other women. What he meant by that was that I didn’t seem to have any needs or vulnerabilities. How very wrong he was. I just had built up a lifetime of skill in hiding those needs. And getting them met by myself.

As I mentioned in Chapter 1, all empaths are seen as prey, but it is the old-soul empath who often becomes embroiled in long-term relationships with a vampire because we tend to believe the best about everyone, assuming they are like us. We simply can’t see the red flags that other people often pick up on. So, we idealize people and relationships in ways that aren’t realistic or healthy. A good illustration of the fairy tale we are drawn to is the iconic scene in the movie Jerry Maguire, in which Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) arrives in his beloved’s living room during a support group for divorced women—and tells Renée Zellweger’s character how his success has meant nothing because she wasn’t there. And then he utters, “You complete me.” And every woman in the place swoons, wishing that some guy would say that to her.

So many empaths have an unhealed inner child who has been trying to win love through service and sacrifice for most of our lives that we tend to take on too much responsibility for the health of a relationship. We’re so used to over-giving that if someone gives 25 percent compared to our 75 percent, we feel like we’ve finally arrived in relationship nirvana. OMG—he put down the toilet seat. He must love me.

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, our relationships are driven by the unmet needs of that inner child. I’ll be returning to this issue again as I address the wounds we empaths need to heal within ourselves. We give what we desperately want to receive. Being alone with our wounds is not an option—at least until we recognize them. So we’re apt to stay overly long in relationships in which we over-give and under-receive, especially when the relationship looks good from the outside. After all, there’s certainly a societal benefit to appearing normal.

This can be an issue in any nonsupportive rrelationship but it gets especially devastating when we’re in relationship with an energy vampire.



Energy vampires, as I noted earlier, feed on the life force of others. Unlike a relationship in which the dysfunction may be based on incompatible personalities, the dysfunction in an energy vampire relationship is based on careful manipulation.

Energy vampires keep energy coming their way by masterfully playing into the wounds of the people around them. The empath, then, is a special target for the energy vampire because the wounds in their lives go so deep, which means that they are easier to manipulate. The energy vampire hooks into the empath using what I call “malignant intuition.” By this I mean that they have an unerring sixth sense about the wounds of an empath. They know exactly what the empath has been longing to hear their entire life. Vampires make a beeline for the wound—and then love- bomb the empath with precisely the kind of attention and recognition they have been longing to experience since birth . . . and maybe even for lifetimes. To an empath, this kind of attention is a welcome relief. Ahhh . . . someone who finally “gets me.”

But that’s not the case at all. The vampire simply knows the empath’s weaknesses and uses them to their own advantage. They are fully aware of what they are doing.

Now I know what you may be thinking, Really? Every- one who drains my energy is doing so on purpose? Well, no. There are people who are inadvertent energy drainers. These people share some of the same characteristics as full-fledged vampires, but they aren’t fully on the spectrum of personality disorders we’re talking about.

These negative people may not be conscious of their impact on others. Here’s how you can tell. You’re with a Debbie Downer friend, and you find a caring and compassionate way to tell her that her energy is bringing you down. And it’s a regular pattern that bothers you. Her response will tell you everything you need to know. If she’s mortified, owns this critique, and is willing to admit that your point of view is valid, you’re not dealing with a vampire. But if she starts to cry and run for the victim role—or gets angry and tells you what’s wrong with you, you have your diagnosis. A normal person will own their own stuff and work to fix it. They will not make you wrong for sharing your truth. In fact, doing so will make the relationship stronger. People of good will have the ability to experience true remorse and the desire to change—just like you. Vampires don’t.

We’ll discuss this more in Chapter 5, when we dig deeper into the characteristics of energy vampires, but just know that true energy vampires know exactly what they’re doing. They are incredibly skillful at assessing your weaknesses and taking advantage of them.

Where the confusion begins is that in a vampire-empath relationship, the vampire is initially very supportive of your goals and dreams. Because the vampire is often so adroit at initially supporting you in your efforts to heal, you begin to trust them and their judgment. You feel as though you’ve finally found someone who gets you, wounds and all. You relax and let your guard down, and perhaps you let them into your life deeper than you’ve allowed anyone else. Their hooks are now in you.

This is when they begin to criticize you and use their inner knowledge of you to discredit the people, things, and dreams that are your passions—all of which they initially supported.

At one point in my career, I had a colleague who was incredibly supportive and helpful with my work. This was extraordinarily rare at the time, because as a holistic physician I was always waiting for the next shoe to drop and for the “authorities” to punish me in some way for my beliefs and approach to healing.

Over time, however, this individual used her intuition to tell me what was wrong with just about everyone who came into my life—personally or professionally. I initially found this very confusing, as she had been a gifted intuitive whose guidance had been very helpful. But after a while, I came to realize that if I didn’t cut off the friendship completely, I would eventually end up walled off from the world entirely, and the only person who would be interpreting my reality for me would be her. She even tried to come between my daughters and me. But I saw the pattern. It was exactly how abusive men isolate their victims. This often happens so slowly—and under the guise of caring for you—that you don’t realize what is going on when it’s happening.



So take a look at your own life. How many of your friends or, worse yet, family members, call you only when they want something or have a problem? Notice how these same people never call you just to check in on how you’re doing. It’s a one-way street, with all the attention and energy going to them, not you.

Take notice of who calls you for advice, to complain, or to simply talk on and on while you listen. This is a pattern that went on for decades with me until it finally dawned on me that these individuals never called unless they wanted something. Here’s an example. I’d get a call from an old friend and think, Oh, how nice. They’re reaching out because they care and want to acknowledge me. My little inner child would get excited: Oh, goodie. They’re checking in. They really care about me. And then the other shoe would invariably drop when I quickly realized that the only reason they called was so I’d give a quote for their manuscript, make an introduction for them, or give them some healing advice about a health problem they or an acquaintance was having. The thin veneer of caring about me went away very quickly. With nothing given in return. Before we empaths realize what is happening and stop the behavior, we often find ourselves freely sharing our wisdom, time, and resources with those who call us during nights, weekends, and just about any time it is convenient for them. We give freely because that’s our nature. And we fan the flames of their potential. Lovingly. And when they hang up the phone, we, at first—maybe for years—feel good about ourselves for being valuable to them. But over time, we find that they are not there for us. And very often they don’t even follow our advice. And nothing changes. They just wanted a hit of our energy, or a voice on the other end of the line telling them what they already know. Or else they want us to do something for them.

Those who call and never change very often have a lot of drama in their lives. They feed off it. And create it. That’s why, at first glance, they are so exciting to be around. Have you noticed that? I was recently visiting an old friend and we were talking about the friend who first introduced us decades ago. I’ll call her Joan. As we shared our stories about Joan, we both realized that each of us had spent hours and hours over the years listening to her dramas, trying to help her solve her problems. But she never changed. She simply went from drama to drama while we tried to help her out financially and socially. Finally, we both saw the pattern and withdrew. Comparing notes was eye-opening. You too? Yes. Me too.

Here’s the thing. If there were no drama, the energy vampires would have to look at the spiritual side of life. But they are afraid of it. Trauma and drama are comfortable. This is why the mainstream news cycle is so negative. It’s familiar and comfortable. And it sells product. It is also addictive. There is always something to fix. Something outside yourself to focus on so that you never have to look inside—the only place where your true power lies. The place where no one else can do the work for you.

When there is nothing more to fix, the only thing you have left is the Divine, by whatever name you choose to call it. And vampires don’t want to go there because their approach to life works for them. They genuinely don’t think anything is wrong with them. Why would they need to look inside? The goodies are all outside—money, sex, power. In a subsection of his classic book Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, Dr. Robert D. Hare, an expert in this field, writes about why nothing seems to work with the worst of these characters: “And here is the crux of the issue: Psychopaths don’t feel they have psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to conform to societal standards with which they do not agree.”

Empaths, on the other hand, generally have a very solid relationship with God and their faith in a Divine Source. We feel bad for those who don’t, and we’re eager to share that deep and abiding faith with another. But they don’t want to do the work of contacting that Divine within. They’d rather just get a hit of our energy to keep them afloat until the next time. And if we don’t recognize our own role in keeping this drama going—which is attempting to be their Higher Power by being available all the time and having all the answers—then we risk losing ourselves and enabling them to stay stuck. Do you see this happening in any of your relationships?

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath’s Guide to Evading Relationships That Drain You And Restoring Your Health And Power by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 

This essay was featured in the July 15th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.




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