Have you ever felt worn out, exhausted, or emotionally drained after spending time with someone? Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “emotional parasite” before, you’ve probably fallen victim to one. Emotional parasites leave you tired and frustrated no matter how you describe it—they harsh your mellow, zap your positive vibe, or suck your emotional energy.
Bug spray won’t ward off emotional parasites. Instead, you must be ready to protect yourself. The first step is to identify the offender. Emotional parasites’ soul-sucking can manifest in many different behaviors. Examples include people who thrive on drama, or love to gossip, or are excessively self-deprecating, or always have something negative to say. More extreme examples include narcissists, manipulators, and literal sociopaths and psychopaths.
It may not seem like it, but you are the one who’s in control in such interactions. It’s in your power to feel better.
Here are some tips to help you stop falling victim to emotional parasites without compromising your compassion and sensitivity:
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
When you’re falling victim to an emotional parasite, your body will start giving you clues, such as general feelings of frustration or fatigue. Our bodies using these clues to communicate with us, and we need to learn to listen so we’re fully aware of what’s going on and can be prepared to take the necessary steps.
- Set firm boundaries.
Being an emotional parasite doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad person. Everyone has likely exhibited such tendencies at some point in our lives. But some people don’t know how to effectively handle their problems, and they may not realize that their behavior has a significant negative effect on the people around them. This makes it crucial to limit emotional parasites’ negative impact on you by setting boundaries with them.
Setting relational boundaries can make us feel upset or guilty. It’s fine if you feel this way, but don’t confuse boundary-setting with cruelty. Setting boundaries in relationships doesn’t mean that you’re a cruel or rude person! Ultimately, you must preserve your mental health and emotional well-being, so it’s important to be firm when you set boundaries. There doesn’t have to be guilt involved.
- Evaluate your relationship.
Continuing to interact with emotional parasites will be harmful to both your physical and your mental health. But you can release them and move forward with your happy, healthy life.
- Be straightforward.
The best way to communicate with an emotional parasite is to be straightforward. Without being confrontational, clearly explain to them how their behavior is impacting you and your well-being. Your willingness to express things reinforces the fact that you value them and desire to maintain your relationship with them. This type of conversation will work best when your emotions are in balance so you can express your thoughts and feelings in a gentle, compassionate way. To calm your emotions and prepare you, it may help to write out your main talking points or to practice beforehand with somebody you trust.
It’s up to you to continue your relationship with an emotional parasite or to end things. You aren’t destined to allow them to drain your energy forever, but you must be willing to make the necessary changes. If the situation isn’t improving after you try the above tips, you may need to take one of these more drastic steps.
- Take a break.
Breaks aren’t exclusively for romantic relationships. You may need to step back from a friend or family member to give yourself space to assess your relationship and to see how much better you feel when you’re away.
Sometimes, a break will help you feel more prepared to deal with the person. If they don’t commit to changing their behavior, you may need to make some long-term adjustments to your relationship.
- End the relationship.
We generally don’t have the power to change other people. But we can change when and how often we interact with them. You need to weigh the positives and negatives of the relationship and be prepared to walk away if necessary.
If you’ve attempted to discuss their behavior with them and they aren’t open to your feedback, or if they hear you out but immediately fall back into their old behaviors, it’s time for you to evaluate the viability of the relationship.
You control what you allow an emotional parasite to suck out of you. You need your strength and positive energy to do life and be your best self, so don’t let someone else take that away from you. Ultimately, you’ll be a stronger person, so the best time to start is right now!