The word ‘energy vampire’ seems to come up every so often in discussions about massage sessions with clients. What is an energy vampire? Is there even any such thing? How can you protect yourself from these beings and run a successful massage therapy business?
What is an “energy vampire“?
I found many definitions of them:
- Psycentral.com says: “Energy vampires are emotionally immature individuals who have the sense that the whole world revolves around them. They are almost incapable of seeing things from another person’s perspective. They often lack empathy. They believe that they must take everything they can get from others and that giving anything will deprive them of essential resources. It’s as if the whole world exists just to serve them and you are the latest object upon which they have set their sights for exploitation.”
- Judith Orloff, author of Empaths Survival Guide and Emotional Freedom and says in her article What is an energy vampire?:
“Energy vampires exude negative energy that drains you. Energy vampires range from the intentionally malicious ones to those who are oblivious to their effect. Some are overbearing and obnoxious; others are friendly and charming. For example, you’re at a party talking to a perfectly nice person, but suddenly you’re nauseous or weak. Or how about the co-worker who drones on about how she broke up with her boyfriend for the tenth time? Eventually, she feels better, but you’re spent. The bottom line is that on a subtle energy level these people suck you dry. Types of energy vampires include The Narcissist, someone who is self-absorbed and has empathy deficient disorder. The Victim, someone who wears you out with their wining and lack of willingness to find solutions. The Passive Aggressive, someone who is angry with a smile and gets you with jabs that you don’t see coming. The Rageaholic, someone who dumps anger on you and spreads toxic energy in their general vicinity. The Drama Queen or King is someone who wears you out with exhausting drams.”
- Christiane Northrup, MD, author of the recent book “Dodging Energy Vampires,” explains that energy vampire characteristics do tend to map to “cluster B” personality disorders — the ones where people tend to have dramatic, overly emotional or erratic thinking or behavior -Cluster B includes people with antisocial, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders
Types of Energy Vampires
You probably have come across various types of so called energy vampires and have seen how they work.
- People who talk too much in a session especially about topics that annoy you – politics, religion, how they cheated on their spouse or they consistently talk about themselves.
- People who try to control the session and tell you what they think YOU should be doing and massaging and HOW you should be doing the massage.
- People who consistently arrive late to their massage sessions.
- People who arrive late and still want their full session time.
- People who consistently no show their massage sessions.
- People who consistently cancel their massage sessions within the allotted time in your cancellation policy, but it still leaves you at a loss.
- People who tell you all about their other massage therapist that does something different/better than you are doing.
- People who don’t do anything obvious that you can put your finger on, but they just drain you.
- You come home with headaches, shoulder, neck pain or with some of the symptoms that you saw in clients that day as you worked on them.
Getting upset about these things is the energy drain.
Stop with the Energy Vampires already
Here’s the thing…. most everyone is an energy vampire at one time or another.
All of these scenarios are really about your boundaries, how you set them, how you inform clients about them and how you enforce them. The energy drain that these things put on you is just telling you that you do not have a boundary in place to protect you from this loss of energy.
First off, that isn’t how energy works.
The use of the word vampire in this expression brings in the added drama of fear and mythology of vampires that started in the 1800’s.
By calling someone a vampire, you are trying to elevate yourself as being better than another. Calling people energy vampires is very unprofessional and uncalled for.
What we do have is people and interactions with those people who drain us if we are not taking care of ourselves and doing the internal work of becoming aware of ourselves.
They are not energy vampires. They are People.
What we do have is people…people with issues….people who just had a bad day at work, people who are narcissistic and controlling, people who didn’t get enough touch and nurturing in their early life so they are fearful and defensive. What we do have is people who just want a massage and they don’t want us telling them what to do. What we do have is people who are depressed, isolated, fearful and alone.
Your energy is your own. The client’s energy is their own. There is no such thing as energy transfer. You may feel something but it is your own feeling.
What we do have is people who are touch deprived and insecure. What we do have is people who want to control their massage session and may take that to directing the massage session. We have people who want to talk too much. We have people that didn’t have the support that they needed to feel heard and to feel good enough. We have people with attachment issues of all kinds.
Trauma, stress, pain – these things create a void or need in people that needs to be filled/healed and they try to do that in any way they can which often makes them into an ‘energy vampire”.
People may have busy lives and need to constantly reschedule. They are late. They have drama filled lives and experiences that they bring with them to the table.
How people like these affect you or your massage work is up to you.
Just stop and refuse to offer up your neck. These people are not usually doing this on purpose. They have something inside of them that needs attention and some empty part that needs to be filled or healed. They are pushing your buttons and triggering old parts of you that also need attention or healing. Don’t react. Give them nothing. Just stop feeding them.
It’s about YOU…not them. They are not energy vampires.
A massage session IS all about them! Why should it matter to you how they want to spend their time?
People don’t ‘steal’ your energy or put their ‘energy hooks’ into you. You let them in. You let them ‘steal’ your energy. You let them carry on with their drama and incessant chatter that bothers you. You let them come late without penalty.
It is about knowing your boundaries and knowing when it is starting to happen in a session. Is someone’s incessant talking or directing you making you feel stressed? Bring them back to their body by asking them something like ‘What do you feel here under my hands where I am working?”.
Set your boundaries and stick to them and be professional about doing so.
Take care of yourself and your own needs so that the ‘needs’ of clients to be controlling, always late, demanding or whatever it is that is draining you or that you are saying is being an energy vampire don’t bother you!!!
If something a client is doing or saying on the table, it is also another great opportunity to turn things around and learn more about your own judgements about this behavior.
People’s behavior will only affect you if you let it. That being said, it isn’t always easy of course and it does require some support and awareness of when this is happening in your practice and learning what to do about it. One of the best ways to do that is in the process of supervision. It is also just about taking care of yourself enough so that the things people do don’t affect you or trigger you.
I am not saying that there are not drama issues or attention issues that you may find challenging when dealing with clients. It is also about taking responsibility. It isn’t that the client is the problem and is draining. It is more that I am too tired, I am not able to deal with the clients needs for attention, I am not able to deal with being controlled by clients. It is setting boundaries around your time and your sessions and if that still doesn’t work, letting that client go is also part of having good boundaries.
Plugging the drain.
You may have been taught in massage school that the way to deal with things like this is to smudge the room, think positive thoughts, put a wall up around you, karate chop your wrists to imagine that the energy stops there, ground yourself, protect your hands/body with energy, garlic and texas toast, wear a silver bullet around your neck. The big one is fire clients and just move on. Firing clients should be the very last resort after you have worked to communicate your boundaries and worked to enforce them. What schools are not teaching is that it isn’t the actual situation that drains you – it is your response to the situation and what it does to your body and stress response system.
People are people and they just do their own thing. They have busy lives. They don’t understand the value of massage. They haven’t been told that their incessant chattering takes away from their session that they are paying for. They are not taught to respect others. People do crazy things.
It is YOUR reaction to these things that drains you and brings you down. The more adult, professional thing to do is first to recognize the things that drain you and learn to become aware of what those situations really mean to you? Do they invoke anger, make you upset? You might get mad and upset but honestly – what is the problem? Did it really hurt anything/anyone? Everything that happens in our lives is usually a part of our preprogrammed perceptions of reality that start at birth. Our anxiety and response to these situations is usually an attempt to avoid the feelings of anxiety that these situations have created for you. Anxiety and anger are usually automatic survival reactions. You can’t control what others do/say but your reaction to them can be controlled. It is your angry reaction that drains you.
- Become aware of your own needs and work on becoming more aware of your own issues that trigger you.
- Keep your energy up and your mind clear by doing your own work.
- Don’t engage with ‘energy vampires’ when your energy is down. (Lack of sleep, poor diets, not getting massage yourself, etc)
- Practice compassion. Respond to people who are late, talk too much, drain you by telling them (in a nice way) what you need – what your boundaries are and learn to enforce them with consequences. That is done by having policies around canceling, arriving late. It is done by telling them to stop talking – it is a massage and that is what they are there for.
- Stop calling them energy vampires. It sets the stage for your feeling bad.
- Stop firing clients! Set the boundary — tell them about it—- make sure they understand the consequences —-let them decide how and if they want to continue.
Or yes you can stop seeing them all together. That is part of boundaries too.
But remember: We all have a little big of energy vampire in us at one time or another.
First Published on: Jan 25, 2014 @ 12:57 Updated Nov 3, 2018 @12:35 Updated 01/31/2021
I never comment to threads online but I feel compelled to do so here. The term “Energy Vampires” doesnt refer to a client who is late or talks to much. It refers to someone whoms energy clashes with your own and drains it. Ive had “energy vampires” who have arrived early, never said a word on the table, and where complimentary after the session. I feel the author of this thread is working from the head and not the heart. The white light is about visually protecting yourself from obsorbing others eneegies. When you work from the heart in anothers space your bound to “s oak up” others pain and energies. Thats what the term refers too. Not to clients whom cross your personal boundaries.
Julie Onofrio says
Yes there can be more to it than people just being late as I did mention in the article, but that is one part of it too and either way…people don’t drain you of anything… you let them drain you. You can’t protect yourself with any white light or any of those things really – there is no evidence that any such thing exists. You can imagine it in your head if it makes you feel better. You don’t ever ‘soak’ up others energy. Thanks.
Lesia Null says
Interesting article, I just worked with a woman that started talking from the time she opened her car door until she got back in her car and drove away. After this session, I felt drained, nausea, and depressed. It could be mostly my fault for letting her overtake the session,and I could have encouraged her to be more aware of her body and get more from the session. I do believe in energy, and energy work. Maybe, as a therapist, our reaction to the situation IS the energy transfer. It is enlightening to read another’s perspective.
Dani M says
100% agree with you. I’ve had some AMAZING clients so kind and respectful but when I get home I get chills, headache,nausea, etc. I could have woken up feeling fantastic but something in the session caused that reaction. Energy transfer is a real thing. There may not be “scientific proof “ that I know of, but I know and am very aware of my body and sometimes a client as kind as they are may have a negative energy inside. Wether it be physical or emotional pain I don’t know but my body very much feels it. I am very much an empath and I genuinely feel for others sadness and pain since I’ve been very young. It has been a blessing and a curse, many therapists are like this but there are definitely a handful like the one who wrote this article that are anatomy/science/ facts only based and that’s fine too. It’s just a different approach on the therapy. As far as letting not so good clients affect you, I do agree with the writer in the sense that there is literally no good coming from reacting negatively back. It only makes the situation affect you more and its just not worth it. People have bad days and make mistakes etc, so always try to put yourself in their shoes and ask how you’d want to be treated if you’re not doing so good that day.
Trevor Chisman says
It’s good to read a different perspective on difficult clients. It’s absolutely true, we as therapists allow our clients to gain control and we need to build stronger professional boundaries to remain in control of the treatment room. I’m a massage therapist in the UK and unfortunately here in the UK education in ethics and boundaries for therapists is minimal at best on most education courses.
You could not be more wrong! Massage Clients are VAMPIRES and here you are defending them and their vamp behavior. Shame on you. CLEARLY you have not worked as an LMT for long at all or you would not have written such. Massage clients DO SUCK, both figuratively and physically.
Julie Onofrio says
Thanks for your comments. I have been a massage therapist for 30 years. I thought that too in the beginning but learned differently as I got more experience and did my own personal work.
Thank you for your comments and article. I’m just entering massage school and have really been struggling with “energy transfer” and “grounding” myself, apparently. Fellow students are constantly telling me ways to improve without me asking for their advice. I’ve decided to just pull away and try to redevelop more professionally-oriented relationships. Woof. It’s difficult.
Lisa Cheri Kallister says
Well said. The author has no knowledge in this area as it is proved scientifically that there is a transference of energy. She is not qualified to so boldy say there’s no transference it’s all in your head. . It’s people like the aurhor that put misinformation out their to world. Had she done 15 minutes of research instead of be smarmy inaccurate writing. Shame on her. I was in shock as I was reading her article. We actually put off so many watts like a light bulb as well. Well anyway hope not to many folks end up with Nad energies or situations be ause of such inaccurate info.
Julie Onofrio says
more like 35 years of research. thanks though.
i think its hilarious all these yoohoo people allowing placebo to utterly control their career. There is no such thing as “energy transfer”. Only what you allow your own mind to conjure up. The only time i feel drained after massage sessions is because I am simply putting in a ton of physical and mental work to figure out a problem. Sometimes folk are annoying. Talk alot. Does it bother me? Never. Because I am too busy figuring out muscular related issues to give to rats bums about their personal life problems or any sort of overly intrusive chatter. If they are uncomfortable? Doesn’t matter to me I do my JOB regardless and I do it well. Im here to help people with physical pains and to massage them. Thats it. I laugh when people tell me about how they are “absorbing” too much energy and feel drained. Meanwhile I’m an endless ocean of energy unless I’m dehydrated or something. But whatever. believe what you want. Trick yourself however. Ill be over here living the good life lol.