We’re all susceptible to stress manifesting as negative behaviors or thoughts. When we’re in this state, we may notice that people in our lives close down conversations, back away, or don’t return texts and emails. These are all signs that we’re likely draining others’ energies. If we are able to address our stressors, we can return to a more balanced state of being and engage more interactively with others.
Then there are those individuals who appear incapable of viewing life through a positive lens. These are people who never seem to have anything favorable to say. What happens when they foist their negative energy on us or drain whatever positive energy we’ve got going on? How can we handle energy pushers and energy thieves?
[Read: “5 Ways to Maintain Boundaries With Difficult People.”]
Kathy Escobar is the cofounder of The Refuge, a community healing hub based in Colorado. She explores how to best handle encounters with people who either push their energy onto us or drain us of our own energy. With either type, we end up depleted and depressed. “The number-one sign I’m with an energy drainer is that I walk away feeling exhausted and filled with dread for the next time we need to connect.”
Identifying Energy Pushers
Those who push their negative energy onto others function akin to a spiritual vampire, as they seek others to provide them with the sustenance they crave. As Escobar observes, “They’re carrying a bunch of negative energy and hoping someone will take it and generate more of it.”
Here are a few signs someone you know is an energy pusher:
- They’re always trying to ignite something by baiting you via text, email, phone calls, social media mentions, or in person. A calm scenario can suddenly become dramatic and rocky simply because they entered the conversation.
- They get annoyed whenever you try to set some boundaries around your interactions with them or fail to give them what they demand.
- While righteous anger can be a positive tool to help generate positive social change, they seem to be angry 24/7.
- They try to control the narrative by demanding that you align with their particular beliefs and support their pet projects.
- You find yourself engaging in gossip, trash-talking, and other negative behaviors when you’re around them, and then leave the encounter regretting the way they pushed you into it.
Energy Thieves Bring out Your Compassionate Side
While an energy thief also generates negative energy, they tend to present as very needy and sad rather than angry and assertive. “Some people come from a super desperate space,” Escobar notes, “and haven’t been able to get their needs met.”
[Read: “5 Signs You’re In a Toxic Relationship.”]
When we initially encounter an energy thief, their quieter nature (compared to the energy pusher) coupled with their long list of problems can bring out our compassionate side. But in our desire to help them, we can easily overlook the signs that this person is taking more from us than what we have available to give.
- They make you feel guilty when you say no.
- They complain whenever you try to establish any boundary with them.
- No matter what you do, it’s not enough. They’re globally needy in that no one can realistically fulfill all their demands.
- They reject suggestions for self-care, looking instead for others to “fix” them.
- Energy thieves have a history of seeking out organizations and individuals who ostensibly can help them, only to leave once they’ve exhausted all available resources.
Protecting Yourself from Energy Pushers and Energy Thieves
- Listen to your body. To avoid getting sucked into someone’s negative energy cycle, listen to your body. The more in touch you are with your emotions, the better you can avoid being blindsided by someone trying to usurp your energy.
- Set a specific time limit for your interactions. Say something like “You have my full attention for ten minutes.” Then end the interaction at the prescribed time. While people don’t love boundaries, they would rather take a healthy, clear boundary that gives them space to be heard versus encountering people who just turn cold on them.
- A strong group can hold a person’s negative energy because it’s more diffused. Escobar cites 12-step programs as an example where no one individual is allowed to dominate.
- Unfollow or pause those whose social media posts drain your energy and bring you down.
- Finally, let go of the outcome. Escobar reminds herself of this important step when dealing with someone who drains her energy. “My work is to be present and take care of myself.”
Feeling toxic effects from another person? Read: “7 Signs It’s Time to Break Up With a Friend.”