The Narcissist, The Victim, The Controller, The Splitter

The more we know about relationships, the better we get at keeping ourselves strong and safe and resilient. Think about that relationship in your life that really drains you – many of us have one. We find it demotivating, hugely emotionally upsetting and controlling. It makes us feel stupid, it really damages our self esteem and makes us feel unworthy of promotion, a salary increase, attention, respect, consideration, love. A relationship like this can limit us and restrict us and keep us stuck in a negative place for a very long time. It can feed our sense of fear which stops us having the courage to make good changes. This type of relationship can throw us emotionally off centre with just one comment and can touch sensitive nerves and prod areas of shaky self-worth.

Who is it?

Your boss? Very common.

Is it your significant other?

A friend that plays a major role in your life?

A parent?

A grown up child? Grown up children can be amazingly powerful and not always in a good way.

If we can identify these negative relationships, put a label on them, and bear in mind how to deal with them, we can build our resilience and keep ourselves stronger and better able to make positive changes to our lives.

Psychiatrist and NY Times best-selling author Dr Juliff Orloff has called these people Emotional Vampires. These are the signs that you’ve encountered one of them:

  • Your mood takes a nosedive
  • You feel anxious, depressed or negative
  • You feel put down and sniped at
  • Your eyelids get heavy and you want to take a nap
  • You want to binge on comfort food.

She has identified four types of Emotional Vampires:

The Narcissist

Everything is always about them. They have an overdeveloped sense of self-importance and entitlement. They demand to be the centre of attention. Critically, they lack empathy, and therefore are not capable of putting themselves in your shoes. If things don’t go their way they become punishing, withholding or cold.

How to protect your emotions: Know that these are emotionally limited people. (Try not to fall in love with one of them!) If you do, keep your expectations real. Because they are will never become selfless or love without strings attached. Be very careful not to make your self-worth dependent on them or confide your deepest feelings to them because they won’t cherish them. To successfully communicate with a Narcissist, you have to show them how something will be to their benefit. Think about this if you feel that your boss is a narcissist.

The Victim

These are the Poor-me’s. They don’t take responsibilities for their actions and feel that the world is always out to get them. They suffer from an external locus of control, in other words, they don’t feel that they have any control over what happens to them. When you offer a solution to their problems they always say, “Yes, but…” You might end up screening your calls or purposely avoiding them. As a friend, you may want to help but their tales of woe overwhelm you.

How to protect your emotions: Set kind but firm limits. Listen briefly and then say “I love you but I can only listen for a few minutes unless you want to discuss solutions. Then I’d be thrilled to brainstorm with you.” With a coworker, listen briefly, sympathize by saying, “I’ll keep good thought for things to work out. Then say, I hope you understand, but I’m on deadline and must go back to work. Then use “this isn’t a good time” body language such as crossing your arms and breaking eye contact to help set these healthy limits.

The Controller

These people obsessively try to control you and dictate what you’re supposed to be and feel. They have an opinion about everything. They’ll control you by invalidating your emotions if they don’t fit into their rulebook. They often start sentences with “You know what you need?” and then proceed to tell you. You end up feeling dominated, demeaned, or put down.

How to protect your emotions: Never try to control a controller, although do try to be reasonably assertive and confident. You could say: “I value your advice but really need to work through this myself.” Don’t play the victim or sweat the small stuff. Focus on high priority issues rather than on putting the cap on the toothpaste when dealing with a controller.

The Splitter or Borderline Personality

Splitters will keep you on an emotional rollercoaster as they function in the world of love/hate relationships. They see things in black and white terms as either good or bad. One minute they’ll idolize you and the next you’re the sworn enemy! They have an ability to know how to pit people against each another and will retaliate if they feel you have wronged them. They are people who are fundamentally damaged. Inwardly they feel as if they don’t exist and only feel ‘alive’ when experiencing anger. You’ll have to walk on egg shells to avoid their anger.

How to protect your emotions: Stay calm and train yourself not to react when your buttons are pushed. Splitters feed off anger so they try to provoke it. They respond best to structure and limit setting. So, in an angry confrontation, you could say: “I’m leaving until you get calmer. Then we can talk.” Another tip is to refuse to take sides when they try to turn you against someone else. With family members, it’s best to show a united front with the aim of not allowing the splitter’s venomous opinions to poison your relationships.

My blog today is based on Dr Judith Orloff’s views on Emotional Vampires from her book called “Emotional freedom: liberate yourself from negative feelings and transform your life”. She is a psychiatrist and NY Times bestselling author.

Visit Dr. Orloff’s YouTube Channel at

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *