"Difficult People," Energy Suckers, Black Holes and What Thereof Follows

in psychology •  20 days ago

Earlier today, I found myself party to a conversation about so-called "difficult people."

It's typically the sort of discussion I avoid because it's such a subjective term: One person's "difficult" is often someone else's "delightful."

But there are some general exceptions.

In this instance, we were talking about the sort of people you might classify as "energy suckers" because every time you spend time around them, you come away feeling emotionally and psychologically drained, as a result of the experience.

Spring flowers

Energy Vampires: That's Just Annoying!

Most of the time, the energy drain happens because these people are profoundly self-involved and everyone around them end up "making little adjustments" to their own behavior in order to be accommodating because not being accommodating tends to result in delays, headaches, whining and minor tantrums.

I have noticed that one of the "common threads" in interacting with ostensibly "difficult" people is that — in their world — there is only one way things can exist, be dealt with, or acceptably be handled.

These folks' entire sense of self seems wrapped up in things being done their way and if anyone at all wants to dispute that way all manners of trouble arise.

In essence, most "difficult" people are perceived as such because they seem to have no openness at all towards ideas that depart from their established ideas... and the idea of (working) alternative possibilities and compromise is beyond their grasp.

Leaf in the sunshine

Why Is it SO Draining?

Let me start by saying that this is not meant to be some kind of indictment of anyone... simply an explanation of how we get to feeling as we do.

The other thing I want to stress is that this isn't about sorting people into "good" or "bad" categories. I know quite a few super kind-hearted and interesting people who are exhausting to be around because they turn even the simplest tasks into a "grand production."

Lastly, the term "Energy Vampire" is perhaps unnecessarily negative. Often, I'll use the term "Black Holes," instead. After all, a black hole is something towards which all things flow. And that's a pretty accurate depiction.

However, the essence of being friends with someone — or even just choosing to hang out with them — is that it is a pleasant and relaxing activity. Key word here is relaxing. Some people — even if they are quite interesting — you just can't relax around. And not only can't you relax, you constantly feel a little bit on edge, even if you're not 100% aware of it, on a conscious level. You find yourself waiting for the next thing that's going to make things go not very smoothly.

The view from downtown

So What to Do?

Of course, the first step is simply being aware that you are interacting with someone who seems exhausting to be around.

After that point, the choice becomes yours. If — like me — you only have limited energy to give, in the first place, I recommend simply limiting interaction with such a person.

Maybe that sounds obvious, but it may not be as easy as it seems. Remember, these are not "evil" people or people with direct malicious intent. In fact, part of our frustration tends to stem from the mere fact that they are totally oblivious to the impact they are having on the people around them.

In most cases, thinking you can "change their ways" is simply a recipe for frustration, and not suggested. You are probably better off simply ending a relationship/friendship if it feels like too much for you.

Thanks for reading!

How about YOU? Do you have any "energy sponges" in your life? Have you ever spent time around someone who seemed "nice" and was exhausting to deal with, at the same time? How did you handle the situation? Leave a comment-- share your experiences-- be part of the conversation!


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Thanks for a great post @denmarkguy! I know people like that, where everything is an issue ... actually my ex was like that. Hence the "ex" part :) I think there's a element of selfishness to "these" people too, especially because they are oblivious to any one else's feelings around them. Or maybe a little lacking in empathy too. I often wonder why or how people become this way.


And hence the EX part! I totally get that... I left one like that behind, a long time ago, as well. Far too much drah-mah!

I suppose it varies from person to person, although in many cases they were raised in families that either TOTALLY ignored them (overcompensation) or TOTALLY coddled them (learned behavior). In the case of my distant ex, she had "learned" that the only way to get significant attention in a larger family was to be SICK. So she always had "ailments" to get people to rally around her....

But yes, there may be an element of selfishness, too. It's one thing that they manipulate situations... but WHY did they get to believe they get to be the center of the universe?


My ex was totally coddled, but your ex sounds interesting too :)

WHY did they get to believe they get to be the center of the universe?

The million dollar unanswered question :)

You have nailed it with this one, not only do the suck the energy out of you but they have to do it with so much "drama".
The wife and I have learned to just shut people out of our lives that fit this profile of people you have mentioned.
Thanks man for a good read.


And it's easy enough to deal with when someone is obviously manipulative... it's all the passive-aggressive machinations that get to me. At first you might think they really are having a difficult period... until their behavior lets you know that it's a lifestyle and definitely not a "temporary setback."


I have learnt along the way to limit my interaction with them
I have family like this .... gahhhhhh


Yeah, I've had some family members that were rather like that, too... and it's difficult to deal with them, even for short times.

Learns something new today's. Theae words were quite new to me...but I do often meet such kind of people...and I prefer to ignore them as much as I can

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I know these kinds and I use the same phrasing as "energy vampires" or even "fun vortexes" seeing as they suck all the fun out of things and it goes down the plug-hole haha.

I limit my interaction with them, hardly say anything and initiate operation "phase-out". I find the fun returns and eventually, you will attract the right people in to your world.

Great post :)

Ditto to Kaerpediem,

I have very few family I keep contact with.

Bordeline Hermit here, a "Trucking Recluse" if that is even possible.

My career seems to be the "Vampire" the time it has drained from my life is mind boggling.

Just yesterday I was 29.....

Thank God I found a friend I can get along with...... Even if She is a CAT.... Lol

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I once prided myself at having the skill of being able to have a constructive relationship with even the largest of dumbasses. Then, I got to the point when I am too old for this shit!

So, now I have little patience for life suckers but have the skill to deal with them while I determine them to be so.

Wisdom makes white hairs grow on your chin!

I have had many energy sponges in my life and have made a conscious decision to step away once I realize that I am dealing with one...


I think we all know at least one such person. For some, it's a family member. Even a close family member. I have tried limiting my exposure to some difficult people. That option sometimes also means limiting your exposure to some other people who don't deserve that treatment. Then you have to figure out a way to "work around" the difficult person. If you're an introvert, this problem is magnified, I believe.

Hi @denmarkguy, I have dealt and am still living with a friend of mine who is autistic. We didn't know until she mentioned. Previously, I used to think why was it so tiring to talk to her eventhough she just basically talk about normal stuff. I kid you now, she is a nice person with good-heart. Later on, we found out together that her brain simply wired up in different way and she can't understand how we feel so when she talks or communicate, it does sound like everything is about her. But words are limited to express how she truly feels.

And yes, she ended up not having many friends. People will start to avoid her because they felt that they are tired whenever she is around.

When I am tired, I would cut down communication with her. Meanwhile, as of now, I am helping her to thrive more. I am still struggling to breath on top of the water because it is true, she suck out energy from me (yet it is not intentional).

I just need to learn to listen to her heart and not her words. To put on more patience when I talk to her. Or just simply being around her.

Spot on @denmarkguy!! I find myself daily trying to avoid energy vampires. The sad part is working in this environment depletes me completely. My Saturdays are fuzzy because I slept so hard I end up with aches, pains and headaches. The only day of the week I feel functionable is Sundays. They truly can inhibit life for others regardless of the practices you have in place to protect yourself. It seems worse when they are your friends. Many people say drop the negative. It's not that they are negative it is that it take a lot of energy to deal with them.

Thank you for such a good insightful posting.