ways to deal with an emotional parasite

While relationships are all about give and take, sometimes you may find yourself in one that is lopsided. You may find that you're giving much more than you're receiving, and this pattern can be very destructive in any kind of relationship. Whether it's a partner, spouse, child or friend that is generously feeding his/ her own needs without any particular regard for yours, this person becomes an 'emotional parasite' or an 'emotional vampire.' The giver always finds himself/ herself offering a shoulder to cry on or being apologetic. Such relationships can leave the host emotionally drained, frustrated, inadequate and used.

The forces at work in such relationships are complex and deep-rooted in the self-worth of both the people tangled in the tortuous bond. there is a strong power play between sadism and masochism. "Emotional parasites attract masochists as the giver keeps giving in and if they don't get anything in return, it is okay with them. When you look at such a relationship objectively, you can't do anything about it because it doesn't seem to bother both partners, even if the balance is off."

Spot the parasite

Before you fall prey to an emotional parasite, learn how to recognize one:

- Emotional parasites are all for you in the beginning

- They will withdraw when they get what they want

- They excel at inciting guilt

- They can be drama queens and narcissistic

- There is a strong flair for playing the victim, at least till they reel in the bait

- They run away from responsibility , "Since they are very good manipulators, playing the blame game is a common trait. Emotional parasites tend to lack empathy for others. Another strong trait is feeling self-pity, so they will commonly resort to the 'nobody understands me' to manipulate people."

Such people are also not beyond threatening to commit suicide,, but they will never be able to go through with it.

A coping mechanism
An emotional parasite often resorts to manipulative behaviour because it is their coping mechanism for survival. They could be nursing a deep-seated hurt and declare vengeance towards the world. Their negative self-image usually develops within the family as a child.

"This could be a faulty reinforcement pattern. If they are rewarded when they kept taking and not giving, the behaviour is reinforced." The low self-esteem is usually disguised as a superiority complex and it may lead the emotional parasite to criticize people and reject them.

The most common examples is in a parent-child relationship. In the urban space, the child is the puppeteer. The mother may feel guilty for saying 'no' to her child and she can't opt out. In a marriage, a spouse can love their partner before marriage, but become an emotional parasite later by not being attentive to the partner's needs. The negativity from the destructive relationships could spill over into other relationships like the one the taker has with you.

Deal with emotional parasites

- Be wary of the superficial charm

- Check their motive list and see what they want from you

- Be unavailable to them for some time

- It is important to level your expectations with the person

- A one-sided relationship needs therapeutic intervention. Don't think of it as a Me vs. You situation. Introspect on your role to detoxify the relationship

- Strategic and structural family therapy helps. It creates boundaries or limits within the relationship.

- In therapy, it is crucial to break the cycle which involves the emotional parasite blaming the giver all the time or making a scapegoat out of the giver

- Where one problem created by the emotionally parasitic partner leads to another and escalates, it can lead to the domino effect. This pattern is broken in therapy.

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