Emotional Vampires: Book Review
There are many things that make pastoring difficult. We are expected to be a jack of all trades. We are often expected to be administrators, strategic planners, awe-inspiring preachers, excellent teachers, counselors, be present for all births, funerals and special events in our members’ lives and that is just for starters.
To me though, the biggest challenge as a pastor is dealing with all the different kinds of people one encounters in a typical church. I’ve heard it said that people are messy. Some members are committed and a joy to work with. Others are strong-willed and constantly trying to usurp authority from others. Some are convinced that pastors exist to do their bidding, others love the pastor and shower him/her with gifts and service.
As you can probably tell from the title, Emotional Vampires deals with the difficult people in your life. The subtitle of the book says a lot about the subject matter, “Dealing with people who drain you dry.” A term I’ve heard used for the types of people discussed in this book is Extra Grace Required (EGR) people.
Jesus himself warned us in Matthew 10:16 when he stated, ““Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” As Pastors, we need to be able to identify the wolves and take measures to protect the sheep under our care. This book helps in that regard.
Albert Bernstein, the author, targets five main types of personality disorders, antisocial, histrionic, narcissists, obsessive-compulsives, and paranoids.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BOOK:
The first and most important rule is: whatever is rewarded will happen more often.
The vampires in your life will flatter you, make promises or threats, throw tantrums, send you on guilt trips, or do anything else their devious little minds dream up. If you give them their way, you are teaching them that manipulating you pays off.
If you say no and someone (an emotional vampire) asks you why not, don’t answer.
A key takeaway from this book is that one must learn that emotional vampires do not operate with the same internal rules of right and wrong used by normal people. They typically lack empathy. Emotional Vampires (EV’s) think almost solely about themselves, their interests and what is going to personally benefit them. Other people become tools for them to get what they want.
EV’s have often pestered and bullied us because we have rewarded them for their efforts. Most people hate confrontation. Most EV’s thrive on it. They use confrontation as a means of getting their way. They have learned that if they complain and push hard enough, they usually get their way. This usually comes at the cost of our integrity, peace, and happiness.
As Bernstein points out, ignoring EV’s when they are throwing tantrums or pressing for their way, we must be consistent. If we resist for a while and succeed at ignoring their tantrums but then give in when they keep making an issue of it, we are simply teaching the EV’s in our life to be more persistent in their drama tactics.
PRINCIPLE #1: The fact that vampires are throwing tantrums means that you’re winning.
PRINCIPLE #2: Remember to hang in there, no matter what. If you give in after the tantrum starts, you’ll only teach EV’s to be persistent.
BASIC DEFINITION OF THE FIVE VAMPIRE TYPES:
- ANTISOCIAL: They are addicted to excitement. They don’t follow typical social rules. These vampires love parties. They hate boredom. worse than a stake through the heart. All they want out of life is a good time, a little action, and immediate gratification of their every desire.
- HISTRIONICS: They live for attention and approval. Looking good is their specialty. Everything else is unimportant detail. They are good at putting on a show and producing a lot of drama.
- NARCISSISTS: They want to live out their grandiose fantasies of being the smartest, most talented, and all-around best people in the world. They are legends in their own minds.
- OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVES: Addicted to Safety which they believe they can achieve through scrupulous attention to detail and complete control over everything.
- PARANOIDS: Their goal is to know the truth and banish all ambiguity from their lives. They live by concrete rules that they believe are carved in stone. They expect everyone else to live by their rules as well. They look below the surface for hidden meanings and deeper realities.
EMOTIONAL MATURITY = MENTAL HEALTH
According to Bernstein, emotional maturity is the same thing as mental health. He goes on to discuss in chapter two why he believes this. His conclusion is that emotional vampires are the way they are because they have failed to embrace or were not taught healthy emotional responses. They don’t act like normal people do. EV’s lack empathy since empathy requires enough maturity to look beyond one’s own needs and feelings.
EV’s have a victim mentality. It is always someone else who is responsible for their problems, their suffering, their divorce or any other negative consequence they have lived through.
I could easily write a 20 page post on this book. It has many excellent points. It is built on a foundation of research and Bernstein’s experience as a therapist. It is the type of book you’ll want to refer to again and again. I highly recommend it be a part of your library of resources. Next time you are having to deal with a difficult person, you’ll want to give this book a look over. Bernstein has done a good job at focusing on practical strategies and avoiding unnecessary theorizing or wordiness.