I've come to believe, experientially more than conceptually, that mind is more than the physical body and brain, and that we are far more connected with each other, and our planet, than we can personally imagine. We are very permeable, indeed we have to be so, because we are constantly exchanging life force with the planet and everyone who has ever lived with every breath we take; exchanging energy and information with each step we take and every word we utter. The exchange and negotiation of energy is the fundamental dance of life.
Most people value empathy, the ability to sense and often emotionally experience, or resonate with, what others are feeling. Empathic individuals are usually compassionate people, sensitives who often become healers, teachers, and profound listeners. Highly empathic people have excellent "antennas" - if they have experience and discernment, they can scan the emotional and psychic environment and determine what is going on beneath the surface. If they don't, they can absorb energy that is not their own unwittingly. I believe this skill of discernment takes time to mature, and an empathic child or unskilled person can often become overwhelmed. Because being empathic can also be detrimental, overwhelming, and even life threatening, and is one of the reasons sensitive people often become alcoholics or recluses in order to "tune out the noise". Highly empathic people, what Dr. Judith Orloff calls "intuitive empaths", can be like velcro - everything sticks to them.
People are always discharging emotional energy. Children scream in anger, cry in frustration, and laugh with pleasure when their needs are met, and so do adults, if not always as obviously. Sometimes it's absolutely necessary to tell our stories, to have our pain witnessed by compassionate others in order to change, to "fore-give", to let go of the trauma and move fore-ward in our lives. But some people have become addicted to dumping negative emotional energy on others, and they can leave an empathic individual drained, or feeling scattered and crazy from absorbing their energy. This can be true of collective energies as well.
I don't like the term "psychic vampires" because of its judgemental terminology. It implies that dreadful, inhuman people are stalking the streets, ready to suck up all of your lifeforce, when the fact is, most of us have at various times in our lives been draining or exhausting. Sometimes people are energy draining because they are, in Buddhist terms, unskillful in their understanding of how to manage their own energy systems, in how to manage their thoughts and social interactions in other words. Many people are energetically exhausting because they have become addicted to complaining, or have adopted a "victim" life stance, which can be addictive as well as socially supported. Carolyn Myss spoke about what she called a "culture of woundology" as a related issue.
Some people have learned, as children, negative ways of achieving attention, which is a form of energy theft if it's not willingly given. I had an acquaintance I worked with who could be absolutely relentless in demanding attention, to the point where otherwise calm, poised people would "lose it" around him. Including me.........one day I found myself screaming at him at the top of my lungs. It was at that moment I noticed he was smiling blissfully - and I painfully saw, briefly, a small child who had found the only way he knew to get attention.
And many people are just plain worn out, ill, grieving, troubled by misfortune, or elderly, and haven't got a lot of personal energy. That doesn't make them "vampires". That often makes them people in need of a little understanding and kindness.
True psychic vampires, I believe, are rare. About 10 years ago, I broke my leg, and was confined to a wheelchair for 4 months. It happened that I was offered a couch in a friends studio, which was in a lovely complex that had other studios, a few shops, and a chiropractor's office, so people were always coming and going, which I enjoyed. But because so much of my energy was going into mending my broken bones, and I often felt weak, I became quite sensitive to how interactions with others affected me. Some people were like bright lights - I felt enlivened when they entered the room. Most were neutral. But there was one woman I'll never forget. Although she was a fascinating woman, who ironically was a practicing psychic, every time she came by I'd be flat on my back afterwards, sometimes all day. I don't know if I would have realized her "vampire" effect so clearly, had I not been in a sensitive lowered energy state because of my recovery. What made her like that? I can't possibly know, although I would bet it arises from some kind of traumatic childhood.
So once again thanks to my friend Charlie Spillar for a great video by Dr. Judith Orloff.
Judith Orloff MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, is author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2011) Her other bestsellers are Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes traditional medicine with cutting edge energy medicine. Her website is: www.drjudithorloff.com