When I treat someone, I generally get a shadow of whatever they are being treated for. If someone comes in with a headache, I usually have a slight one by the time the session is over. When I treat back pain patients, my back always throbs afterward. When someone comes in with gastrointestinal issues, I'll get a flutter of stomach pain that leaves when they leave the office. I know that part of it is the effort I expend-when I am working out the kinks in someone's back, I'm REALLY working, putting strain on my own in the process-but that doesn't explain all of it. It's just another sign of the energetic exchange that takes place between patient and practitioner. From the start, we acupuncturists are taught to shield our energy, to avoid getting sick. Sometimes this is easier said than done. When I'm treating, I am focusing every bit of mental energy I have on getting that patient better. When I'm in that zone, it becomes very difficult to protect myself. Hopefully it will become easier in time; but at this point I simply accept the fact that, while my patient may leave the office pain-free, I will not. And I must admit that I almost relish the discomfort, since it is evidence that the treatment was powerful enough to affect us both!

These small annoyances are tolerable. What I find really difficult, however, is working with vampires. You probably know some yourself. These vampires don't have fangs, but they still manage to suck away at your energy and will. Although I fortunately enjoy being around all of the patients I am currently treating, I have had my fair share of these vampires in the past. They used to drain me dry, leaving me feeling absolutely awful after putting needles in them...until I learned a valuable lesson. Vampires, emotional or otherwise, always need something to latch onto. Whether it's your neck or your energy, if they have nothing to cling to, they can't work their way in.

In my life as an acupuncturist, these vampires have many faces. Some come in full of demands, dictate the treatments, and attempt to get as much as they can for as little as possible. Other vamps smile sweetly and try to passive-aggressively manipulate the entire treatment from beginning to end. Then there are some who are so full of hate and negativity, you can almost see the black cloud circling around their heads. From the moment they walk in the door, they are full of complaints about everyone and everything. Whatever form these vampires take, they all have one thing in common: they feed off the energy of everyone around them.

In your day to day life, you probably don't think in terms of qi and energies, but you still know when a vampire is around. You know that person in your life who constantly exhausts you? You may love them or hate them; either way, when you are around them you feel like you are slowly being drained of spirit. You might always feel depressed after a conversation with this person, or they might leave you with a lingering sense of unexplained guilt. Guilt is usually a trademark of these vampires. If you know someone who ALWAYS makes you feel badly about yourself, it's the work of a vampire who is draining your spirit of confidence in order to boost their own!

So, how do you protect yourself from these people? In my field, I focus very hard on maintaining a sort of energetic bubble between myself and the patient. Remember, give them nothing to latch onto. If my own qi isn't out there, intermingling with theirs, it can't be snatched up. In your life, the concept remains the same. Refuse to get sucked into an argument-that is what they want! Those words of anger or defense from you are their way in. Don't respond or get drawn into their neediness and negativity. Build an emotional wall between you and their fangs.