Story time: I met someone some months back who is teaching me a lot about the true nature of helping. Let’s call them Veronica.

When Veronica walks into a room, she has a big smile on her face and it’s beaming out to everyone in the room. Nice, right? For some reason, this put me on edge, and it took me a couple of weeks to identify what in me was being triggered by this. I mean, someone’s walking into a room smiling–what could possibly be wrong with that? Am I just being a jerk? (Well, maybe, but there’s also a lesson here. 😉 )

As I got to know Veronica, I realized that she needed a lot of validation and approval. A LOT. I began to watch her energy and how it interacted with my energy and that of the other people in the room when she came in all smiles, and here’s what I saw: Veronica’s energy flared brightly (“Look at me!”) and then it began to rapidly snake outward, contacting this person’s aura, then the next person, then the next, until she got enough “hits” of attention.

When I focused solely on the energetic interaction between the me and her, I saw her energy probing the edge of my energy field, and my aura reflexively “stiffened” as a protective response–no wonder I felt on guard around her!

Fast forward to the present, and I have seen one of Veronica’s prominent patterns play out again and again…and again. I’m going to use the example of massage, since I’m in massage therapy school right now and I’ve got massage on the brain. Here’s what Veronica’s pattern looks like:

  • She walks up to someone, all smiles, with her energy tendrils rapidly making contact with their aura, as if sensing for an opening.
  • She then starts massaging them, without asking–a clear indication of poor boundaries–even if their facial expression and other body language indicates that they are not receptive to this.
  • Her energy then oscillates between extending into the other person’s aura and then dipping back into her own, and so on. Interestingly, the people with whom she engages most often are the people who, for various reasons of their own, are “willing” to give her energy in this exchange. I have seen her try this with people with stronger boundaries and auras, and when she doesn’t get the energy hit she’s after, she moves on to someone else.*

If I were to describe this in less energetic terms, Veronica walks up to someone, disregards their boundaries in order to make contact with them, and then proceeds to take from them as much, if not more, than she is supposedly “giving.” In practical terms, the latter interaction might look like this: Even though she is giving this person a massage ostensibly to help them relax, she spends the entire massage asking them how it feels (which is taking in the form of constant approval seeking) that the person can’t actually relax.

Watching this interaction play out numerous times and witnessing my internal and external reactions to it has allowed me to explore my own relationship to helping, a valuable inquiry as my massage school graduation date draws near. While the exploration is far from over, two things seem apparent:

  1. When we aren’t clear on what our needs are, we do weird shit to get those needs met. (I don’t think Veronica is consciously aware of how approval/energy hungry she is, thus it’s hard for her to get those needs met in a more conscious and consensual way.)
  2. When we aren’t practicing regular self-care, our depletion can lead us to manipulative “helping” in order to get what we want: attention, “love,” validation, etc.

One of the best ways I have found to shine the light of awareness on these things within myself are meditation combined with journaling. Meditation creates the space for parts of myself to surface, and it builds the practice of being able to sit with whatever those things are, rather than rejecting them and pushing them back into the subconscious. Journaling allows me to see patterns, and the simple act of writing seems to draw out insights and connections in a way that thinking and talking often do not.

*If this description of energy piques your curiosity, I recommend reading a book called The Psychic Vampire Codex, particularly Sections I and II, “Awakening and Recognition” and “Feeding and Energy Exchange.”