by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
When you drive down a road with a dead end, you get to a point where you have to stop and redirect your route. The signs that are often put at the end of a dead end serve as boundaries to protect you from driving further into an area that shouldn't be entered.
Similarly, speed limits on the road create boundaries to limit how fast you can drive on a particular road or highway. These and other signs on the road provide boundaries to protect you and other drivers.
In the same way, you must set boundaries to protect yourself from situations and people that may be harmful to you on the road of life.
What’s a Qi Sucker?
Some people get energized by spending a lot of time around people while others prefer to spend more time alone.
Personally, I love being around people and I get a lot of energy from socializing, but I also need time alone to recharge. I’m always looking for the balance between spending time with people I enjoy and allowing myself the time I need to nurture my inner world.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that to come closer to this balance, I have to set boundaries on both my time with others and the people with whom I spend my time. This means saying no more often than I may like.
Once a chronic people pleaser, I used to be tormented by how people might react if I say no or do something to disappoint them. Though I still struggle with this at times, I've learned that the stronger and more clear my boundaries, the better I am at spending quality time with others and the more available I can be with my energy for my patients, students, friends, and family members.
Years ago, one of my early mentors taught me the concept of ‘Qi suckers,’ sometimes also referred to as ‘energy vampires.’ In Chinese Medicine, Qi is what’s referred to as energy or life force (like the Sanskrit word prana). We take Qi in through our breath and can feel its presence in everything around and within us when we tune in.
People who are Qi suckers draw from the life force of others as a result of their own imbalances and neediness.
You know you’ve encountered a Qi sucker if after spending time with one you walk away feeling depleted and often guilty, even though you really haven’t done anything wrong.
Qi suckers are master manipulators who are often very charming and attractive.
It’s easy to be drawn in by their warmth and charm, but once you get too close to a Qi sucker—the more you approach the warmth of their Fire—the more easily you get burned.
An interaction with a Qi sucker may look something like this:
Qi sucker: “Hey, what are you doing this afternoon? Wanna go shopping with me?”
You: “No, thanks, I have a lot to do this afternoon.”
Qi sucker: “Really? What do you have to do that’s so important?”
You: “Well, I have to finish a work project and clean the house.”
Qi sucker: “Ok, whatever. You never like to do anything with me. Sometimes I feel like we’re not even really friends anymore. I don’t care. Do what you want. It’s your life.”
Qi suckers can be great people and you can really have a great time with them in short interactions. However, conversations have the potential to escalate quickly into heated disagreements or arguments when they’re triggered, and they are very easy to trigger!
You know you’re with a Qi sucker if you feel like you’re walking on eggshells and have to constantly watch what you’re saying in order to not offend them or hurt their feelings in some way.
The only way to protect yourself from a Qi sucker is to set clear boundaries.
You can read about clear boundary setting and its impact on your health in this article.
According to Chinese Medicine, boundaries are associated with the Earth element. Earth provides the fertile soil that allows plants to grow and flourish to provide nourishment and sustenance; it gives protection and shelter as well as stability and substance.
Earth also contains water, creates boundaries to define continents and carries us through space with stability. Earth represents safety, protection and our home base.
Being centered, calm, and balanced, feeling at home, and having a sense of harmony and peacefulness are the essence of a healthy Earth energy. Creating a comfortable home and cooking are essential factors to nourishing the Earth energy in your life.
Cultivating a healthy Earth means understanding and prioritizing your needs. If you pour all of your energy into helping others or work excessively, we'll have nothing left for yourself.
If you don't discipline yourself around your diet and set boundaries around eating generally healthy foods, your health will fail. If you continuously go to bed late because you don't have the discipline to stop working or watching TV at night, you’ll slowly but surely deplete your blood, our Yin, and your essence, which accelerates the aging process.
In other words, strong boundaries around how and with whom you spend your time, what you eat and even when you sleep is fundamental to your health.
In the body, these boundaries are established by the Earth element organs that govern digestion, the Stomach and Spleen. Digestive health is therefore essential to creating healthy boundaries that prevent Qi suckers from draining your energy.
Nourishment and the Earth element
Earth energy is about transformation—transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of our thoughts so we're not stuck obsessing about negative things and can have clarity of mind.
Earth energy is also associated with your relationship with yourself and others, which begins with your relationship to your family, especially your mother. As the archetype for the Earth type personality, the Mother represents unconditional love and the nourishing qualities that exist within each of us.
The way someone affects you is based on how you respond to that person’s behavior rather than the behavior itself. When you set strong boundaries, you can protect your Qi and make sure that you’re not not giving away your energy or joy to others.
What You Can Learn from Qi Suckers
The gift of having a Qi sucker in your life is that they’re excellent boundary teachers.
In fact, while you may feel guilty and cautious about hurting their feelings, what you’ll find most often about a Qi sucker is that you can clearly change your dynamic with him or her simply by setting a strong boundary.
Boundary setting either pushes the person entirely out of your life or forces him or her to grow in a way that allows for a healthy relationship.
Do you have a Qi sucker in your life?
How do you deal with him or her? How could you change the way you interact or set boundaries so that he or she doesn’t steal your joy or energy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.