Emotional Parasites and How to Debug

April 14, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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parasite.jpgIt’s a reality that when you are at your most vulnerable, battling cancer, you can expect to be attacked by emotional parasites.

Signs you are dealing with an emotional parasite:

  • Parasites are emotionally needy and have a victim mentality. Guilt is the weapon of choice.
  • Your cancer becomes all about how it affects THEM
  • Your interactions with the parasite provide no nourishing return for you and in fact leave you drained of energy
  • Parasites will often act out to return the focus back to them

There are often two types of emotional parasites:

  • Parasites who were present before your diagnosis. The only thing that has changed is your ability to cope with them.
  • Parasites who crawl to the surface when you are diagnosed. They show up because they are now faced with the reality of change in their lives.

Sometimes you have the option to eliminate emotional parasites from your life; however, in the case of an employer or a family member, often you do not. If the parasite in your life is someone you love, then perhaps you have developed methods for dealing with them in the past, but right now you are using all your energy to deal with your cancer journey and there is no left over energy for the parasite.

The new parasites in your life may be a spouse or parent who is accustomed to you being in charge or a significant other who cannot deal with thoughts of mortality, yours or theirs. It isn’t unusual for these people purposely act out to either prove their mortality or try to get what they perceive as normalcy back in their lives. Acting out can take the form of anything from a real or psychosomatic illness to marital indiscretions.

Once you have recognized the emotional parasites in your life the next step is decide what you are going to do.

How to Debug:

An industrial strength insecticide is the obvious solution but not always practical.

If are dealing with a loved one who chooses not to change or a parasite in the work environment, total eradication may not be an option. In these instances it is important to develop realistic methods to keep the parasite from functioning at full strength.


  • Create a plan. Having a plan for dealing with emotional parasites is as important as any other part of your treatment modalities.
  • Rehearse dialogs for scenarios you know will come up.
  • Consider a mantra that will help you refocus your energy back to yourself. My friend Stephanie coined this one that I use often: “Guilt is a useless emotion.”
  • Utilize a professional therapist to assist you in understanding your relationship with the parasite.
  • Part of your cancer treatment should include a support team. Call your support team for an intervention when needed. They can take you away or allow you vent time.
  • Whatever you do, do not feed the parasite. (Feeding is any nonproductive response they purposely elicit from you by pushing your buttons.)

For other parasites in your life:


  • Evaluate your relationships. If someone in your life isn’t contributing to your cure, then you may need to temporarily push them outside of your immediate circle.
  • Eradication may be necessary. Often life changing situations provide the impetus to completely eliminate negative and parasitic relationships.
  • Set boundaries. Perhaps a quick coffee with a parasite would be a better choice than an entire evening.
  • Be honest. If you simply do not have the energy to deal with someone tell them you are going to pass on a get together as you must reserve your energy for your battle.

Parasites can be deadly. Don’t underestimate them, and do seek help from your health care team, because you are the most important part of your treatment plan.

It is all about YOU.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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