Today I was walking on a beach - it was drizzeling and there was low fog. The clouds out over the sea made interesting patterns of light, and you could see the waves rolling in. I spent a long time staring at the sea, thinking about one thing after another, and finally it hit me: I was an emotional vampire.
A vampire is a creature that consumes someone elses life (blood) in order to experience life. Without blood, the vampire will whither and die. As an emotional vampire I need to consume other peoples emotions in order to experience my own.
As my plans have gradually been winding down I've had more and more free time. Generally I've spent it working on various projects of my own - building things in the workshop, working on games, reading articles. Generally these have been solitary pursuits. As a result, my mental state has slowly been declining to the point where I now feel empty - going through the motions but completely passionless. The only high points are ones with other people: dancing at a local dance class, gifting a knife to a friend and so on. Two days without human contact leaves me feeling like a robot.
One interesting thing is that consuming other peoples emotions can have some interesting effects - it isn't always necessary. For example at dance class I often fake cheerfulness for the first ten minutes or so. After that time the people dancing with me have cheered up and I can "feed" off their cheer in a spiral of awesome. Occasionally I haven't faked the smiles and have ended up with an evening of dancing with unhappy people. Those initial smiles are worth it.
The same can happen in reverse, where I inherit another persons gloom and we spiral down. In retrospect this happened a few times while I was living in Switzerland leading to some of my most depressed weeks so far. We'd be discussing a topic and together come to the conclusion that life was hopeless and the future was bleak. However, a couple months before I left I observed this depression-spiral and, once again, discovered it was manipulable. With a small input of hope, the atmosphere of a conversation can be changed. I have no idea how much of this emotional manipulation is in my own mind, but I like to think some of it is real.
In an old sci-fi book there is an alien character (Priscilla) who is an empath. To make the world around them a nicer place to live, Priscilla subtley manipulates the emotions to make everyone else happy. And that's the difference between a blood vampire and an emotional vampire. Blood is zero sum - they suck the life from a person and the person has less life. But with emotion there is no such limitation. You can add joy to a persons life and your own joy does not have to decrease.