(Read time: 1-2 mins)
Says the empath, “Milan Kundera is right, ‘For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.’”
“No,” says the cold empath, “Steve Martin is right, ‘Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.’”
Now, imagine these two together in a relationship. It’s like light, and a black hole. Light: the empath, comforting warmth, a giver, a feeler, a healer. The black hole: the narcissist, cold empath, dark cruelty, a taker, a taker, a taker.
An empath and a narcissist together in a relationship is a perfect storm of one-sided woe.
The empath is highly sensitive to others’ suffering, compassionate, intuitive, and has an inherent desire to heal other’s pain.
The cold empath (narcissist), has a cognitive, dictionary understanding of empathy, but no emotional correlation with it, whatsoever. The narcissist is conceptually aware of empathy, but the only connection the narcissist has with empathy is his expertly manufactured pretense of it, in order to manipulate and control his partner.
It is difficult to grasp that a person feels no empathy and has no regard whatsoever for others’ suffering. It is extremely difficult for an empath to grasp and accept this. She truly believes that there is a caring, considerate person underneath all of the pain, and that the narcissist only needs more love, patience, and understanding to draw it out. That the empath believes this, is genuinely noble and compassionate. It is also self-destructive, and is a reason for the empath’s prolonged and intense suffering during, and after the relationship with the narcissist.
All relationships with narcissists are destructive, and involve conflict, confusion, suffering, and abuse. And empaths, because of their natural drive to heal others, are particularly vulnerable to a narcissist’s pretense of empathy, guilt trips, abuse, control, and emotional manipulation. Because of her nature, an empath is likely to remain in a relationship with a narcissist longer than a non-empath would, this magnifies the impact of the toxic abuse, and increases the likelihood of developing C-PTSD.
It is important for empaths to understand that, the devotion they feel to the narcissist is based, to a large degree, on their inner drive to heal and give, and their need to do this in order to feel fulfilled, but that not everyone deserves their unique gifts, and loving compassion.
To help determine whether you are an empath, the following is a list of empath traits, as identified by Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, and author of “An Empath’s Survival Guide”:
1. Highly sensitive
2. Absorb other people’s emotions
3. Highly intuitive
4. Introverted (become overwhelmed in crowds, prefer to limit social engagements)
5. Need alone time to recharge
6. Can be overwhelmed and engulfed in intimate relationships
7. Are targets for energy vampires
8. Are replenished by being in nature
9. Highly tuned senses – excessive noise, talking, smells, activity, can fray nerves
10. Have generous and giving hearts, and can be taken advantage of
Empaths are eternal givers. Narcissists are eternal takers. The empath will give of herself until she literally has nothing left. The narcissist will take until the empath is completely drained, with only wisps, folds, and fragments of herself in a damaged heap on the floor. The narcissist will grind his heel into what remains of the empath. And he will walk away. He will look back at her with contempt, criticize her for not meeting his needs, blame her for failing him, mock her, and move on without a care in the world. He will be a mile away, and he will have her shoes.
But this is not the end of the story. As much as the empath is a giver, she is strong and resilient. It takes an incredible amount of strength to offer the level of compassion and love that an empath offers. All the empath needs to do is take this strength, and give it to herself. It is a transformative opportunity to grow, and develop areas within her that need development: boundaries, and self care, which empowers her to thrive, and share her beautiful and strengths with others, without compromising herself.
*Articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist, and feminine pronouns to describe the partner. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse, which they are.