We know that “narcissist” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, and some folks are quick to apply it to an ex-lover or family member or friend. While awareness of this concept is healthy, so is remembering that it is, in a mental health context, a serious condition that shouldn’t be applied to someone you’re mad at. ~ ed.
I am an empath. I discovered I was an empath after I got involved in a very deep and highly destructive relationship with a narcissist.
I am writing this article from the perspective of an empath; however, I would love to read a perspective from the opposite side if there are any narcissists that would like to offer their views on this topic.
Through writing about the empath personality type I have connected with many other people who class themselves as an empath, and time and again I have heard people tell me how they have also attracted relationships with narcissists. There is a link. So, I decided to explore it further.
This is my theory…
From my own experience and studies on the narcissist personality type, there is always one core trait: A narcissist is wounded.
Something, somewhere along the line, usually stemming from childhood, causes a person to feel worthless and unvalued and, due to this, they will constantly and very desperately seek validation.
Here comes the empath, the healer.
An empath has the ability to sense and absorb other people’s pain and often takes it on as though it were their own. If an empath is not consciously aware of boundaries and does not understand how to protect themselves, they will very easily and very quickly bond with the narcissist in order to try to fix and repair any damage while attempting to eradicate all their pain.
What the empath fails to realise is that the narcissist is a taker. An energy sucker—a vampire so to speak. They will draw the life and soul out of anyone they come into contact with, given the chance. This is so that they can build up their own reserves and, in doing so, they can use the imbalance to their advantage.
This dynamic will confuse and debilitate an empath. It’s as if empaths do not have a full understanding of their own—or other people’s—capabilities; they will fail to see that not everyone is like them. An empath will always put themselves in other people’s shoes and experience the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of others, while forgetting that other people may have an agenda very different to their own and that not everyone is sincere.
The narcissist’s agenda is one of manipulation; it is imperative they are in a position whereby they can rise above others and be in control. The empath’s agenda is to love, heal, and care. There is no balance, and it is extremely unlikely there ever will be one. The more love and care an empath offers, the more powerful and in control a narcissist will become.
The more powerful the narcissist becomes, the more likely the empath will retreat into a victim status. Then, there is a very big change—the empath will take on narcissistic traits as they too become wounded and are constantly triggered by the damage that comes with being in the company of a narcissist. Before long, an extremely vicious circle has begun to swirl.
When a narcissist sees that an empath is wounded, they will seize on this, and the main intention will be to keep the empath down. The lower down an empath becomes, the higher a narcissist will feel. An empath will begin to frantically seek love, validation, confirmation, and acceptance from a narcissist and each cry for help will affirm to the narcissist what they are desperate to feel inside—worthy. A bitter battle can ensue.
As an empath focuses solely on their pain, trauma, and the destruction of their lives, they become self-obsessed and fail to see where the damage is coming from. Instead of looking outwards and seeing what is causing it, the empath will turn everything inward and blame themselves.
An empath at this stage must realise the situation they are in and wake up to it, as anyone who is deeply in pain and has been hurt can then become a narcissist themselves as they turn their focus onto their own pain and look for others to make them feel okay again.
Any attempt to communicate authentically with the narcissist will be futile as they will certainly not be looking to soothe and heal anyone else. Not only this, they are extremely charismatic and manipulative and have a powerful way of turning everything away from themselves and onto others. A narcissist will blame their own pain on an empath, plus they will also make sure the empath feels responsible for the pain they too are suffering.
An empath will know that they are in a destructive relationship by this stage and will feel so insecure, unloved and unworthy that it can be easy to blame all of their destruction on the narcissist.
However, an empath should not be looking to blame anyone else. An empath has a choice: to remain the victim, a pawn in the narcissists game or to garner all strength they can muster and find a way out.
Emotionally exhausted, lost, depleted, and debilitated an empath will struggle to understand what has happened to the once loving, attentive, and charismatic person they were once attracted to.
However we allow ourselves to be treated is a result of our own choices. If an empath chooses to stay in a relationship with a narcissist and refuses to take responsibility for the dynamic, they are choosing at some level what they believe they are worth on the inside. An empath cannot let their self-worth be determined by a narcissist. It is imperative they trust and believe in themselves enough to recognise that they are not deserving of the words and actions the narcissist delivers—and to look for an escape.
In an empath’s eyes, all they searched and looked for was someone to take care of and love and to ultimately “fix.” That is where the trouble began and that is the most profound part of this that an empath must realise.
We are not here to fix anyone. We cannot fix anyone. Everyone is responsible for and capable of fixing themselves, but only if they choose to.
The more an empath can learn about the personality of a narcissist, the sooner they will spot one and the less chance they have of developing a relationship with one. If a relationship is already underway, it is never too late to seek help, seek understanding and knowledge, and to dig deep into one’s soul and recognise our own strengths and capabilities so that we can do everything we can to build the courage and confidence to walk away—for good.
The chance of a narcissist changing is highly unlikely, so we shouldn’t stick around waiting for it to happen. If a narcissist wants to change, then great, but it should never happen at the expense of anyone else. They are not consciously aware of their behaviour and the damage it causes and in their game they will sacrifice anyone and anything for their own gain—regardless of what pretty lies and sweet nothings they try to whisper.
An empath is authentic and is desperate to live true to their soul’s purpose and will very likely find the whole relationship a huge lesson, a dodged bullet, and painfully awakening.
A narcissist will struggle to have any connection to their authentic self and will likely walk away from the relationship very easily once they realise they have lost their ability to control the empath. The game is no longer pleasurable if they are not having their ego constantly stroked, so they will seek out their next victim.
The ability for these two types to bond is quite simply impossible. The narcissist’s heart is closed, an empath’s is open—it is nothing short of a recipe for a huge disaster, and not a beautiful one.