December 14, 2015

An Open Letter to Empaths—From a Recovering Narcissist.

Flickr/Fe Ilya

Editor’s note: Dear friends, remember that this is just one person’s experience and one point of view. We may disagree with this author, even violently or vehemently, as some of you have expressed, and that’s great. We’re a community that allows space for dialogue—even for some of us to be “wrong.” That’s how we learn.

We acknowledge the distinction between narcissistic personality traits and a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which should be diagnosed by a licensed professional. We chose to publish this article because we saw it as an offering of forgiveness and compassion and never with the intent of encouraging people to stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Please be kind to one another, even in our disagreeing, which is welcome here. That’s what elephant is for. ~ Ed.


Dear Empath,

We make a great pair you and I.

I have a big broken hole inside of me, and you fill a lot of it, when you are giving and seeing your love and care light up others. Even though I don’t have a lot to give in return—I loved receiving what you have. At least until I woke up to it.

I was the narcissist.

I didn’t know I was the narcissist—I was just really unhappy with my life, and I was looking for that exact right thing that would fill the hole.

When I met a gentle and loving person, they gave me a great lift and made me feel wonderful, I just didn’t have it in me to return the favour—even though I actually did want to. Eventually, the emptiness in me would return, and I would question the value of the relationship I was in and start looking for a new lift. I didn’t do this consciously, but I did do it.

I was empty and disconnected inside, and I used my ex-husband in the way that all the current literature on narcissists describes. I thought it was justified when I raged at him, but really I was quite abusive. I left him when I wasn’t getting what I needed anymore. He hates me now, and that is his right.

I was narcissistic in my career too. I used jobs and prestige to fill the void as well. I only ever really lasted about nine months in a job, before I needed to move on when the good feelings wore off and it got boring. I lied and burned people quite often to get what I wanted too.

It wasn’t until I went through the horrible “use-and-abuse” cycles too many times that I lost everything, and it dawned on me that it was me. I entered a 12-step program to deal with addiction, and in doing the steps fearlessly and thoroughly, it requires us to be truly honest with ourselves.

I had to look at the resentments and the fears that I have—and then, painfully—I had to look at my part in it. In sobriety I have started to reconnect with myself and found life started to present me with other people, just like me, over and over—and this time I was on the receiving end. It held a mirror up to me, and it was ugly.

On behalf of all narcissists, I want to say that: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that we take your light to feed ourselves, and we don’t give anything back. I’m sorry that we confuse you and make you vulnerable. Its cold comfort—but we hurt too—and eventually our ways come back to bite us, because you just can’t go through life using people without it catching up to you.

The thing is we don’t mean to hurt you—we just don’t actually realise that we are. I was just trying to get through the world in a way that made it bearable for me to manage the emptiness inside.

Now I know that my worth and connection will not come from what I take from others either in relationships or career. I know now that I need to find ways to feed myself, so that I can give and receive in all areas of my life with others. Being on the receiving end has shown me how bad it can get, just by seeing the consequences—both for me and also for them—as they keep spinning on in the use and abuse cycle.

Thank you for bringing the love and kindness to the world. Don’t let interactions with us dull your light—eventually we will catch up. (I hope.)

With love and respect,
a Recovering Narcissist



A Narcissist & an Empath Walk Into a Bar: Understanding the Dynamic of Abuse.

Relephant bonus:


Author: Kate Nicholl

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Fe Ilya

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