Empathy means getting past the ego.
There are so many articles these days about the relationship between “empaths” and “narcissists” and other similar, trendy ideas.
When we see a lot of something in the media, it means that it’s resonating with people in some way. So, where does all this talk about the “empath” and the “narcissist” really come from, and why do people relate so deeply?
This is actually something that’s been talked about for a long time, since the beginning of religion and probably even before. There are those who go out of their way to connect with others and understand their experience, and then there are those who go out of their way to disconnect from others and live in their own self-satisfying bubble.
This is the empath and the narcissist.
They’re almost like archetypes, which are deeply rooted personal traits that manifest themselves across time.
The reason this seems to matter so much now has everything to do with our culture.
There has never been a time when it makes more sense to be a narcissist. Really. With the infinite amount of information circulating on the internet, the glam and glitter lifestyles backed by consumer capitalism, and the self-aggrandizing nature of social media, it makes complete sense why people would gravitate toward narcissism in the modern age.
When someone slights me to protect their self-image and reinforce a false sense of importance, I’m all like, “Listen, baby…I get it. Whatever you need to get by…it’s all going to be okay, little buddy.”
My problem with the empath/narcissist paradigm is that none of us are just one thing totally. We’re a mixed bag. There are very few people who are completely narcissist with not even a hint of empathy, and there are very few people who are purely empathetic with no sign of any narcissistic tendency. These people probably don’t exist. Breaking people down into dead set categories like this seem to kind of miss the point a little bit.
What’s the point?
Well, we’re all capable of being empathetic and narcissistic, and it’s super important that we choose to embody empathy and bypass the attractions of narcissism in this day and age.
We can’t just say, “I’m an empath, and they’re the narcissist!” That’s kind of narcissistic, if you haven’t noticed. When we point out the world as being the problem, assuming we are just guilt-free and play no part in the drama of life, we’re being hugely egotistical and are not empathizing with the other person.
Empathy means getting past our own ego.
If we can see that we’re also capable of being narcissistic and can be really selfish in our own way, that’s true empathy. Being empathetic doesn’t mean we are never selfish or mean to anyone. Of course we’re going to be selfish and mean sometimes—that’s called being human. Empathy is the being able to recognize one’s self in the other. We see that we’re capable of being all of the ways that other people are like.
None of us are perfect little angels. Every terrible thing that people have ever done to each other continues to exist within our own psyche. There is darkness inside of us, and that’s why it’s always important to stay humble and not point the finger at someone else.
To me, empathy doesn’t necessarily mean feeling exactly what the other person is feeling; it means acknowledging in a very deep way that this is just a person feeling things. This is just “you” living another life, in the words of Aubrey Marcus.
To be truly empathetic, we must be grounded in our own experience. If we are not grounded in our own experience, we can’t possibly know the experience of another.
Don’t get stuck in your head. Stay in the body, the vehicle of feeling. When we get in touch with pure experience, the immediate sensation of the present moment, we see that we are no different from this person. We are fundamentally the same, even if we have vastly different backgrounds and personalities. We don’t need to change people, we just need to see them, and then the seeing becomes the changing.
We can all be a narcissistic asshole, and we can all be beautiful creatures of empathy.
Let’s exercise our innate capacity to choose—the power of our own free will—to live in empathy and refuse to live in narcissism. Just don’t get a big head about how empathetic and spiritual you are. That’s just another trap of the ego.
We’re all stupid. We’re all trying hard. We all feel feelings.
Let’s practice seeing ourselves in the other person and see where that takes us.