It doesn’t seem so long ago that the word ‘Empath’ was a rarely mentioned term. But we can see how that’s changed in recent years with all the information now available. When I started writing for the Empath, back in 2011, there was very little accessible material and this was one of the reasons behind my compilation of the ‘Traits of an Empath’. I wanted to help others uncover who they were, understand why they felt all they did and work to become empowered. Nowadays there are many new blogs and groups aimed at helping the Empath find their inner-light, which means more are awakening to their true potential.
However, with this Empath uprising, we are witnessing, it appears there has been an upsurge within the ‘dark side of sensitive’. This is observed with the rise of the narcissist and those encompassing narcissistic traits.
What Makes a Narcissist?
Although the term narcissism originally stemmed from having extreme vanity, today it represents so much more:
The definition of a narcissist is: a psychological condition characterised by self-preoccupation, high self-esteem, a distinct lack of empathy, excessive self-admiration and a tendency towards selfish or resentful behaviours. But there are many more dark traits associated with this type of disposition such as: one-sidedness, a manipulative nature, unrealistic expectations of others, excess need for control, and a huge sympathy deficiency. In some cases, the traits of a narcissist match up with a psychopath.
The Empath Connection
Where you find an Empath, you often find a narcissist nearby, or at least those who display several narcissistic traits. In fact, if an Empath takes a peep into their past they normally see a pattern of people displaying the above tendencies appearing throughout their lives.
There are some who would argue that an Empath and narcissist are two sides of the same coin. And although I certainly agree they both have heightened levels of sensitivity they are expressed in opposite ways. The Empath’s sensitive side may breed and feed emotional pain but it also contributes to their consideration, compassion, and abundance of empathy. The narcissist’s sensitive side also contributes to their inner-pain but, in many cases, their wounds bred bitter, resentful and vengeful tendencies. And when a narcissist has been offended it is often the result of a wounded ego as opposed to a pained soul—as in the Empath’s case.
It may make you wonder why an Empath often has a lifelong history of run-ins with those who display narcissistic tendencies. Could it be nature’s way of finding balance with opposing forces being drawn together? Might it simply be due to the increase in hypersensitive behaviours? Or is the law of attraction at work? Although there are plausibility’s for all three suggestions, the latter is something we need to be aware of. Like attracts like: sensitive attracts sensitive.
There is no doubt about the fact the two types are both sensitive, but though the Empath and narcissist fall under the umbrella of ‘sensitive’ they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I first recognized the similarities in sensitivities between an Empath and a narcissist when I happened across a post on covert narcissism. Which I wrote about here. I previously believed an Empath and a narcissist couldn’t be more dissimilar. But the article allowed me to discover how a sensitive streak can splinter out into diverse behaviours. There is no doubt about the fact that an Empath and a narcissist are both highly reactive, sensitive people, but it is how they portray and integrate their sensitivities that set them apart.
A sensitive nature can be seen in kindness, compassion, and empathy, but it can also be seen in bitterness, resentments, and jealousy. And it doesn’t take much working out to figure which traits belong to which type.
The Family Connection
Another observation of mine is that sensitivity tends to run in families. And this, I believe, is why we witness Empaths and narcissists within the same bloodline and even between siblings. The family ties and ‘sensitivity splinters’ explains why there are so many sensitive warring families. And it is through blood ties that Empaths find themselves bound to toxic narcissistic connections.
The law of attraction also plays its part in these destructive unions, as many Empaths find themselves dating a narcissist or in a relationship where their chosen partner, although not necessarily self-important themselves, has been raised within a narcissistic family.
The Silver Lining
Although Narcissistic types often play the part of an antagonist in the Empath’s life, causing distress and even heartache, there is normally always a significant reason.
The further I travel down this ambiguous road, the more I see the higher purpose served behind the dark behaviours displayed by individuals. When we continually endure difficulties, through experiencing challenging situations or relationships, we eventually come to realise what we need to change for our own growth and development. We can learn so much from the bad behaviour of others. Even if it’s as simple as developing the courage to walk away, say no, believe in one’s own self-worth, or let go of the need to be in control.
[A word of advice: Try to avoid doing battle with a narcissist or point out their wrongdoings unless you want to open yourself up for a character assassination. They will lie and lie and lie some more and simply make you out to be the devil incarnate to anyone who will listen. It doesn’t matter how ‘right’ you are, a narcissist does not want to hear what you have to say if it makes them in any way wrong or shows them in an undesirable light, they will just attack you…It’s always best to walk away.]
Although it completely sucks and is difficult to accept, but it is often the case that the more an Empath suffers the stronger and wiser they grow to be. I am in no way suggesting that continuous suffering is the recipe for the perfect life, far from it, but we can come to a point when we understand why we had to endure such difficulties and see how they shaped us into becoming better people.
The time when we won’t benefit from suffering is if we become embroiled in bitterness and resentments and allow our thoughts to become vengeful (Yes, an unaware Empath can also fall prey to the curse of narcissistic tendencies). If this happens it will only serve in causing more inner-pain.
Narcissists work as catalysts on an Empath’s journey. They may cause insecurities, emotional injuries, trigger victim mentality and personal challenges but all of which can push the Empath towards great things. In our need to escape the shackles of emotional pain we are often pushed towards personal empowerment.
We came here into this life for a reason to experience both light and dark. I believe we were born to have certain encounters and everything we endure is for a purpose, both good and bad. Empaths are meant to discover and unleash their inner-light. It may take many years to find and there may be hurdles to overcome and dark experiences to be endured. But if we keep working towards it, our reason and purpose is gradually revealed, often in small increments, and the objective behind the ‘dark side of sensitive’ eventually becomes clear.
Stay happy and healthy.
Until next time.