Narcissistic Empaths and the Narcissist / Empath Relationship
However, you may recall in a previous post where I wrote about the Law of Attraction, I pointed out that the perception of opposite energies attracting is an illusion. According to the Law of Attraction, like energy attracts like energy. So how can two seeming opposites such as a narcissist and an empath be alike?
Like Attracts Like or Opposites Attract?
First, we need to review what like energy attracts like energy actually means in terms of Law of Attraction:
If we want to truly understand the law of attraction, we have to understand it in energetic terms: heavy energy attracts heavy energy. Lighter energy attracts lighter energy. The vibrational frequencies of the energies are a match.
Duality comes from the illusion that there exists a lack of love. We call that illusion fear (not to be confused with danger). Fear-based energy is heavy and dense. Thus, fear-based energy manifests as spectrum of polarity (duality).
For example: total control and total submission exist on the same power spectrum and they are both symptoms of a heavier, “negative,” fear-based energy, one being a hunger for power, and the other being a state of feeling powerless. Thus, these two energies attract because they are the same fundamental energy expressing itself on a spectrum, and give the illusion of opposites attracting.
Next, we have to establish what an empath is.
When most people on the internet are talking about empaths, they are actually talking about codependency. I think there’s a great deal of nuance involved in this, and people often lump several categories together. I tend to see these broken down like so:
- There’s psychic empaths, which are people who physically experience other people’s emotions and energy in the environment around them (also known as Sensory-Processing Sensitivity or a highly sensitive person (HSP)) ;
- There’s people with empathy, who have the emotional intelligence to understand how another person may be feeling;
- And then there’s people who are codependent, who may, but don’t necessarily, have either of the aforementioned abilities.
What’s the difference between all of these things?
Psychic empaths/HSP appears to be biological in nature–you’re born that way (and it exists in non-humans as well). Emotional intelligence/empathy is cultivated and nurtured through our environment. Codependency is a learned coping mechanism/survival strategy when healthy emotional intelligence is not cultivated or nurtured–it mimics real empathy but in an unhealthy way.
A person can be codependent, have empathy, and be a psychic empath, or a person can be codependent, have little emotional intelligence, and be a psychic empath, or they might be a perfectly healthy, empowered psychic empath with a high emotional IQ.
Me, personally… I’ve always been HSP, but I have not always been emotionally intelligent. Not even close. I had to learn how to cultivate emotional intelligence on my own. I taught myself how to feel and how to empathize with other people. In some ways, shutting off one’s ability to empathize might be a reaction to being HSP in an abusive world. The pain of living in this world is too much for a developing, sensitive nervous system to process, so it becomes numb in order to function normally.
The kind of empath that is most often drawn into relationships with narcissists are typically codependents, who may not actually be empaths at all, but rather… covert narcissists.
Narcissists and this kind of “empath” exist on opposite end of the same spectrum. Indeed, some research suggests that the only people who can stand being friends with narcissists are other narcissists.
Everybody’s A Little Bit Narcissistic
The next thing that is important to establish is that narcissism and codependency are a scale. Literally everyone has some narcissistic traits, and we all probably have some codependent tendencies. Some people are more narcissistic than others, and some people are more codependent than others. The extreme ends of those scales are where you’ll find the hardcore narcissist and the narcissistic empath.
Defining Traits of Narcissists and Narcissistic Empaths
The defining characteristics of both narcissists and (narcissistic) empaths/codependents, etc. are:
- Lack of boundaries
- Lack of a true defined self/identity
- Dependent on others for validation / overly concerned with what other think
- Lack of true self-awareness or awareness of one’s motivations
In this way, these two types of personalities are two sides of the same coin–and of course all of this exists on a scale/spectrum, so it’s to varying degrees of intensity.
A codependent or narcissistic empath gives all of their boundaries away (thus, no boundaries), and a narcissist disrespects all boundaries (thus, no boundaries), which is why they tend to “attract” one another, and why overt narcissist parents create covert narcissist or codependent children.
Both are overly concerned with the appearance of perfection, people pleasing, and deriving validation from another, it just manifests in slightly different nuances. Both constantly conform to others’ expectations, but it seems codependents focus on the individual in front of them, and narcissists focus on the collective’s.
On the extreme end, both lack a deep level of self-awareness, have a desperate need for attention, both engage in emotional manipulation, but one is more overt, and the other more covert. Both have a tendency to victimize themselves as well, which is why the whole “narcissists attract empaths” trope works so well–it allows the narcissistic empath to play that victim/martyr role and wear the label of “empath” like a badge of honor.
And finally, narcissistic empaths don’t actually have real empathy–they imitate empathy as a means of manipulating others into giving them validation. Their primary concern is still themselves, just like any other narcissist.
Out in the wild, these covert narcissists would be considered energy vampires to the tune of Evie Russell, from What We Do in the Shadows.
Spoiler alert: in true overt/covert narcissist fashion, Collin and Evie start dating.
Narcissists Are Not Attracted to Empaths
Narcissists are not attracted to empaths. Narcissists are attracted to people with weak boundaries and people-pleasing tendencies, which, as we’ve already established, is not an empath, it’s a codependent.
Narcissistic empaths are attracted to other covert narcissists, and by the way–a narcissist can display both overt and covert narcissistic tendencies, they don’t have to be one or the other.
As I said earlier, everyone has some narcissistic traits, and we all probably exhibit some codependent tendencies. Some folks might rank higher on the scale than others, and that’s where you find seemingly good people being attracted to seemingly bad people… except that’s really just our own lack of self-awareness around our own narcissistic tendencies being mirrored back to us by the person we’ve identified as “the narc.”
Narcissistic education coaches on Instagram are often people who have experienced narcissistic abuse, and when they haven’t fully healed from that abuse, they are usually still writing from a place of wounding and blame and have a tendency to dehumanize the abuser, which then creates an entire culture that writes off wounded people as irredeemably toxic, which naturally creates even more wounding.
They also tend to give really bad advice to the people they’re allegedly trying to heal, because they, themselves, haven’t yet worked out how to heal, such as telling their clients, “You don’t love them. It was just a trauma-bond.” This is actually a form of gaslighting. Coaches don’t know you and they don’t know whether or not you really loved your abuser or not, and they have no business telling you that you didn’t. What they should be telling you is that you perhaps have an unhealthy attachment to said person, and teach you how to compassionately detach without abusing yourself or vilifying anyone.
I’ll never tell an abuse victim that they deserved what they got or that it was their fault, because none of us ever asks to be abused. Healing is a process as well, and we don’t need to make excuses for our abuser’s behavior, nor do we even have to forgive them. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to abuse them in return.
Narcissistic abuse victims often gaslight themselves and bury their feelings as a coping mechanism to detach from their abuser. The unfortunate side effect of this is that they shut off their own empathy toward that person, and the one thing that defines a narcissist is a lack of empathy. So the irony is, you end up becoming just like them, which is why abuse is a cycle.
At some point, in order to truly heal, we have to recognize that abusers were, themselves, abused. And while we don’t have to excuse their behavior, or even forgive them for what they did, we do have to try to understand how they became who they are, if for no other reason than to ensure that we, ourselves, do not become the thing we despise. When we bring ourselves back to a state of empathy and compassion, it opens a path for our own healing as well as one for the abuser, should they choose to accept it.
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