When I started writing for the Empath, back in 2011, there was very little material available on the subject, and this is what drove my compilation of the ‘Traits of an Empath’. I wanted to help other Empaths understand who they were and discover why they felt all they did. I also wanted to share what had helped me.
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. Thousands, if not millions, have discovered who they are as Empaths with all the information now available.
However, with this Empath uprising there also seems to have been an upsurge with the ‘dark side of sensitive’. This can be 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 tendencies.
In fact, if an Empath takes a look into their past they normally see a pattern of people displaying the above traits 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.
An Empath’s sensitive side may breed and feed their 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 Empaths have 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 that the two types are both sensitive. But although the Empath and narcissist fall under the “umbrella of sensitive” they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I first recognized similarities 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.
(This is a reason why when I write about the Sensitive Empath I capitalize the S… To differentiate sensitive and Sensitive.)
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 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.
This is where we see the ‘sensitive splinters’ at work.
It is also through blood ties that the Empath finds themselves bound to toxic or narcissistic relationships.
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 road, the more I see the higher purpose served behind the dark behaviours displayed in individuals.
When we endure difficulties, by 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: 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. It doesn’t matter how ‘right’ you are. A narcissist does not want to hear what you say if it makes them in any way wrong. It’s always best to walk away.]
Although difficult to accept, it is often the case that the more an Empath suffers the stronger and wiser they become.
I am not suggesting that continuous suffering is the recipe for the perfect life, far from it. But we come to a point when we understand why we endured 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. 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 push an Empath towards great transformation.
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 uncover and unleash their inner-light. There may be hurdles to overcome and dark experiences to be endured. 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.