This post or the idea of it has been with me for a long time. I weighed the pros and cons of writing about this subject for months after I had finally escaped (there were many layers and many years to this) my own abuser a little over six months ago. The following post is all that I have learned about the empath vs narcissist dynamic.
The majority of people who come to me for consultation are highly intuitive empaths. Being one myself it’s easier for me to understand their challenges.
A lot of the “tests” in life for us are the same and repeat.
And one of the most important ones for the empath is the meeting with the narcissist.
So far, in my experience, I don’t know any empaths that haven’t had a single proper run-in with a narcissist.
It is a formative and important learning milestone on our paths. We must remember this. One might say “it’s part of our karma”.
Through our experiences with the empath vs narcissist, we can help other empaths make it out faster from this excruciatingly painful pattern.
Hopefully, the following post will serve You on Your path towards freedom.
What or who is an empath?
I will give You Wikipedia’s definition and then mine.
Or in other words, an empath can feel the feelings of other people. They can feel the happiness and suffering of others. They are extremely sensitive to inner and outer experiences. Thanks to this hypersensitivity, they are also capable of developing other gifts like I’ve written here, here, and here.
Basically, an empath can feel everything. They can’t stand or tolerate suffering. Or causing another person pain or other uncomfortable feelings. Because they know exactly and extremely accurately how it feels. This makes empaths radically caring, almost overly nurturing people.
But this often leads them into trouble as well because their emotional boundaries can often be lacking. And this is one of the things that attracts cunning narcissists into their lives.
What are some of the other reasons an empath might attract a narcissist?
- An empath might be struggling with their material and financial lives. They feel powerless to it and draws in a narcissist who is often financially capable. At first, it seems like a huge relief for the empath but the truth is soon revealed to them.
- The sad part about this is that the powerlessness within themselves is the actual reason why they are attracting a person into their lives that wants to control them.
- I will share how to break free from this in the later chapters of this article.
- They feel they need to help the narcissist and save them because of their emphatic nature. They think they can save the person. It is very often a reflection of their childhood dynamic with one of their parents. Or sometimes even both of the caregivers.
- There are also karmic reasons.
What or who is a narcissist?
Let us look at Wikipedia first again, and I will also share my understanding.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder characterized by a life-long pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, a diminished ability to empathize with others’ feelings, and interpersonally exploitative behavior.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder
I think Wikipedia does a pretty good job of dissecting narcissistic personality disorder. But I have some things to add.
The narcissist at its core is completely empty of love and compassion. And filled with guilt and shame. This often leads to those grandiose personality traits that Wikipedia mentioned. In order to AVOID feeling those darker emotions, the person develops narcissistic personality disorder.
Mostly, because of extreme neglect in childhood by the caregivers, they have deep down developed a sense of worthlessness that they now have to substitute with larger-than-life personalities. Or with other people (empaths).
They have to get love, appreciation, and attention from somewhere.
Empaths, people, sex, money, and achievement are the most common avenues which they derive their sense of worth from.
I must also add the energetic pull.
If a person is empty, they need to GET energy (or love) from somewhere. Other human beings are like a battery to them. They suck all of their “juice” from others to keep them going because they don’t believe that they are lovable or worthy human beings themselves.
It is extremely hard to function in life believing something like that about Yourself. That is why they need others to keep them going.
How to know if You are in the empath vs narcissist dynamic?
There are many things to look out for but I will do my best to list as many as I can.
Remember, especially in the case of covert narcissism, this might have been going on for years and You are just thinking “that these are just his or her quirks.” When in reality the narcissist is constantly trying to exude more and more control over You.
- They are extremely charming at first. Almost overwhelmingly.
- Later this starts to go back and forth with manipulation and control. Narcissist is triggered into their true self when You don’t do what they want. Or in other words, when they start to lose their control over You. This is the time when “the mask” drops and they start to use manipulation tactics.
- Mood swings, avoiding contact, not doing what they promised, half-ass fulfilling their promises, making You responsible for how You feel (this is the most important one).
- It can be really subtle as well. “To pay You back, I have to sell my property but it’s not a good time on the market right now. But I guess I’ll do that, I will lose money but I will do it IF YOU REALLY NEED ME TO.” It’s quite a common way to get You to say “Oh no, no need to do that.” You will say that because of Your empathetic nature, You don’t want to make anybody suffer or feel negative emotions.
- They know that You don’t want to make anyone feel bad = AND THEY WILL USE THIS TO CONTROL AND MANIPULATE YOU!
- They want control over You and everything You do at all costs.
- Joint bank accounts or even worse = they want to control all the money themselves!!! I would recommend against this strongly! Keep Your money separate if You start to realize that You might be in the empath vs narcissist dynamic.
- “Why do You need Your own bank account? I can take care of everything, You don’t have to worry about it!” All just to keep You near them and stop You from leaving. How are You going to leave if You don’t have any money or resources?
- Everything is (or mostly is) in their name. Or they want to do all contracts etc. in their name. Again, more control.
Controlling You through money and other people
- Money is the number one way that they try to control You.
- Gifts out of the blue and financial support aren’t surprising. But here You must notice how are they doing it. Is it coming freely or is there always a demand behind it? “I did this for You and now You are acting like this towards me.”
- There is usually a hidden agenda behind their “help” which comes out when the narcissist is losing control over You. They will start to use their “help” in the past as a controlling mechanism.
- They try to control You through other people You care about and love.
- Manipulating with and through children.
- Through Your parents. Or if it’s one of the parents in the narcissistic role, they will try to use other people in the family (if You care about them.)
- They will get them to call You and say that they are worried about something You are doing in Your life. “I’m really worried that John (You in this case) is dating that girl. He has distanced himself from the family (actually the narcissist themselves).” This will make You feel bad and get in contact with them. But it’s actually a really subtle way to play on Your emotions and make themself into a victim. In addition, they are getting someone else to do “the dirty work” of manipulating You. REMEMBER, they are actually manipulating the person who is contacting You. The in-between person is not to blame!
- Through spouses (if it’s someone other than the spouse who is the narcissist, very often it’s the spouse or the parent!)
They will do everything just to keep You dependent on them
- They will do their best to keep You dependent on them. Money is just one way.
- Real-estate. “Of course sell Your house or summer home. And we will just live here in this house that is in my name. You don’t need Your own place.”
- Cars and other resources = all in their name if possible. And all theirs. So You can’t leave them.
- In extreme cases, all the documents and papers that You need are in their hands in some “safe place”.
- They want to keep You to themselves.
- Very often this means undermining Your friends or social circles. All in an effort to distance You from these people. The main reason here is to keep You alone and in a place of “Ok this relationship sucks but where am I going to go really?”
- Please remember, that all of their “self-sacrificing I will take care of everything” is not to serve You. It’s about more and more control.
- So if You are sitting there and thinking “Amazing that they are taking care of everything and I don’t have to think about this at all!” It’s not for Your benefit! It’s for them and them alone.
The emotional side of the narcissist
I shared some of the more practical and material things that can happen in an empath vs narcissist dynamic.
But what about the emotional side of it?
- They are either extremely overwhelmingly affectionate or on the other end of the spectrum = totally distant and cold. It’s an up-and-down type of experience.
- They are using this tactic to manipulate You to come closer to them because they can’t express what they truly want or need. It is extremely scary for them. If at all possible!
- The more the relationship evolves, the more distant and cold they usually are. They want You to go to them and make them feel better. In all truth, they want Your love because they don’t have it themselves.
- They can be very jumpy and anxious when You start to talk about real matters and emotional dealings.
- If You are well-developed in Your empathic path, You can even feel a “wall” between You and them. I started noticing it later in my development. It can take time.
- Charming with the outside world and distant, cold, and even nasty in private.
- They can make the outside world think that they are pleasant, funny, witty, etc. but if You spend enough time in private with them, they can be cruel, nasty, overly critical, and abusive.
- They always seem to know more intimate details about You than You know about them.
- This is all done on purpose to have more control over You.
- When You ask, they try to either evade it with a quick joke or brief share. Or even say “I don’t really like to talk about it.”
- A narcissist is incapable of giving anybody any emotional connection or support. It’s all about them.
- They can even shame You if You ask them for emotional support. They use shame to get You to either do something or end the argument. In truth, they don’t have the emotional capacity to give You anything.
- A narcissist will always make an empath feel like they are wrong. Or that there’s something wrong with them. And that they are even lucky that the narcissist is with them.
- This works because many empaths have experienced abuse in their childhood and they suffer from low self-worth issues. A huge portion of the empaths I personally work with have beliefs similar to “I don’t even know if I’m lovable” or “I don’t believe deep down that anybody would want to be with or love me!” These types of beliefs attract a narcissist into their lives. Because they can be easily controlled and manipulated through that wound.
- Deep down they are afraid of being left alone again like they were in childhood. Without love, without care. Understand this about them, and You can navigate the dynamic in a much better way.
How can an empath beat a narcissist?
The fight here is twofold.
The first one is happening internally for the empath.
Here are some of the things You need to do:
- Start understanding Your own worth and value.
- You are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
- You need to understand that, even though You are sensitive and can feel other people’s pain, YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for it!
- If You refuse to take responsibility for other people’s and especially the narcissist’s emotions, they can’t emotionally manipulate You anymore. You are already 50% there!
- Prepare Yourself emotionally for a long battle. You have to know that they will not give up just like that!
- Reclaim back Your power in all areas of Your life. Don’t let them control You in any shape or form!
Where does the other 50% come from?
You also have to take back control of Your own life in a practical way and on a material level.
- Be responsible for Your own income or money. If You are truly deeply in the dynamic and the narcissist has full control, start taking small steps.
- Open a separate account, and start putting as much money as You can into it.
- Have more savings for the escape.
- Responsibility for Yourself on all material levels. Job, business, documents, accounts, etc. needs to happen.
- Some of You might need to take baby steps. And the narcissist in Your life will want to shame You out of those. Especially getting a job or being responsible for Your own income. Remember, the more control they have over You, the safer they feel that they will never have to be alone again.
- The living situation. Are they in control of it? If yes, You need to take back Your power as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to escape the empath vs narcissist dynamic. And they will keep repeating the abuse.
If You manage to take back control in these areas of Your life, You have gotten through the first and a big hurdle at that. But it’s not finished yet!
What happens when an empath leaves a narcissist?
When You have finally had enough and gathered up the courage to leave that dynamic and relationship, it, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that the ordeal is over.
They will do anything in their power to try to get You back.
- They will use all the manipulation tactics that I have already mentioned in this article. Controlling through money, other people, emotional distance and then overflowing “I miss You” type messages.
- Anything that they can do to be or stay in Your life = they will do.
- If there are possessions that are Yours but they have them, it’s even better to just let them go. Otherwise, they will use that as an excuse to send You messages and stay in contact.
- Victimhood is one of their favourites. Because they know exactly how sensitive You are towards that.
- Saying that they are ill when they are not.
- Lying about mental and psychological issues.
- Fabricating stories about monetary issues or problems. And making them Your fault.
- In the end, the point of the story is always that they can’t take care of themselves and You need to go back and help them.
- Then they will also try blaming You. This is where they can get even mean and dig up some past matters where You might have wronged them.
- You must stand firm here because they will make it seem like You truly were in the wrong. If it makes You feel better You can apologize but You need to remember that they will not change. They are doing this to get You back into their “grip”. If You are going to apologize, do it for You and to forgive Yourself.
- They are trying to shame and guilt You into coming back to them.
- The last tactic is often public humiliation. This can be spreading rumours about You or trying to ruin Your career through different tactics. Basically, anything they can do behind the scenes to destroy Your life. All just for You to go back to them with Your tail between Your legs.
Does the narcissist miss the empath?
The short answer is no, not really.
I must convey this extremely clearly, You are nothing but food to the narcissist. When it might seem from Your perspective that the person truly misses You, it’s an act.
Now that You have left them out to dry, they are out there, alone, miserable, empty, and with all of their shame.
To get out of it, they will do anything to get their “food source” back. Including, making it seem like they miss You. Or even saying it to You directly.
Although many covert narcissists don’t really have that capacity. They “hint” at the fact that they miss You through intricate manipulation tactics.
Most of those tactics involve themselves making them look like they are the victim in the situation.
What are some other tactics they might use to make it seem like they miss You?
- Getting other people they know You care about to reach out to You FOR THEM. A very commonly used tactic by the covert narcissist. They use it to make You feel guilty. And in their minds, that guilt is supposed to MAKE You reach out to them.
- Your mother suddenly calls and says “You know I spoke to John, he says he really misses You.” Although, the person hasn’t said that to You personally. All part of their intricate plan to never show any emotion to You directly. Showing emotion for the narcissist can mean that they are giving up control. Or even, You might HAVE something on them to control them through. Just like they have things on You to control You.
- Going to visit the people You care about and love. They know You are in contact with them, and inevitably in conversation, Your loved ones will mention the narcissist. Just another way for that person to be in covert communication with You.
- People that You vaguely know start contacting You.
- “This person (the narcissist) said that You have information about these matters. Can You help me out please?” Just ways for the narcissist to keep in contact with You.
- They will definitely try with material possessions and money again. This is always on the table, and if You are in a vulnerable place with finances, it can temporarily work. You must then leave them again.
How does the empath protect themselves from the narcissist?
There’s no easy answer to this question.
The most important thing is to become as independent as possible for the empath. Take Your power back from the narcissist. (Go read the chapter about how to beat them again.)
In most cases, not having any contact is the best move.
Use that time (when You have physical distance from the narcissist) to gather up emotional strength and material prowess. Because when (and not if!) the narcissist contacts You again, You need to use all of it.
Psychic attacks from the narcissist towards the empath
Very often these happen subconsciously. Just because the narcissist is intensely focusing on You. To get back their source of love.
Here are some of the indications of a psychic attack from a narcissist towards an empath:
- The abuser (or narcissist) keeps coming into Your thoughts constantly. Even if You are not thinking about them or related matters.
- Some of You can even see images of the person.
- Headaches with the thoughts and images.
- The sacral chakra (just around or below the bellybutton area) or solar plexus (around the heart) feels heavy or over stimulated. This is something new that I observed with one of the attacks that came my way. It can very often happen right after a physical altercation (yelling, screaming at You for example) as well. The narcissist is in over-drive if You still don’t comply and can subconsciously attack You right after hanging up the phone (just an example).
Summary of empath vs narcissist
I hope You now have the necessary tools to get out of this deep and dark dynamic that every empath needs to experience at least once in their lifetime.
It doesn’t always have to be that extreme, it can just be an unpleasant coworker that You can get rid of by changing jobs for example.
Remember, it’s a lot about YOU personally taking back Your power. Through that, the pattern starts to dissolve.
Wishing You strength!
Read one of my personal and real-life encounters with the narcissist dynamic in this vulnerable and raw blog post.
The Freedom Astrologer
Work with me: https://linktr.ee/astroian888