You may have heard the word "Empath" being bantered around social media, and there are many articles out there in the world that talk about these amazingly special people. I am an Empath, and for the longest time I didn't understand it, and I thought it was a curse more than a gift.
Over the years I have learned to embrace being an Empath, but it has not been easy at all, and my journey has been wonderful, humbling and incredibly painful at the same time. There have been frequent times when I really have had to disassociate from others in order to protect my sanity. Friends and relationships have died as a result, and for that, I was called names and encountered all sorts of adult bullying. However, as I matured and researched my own self, I realised that actually it was something I needed to do in order to fill up my internal being so that I could go out and live another day, among the bullies. One thing the bullies don't realise is that Empaths have a deep rooted belief in the "good", which is far stronger than anything a bully is able to put out there.
Backing up a little, what is an Empath? It's a good name for us actually, because in its simplest definition, I would sum up an Empath as "a highly intuitive person who can feel the emotions, and energies of another person, species and the environment around them."
Why is it difficult for Empaths to find lasting and truthful relationships? Empaths attract people who need healing. Because of the nature of an Empath, being a caretaker, a good listener and able to heal any negativity that is around them or another person (actually they do this unconsciously and don't have to try, it just happens that way), they are often like the honey pot in the middle of a swarm of bees.
The romantic life of an Empath as they explore their path on this earth is often a tragic one. Empaths walk around with a sense that they don't belong and are often searching for their "tribe". Their nerves feel like they are exposed (they are not, but it feels this way) and they are highly attuned to the people and environment around them. Therefore changes to those elements are flagged on their radars. It's a double-edged sword however because Empaths are "givers" and until they learn to differentiate traits within others, they frequently find themselves being surrounded by "takers". This feeds an Empath's need to "give", and that's where if it is a romantic relationship or "best friends" arrangement, things can get tricky.
Empaths need to feel safe, particularly in their romantic relationships, and the inevitable charming Narcissist can frequently show up in the life of the trusting Empath. You may ask why the Empath can't figure out that the person vying for their affections is a Narcissist, but it doesn't work that way. Empaths also have their journey on earth, and they see everyone as fixable and able to heal. When they meet someone, they look at it as a good faith meeting, and always expect the best outcome. They also feel endeared to someone who shows them attention and love, and if the love interest has less-than-honest intentions, the Empath will be guided to heal that issue within the Narcissist. It takes some time for the Empath to concede that it is a relationship that isn't going to work out and it hits them hard when that happens.
Depending on how fast the Narcissist moves, as he/she undoubtedly will want to hang on to this helpful, healing, forgiving Empath, it can be a long and painful process for the two parties. Eventually however, the Empath will be guided to move away from the toxic Narcissist as living within the confines of lies, deception and negativity will be too much for the Empath to bear. And if they are able to reflect and see what happened, they can create boundaries and red-flags to protect them from it happening again.
Not every bad love is a Narcissist, there are lots of them out there, but the high-level inherent trait of these trouble-makers is that they are all about themselves, they don't consider the feelings of others, and they manipulate another into doing what they want by appealing to the Empath's caretaker and fixer mentality.
A major issue is that Narcissists absolutely do not see their own traits. It would be so much easier if they could just see how they are! But they think they are amazing lovers, friends and supportive guides. However, here are some traits I have encountered both personally and professionally in Narcissists that you can look for:
1. They are often emotionally/verbally/physically abusive as a means to inflict control over the other person. They want the traits that they covert in others e.g. empathy. They don't think they are missing empathy, but as they see it displayed by the Empath, they don't recognise it (as they actually don't have it!) and so they want it too.
2. As they like to feel superior and in control, they will try to take what they deem as power away from the Empath. This is because Narcissists are incapable of empathy, so they be-little it and make fun of it until it becomes an issue or a taboo subject. A classic example is "you cry too much". Empaths cry a lot, it is imperative to their well-being actually to release the toxins that they absorb from others. Crying is very healthy, but the Narcissist cannot stand it! Empaths also sleep and meditate a lot, a necessary tool to re-charge their energy as it gets depleted rather easily.
3. Narcissists lie a lot, or as I encountered once, they "withhold the truth". That was a classic line from someone I knew. He felt that by withholding the truth, he wasn't actually lying because he was careful to not say the lie out loud. And then of course followed up on cross-examination with "well you didn't ask!". Brilliant.
4. Their support only goes so far. They reel in their victim and then when the Empath goes through something like a medical issue or a tough challenge, the Narcissist can't step up and will keep his/her distance. They will try to do damage control afterwards by buying a gift, some flowers, or their affection, but it is an act only to save you from running.
5. They rarely if ever do any work on themselves. They have no desire to learn from relationships that go wrong as they always blame the other person in order to make them feel that it was all their fault. They also call the Empath "too emotional" or "crazy" which of course they are not, but anything to deflect from the less-than-perfect behaviour that the Narcissist won't want anyone else to know about.
6. They are not that brave. This is one of the major reasons why they need the Empath, who is brave and linked to a higher intuition that guides them. Narcissists won't take the leap of faith to claim their happiness. They won't put anyone ahead of their own feelings, and they won't let themselves attach to another person. This leads to point 7.
7. When a relationship gets too "real" for them, they usually run. The running Narcissist is a blessing for the Empath actually, even though it doesn't feel that way at the time.
8. After a period of time, the Narcissist will realise that the Empath was the real deal and may come back (unless they have found another one to prey on). Strangely with Empaths though, they don't always have them back. Despite their empath nature, sometimes enough really is enough.
Both parties do both learn as they go along, but it is the Empath who is left more fractured because they are capable of the deepest form of love, whereas the Narcissist doesn't allow themselves to fall in love 100% - they always hold some in reserve just in case they get hurt or need to make a quick getaway.
When a relationships breaks down for a Narcissist, they may have a down day, but will immediately tell themself that they had a lucky escape and move on quickly. They can compartmentalise very easily. However for the Empath, a break-up hits them hard and they analyse it for a very long time afterwards, trying to find what went wrong with a view to learning from it and preventing it from happening again. At this time however, Empaths need to turn to their supportive tribe of friends to help them get through the break-up.
Boundaries are a tough area for Empaths. Causing sadness and pain to another human being (in the case of a break-up) is doubly hard. Always the caretaker and trying to put people on their rightful path, the Empath will try to point out the undesirable behaviour to the other person, but invariably it will not be greeted by any kind of appreciation. Depending on the nature and level of the Narcissist, it can be deemed as a direct attack, and they will try everything to blame, shame, and destroy the Empath. It would be distastrous for the Narcissist to have the Empath go out into the world with the valuable information that could show the Narcissist in his/her true colours.
Newsflash to the Narcissist - an Empath would never publicly disclose all your darkest secrets. They are bound by a higher spiritual code that allows them to know right from wrong and how to behave. They need to be treated with respect, and not manipulated for your own gain or to fill a void in your life.
Newsflash to the Empath - it is perfectly acceptable, and necessary, to walk away from anyone who does not allow you to speak your truth. You can point out undesirable behaviour, particularly if you are feeling threatened in any way, though put a time limit on that because it will often not matter to the narcissist that is unwilling to change, and may drain you, which we don't want. It is not your fault, and whatever lies the Narcissist proceeds to tell the world, will only show their extreme flaws in character. I have met many narcissists in my life - I seem to attract them - and the root of their narcissism is extreme insecurity, usually resulting from how the adults around them treated them during childhood. That doesn't excuse their behaviour though, and it's not your job to fix them either. Being an Empath, you will undoubtedly try to help them, but put a time limit on that and then walk away for a time period, or forever. I always try to surround them in a bubble of love, no matter how horrible they have been, because they really do need all the help the universe can surround them with.
Breaking up with a loved one is exruciatingly painful for an Empath, because they will blame themselves for the breakdown of the relationship, and berate themselves for not being able to fix it. The biggest take-away for an Empath to remember is:
"You cannot be responsible for anyone else's actions. You are only responsible for your own, and you are quite within your rights to shield yourself from the negativity of others until you feel safe to re-engage again. On this issue of safety, you answer to no-one, only yourself."
Can Narcissists change?
Yes I do believe so, providing that they are accountable for their behaviour, they work on themselves as a result, and they tell the truth. They will often need outside help to achieve this, but I have seen people change. It's important to note that they have to want to do it. Ironically it's free to tell the truth, and yet it eludes a great many people as they see it as admitting flaws in themselves that they would rather keep covered up. It's the admission to oneself that is often the toughest. But it's worth remembering that Narcissists are human beings too. They didn't just arrive as aliens wanting to wreak havoc in the world. And they are also learning, just like Empaths. The deepest root causes of a Narcissist, are fear, self-loathing, judgment, abuse, and low self-esteem.
How does one find true, lasting, safe love if you are an Empath?
The romantic life of an Empath as they explore their path on this earth is not often an easy one. In life, there will always be yin and yang, good and evil, light and darkness. Empaths and Narcissists are at two ends of the spectrum and they are attracted out of a need to heal and be healed. It's a dangerous combination but has been going on for centuries, and will continue to. The point to note however is that if you're in a relationship with someone who isn't good for you, you will feel it. Trust that intuition, and connect the problem to a solution perhaps through a professional or slow things down until you feel comfortable or can understand the other's true intentions. As an Empath, sometimes you need outside help, it is too big and dangerous a job to take on yourself. As I often say, "asking for help isn't a sign of failure, it is a sign of strength".
Empaths walk around with a sense that their nerves are exposed (they are not, but it feels this way) and they are highly attuned to the people and environment around them. Therefore changes to those elements are flagged on their intuition radars. Friendship can turn into a love-ship. Don't overlook someone who is around you just because you're waiting for the magazine model to appear (which isn't real anyway!). Once you find someone who sparks your interest, it will be a journey to learn through each other.
Empath tips for a healthier union
1. Communicate up-front so you can gauge the reactions from the other person. Keep communicating throughout the relationship - it is the ultimate key to a successful union.
2. Give the relationship time; don't rush it even though you will be in the throes of love and will want to rush it.
3. Get a supportive friend or a tribe of friends around you. If you feel something isn't right, then it probably means it isn't. Run it by one of your supportive tribe for their objective view.
4. Trust your instincts. If something is off, then it is a red flag to you, and you need to explore it further. Not everything in a relationship needs to lead to a break-up and remember that relationships are where we do the most healing in ourselves.
5. Be yourself right from the start, and do not change to suit your partner. Don't try to change your partner either. Celebrate the things you love in your partner, and if you can live with the things that you don't like then let them go (I'm talking leaving clothes on the floor as opposed to any signs of abuse).
6. Address any conflicts that come up in a calm manner. They don't need to be life or death conversations, they just need to be "conversations". As an Empath, you will likely be a good communicator, but you have to realise that the words "I need to talk to you" can invoke a deep sense of panic in the other person! Choose your words carefully, and if the situation is able to be discussed outside in nature, all the better as you will get valuable help from the elements around you.
Being an Empath in our current world is a gift, the likes of which has not been truly uncovered yet in your life. And you don't need to struggle.
If you want to learn how to work with your Empath gifts and how to cut the cycle and patterns that keep bringing in narcissistic or unhealthy relationships, go to the "Book A Session" tab on my website and let's get moving with it!