Narcissist versus Empath

A big theme that has re-emerged for me recently is that of narcissist versus empath. In true Groundhog Day fashion, I have been presented with this dynamic within different relationships throughout my life in order to finally release this karmic pattern and learn some valuable soul lessons.

I want to acknowledge that the term narcissist gets tossed around quite a lot in relationships. It’s important to note that while some people may exhibit narcissistic traits, they may not fit all of the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). According to the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders), the presence of five out of nine specific criteria needs to be met in order for a person to receive an NPD diagnosis.

For the purposes of this article, I am just focussing on narcissistic behaviour and using the term ‘narcissist’ for convenience. In my previous article, ‘Not An Empath’s World,’ I spoke a bit about my own journey as an empath, especially my sensitivity to the energy of others. Historically I have been quite susceptible to manipulation, and have easily fallen prey to the negative projections of narcissistic types. Unfortunately this has often lead me to react which can feed straight into the narcissist’s trap, and ultimately make me look like the bad guy.

You see, a narcissist will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. This is because underneath the self centred bravado, they are likely very insecure. A narcissist’s entire identity is build around a false sense of self that is actually very fragile. A narcissist sees any challenge or disagreement with their views, opinions and behaviours as a personal attack and will do anything to protect their false sense of self from crumbling including blaming the victim.

A recent situation I faced at work was a prime example of this. A close colleague began indirectly criticising my work, inferring that I wasn’t as informed or capable as herself. The behaviour escalated over time despite my efforts to better the situation by taking responsibility for my part, speaking with my manager, speaking directly to my colleague and attending informal mediation. None of it made a difference to her behaviour or the overall outcome.

Things came to a head when I reacted negatively to an underhanded comment. My colleague retaliated by emphasising how adversely my reaction had affected her. She did not acknowledge her own behaviour at all, and placed the blame entirely on me whilst maintaining her victim status. In that moment of frustration and disbelief, I fell into the classic empath trap of buying into the blame game and apologising for the whole situation. Classic narcissist versus empath standoff.

Despite this incident, I duly learnt my lesson and ultimately came out with a much more desirable outcome than anticipated. I did everything I could to maintain my integrity. I approached myself and others with an attitude of compassion, and placed healthy boundaries down to protect everyone involved. When none of these things made a difference to the behaviour of the other, I walked away, head held high.

The empath versus narcissist dynamic can be a difficult one to manage and break. It will test you to the absolute brink of your tender empath soul. It will make you doubt yourself and your own motives. But please know that if you can find the strength within yourself to see it for what it is and bow out with integrity when all else fails, you have won the battle, and your light will shine that much brighter in the end.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of compassion, truth, determination and integrity.

2 thoughts on “Narcissist versus Empath”

  1. The timing of this article is a bit of foreshadowing for a recent trip I took. The irony does not escape me. I too have had to deal with this phenomenon all of my life and I finally got the chance to see how much I have changed when travelling with day in and out with a narcissist. I finally feel like I know how to handle being around someone like this in a more effective manner that keeps me safe and non reactive.
    Great article.

    1. Thank you Molly! it’s a really tricky one to handle for sure. I feel that the needs to be more resources out the for empaths in dealing with this kind of thing. So glad you know how to handle being around someone like this in a safe and non reactive manner. I feel like I’m learning this one too.

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