There is Love, and then there are all the relationships we have to go through to get back to this Love. One of these relationships is the classic Empath – Narcissist dynamic.
What makes a person with narcissistic tendencies so attractive to empaths?
Empaths are gifted with the ability to feel the emotions of others as if they were their own. However, many empaths are also born into environments that do not recognize or nurture these gifts. At best, these abilities are simply neglected or dismissed, at worst, they are exploited and plundered, leaving empaths with a core wound.
Later on in life, we seek to replicate experiences that give us the same feeling of love, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been. Our minds know no different. So we seek out relationships that at their core are soul-depleting and self-defeating, all the while telling ourselves that they are otherwise – because we don’t know any different.
As an empath,
- You may see the wounded child within a person with narcissistic tendencies. You see the bravado that hides deep insecurity and woundedness.
- You feel needed and special within such an enmeshed relationship (a particular trap for empaths). As the Narcissist rejects their emotions, while the ungrounded Empath lives 24/7 in hers (and other people’s), there is a natural energetic match. You feel like they would have no other way to process their emotions without you. You feel a special bond and connection.
- You’re used to feeling like you have no value beyond giving endlessly or serving others, so being in this relationship gives you a sense of identity. This stems from a sense of profound worthlessness, a product of painful childhood experiences that affirmed this mistaken belief.
In other words, the empath is attracted to this dynamic because they have been wounded. As the narcissistic person too has been profoundly wounded, the Empath and Narcissist find an energetic match in each other.
Sadly, there are a lot more wounded souls on this Earth who attempt to bury their hurt, than those who are consciously evolving and using their pain as a potent fertilizer for growth – so people with narcissistic tendencies really aren’t that difficult to come by, given that many of our institutions systematically separate us from our inner truths. Many of us simply do not have the tools to move beyond emotional and soul-level wounding.
Healing from the Empath-Narcissist dynamic
The beauty in all of this is that as spiritual beings, our souls tend towards wholeness. We tend towards seeking out experiences that bring us to wholeness. We ALL have a mechanism within us that propel us towards the light, no matter how dire or hopeless external circumstances may seem.
Feelings of depression, hopelessness, despair, are all ways your soul uses to signal to you: “Help! Something is wrong. DO something!”
Often, even the mere realization or the ability to see this dynamic clearly can cause a deep shift.
If you’re in one now, here are some ways to help start the healing process:
- Examine your core beliefs. Do you believe you NEED this relationship to survive in this world? If yes, know that each of us is a sovereign being – we are not dependent on any ONE person to sustain us, no matter how convincing the other person (or your mind!) may make it seem. You are always infinitely supported as a child of the Universe.
- It’s time to focus on yourself, no matter how difficult this may seem at first. Take time to really delve into your emotions – seek out a licensed therapist. Journal your thoughts and feelings. Start taking out some alone time every week.
- Start where you are. You don’t have to tackle the deepest part of it right at the beginning – healing happens in layers. Start with what feels best to you in the moment.
Remember, the healing process is non-linear. It can take months and years – and it really isn’t about how much time it takes, the fact is that you must allow time for it to unfold organically. Be kind to yourself in the process and show yourself compassion. You have been through a difficult thing. You may still be going through it. Would we expect someone who has been through a traumatic physical injury to simply get up and walk immediately? This is an injury of the soul – though unseen by the naked eye, it takes time for healing to unfold.
Is there healing for the narcissist?
Remember, ALL of us can exhibit some narcissistic tendencies when wounded. It is a natural response, as we turn inwards and focus on our own pain in order to heal. But for someone who is deeply wounded, they may never move out of that state, building up an entire ego identity to protect themselves and their wounded inner state. This vulnerability is so deeply destabilizing, especially if they have ideas about what being ‘strong’ means – i.e. never showing emotion or vulnerability at all costs – that they may be unable or unwilling to move beyond it.
As a true idealist, I want to believe that there is healing for a person with narcissistic tendencies. They simply need to be thrown back onto themselves repeatedly, to be left to their own devices, to go deep into their own pain in order to heal. However, they are also wired to fight this pain at all costs, their egos programmed to put up a fierce fight. Narcissists usually set up a whole system of people around them to collude with them. But I also trust that life will bring them the experiences they need to heal – it’s a matter of whether they wish to see and accept it.
As an empath, you have a gift, a purpose, a reason for being
In the meantime, it is very important to focus on YOU. Your gifts, talents, and natural abilities are very needed at this point in time, to bring love back into this world. To anchor in qualities of sensitivity, creativity, empathy, fierce courage, deep compassion for yourself and others. As you heal, you heal one piece of this world, and that ripples out a thousandfold.
As you begin, it is natural to feel feelings of guilt, uncertainty, panic and fear – but that is all part of the journey. As you put one foot in front of the other on this path of healing, the path will rise up to meet you. All you have to do is begin.
Additional reading: The Empath & The Narcissist by Elaine La Joie