Elaine Clayton
5 min readNov 24, 2021

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Swan Lake/Elaine Clayton 2021 elaineclayton.com

Empathy is Not Your Enemy in Dealing with a Narcissist

Empathic people can be very susceptible to narcissistic entanglements because a narcissist is one who has been very wounded, and the empathic person feels their pain intrinsically. For an empath, this is a powerful gravitational pull (they may not even be consciously aware of this). For the narcissist, the empathic one is a willing “narcissistic supply” candidate. Empathy has indeed played a part in what may be a vicious, emotionally dangerous relationship. So, is empathy the problem?

Empathy is not the problem and a natural empath cannot turn off their empathic nature, however they can grow stronger through relationship hell, no matter how excruciating. Through understanding how one got involved with a narcissist in the first place is empowering. The empath has a chance to be stronger, wiser, less of a sucker! Narcissistic personalities can be irresistable — humans after all are complex and wonderful. A narcissist may possess beauty, charm, magnetism and brilliance and anyone might want to bask in all that brightness. Yet, the original pain from early childhood within the narcissist is felt keenly by a perceptive and sensitive empath, so under the polished glow of the narcissist, deep wounds are hidden but not unseen to the empathic one. And since the empath feels wounded also, either from depletion of feeling the pain that is not even their own or through other human condition causes, an empath and narcissist gravitate to one another — the narcissist is ready to love bomb and the empath is ready to give an open heart. What a match!

Now, an emotionally dangerous game has begun and the empath falls for it — believing they are receiving acknowledgment of their own worth, while healing the wounds they sense within this vibrant partner. This is a sorrowful journey, but empaths are not victims here —and narcissists are not one dimensional “evil perpetrators”. Empaths need to take responsibility for their own involvement, and recognize the strength both in their empathic sensing that ignited the connection with the narcissist, and empower themselves in the dynamic as one who has choices and the ability to overcome that susceptibility.

Once the empathic person is in the narcissistic cyclone of attraction, full of emotional pain, belittling mixed with adoration, desperation, triangulation, manipulation — the empath might regret their own sensitive, intuitive nature that lead to being ensnared. They may feel that their emotional openness and vulnerability set them up for this twisted interplay. After all, had they not had the ability to sense and feel for the other, they’d not be in this torturous situation, correct? Not exactly. While empathy means a person has an open hearted disposition, a deep desire to help heal wounds of others and an inclination to feel responsible for helping them, it is not empathy that causes miserable attachments. It is the ego and what the ego does with the empathy that makes for misery.

The ego sets us up for great and difficult experiences, helping us with our aspirations, infuencing our perceptions in every area of self-development as we form a sense of identity throughout life stages. There is a positive aspect and a negative aspect with the ego and one shadow aspect of ego is that when an empathic person feels the pain of another deeply, they feel responsible for relieving that pain. This is where the ego misguides. It’s voice inside the mind says, “Oh, there is suffering — I must fix it! I feel the pain so much, this suffering must be mine to take away.” Ultimately, the ego thinks it must be able to correct what began long before the empath ever showed up on the scene. The ego takes empathy and wrestles it into a knot of negative emotion inside the empath. It is up to the empath to overcome this, to disallow their own ego to corrupt their empathic sensing.

This is not to say an empathic person will not or should not feel anger, hurt, despair, confusion and a horrifying lack of control while dealing with a narcissistic person. Rather it is to say that toxic emotional responses to the narcissist weaken the empath. An empath can use their natural gift of empathy to A) see that the narcissist had wounds long before the empath discovered them and therefore the empathic one is not responsibile for it; B) disengage entirely from the narcissistic turmoil, no matter how practically difficult this may be; C) forgive the narcissist.

An empath is not free of a narcissistic dynamic until they disengage and consciously take responsibility for their own involvement in the dynamic. This is not easy (there may be a whole family involved, children, a home, etc). Yet, if the empath continues to blame, to cultivate an angry response, the empath is becoming a great victim, when the reality is empaths are empowered and can use empathy to free themselves. Empaths are survivors with open hearts — they may get involved in ugly situations, but they can triumphantly rise out of those situations with more knowledge, love and courage than they had before their terrible experience with a narcissist.

If you’ve been involved with a narcissistic person because your empathic nature set you up for it, use that same beauty within you to see the strength in perceiving pain without assuming you are the fixer, to understand with compassion that boundaries are good for you, to allow yourself to be free of an injurious relationship and step out of it. Let your empathic sensing redirect you now — inwardly forgive yourself for your vulnerability (strength in disguise) and realize you are valiant in your empathic love of another. Love on a deeper level now and forgive the narcissist who will not ever be healed by you, and move onward.

To read more about how to live life as an empath, my book, THE WAY OF THE EMPATH is due out in April 2022 and available for preorder: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-way-of-the-empath-elaine-clayton/1139899434

Elaine Clayton is the author of several books on intuitive-empathic sensing and creative expression as a spiritual vehicle for deeper intuitive intelligence. elaineclayton.com

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Elaine Clayton

Author, artist, Reiki Master, intuitive reader and teacher of books in the mind-body-spirit genre and books for children.