A WAKE UP CALL FOR EMPATHS
80% of the women who have come to me for support this year have been caught in the empath-narcissist abuse cycle.
One of the things that has become very clear to me through working with this pattern is that SO MANY commonly held beliefs are responsible for making the problem worse (or, at minimum, not helping).
And until we address these, this generalized pairing of the empath + narcissist will continue, perpetuating the victim-perpetrator cycle indefinitely.
I am speaking directly to empaths (and while I don't love this term, it's an overall descriptor that works here. You can generalize to anyone who is sensitive, loving, emotional, intuitive, compassionate, etc.)
Here are the things we must accept:
- Not every person who displays hurtful/harmful behavior has a history of trauma that 'explains' why they act the way that they do.
- While it can be true that 'hurt people hurt people,' this is NOT an explanation that applies to everybody across the board.
- If you assume this is true when it's not, and try to apply more love, compassion, patience, warmth, and acceptance to 'fix' or 'heal' the person, it won't work.
- This is why people need to stop consuming pop psychology / social media content that is giving you overly simplistic quick hits rather than accurate information.
- The truth is that some people simply lack conscience, as in they don't have one at all, or it failed to develop appropriately - and this is not the result of something 'bad' happening to them, it just is.
- In fact, one of the reasons why this type of person can develop is because they experienced no repercussions or consequences for bad behavior (i.e. permissive parenting where the child was overvalued and there were no boundaries.)
- A traditional psychological approach that deals with emotional wounds (when there aren’t any) will fail to help people who have character disorders. At worst, it enables the harmful behavior to continue and mimics the permissive parenting style that contributed to the problem in the first place.
- This is why these types of people attract permissive partners who then get run over and taken advantage of.
- CBT is a much more effective treatment for people with character disorders compared to traditional psychology because their thoughts and behaviors are what need to be shaped, NOT underlying feelings/emotions.
According to George Simon, "Modern permissiveness and the new culture of entitlement allows disturbed people to reach adulthood without proper socialization."
His book Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age is required reading for anyone dealing with abusive, manipulative, and/or narcissistic people.
In an attempt to rectify oppressive, authoritarian parenting styles, things began to shift in the 60’s - and now parenting has swung squarely to the other extreme of permissiveness, which has now permeated our overall culture.
In an 'anything goes' society where shame (especially healthy shame) is demonized, we no longer have proper checks and balances in place to appropriately shape behavior, the way that a healthy society can (and should).
John Bradshaw wisely distinguishes between toxic shame and healthy shame in his book Healing the Shame that Binds You: "Without healthy shame, moral behavior and ethical responsibility are impossible."
Proper socialization plays a crucial role in the development of healthy character attributes, and right now we're living in a time where our cultural conditioning is not doing the trick - and so we see the rise of narcissism and other character disorders.
As always with almost everything, the middle way is the best way. We don't want toxic shame to cripple us (as it does in the case of people who are overly conscientious, aka neurotic), but we also want to allow in healthy shame as an internal consequence to help correct our behavior when we harm others.
Healthy shame is actually a very powerful internal mechanism to self-correct, and yet in a culture where no shame is allowed to be felt, this shaper of behavior is lost.
This is one of the things that has malfunctioned in people with character disorders - they lack empathy and remorse for their actions, and this is not necessarily the result of trauma but instead environmental conditioning.
My fear is that even beyond permissive parenting, a culture at large that enables this kind of behavior is producing individuals that are not well - and in some cases are even celebrated.
Laura Matsue and Bernhard Guenther address this in their latest podcast called Dark Triad Personality Types.
So, back to the empath-narcissist dilemma. My work with clients that are stuck in these types of abusive situations starts here, with education on the truth about people with real character disorders.
From this place, we understand that not everyone is a carbon copy of us and needs the same kind of medicine that we need to heal. In fact, what works for empaths is almost a polar opposite approach for people who fall into the aggressive personality types such as narcissism, sociopaths, and psychopaths.
After this realization settles in, I help them to change what they can on their end to protect against attracting these types of people into their lives. This includes healing damaged levels of self-love and self-worth, learning about healthy boundaries, moving towards secure attachment, developing assertiveness, protecting against codependency, and much more.
I truly believe that treating both sides of the empath-narcissist dilemma is necessary in order to transcend this pattern that seems so pervasive in our modern day world.
And as relationships are the fabric of our world, if we can become educated on how to effectively deal with this problem, it could potentially represent a huge leap in the evolution of human relationships.
If you are a recovering empath who needs support, please reach out.
I know this work can be difficult, but the payoff is huge. AND, you are literally changing the shape of our cultural patterning, perhaps for generations to come.