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Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

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Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Arthur » Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:43 pm

I noticed something weird recently.

When I'm depressed or going through a hard time, a lot of my empath friends are rather dismissive. And my narcissistic friends tend to be much more understanding, more patient, more helpful. I guess that's because they've been through it themselves.

Sometimes I wonder if, in some situations, the reason why narcissists don't have empathy is because their experiences are totally different to other people's.
I'm trying to develop my empathy and I've noticed it's a lot easier to have empathy for other narcissists than for "normals". I feel like I just can't relate to them. They seem so comfortable and carefree.... what does that feel like?
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Midwinter » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:10 pm

And my narcissistic friends tend to be much more understanding, more patient, more helpful. I guess that's because they've been through it themselves.


Then they are most likely not NPD.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Arthur » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:35 pm

Midwinter wrote:
Then they are most likely not NPD.


Maybe. If someone has problems holding down a fulltime job or often tries to cheat on their girlfriend is that a PD?
If someone often interprets innocent comments as being insults directed at them and gets angry, is that a PD?

I can't diagnose, but my point is they seem to be more narcissistic than my "normal" friends.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Akuma » Thu Nov 23, 2017 4:17 am

dx: dissociative disorder + npd
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Pangloss » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:57 pm

As an empath, perhaps I can answer your question, but bear in mind I am speaking completely from my own subjective experience.

I don't know if you have been diagnosed with NPD, and if you have, please understand that your perspective is often filtered by the disorder.

To better explain what keeps relationships going, an analogy might be a spiritual "bank account". That is the invisible basis of long term caring relationships and the secret that makes them last. Both parties deposit and withdraw but both always try to keep a positive "account balance", by giving more.

For me, such caring relationships are worth more than real wealth, because a good friend is there through thick or thin. I was there for them too, through some hard times of their lives, and I know that if I were truly down and out one day, I can count on their help until I get back on my feet.:

What I received from my friends:

Time spent talking, laughing and sharing
Support, mentally and spiritually
Kindness, attention and sympathy
Assurance of being there through thick or thin

The more narcissistic persons I have encountered usually possess a strong sense of entitlement. Those around them are only as good as what they can provide for them. They are not aware that relationships are a 2-way endeavor, it's all taking on one end, and when the nons (including empaths) start to feel "depleted" they usually begin to distance themselves. The empaths are the ones who stick around too long for their own good. With the distancing, the more narcissistic person start to devalue and discard the "empaths", especially as they have been the ones around longer and thus, more beholden to the pwNPD. They truly believe that the empaths "owe" them more, since they are considered their "best friends".

The sense of entitlement also means that whatever the other gave or "deposited" is invisible to the pwNPD, and considered rightful. They might fondly recall the efforts and money the other party put in, as how much the other cared for them. I know a self-described "princess" who gauges the value of her beaus based on how much in terms of spending, attention, time, etc. they are willing to provide for her in a never-ending spree, and has no idea why they would stop giving, loving or why they left. She is simply enraged that they would "heartlessly" leave her. It never crossed her mind perhaps she hadn't cared for them in return. She only cared about how much others cared for her.

I notice there is strong mutual commiseration between narcissists - my ex for example, had an urge to believe in the lies of other overt narcissists, to be around the "scions of famous wealthy families", the false selves of the others. The mutual relationships that prop up their false selves are more valuable than the actual giving they receive, from their significant others or loved ones, which to them are invisible.

The "account balance" that actually matters is the one that sustains the false selves.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Midwinter » Thu Nov 23, 2017 2:20 pm

Maybe. If someone has problems holding down a fulltime job or often tries to cheat on their girlfriend is that a PD?
If someone often interprets innocent comments as being insults directed at them and gets angry, is that a PD?


Doesn't mean they are NPD.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby MalvaBlue » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:25 pm

Arthur wrote:And my narcissistic friends tend to be much more understanding, more patient, more helpful. I guess that's because they've been through it themselves.


It's because they're telling you what you want to hear (basically what Pangloss said).

Arthur wrote:They seem so comfortable and carefree.... what does that feel like?


It feels great, as if you can take things in stride without being affected. You feel lighter and at the same time you can achieve more.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Arthur » Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:31 am

Pangloss wrote:
To better explain what keeps relationships going, an analogy might be a spiritual "bank account". That is the invisible basis of long term caring relationships and the secret that makes them last. Both parties deposit and withdraw but both always try to keep a positive "account balance", by giving more.

For me, such caring relationships are worth more than real wealth, because a good friend is there through thick or thin. I was there for them too, through some hard times of their lives, and I know that if I were truly down and out one day, I can count on their help until I get back on my feet.:

What I received from my friends:

Time spent talking, laughing and sharing
Support, mentally and spiritually
Kindness, attention and sympathy
Assurance of being there through thick or thin


I feel like a lot of my relationships with other men are based on common interests and common goals. Doing hobbies together or helping each other get ahead.
Maybe it's just because I'm NPD, but I don't feel like most other men want or need me to care about them.

Pangloss wrote:The more narcissistic persons I have encountered usually possess a strong sense of entitlement. Those around them are only as good as what they can provide for them. They are not aware that relationships are a 2-way endeavor, it's all taking on one end, and when the nons (including empaths) start to feel "depleted" they usually begin to distance themselves. The empaths are the ones who stick around too long for their own good. With the distancing, the more narcissistic person start to devalue and discard the "empaths", especially as they have been the ones around longer and thus, more beholden to the pwNPD. They truly believe that the empaths "owe" them more, since they are considered their "best friends".

The sense of entitlement also means that whatever the other gave or "deposited" is invisible to the pwNPD, and considered rightful. They might fondly recall the efforts and money the other party put in, as how much the other cared for them. I know a self-described "princess" who gauges the value of her beaus based on how much in terms of spending, attention, time, etc. they are willing to provide for her in a never-ending spree, and has no idea why they would stop giving, loving or why they left. She is simply enraged that they would "heartlessly" leave her. It never crossed her mind perhaps she hadn't cared for them in return. She only cared about how much others cared for her.


That makes sense.
For a long time I thought that way, but I don't think Nons care about time you spent together as much as you are saying. (even if you're kind, supportive, attentive, etc)
I think Nons will also discard you if you've been a great friend but you grow apart or something better comes along.
I think even Nons often see their friends as "options" and ignore them if a better option comes along.

Pangloss wrote:I notice there is strong mutual commiseration between narcissists - my ex for example, had an urge to believe in the lies of other overt narcissists, to be around the "scions of famous wealthy families", the false selves of the others. The mutual relationships that prop up their false selves are more valuable than the actual giving they receive, from their significant others or loved ones, which to them are invisible.

The "account balance" that actually matters is the one that sustains the false selves.


Yes I think narcissists get something different out of relationships than Nons.
It's not all about trying to feel superior. Sometimes we get supply out of playing the victim.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Quoth » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:40 am

"Empath" has no real meaning beyond non-disordered, unfortunately it tends to become a form of personal identity, a means by which people brag about how wonderful they are.

To a degree Middie is probably right here in that people who are unfaithful and/or sensitive to criticism are not necessarily narcissists.

Empathy, and specifically affective empathy, are frequently misunderstood. When we describe somebody as empathic what we really mean is that they see things from our point of view, or act sympathetically towards us. This is a feat perfectly possible with cognitive empathy alone, which is possibly why you find people of a more narcissistic bent more sympathetic.

Affective empathy can be effectively summarised as "I bleed as you bleed." a mirroring of emotional responses, not simply a powerful emotional response. It is a matter of degrees in that it is not only dependent on the personality of individual but the circumstances of a given event. Most people have been found to believe they have more affective empathy than is in fact the case.

It is a mistake to assume that people with cluster B personality disorders are incapable of affective empathy, only the psychopaths with extreme neurophysiological deficits are truly incapable of it. In regards to NPD it will be better to say that people lack empathy in a clinically observable way but may still display it under certain conditions. This is true of most of the personality disorders.

Nor is diminished empathy specific personality disorders, the vast majority of mental disorders out there are found to diminish empathy. Off the top of my head this is documented for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder and of course autistic spectrum disorders. Curiously enough reduced effective empathy is also found with codependency, literally defined as a reliance on the approval of others for the regulation of an individual's sense of identity and self-esteem, as documented in the spouses of substance abusers. I suppose this should not be surprising as they are ultimately a different form of emotional addict and one generally associated with BPD, DPD and CNPD or traits there of. None of which is to say that nons are a whole lot better as anything from boredom to strong emotion to physical tiredness can diminish a person's affective empathic response.

Another mistake which people often make is to conflate hypersensitivity or hypervigilance with a sensitive empathic response. People with BPD are hypersensitive, but are also entirely self-centred and lacking in affective empathy. There is a considerable difference between having a response to stimuli capable of inducing effective empathy and experiencing an affective empathic response. In reality most people with a high level of sensory processing sensitivity will find relationships with people with NPD near enough impossible, firstly due to the highly abrasive nature of grandiosity and entitlement and secondly because the mechanisms by which narcissists seduce and manipulate rely upon influencing the grandiosity and vanity of the target. Therefore I would imagine that if you have NPD proper it is unlikely that many of your friends are particularly empathic and the same goes for those with whom you are now or have previously been in a relationship with.

Your non-disordered friends carefree behaviour has nothing to do with the presence or lack of affective empathy but rather a stable sense of identity and self-worth which does not require a form of supply from others. It does not prevent them being callous and unsympathetic.

Frequently people assume that niceness and flattery are measures of empathy. Quite why they feel so when sociopaths and psychopaths are capable of the same behaviour is beyond me. Dr King gave the best demonstration of the observable effect of affected empathy when he said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?". Niceness and goodness are not the same thing and it is actions, particularly those requiring self-sacrifice, in which the difference becomes apparent.

If that makes any sense.
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Re: Do empaths have empathy when it counts?

Postby Akuma » Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:10 am

Frequently people assume that niceness and flattery are measures of empathy. Quite why they feel so when sociopaths and psychopaths are capable of the same behaviour is beyond me. Dr King gave the best demonstration of the observable effect of affected empathy when he said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?". Niceness and goodness are not the same thing and it is actions, particularly those requiring self-sacrifice, in which the difference becomes apparent.


I think its a complication that an "empathic response" is not automatically the right response. On the one hand side I rememer McWilliams talk about mental health and the study where it was discovered that effective / good therapists are the ones that dont mirror their patients affects. On the other hand side I think of addicts for example, one of their primary complaints when being confronted goes usually a bit like "You dont understand me" or ""Dont judge me" etc, so basically what they have to hear is not only not what they want to hear but it runs opposite to their expectation of what they would probably call "empathetic".
So while I dont know what the OP is specifically about, my experience - also on this forum - is that complaints about a lack of empathy are often rather complaints about others not wanting to take on your emotions, dont want to feel them for you, or dont want to tell you stuff that you might want to hear but that is bad for you. So the real need here is not a cry for someone to have empathy, but for doing the work of growing the capacity for affect-tolerance and -processing.
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