What if I told you that empathy could cause horrible even unspeakable physical and emotional pain?
But Kim, isnt empathy the glue that holds relationships together and creates a positive environment for communication?
Yes, but not all empathy is equal.
In fact, the narcissist uses a very specific kind of empathy as a vessel to get into your head, manipulate your thoughts, and abuse you.
Heres how it works and why the narcissist lack of empathy concept is a farce.
Empathy itself can be good or bad it depends on how the person experiences, interprets, and reacts.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term asthe action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
No, Merriam-Webster isnt a psychology journal or expert in the field, but this definition is pretty spot-on.
It does not mention anything about experiencing compassion, remorse, or humanity. Here are the different types of empathy and how they play out in action.
This is when you quite literally feel yourself in someones shoes. You cry with your friend who is experiencing hardship like the death of a loved one. You feel the same pain of those around you even though you arent experiencing the pain.
The problem here is that this feeling can almost immobilize a person. If you felt so distraught by a homeless persons suffering that you gave away all your possessions and became homeless yourself, that doesnt help the situation much, right?
This type can be empowering: you understand a persons hardship but since you arent experiencing it yourself, youre able to take action and improve the situation.
If someone is drowning, you shouldnt jump into the river yourself because youd both be stuck. Instead, you should stick out a branch or rope they can grab onto. Thats compassionate empathy.
This is where things start to get dark. Think of every sleazy lawyer, salesperson, or interrogator youve ever heard about or come across they all utilize cognitive empathy.
This gives narcissists the ability to see things from your perspective and then act in a way thats most beneficial to them.Cognitive empathyis still empathy just not the kind most people are familiar with.
Narcissists dont lack empathy in the way we typically believe they lack compassion, remorse, and regret.
We tend to confuse emotions like compassion with empathy, but as mentioned above, a person can understand what another person feels, thinks, and experiences without feeling the human emotions that go along with it.
Thats exactly why the narcissists lack of empathy concept is a farce and a dangerous one at that.
It tends to let them off the hook for very hurtful behavior. The narcissists lack of empathy idea implies that their abusive behavior is completely unintentional.
In reality, its extremely manipulative and extremely intentional.
When youre on the receiving end of a narcissists abuse,does it feel like youre being tortured?
Well, thats because you are.
In December of 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released areportabout the CIAs enhanced interrogation methods. The report details how the CIA cooperated with psychologists for years to develop a program that forces the subject into a state of learned helplessness.
When youre in a state of learned helplessness, you have suffered so much torment from outside trauma that you essentially give up your own autonomy. Learned helplessness can lead to depression and other mental illness.
If an interrogator (or narcissist) wants to force their subject into learned helplessness, the first step is to establish a connection.
And whats the narcissists tool for establishing connection? Cognitive empathy.
Using Cognitive Empathy to Get What They Want
As you can see, the narcissists lack of empathy is a myth because they need to use cognitive empathy to get what they want from those around them.
The interrogator wants to get information, the salesperson wants to sell a car, and the lawyer wants to win their case. In all of these situations, they need cognitive empathy to get into the subjects head. They need to understand the subjects feelings and thoughts which they can then manipulate into producing an outcome thats most beneficial to them.
Thats why youve likely found yourself bouncing back and forth many times wondering do they love me or hate me? Its a lot easier to believe this is not intentional and that the narcissist is not in control of their emotions and actions but these actions are calculated.
Like the interrogator, narcissists interpret emotions like love, openness, kindness, and generosity as weaknesses. And if you give an inch, theyll take a mile, back up, and drive the same mile over and over until youre pulling your hair out.
The first step is to recognize when the narcissist is utilizing cognitive empathy to achieve their goals. In the beginning, this isnt easy because youre human and apt to respond to perceived kindness with kindness.
But the narcissists false kindness does not come without a cost.
Its also important to identify what the narcissist wants from you. This could be anything including money, housework, caring for the kids, or any obligations the narcissist feels are beneath them and must be cast upon someone less-than.
In other cases, the narcissist may just want a proverbial punching bag to blame for their problems or unleash their emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse.
But responding to their false kindness and compassion by returning the favor wont get you anything but further abuse.
Narcissists cannot be reasoned with.
Thats why you need to do everything in your power to avoid the narcissist and cut them out of your life at all costs. Otherwise, the narcissist will use cognitive empathy indefinitely to take advantage of you and destroy you.
They wont respond well far from it but its the only solution.