5 Ways The Narcissist’s Lack of Empathy Harms Us
Human conscience, separateness, accountability and reciprocity are normal expectations in a healthy relationship. Empathy is tantamount to humanity. Human beings don’t by nature prey on each other. We arrive in adulthood expecting that most people are fully developed and “Safe” human beings. Not so, as we’ve learned there are a group of people who have not developed normally, who in fact ARENT SAFE and their character disorder renders them abnormal and caustic to us.
WE LOSE OUR INDEPENDENCE, IDENTITY AND ABILITY TO FEEL
Narcissists did not successfully resolve their independence from their primary caregivers as they passed through the early stages of development. As such, they arrived into adulthood needy beings with fusion fantasies and a complete lack of boundaries. Because their needs for identity are based on external approval & applause, they don’t see others as separate from themselves. When they say “clothing makes the man” it’s referring to the same principle at work in a narcissist. “Others validation makes the man / or woman. “ If the validation of external sources is so critical to their identity and survival needs, we can easily understand the view they have of others as existing solely for the purpose of shoring up the narcissist’s identity. You hear this in the narcissist’s speech, “MY WIFE” “MY KIDS” with emphasis on MY. Narcissists own and possess others as objects, they don’t exist in their own right and thus can’t possibly have feelings and needs that are separate from the narcissist’s control.
For example, if the child or spouse of a narcissist is hurt by the narcissist’s actions, we experience betrayal, sadness, loss or rejection. We attempt to communicate these feelings to the narcissist because we are led to believe that we are in a caring relationship. In caring relationships, we trust that our feelings will be heard and responded to so that our friends, family or partners can come to know who we are, what we feel, what we need and want and what our boundaries are and how to respect them.
The narcissist however doesn’t care. They didn’t feel the sting of the hurt, betrayal, loss or rejection they did to us, and since we’re part of them (identity fused) they delude themselves into acting as if the hurt doesn’t exist at all; afterall, How could it, if the narcissist doesn’t feel it? Additionally, the feelings of others when verbalized are viewed as character criticisms (narcissistic injuries) and the narcissist’s defense against shame kicks in, and the criticisms along with the messenger that delivered them are to be anhialated, attacked or altogether ignored. Narcissists cannot afford to allow the objects of their possession to have independence because that is a threat to the narcissist’s identity. Feelings, thoughts and individual decisions must be entirely punished and controlled by the narcissist. Only THEY decide what we can and can’t do; whatever is NOT a threat to their existence is allowed – and that is NOT MUCH.
INTIMACY IS DESTROYED
It won’t be long before these constant refusals to acknowledge the feelings of others begin to break down the normal give and take and sharing of genuine feelings that makes relationships healthy. The only people that will be feeling the pain of this relationship are targets; the once healthy people that are no longer capable of sharing their thoughts and feelings openly. The healthy urge to share will be muted and replaced by fear of reprisal, punishment, denial, twisting blame and responsibility, gas lighting, word salad, excuses, justifications and ultimately in a state of learned helplessness, we will shut down our emotions and cease to exist as an authentic human being; just as the narcissist lives their very empty existence.
TARGETS BECOME THE SCAPEGOAT AND BEARER OF THE NARCISSIST’S SHAME AND BLAME
Those who haven’t seen this trait in action, need to understand that this trait makes the narcissist a danger to all of society not just the victims they can easily blame for having brought on their own abuse.
When a healthy individual behaves badly towards another person, we experience a sense of guilt. If the person we harmed approaches us, we typically don’t deny it, but rather, listen and try to understand the nature of their feelings in order to accept some responsibility. Once we accept responsibility we feel remorsefully and go about behaving differently to avoid doing something to another person that we care about, knowing that to do so, will cause them pain, and we are committed to not causing others pain.
Narcissists do not experience the same responses. First, there is no guilt felt because the lack of separateness prevents the narcissist from acknowledging the reality that separate feelings could possibly exist. However, they aren’t deaf – and can hear the complaints. The complaints are deflected. The feelings are twisted and put back on the person speaking. The narcissist is absolved of responsibility and thus feels NO REMORSE. They look at any consequences incurred by the target as a result of THEIR OWN choices or behavior (blame / justification) and then go about behaving as if there is NOTHING to apologize for. This invalidation and acknowledgement of reality, is a mind screw to the target. The blame and shame for having or causing the feeling is often internalized and the target begins to be the scapegoat of the narcissist’s inability to feel empathy.
The narcissist will go on offending – with the expectation that there will be NO CONSEQUENCES. Our prisons are full of dangerous offenders with the same anti social refusal to take responsibility for their actions and feel remorse.
WE WERE TRICKED INTO RELATIONSHIP AND STAY FAR TOO LONG ONCE THE ABUSE SHOWS ITSELF
None of us would have knowingly involved ourselves with a Ted Bundy, a Hitler or Saddam Hussein, because their lack of empathy and the consequences of their bad deeds were widely publicized and accepted as dangerous.
We were knowingly manipulated by a person who actively masked their empathy deficit. Did they tell us they’ve had a long history of people accusing them of being abusive? Did they tell us they can’t feel for us? Did they outright tell us, I don’t care how you feel, just do as I tell you to do? No. None of it. They didn’t overtly show us their lack of empathy in the beginning because they knew that doing so, would NOT get them what they wanted. Instead, they carefully chose words to flatter , blind and distract us from their actions or lack thereof.
They aped & mirrored our empathetic actions and words to appear as if they themselves were sensitive, thoughtful, and caring. They talked up their sensitive behaviors and altruistic campaigns to lull us into a false sense of security that we were sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings with a person who could respond to them empathetically. It’s why the cognitive dissonance was so confusing and flooded our minds when the abusive behavior began – we just couldn’t merge the two faces of the narcissist together; the talked up, false version of the empathetic narcissist with the reality of the sociopathic, conscienceless person we had before us.
It isn’t until the narcissist feels comfortable in their control over us and the fact that we won’t abandon them for abusing us, that they allow their mask of empathy to slip. They know that we’re stuck and hooked because we hadn’t stood up to them in any real way for each and every boundary violation they committed against us throughout the course of the relationship.
Due to the punishment, blame and learned helplessness as a result of the control, power and abuse of the narcissist, we stay in the toxic relationship far longer than is healthy to the soul and ultimately pay the price of narcissistic abuse. Our emotional, mental and physical health declines and our safety and sanity are hovering on the brink of no return if we don’t escape.
IT SHATTERS OUR TRUST
Most of us have never been accosted by a predator. We may watch television crime shows where people are victimized by frauds who hid the evil sides of themselves from their victims and feel naively protected that we haven’t encountered one of “those people”. However, once we’ve had a close personal relationship with a malignant narcissist, our feeling of safety is forever shattered and altered.
Once you live with someone who you watch dupe people, fool the masses, and completely defraud a community, a mate, a child, friends, a congregation, you begin to look at others suspiciously. When we realize that people who invest their entire lifetimes creating and perfecting masks, we will NEVER look at anyone the same again. We recognize that even with taking things cautiously and slowly that sometimes the mask wearing narcissist can wait us out longer.
Our skepticism doesn’t go away. We approach good, trusting people with suspicion because we’ve seen people fake entire relationships. We’ve seen people PRETEND to be good and we’ve been burnt when we found out they were lying. We worry that we won’t be discerning or careful enough. It can stunt our future relationships and intimacy if we let it. The work that has to be done to have us feeling safe to “get back in the saddle again” knowing and trusting ourselves to protect ourselves is the hardest recovery work I’ve ever had to do as a human being. Like food, we need fellowship; healthy relationships sustain us and provide community.
There’s no way to ever return to that safe, innocent, Pollyannaish, feeling that we wont encounter a predator in our lifetimes. We are forever aware of the fact that we may; that predators exist and they are looking for good people just like us and hoping that we aren’t savvy or loving ourselves enough to say NO and stop their exploitation of us.
Our only saving grace is that we promise ourselves, if and when we discover that the person we’re trusting turns out to be a fraud that no matter how long or how deep the investment, we are firmly committed to ending it immediately and walking away.
We must do our part and recognize that a lack of empathy is a sign that a human being has the capability of hurting and damaging us greatly. Such people are unsafe and dangerous. We must escape. If there’s a valid reason that the relationship is impossible to escape, we must learn to protect ourselves from them at all costs. Your sanity and health will thank you!