What is it about narcissists that is so irresistibly attractive?
Like moths drawn to flames, us empaths seem to have a penchant for flying head-first into dangerous friendships and soul-sucking relationships that leave us feeling exhausted and unhinged. And yet, over and over again many of us fall into the same trap, often missing the vital life lessons being presented.
Almost every week Sol and I receive emails inquiring about the dynamic between empaths and narcissists. Having been burned by a number of different types of narcissists myself, I know just how easy it is to fall into the heavy gravitational pull of such people. Like black holes, narcissists eat away at your emotions, physical health, and sanity, profoundly manipulating and messing up your perceptions and sensibilities.
Why is it that empaths and narcissists – two diametrically opposed types of people – feel an almost magnetic pull towards each other? There are many theories, but at the heart of it, I believe that it is Life’s way of restoring balance.
For example, let’s examine your typical empath. By nature empaths are deeply caring, compassionate people. The empath’s purpose in life is to support healing in others, yet due to their intense sensitivity, empaths often struggle to create healthy boundaries for themselves, giving in to martyrdom, victimhood, co-dependency, and chronic self-sacrifice. Now, let’s examine your typical narcissist. Due to various traumas, core wounds and conditionings, narcissists hide behind an idealized self-image which is expressed as being highly charming and attractive, yet deeply uncaring, indifferent, self-centered and cruel. Put empaths and narcissists together? Both come in contact with their “inverted/reverse” selves, and both are forced to learn, grow and heal as a result of such an experience (although this doesn’t always happen immediately, but through trial and error). However, it is important for empaths to realize that they can never “heal” the narcissists in their lives – any form of healing must originate within narcissist’s themselves.
4 Types of Narcissists All Empaths Should Look Out For
So many articles out there talk about “protecting” yourself from narcissists. Unfortunately, this language promotes the disempowering notion that “other people are out to get you.” They’re not. People act within the limits of their conscious capacity, and sometimes that involves hurting others. The more you perceive yourself as a “victim” of narcissists/narcissism, the less capable you’ll be of truly owning your personal power as an empath.
A big part of owning this personal power of yours is learning how to identify different types of narcissists. The more conscious you are of them, the more consciously you’ll be able to behave and make decisions in their presence.
Interestingly there are actually two main types of narcissists:
Vulnerable Narcissists (VN’s)
These people are generally very sensitive and tend to be quiet or shy by nature. Yet to disguise their chronic feelings of self-loathing and unworthiness, VN’s overcompensate by putting on a grandiose mask, seeking to merge their identities with other idealized people. VN’s have an unshakeable need to feel special about themselves and have little genuine regard for the feelings of others. VN’s are primarily motivated by fear of rejection and abandonment, thus don’t have the capacity to authentically love and care for others. Additionally, VN’s use emotional manipulation (such as shaming, guilt-tripping and gaslighting) to secure sympathy and attention from others. Their lives are fuelled by inferiority complexes which often stem from childhood mistreatment.
Invulnerable Narcissists (IN’s)
These people reflect the traditional image of the narcissist: that of a highly self-confident person, cold and unempathetic person. IN’s, unlike VN’s, are thick-skinned and shamelessly seek for power, glory, recognition, and pleasure. IN’s often suffer from god complexes, believing themselves to be far superior to everyone else – and they have a pathological need to make that known.
Both types share similar traits such as using others to fuel their narcissistic delusions, blaming and criticizing, lack of empathy, unfaithfulness and the need for power.
Both Vulnerable and Invulnerable Narcissistic personality types can be split down into the following (unofficial) subtypes. Be aware that many of these subtypes can overlap with each other:
The Amorous Narcissist
Amorous Narcissists measure their self-worth and grandiosity by how many sexual conquests they have under their belt. This type of person is known for using his/her charm to ensnare others with flattery and gifts, but then quickly disposing of them once they become “boring” and when they have met the narcissists needs (often sexual or image/status orientated). Amorous Narcissists are the ultimate relationship con artists, “gold diggers” and heart-breakers. At first glance, they appear highly attractive, alluring and amiable, but underneath they are only out to please and satiate their own needs and desires.
The Compensatory Narcissist
Driven to compensate for past traumas, Compensatory Narcissists love creating larger-than-life illusions of themselves and their achievements. In order to regain power and control over their lives, this type of narcissist usually hunts out emotionally vulnerable people who will serve as the audience to their fabricated stage acts. In reality, this type of narcissist is extremely sensitive to criticism and will frequently look out for negative self-directed cues from others. Emotional abuse and manipulation is a common method of control used by this type.
The Elitist Narcissist
This breed of person does anything to climb to the “top,” win and completely dominate others. Elitist narcissists are convinced that they are better than everyone else often due to their achievements or backgrounds (or simply the fact that they were born that way) and thus deserve special treatment. Their sense of entitlement bleeds into every area of life, from work to the family environment. Harboring a severely inflated ego, Elitist narcissists are skilled self-promoters, braggers, and one-uppers. They have a cut-throat need to be the “best” and prove themselves to be intellectually superior all the time and at all costs.
The Malignant Narcissist
The behavior of malignant narcissists often overlaps with that of psychopaths and those with antisocial personality disorder. Malignant narcissists often have no regard or interest in moral vs. immoral behavior and don’t feel remorse for their actions. This subgroup is characterized by an arrogant and inflated sense of self-worth that delights in “outsmarting” others. This type of narcissist can often be found in prisons, gangs, and drug rehabilitation centers, although many manage to run afoul of the law.
Now that you have read through the different “flavors” of narcissism you might be thinking, “what next?”
The most powerful way to regain your personal power as an empath in the face of narcissism is learning how to respect your needs, desires, and boundaries. Often this involves severing contact with such people. I recommend reading our article on how to love yourself more for further direction.
More In-Depth Help
If you would like to know more about narcissists and empaths, check out our book Awakened Empath which provides in-depth guidance:
There are so many empaths out there currently struggling to catch a breath of air in the large murky ocean of narcissism saturating their lives. If you are one of these people, I hope that this article can be a starting place to help heal your life. You’re also invited to unload your experiences in the comments area (rants and emotional catharsis encouraged).
On the other hand, if you are an empath that has successfully learned to deal with narcissists, please take some time to share what you’ve discovered below. You never know … your comment could help to salvage another’s life.
The last boyfriend I had was a narcissist sociopath. He delighted in dating women who were smart and successful so he could tear them down. He even told me how he tried to make his past fiancee believe she was going crazy. He was the catalyst and the kick in the butt I needed to go get help. I ended up in therapy and then in codependence recovery. This was three years ago. Today, I thank this experience because during this process, I discovered who I really am and how to restore my self esteem, and take my power back. I went thru many healing modalities for many things that I had buried and denied. Today, I am an intuitive healer. Today, I am a happy person and still open for healing…. smile emoticon
I recently “escaped” out of a 6 year relationship with a narcissist who left me emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. I didn’t realize I was being gaslighted until I learned about it on an article in this site and had a huge aha moment. I have a lot of emotional repairing to still work on after leaving him over a month ago. He managed to convince me that I was a bad person, that I was crazy, and turn even some of my own family against me. I had to be strong and cut off all ties with this man. I had to move to a safe place and not let this person know where I live, work, or who I’m with. I had to realize that I wasn’t insane, that he was doing these things on purpose to make me lose my mind. He wasn’t a sweet, kind, and sensitive person like he pretended to be. If he could get violent with me, cheat on me, and call me every horrible name in the book for no valid reason yet never say sorry or show any remorse, he was definitely a narcissist. It’s much better to be alone than… Read more »
Great article! My feeling has always been one of; knowing where my sh*t stops and someone else’s begins. This requires being sensitive AND having good inter-personal skills as well as caring about my relationships with others. Here we can usually feel the tonality of that particular energy and respond to it, or not, from a place of understanding and compassion. I will add this; I’ve never been more hyper sensitive to this damaged breed as I am today and can spot them by a glance.. master teachers, personally… I can do without ;)
I was married to one for 13 years…. year 13:getting out was my lucky one. Being an empath and caring and thinking, i could fix him..lead me to a really miserable existence. It did teach me tons…one…I deserve a heck of a lot better than that. I am strong..despite my kind nature. among many other lessons about myself! I kept letting him over and over treat me the way he did. I read a book on missing inner child parts….i was primarily missing the “inner bitch” and the key statement that saved me…made me wake up was this: “women that are missing their inner bitch…will be attracted to men that abuse them, use them, beat them up….etc and will ask themselves why is a nice person like me getting treated this way?…BECAUSE YOU LET THEM!” this was 2 years before i finally was able financially to walk away. During that 2 years i stopped letting him abuse me, i stopped letting him get away with his narcissistic behaviors…and he did NOT know what hit him. I realized years later that i was finishing my lessons of my mother…my mother was not kind to me at all as a child…she was… Read more »
I’ve been wondering and searching for what is wrong in my relationship pretty much since it began 3 years ago. After reading this article …. I am convinced that I am a true Empath and he is a true Narcissists.
It’s so very hard… sometimes almost impossible.
But… I love him and I committed to him … I actually gave everything and everybody up in my life for him….
I want it to work… I hate reading that most of the time if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist that you have to end it to be happy.
I don’t want to end it… I would much rather either learn to live with it peacefully or fix it.
Any suggestions for me are greatly appreciated and thank you so much for the article.
I have learned that most of the time narciccist are unaware of their personality and the damage they do to people because they lack compassion and empathy so if you are a sensitive person and recognize selfish behavior and disregard for your feelings it’s best to simply stay/walk away.No explanation needed.
What if you have a fear that you are an empath, but maybe you’re an empath because you’re actually a narcissist trying to overcompensate for being a narcissist? Does that even make sense? Like a highly self-aware narcissist? Can you identify as both?
I have learned that I need to 100% accept that they are the way they are. I have recently begun that process by taking a good hard look at them with honest truth so that I can accept it instead of resist it. Acceptance doesn’t mean tolerance. It means that I don’t live with the illusion that they will be different. Once I accept them, I can be honest with myself about needing to respect my own boundaries not wait for them to honor them. I let my inner guide be in charge and not the narcissist.
Thanks! This article is very informative regarding narcissistic personalities. In my dealings with this types of people I have learned that the setting of boundaries is a must. Sometimes the very act of boundary setting terminates the relationship, however that is not always the case with others. Also, I find it helpful to “see” them as they truly are: just a wounded human being. I feel very fortunate to have grown up with a mom who suffered from narcissistic borderline personality disorder. I learned a tremendous amount through that relationship. Thanks for availing yourself, through your writings, via this website. I stumbled upon it quite by accident….or maybe it was not by accident? ;) Take care!
Thank You for this article! I agree completely that it is a matter of finding BALANCE… It is not black and white or good versus bad… Just like in all other aspects of life! As an empath I have found that I can cope with narcissists close to me… after I have learned to respond emphatic and straight from the hart to any kind of blame and criticism… Since I got wrid of my feeling of victimhood I can see and respond instantaneously without fear of hurting or making things worse…. In that flash second I feel the “pain” from a feeling of being unworthy (or stupid, slow, lacy etc). I catch it and throw it out again and with a complete good conscience… That’s the important part GOOD CONSCIENCE !!! If you are used to please others and don’t feel worth loving, then stay away from narcissist… If you can love yourself with good conscience and put a mirror to the narcissist then you can heal you both and have a very harmonious relationship with one…. I do think that it is kind of our “job” to heal one another…. but remember only to take RESPONSIBILITY for your own… Read more »