The cold harsh truth is that not everyone deserves your empathy.
The American educator, businessman, keynote speaker, and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey once said “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
For many, it’s an insightful and even inspirational quote, but as a survivor of narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic abuse that had to endure decades of complex PTSD, I can’t say it’s true.
Covey was coming from good place when he made that statement. However, the man had either never been in a long-term relationship with a cluster B individual or, if he had, didn’t come to terms with the true nature of such a creature and how it might have adversely impacted his life.
For starters, empathy is what binds us together — the essence of what it means to be human — and to empathize is to put yourself in the shoes of another, understanding, accepting and, sometimes, sympathizing with their feelings. In other words, it is to be someone else for a slight second.
It is this ability to genuinely become someone else, however momentarily, that allows us to feel compassion, mercy, pity and altruistic towards others. Consequently, in the absence of empathy, emotions and cognition are skewed and deformed.
Those with narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy or psychopathy are devoid of authentic empathy, and without empathy, how can they genuinely love, bond or attach to another person?
They are cold, dark and empty pits of anger, hate, envy, jealousy, and callousness. How can anyone with even a minutia of empathy, let alone a full-blown empath, possibly “show deep empathy” towards them in the hope of diffusing their “defensive energy” without being drained of their life force?
I attempted to do just that with my full-blown narcissistic brother and sycophantic mother — that is, shower them with empathy — and you know what I got in return? More callousness, treachery and abuse than I never could have imagine.
To these “people”, empathy is a weakness, one to be exploited in whatever way possible to achieve their grandiose, selfish and predatory goals.
They trampled and spat on my empathy — desecrated it! — sucking me dry until I was a paralyzed husk, unable to tell left from right, getting funny looks and smirks from people I thought I knew, unable to turn my neck or bend by back because of excruciating pain that even my doctor couldn’t explain. Such is the deviousness and insidiousness of their abuse.
Empathy is wasted on the narcissist, empathy is wasted on the sociopath, empathy is wasted on the psychopath, so don’t even bother.
In fact, all emotions — anger, disgust, frustration, sadness, fear, modesty, etc. — are a waste of your precious time and energy.
A relationship with a narcissist is not reciprocal. You give; they take. They are an empty emotional vessel that needs to be refueled constantly with admiration and praise, and you are the source of that fuel.
Those few and intermittent times you thought he or she cared about you? Fake! A charade to keep you running back to them after an especially cruel act of abuse.
It’s all about them, so don’t expect in the slightest bit that your long-term needs will be be met.
Getting back to Covey’s quote, despite being made with good intentions, it is dangerous advice given what we now know about these predators. Rather than their defensive negative energy going down, it is your positive energy that risks being diminished, if not entirely depleted… your hopes and dreams extinguished as you are rendered a confused shell of your former self.
Once you know you’re dealing with a narcissist, sociopath, psychopathy or any other cluster B individual, the best thing you can do for your emotional and spiritual well-being is to cut them out of your life immediately.
No ifs or buts, no hesitation, and no backpedaling. Going no contact is your only salvation!