The Empath and the Narcissist

Lately I have had questions from readers about how to deal with a narcissist.  Empaths are confused by this relationship because the narcissist tends to mimic an Empath, and before the Empath knows it, the Empath is ensnared in a relationship she thought was real and equal and now cannot find a way out.  What has happened, and why is this relationship so draining?

It’s important to realize that all people when their wounds are triggered have a tendency to become narcissistic.  We focus on our pain and our emotions, becoming self-absorbed and less aware of the effect our actions and words have on the people around us.  What this means is that Empaths can be narcissists, too.   However, once we get out of a Victim stance and we start taking responsibility for our emotional state, we tend to behave narcissistically less often.  We have grown ourselves out of the trap of the narcissist.  What is this trap?

From what I have seen in my practice and my personal experience, the narcissist has a core wound that makes him or her feel unlovable and worthless.  However, this wound and the belief is buried so deep that it is completely unconscious.  To compensate and to not feel this pain, they over-achieve, they become know-it-alls, and/or they build up a facade that allows them to feel good about themselves.  Feeling good is all they can allow or else they will access that deep pain.  Many narcissists will sacrifice just about anything and anybody to avoid facing such pain.  Such a person is unlikely to be able to do his work in order to heal because they are avoiding that core pain.

I have written an article (See The Emotionally Dissociated Hero) on one type of narcissist that the Empath tends to find fascinating.  I have also written a book on the type of family that tends to support and collude with the narcissist called the Fan-Hero Family System.  The book goes in depth into how this type of narcissist tends to function, and I recommend it for any Empath who is trying to recover from a relationship with such a person.  However, the most important point for the Empath to understand so that they can avoid this relationship is the Empath’s own tendency to need to be the special, bonded one in another person’s life.

The narcissist uses this need to manipulate the Empath.  The Emotionally Dissociated Hero uses his or her intuition to find a person to take on a support role in the Hero’s life and to keep them happy in that role until that person is invested in the relationship.  Empaths, as you can already imagine, are great support people.  We will listen to the Hero’s story, we will help the Hero with his projects, and if we haven’t healed our dependency issues, we will do this in exchange for having material support or for having a sense of purpose and belonging in the world.  The blind spot for Empaths to watch out for is our unconscious belief that going deep and seeing the inner world of another is the best way to bond.  It is unhealthy to bond to an unhealthy person!

The Hero unconsciously knows about the Empath’s need to bond.  The Hero knows what to say and how to behave, but all of it is just an act.  The Hero draws the Empath in, the Empath thinks she is having a great relationship, and then the confusion begins.  What has happened?  Why does this relationship that seemed so real at first now feel so weird and draining?

Heroes are usually charming, attractive people, they know how to make the Empath feel special, but they are shut off from their Hearts in order not to feel that worthlessness.  The Hero is also a liar.  He lies to himself, he believes his own lies, and then he tells those lies to the people around him without knowing he is lying.  The Empath starts thinking that she is the crazy one, when it is the Hero who is actually ill.  The Hero is so focused on his outer image that he is willing to sacrifice reality (and the Empath).  Unfortunately, the Hero has usually gathered enough people around him that are willing to go along with the facade.  These people, unlike the Empath, do not get past the outer shell of the Hero and fall for the facade.  Or worse, these people catch glimpses of the unhealthy inner core, but do not call the Hero on his behavior.  Theses people would rather live by appearances as well.

As you can imagine, this living-by-appearances is crazy-making for the average Empath.  She begins to doubt herself; the Empath can get stuck in a mental loop of analysis of the situation and the relationship without making the realization that the Hero is happiest living a lie and wants it that way.  However, eventually the relationship disintegrates when the Empath either becomes so drained the Hero has to find another support person, or the Empath leaves the relationship out of desperation for her sanity.  For many Empaths it can feel like an act of survival to leave this relationship while everyone else involved thinks the Empath is the crazy, over-reactive one.  Most Empaths who have been through this scenario have been in the relationship for years.  It also takes them years to recover.

In the Fan-Hero Family System book I talk about an Empath and her husband who escaped from a group who both knowingly and unknowingly supported the unhealthy Heroes in the Family.  This type of dynamic requires scapegoating–which means we set someone else up to take the blame and we project our unwanted feelings on to them.  Of course, it is the Empath that usually becomes the scapegoat.  Scapegoating is a terrible form of group lying and of avoiding reality.  Most of the time it is done unconsciously, but even so, it is always incredibly painful for the scapegoat.

Empaths who have lived through this and want to heal must remember that they have been badly abused and injured in the worst sort of way.  The person they have bonded to has violated her trust.  Understanding the hidden dynamic can be helpful, which is the main reason I wrote the Fan-Hero Family System book.  However, once the understanding is there, the real challenge for Empaths is to let go of the wound and not give it another thought, another feeling, or any more energy.  The narcissist involved is a sick person.  The people that support him are either knowingly or unknowingly supporting a lie.  Empaths who want to live happy, full lives must embrace reality.  Narcissists simply cannot.  The best way to heal is to understand that the narcissist probably won’t be able to heal because he must first realize he is wounded.  He cannot take responsibility for himself.  Empaths must accept this is the case.  This situation is unfixable!

The only sane action the Empath can take is to take responsibilty for her state.  She can realize that she has these core beliefs about being special and about being emotionally bonded, and she can start observing how these beliefs drive her.  Then she can be more choosy in her relationships.  And she can be on the look out for people who avoid reality and avoid them herself.

Let me know if you have questions or comments!

much love,



This entry was posted in Boundaries, Drama Triangle, Emotional Dissociation, Emotions, Empathy, Narcissist, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

176 Responses to The Empath and the Narcissist

  1. jessica says:

    i think this situation applies to friends too. I had a female ‘best friend’ who acted like the narcissist and i was the empath. and it played out exactly as you’ve said. noting the word ‘had’ we are not friends anymore just as you predicted

    • Louisa says:

      I have a friend and had a partner, both relationships playing out in this very dynamic! I was beginning to see something wasn’t right but doubting myself and getting very confused and feeling very guilty for stepping back. How validating this is.

    • Natalie Williams says:

      I’ve had a “best friend” who lives very close by with whom I lived out this dynamic for nearly 25 years . . . looks like I’ve got a lot of healing to do. I hope you’re able to heal too.

    • linda says:

      I had the same situation with many “friends” in my life. This applies to those who I thought were my friends ;(

    • Jackie says:

      I can relate totally. I was friends with a family and the mom and girls were very much like that. I am an Empath and desire nothing more than Peace and Kindness. Their approaches when things got heavy were to become abrasive, self-righteous, shaming and blaming. Their mom was the example and she was emotionally stoic. When I finally had the courage at times to express my genuine feelings it would be used against me and I would hear phrases like “You’re too Sensitive”, “You need to grow some balls” etc. Over the years I felt smaller and smaller. Eventually long story short I had to let go of the one I was closest to considering the oldest one told me to basically go fuck myself when I shared with her my feelings. They would always say to me “You need to stick up for yourself” however with them it was an issue because they wanted to feel like the dominant one in the relationship. When they would come down on me I would succumb to just agreeing with them as to quickly pacify the drama and aggression. It was at the end when I walked away how much they didn’t really respect or genuinely care for me because people who sincerely care would be more humble and considerate and be appreciative that you would be so honest. They instead chose to be harsh and blaming which confirmed my decision. It still hurts me til this day and I was the one that walked away. They all live 2 doors away from me so I unfortunately have the “luxury” of possibly banging into them any day I go outside. Sad thing was I grew up with them all. Makes me so sad and heartbroken to think I cared so much for them and their feelings but it was not reciprocated. Their approach with me has caused deep wounds which still they have chosen not to validate however I validated theirs. I compromised myself so long with people who couldn’t care less about my feelings and my sense of esteem has been affected by that decision. They are also the type to move forward quickly and wouldn’t be at all uncomfortable seeing me as for them they believe they are the shit, very full of themselves. It makes me sad to feel I had no worth and value to them. <3

    • Beverley says:

      I too have had such “friends” I am 59 and have just discovered I’m an empath who had a narcissistic mother. I always attracted narcissistic boyfriends which is why I’m single and didn’t have children. I also realize that because of my upbringing I attracted unhealthy friendships where I was the active supportive friend often a one sided friendship. I now see that I haven’t set boundaries and have almost invited abuse as a repeat of my childhood. This treatment validated my core believe that I do not deserve to be loved unconditionally which is the root of my problem. It’s never too late to change empaths area being called upon to heal apparently but first they have to heal themselves. I’m on the way.

      • Elaine says:

        Hi Beverley,

        I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with so many narcissists. It’s hard when you’ve been set up that way by dealing with a narcissistic parent. I commend you for working on your own healing so you can enjoy your relationships. That takes a lot of courage. I’m so glad you are getting out of that dynamic.

        much love,

  2. Elaine says:

    Hi Jessica,

    This situation definitely applies to friends! I am so sorry you went through this yourself. In the Fan Hero Family System book, the Empath is good friends with the Narcissist. There’s another example between a husband and wife as well.

    Good for you for getting away from that relationship! I hope you are well and recovered.

    much love,

  3. jessica says:

    Thank you for your response. I love your blog and am so glad I found it. It seems like I’m glimpsing at my own future self and a very good person that seems.

    I was also seeing a commitment phobe who broke up with me and your reflection mirror article has just changed my perspective. Think this is what we call fate! Very glad to meet you.

    Many thanks and all the best,

  4. Elaine says:

    Thank you for your kind words Jessica! They are much appreciated.

    I am so glad the articles on the site have been so helpful. Let me know if you have questions.

    much love,

  5. Bingo says:

    My intuition led me to this page when I was trying to find ways to locate a few old friends when facebook/internet etc failed me.
    I can find items with pendulums, gut feelings and just being told where they are but not confident on people.
    Anyway I must have been destined to read this page as in this context a “Hero” sounds like someone with BPD?
    Anyway I had to break off a LONG relationship with someone with BPD after they completely shut me outafter finding a new support person.
    It really hurt, and was so sudden.I was their best friend until they found a new person and kicked me out of their life the very next day.
    I was hoping to find a few friends now the Hero is gone I want to reconnect with these people whomean a lot to me, but don’t know how to find them or anyone who knows them.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Bingo,

      I’m so sorry you were abandoned by your friend. Any Enneagram Archetype can have BPD, and anyone can behave narcissistically when triggered. However, the Enneagram Archetype I was concentrating on in the Fan-Hero book is the Type Three who has a persona of a hero–one who brings home achievements in order to develop a perfected image. These people may be very popular but have only a few people on the inside who know what they are really like.

      I’m not sure if this was true in your case, but it sounds like you went through a very painful experience, and you became isolated while you were in service to your friend. I’m wishing you all the best in your recovery!

      much love,

    • Pam H says:

      Thank you for your article. I spent the last six months of my life being confused and manipulated by a man who claimed to care for me. I tried over and over to get off the emotional roller coaster but couldn’t because these type of people convince you that YOU are the crazy one. I have now cut all communication and access to my social media. God willing I am on the road to recovery.

      • Elaine says:

        Dear Pam,

        I’m so sorry you were caught in such a crazy relationship. I am very glad you managed to escape!

        sending hugs,

      • Sabina says:

        Sorry for your experience Pam. I’m experiencing something along the lines that you expressed. I am curious about your journey. You wrote about 6 months ago and I’m looking for positive remarks to help me stay b in line with letting go completely and moving on.

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  8. ImFree says:

    Great article. I’m picking up the pieces from an 18 month stint with a narcissist.
    I’d like to comment on your thought that…

    “all people when their wounds are triggered have a tendency to become narcissistic. We focus on our pain and our emotions, becoming self-absorbed and less aware of the effect our actions and words have on the people around us.”

    In some respect your are correct. I’ve often thought about my neediness in the aftermath of previous relationships… where I was left desperate for someone, desperate to be needed and loved, and recklessly starting a relationship. This is what they call the rebound relationship – right? And it is in those moments that I’ve been emotionally blind, acting partly on need. But I do think there’s a difference between people acting out of need and narcissistic behavior. I don’t think I ever mis-represented myself, although I do realize I did seek safe relationships at the time where I was less likely to get hurt. Yes in hindsight, it was selfish. But I don’t think it quite rises to the level of narcissism. What seems to be common in relationships with narcissists, is the speed at which the attachment proceeds… because as you say they are mirroring your wants and needs. And so they can provide that seemingly perfect match. In my experience, that really didn’t happen in my rebound relationships. Yes, I wanted validation, but I was careful with my professions of either like or love. A narcissist will come out early with promises of complete devotion, marriage, love, etc. And that is something that I still struggle with… do they really feel/think that? or are they going through the motions? playing a game? ugh…

    • Elaine says:

      Hi ImFree,

      I’m so sorry that you were in a relationship with a narcissist. As you know, it can be hard to tell what is real with such a person, especially when they may believe their own lies! It sounds like in your past relationships when you were at your most vulnerable you were very careful not to behave narcissistically–you didn’t pretend to be an image. That is great. The next step is to be able to feel vulnerable and needy without having to act on it in a selfish way with a rebound relationship. I bet you are able to hold those feelings courageously as you are recovering from your last relationship. We are all developing our inner strength. The narcissist really doesn’t have any inner strength. I am sure that now you will recognize a narcissist in the future, and that you will steer clear of such relationships. This is all practice for all of us!

      much love,

      • imfree says:

        Hi Elaine 🙂

        Thanks for responding. And yes, I’m “sticking to my guns” by being alone for a while, while I work on myself. I’m feeling the need to re-discover myself because it seems in all of my emotionally abusive relationships I tend to lose myself entirely. Thanks for your sympathy about being in a relationship with an N! This recovery has been the most heart-wrenching painful experience of my life… trying to sort out what’s real and what’s not (as you mentioned as well). I am unwilling to tell myself that my love for her was not real, which leaves me in a painful spot. We will never be together again, but I know that I will always love her and I worry about her… I worry that she will not find peace and happiness. All of her sisters seem to have personality issues (one of which is schizophrenic) and I know her Mom had a very abusive mother. I hate to think that my ex’s issues stem from family karmic problems, and as a result, she has no choice in the matter… she is completely blind to her behavior, because her emotions are buried so deep. Is it possible to do soul retrieval with narcissists who experienced trauma in childhood, or are dealing with emotional baggage passed on by previous generations?

        • Elaine says:

          Hi I’mFree,

          I think it’s a wise decision to work on yourself for a bit, and to also become clear on what happens right before you lose yourself in a relationship. Doing your own soul retrieval and underworld work might really help you dig out any hidden belief system that requires you to lose yourself in order to have love in your life.

          I wouldn’t tell yourself that you did not love this person, or that it wasn’t real. Of course you did! Being in a romantic relationship is a complicated business because we bring so much of our own “stuff” to it. You loved as honestly as you could. That is what is important.

          It is also important to realize that she is the one that has to find her peace and happiness. She is the one that has to want to heal herself. She has choice about that! Family imprints are at play for all of us, but they can be healed. I have plenty of clients who are no longer tethered to a family imprint/curse and have the lives they want. It is a hard healing path, but it can be done. All of us can get better.

          But, for shamanic energy work to work, the client has to be the one who wants to do the work. It can be an amazingly magical process, but it is also a hard process to become conscious. For anyone who does this sort of work, one thing becomes clear–how we have hurt so many people because of our personal wounds and family wounds. That can be hard to face; one has to have the internal strength to face and take responsibility. As you can imagine, this could be excruciating for the typical narcissist. They are severely wounded, and have to build their internal strength bit by bit. It is usually a long process.

          Anyone can get better. Anyone can do this work. It is worthwhile! I know this may be hard to hear, but I would concentrate on you, and try to let your worry over your girlfriend go. She has her own healing path that she can take or not. She is on her own spiritual journey, just as you are. That journey is always an individual one.

          sending you love and hugs!

        • mebored says:

          Hi Imfree,

          I feel similarly about my ex. We were only together for four months, but it moved so quickly and I thought, in the beginning, was just what I wanted. I have all the facts now that it wasn’t the right relationship, that I was losing myself, that I was being drained, but I think I still miss taking care of him and I feel terrible because I know he doesn’t know what happened. He thought it was a good relationship (that’s how self-centered and unaware he is of his unconscious distancing behaviors). I worry about him, I want him to be loved in the way he wants to be deep-down. And it hurts me to know I wasn’t enough.

      • Pumpkee says:

        This is so true, saying all that you said outloud is so healing…getting out side of our heads is so important! We got this, stay grounded in our inner strength! Love your postings, books and teachings!
        Love and Hugs

  9. Healing says:

    I have saved this and will reread it when I begin spending too much time pondering my last relationship. It was with a man with whom I had a sweet loving relationship for almost five years when I was a you g adult ( just 18 when we met). The relationship ended when I followed a career path that took me to another part of the country.
    He initiated occasional contact for almost twenty years and I did little to respond as he did not share my willingness to attempt to make life changes in order to accommodate our relationship. He finally contacted me again, years later when I was married and shared with me that he had, as a result of an accident and long periods of solitude and dealing with chronic pain, come to the realization that his earlier unwillingness to make a life with me was driven by fear. He had also continued with intense spiritual work and begun counseling.
    I was at a week spot in my marriage and felt deep loving feeli gs for this man renew.
    We each told our spouses and stopped contacting each other for a time and each engaged in individual and couples counseling.
    After 4 years of struggle, he left his spouse, telling me that he had never loved her the way she deserved to be loved and that he was ready for me but not pushing me.
    He waitied another two years keeping in contact with me. I left my husband after my you gets child left our home.
    The weekend I moved out, my first love, fought with me on the phone and appeared overreactive and rage filled. He sent an angry email and with the ex epitome of one more angry email a month later…. Has ne’er communicated with me again. And I did attempt communication several times but he ignored me…. This after seven years of on and off communication and hotel reservations and a planned trip for us to visit each other in just a few weeks after I moved out.
    All of the things you said about the dynamics of the empath and a person behaving as a narcissist rang true. He had described a frightening childhood with a verbally abusive, alcohol parent and a mother whom I witnessed using stony silence to deal with relationship issues.
    I feel wounded and am five months past this and healing
    Your words helped.

    • Elaine says:

      Hello Healing,

      I am so sorry you went through this dynamic with your first love. It sounds like the reality of actually following through and having an in person, no obstacles relationship pushed him into his defense mechanisms against true intimacy and he ran away. I suspect that he was very frightened of experiencing a real relationship but couldn’t admit this to himself. I am so sorry for your pain. Take care of yourself–realize that there was nothing you could do to make it an easier transition for him. He is too wounded to see the effect on you.

      much love,

  10. Isolated says:

    I read your article with much interest, as I come from a family who are highly narcissistic, having patterned their communication and behavior in relationships after that of my mother, who is extremely image conscious, reluctant to ever take responsibility and highly manipulative in her way of relating. I think my father is a cerebral narcissist. Basically in my family the only emotion that is acceptable is anger, and love, kindness, sadness — anything close to feeling are weaknesses that should be avoided at all costs. Lies are the staple of my family, and the worst members will lie in the middle of a conversation, about something they’ve just said or done, daring anyone to say different.

    I’ve unwittingly, or I guess some might say predictably all my life picked people who are narcissistic to have friendships and relationships as well. To be honest, I know that they are very attracted to me because they seek me out, even on line and I am very familiar with the signs/traits . My family has always scapegoated me and are invested in never dealing with the truth, which is very painful for me and I’ve experienced this same reluctance in the people I’ve navigated to in my life.

    Trying to become healthy and create boundaries, I’ve limited contact with my narcissistic family members and ended the toxic, abusive relationships I’ve had in the past with men/friends. As I’ve navigated through life, my poor choices for friends/relationships and lack of boundaries left me with a history of the the same types of people in my life and I didn’t like it. I decided only I could do something about it. You can’t change people, I know.

    And realizing I’ve made poor choices and committing to stop has left me very isolated and lonely. I don’t know what to do. I think I’d rather not have any relationships again ever than to re-experience the feeling of being a scapegoated! As you’ve correctly stated, it is very painful!

    I had a particularly painful disagreement with my children’s father tonight, yes, the day before Mother’s Day. This man who in the past has been so unsupportive and abusive, attacked me when I asked a question that I suppose called forth some feelings of guilt and shame. It was about my first car and who destroyed the engine (he did). No big deal to me, we were just discussing our daughter who wants a car, and he asked me what age I got my first car. When I mentioned 1st my car and what happened to it, he was determined not admit that. I sensed his reluctance, knew he felt shame and guilt. Maybe I thought he would feel better if he talked about it? Honestly at the time, I felt it was no big deal, this was like 20 years ago! He didn’t want to have the conversation period, but rather than express this honestly, he did what abusive people do. He ducked and dodged the question, and projected his anger and frustration onto me. What was the big deal, the empath in me said? What was he afraid to talk about? It was nothing to admit to I felt at the time. No one would arrest him or punish him. No one would judge him. It was okay. He wasn’t comforted at all by my attempts to express this. I truly didn’t feel there was any judgement or anything in me that was unconsciously trying to be expressed. The truth is this is just a person who historically refuses to ever take responsibility for any wrong doing, to ever acknowledge making a mistake and most always become defensive, no matter how small. What a fool I was/am? He has always been this way!!!
    He turned the conversation into an argument by refusing to answer my question, while pretending to have the conversation. What are you talking about? Where’d you get that from. That never happened! What car? Okay, yes, I remember the car but I’m defensive because you’re accusing me of something I didn’t do. Tell me when I’ve did that? So what, what was the problem? Why do I need to confess to you? I don’t owe anyone an explanation, least of all you! It’s not a big deal, so why did you bring it up? Why are YOU making a big deal about this?

    To my repetitive question of why he was making what I viewed as such a small matter a big deal, he then flipped the script and asked why I was making it such a big deal! As I became increasingly frustrated, he became increasingly calm, mocking and critical of my being “emotionally out of control” – I realized he was using me to feel his negative feels for him while it was happening, but it was too late. I was already in the midst of the storm. He said I had started the argument and kept it going by not dropping the conversation. Why are you so frustrated, he asked, without any interest in hearing my answer!

    He kept saying he didn’t have to care about anyone but himself; that he didn’t have to talk about anything that he didn’t want to. I said, over and over, “Of course you don’t! But how does that help communication or help us co-parent?” He said, “I dont’ care. I don’t have to do anything for you.” I asked, “But how can you have good relationships when you think that way?”

    Then he said something that really hurt me – which was that I didn’t have good relationships with ANYONE, not even my children. Being that Mother’s Day was tomorrow I felt extremely hurt. It’s not true, he knows, I know. But of course he knows about my narcissistic family and how I’ve created boundaries to protect them from continually scapegoating me. And course he knows that has left me very sad about the fact that we cannot have the healthy relationship that I would have liked.

    But I can’t help it! This argument just reinforces my feeling that I just do not want to have contact with people period. I can’t understand the need to lie/hide about things that to me are so apparent. And I can’t seem to stop attracting to myself/choosing to deal with people who can’t be emotionally honest. I seem to need to heal something but I don’t know how to emotionally deal with the projection of feelings, most especially the scapegoating. I consider myself pretty smart, but I’m seriously at a lost and don’t know what to do.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Isolated,

      I am so sorry for your pain, especially on Mother’s Day! I think you see the situation very clearly–that your former husband can’t afford to take responsibility for himself, so he has to make you feel bad instead of deal with his own inner life, and all that chaos and pain underneath. It sounds like you understand the dynamics of what it means to be the scapegoat in this sort of family system. And it sounds like you really want out!

      On the Literal Level you are doing everything right. I think it is time for you to start working on the Mythic and Energetic Levels to clear up your subconscious contracts so you can finally attract the right people into your life. If you haven’t done so, please consider reading my books in order. The last book is a case study in how one person escapes the very family system you are speaking of. He can only do it because of his deep personal work on the Mythic and Energetic Levels, which is very efficiently done by working with a shaman.

      When we’ve had a lifetime of training of living with narcissist (or any family pattern) that pattern gets locked into our energetic system without us being conscious of it. You can think of it as sending out a vibration everywhere that says “use me as a scapegoat, abuse me when you need to” even though on the literal and mental/emotional level you have healed this. It is still there and ingrained on that Mythic and Energetic Level. It exists on a different plane of reality that the shaman works at. Once that is all dug out of your system, then you will finally see the shift happen at the literal level.

      You’ll still have the practice of working with your former husband, but the new relationships that come into your life should offer you new opportunities for real, reciprocal connection where you are no longer fulfilling a role in the narcissistic person/family system’s game. When this deeper healing occurs, you will find that you won’t respond in quite the same way, or if you do, you will be able to stand back more objectively from it and observe. Gradually it will gain less hold of you.

      Don’t give up! I can totally understand your need to withdraw, but please try to reach out to one of the shaman on the homepage of my website. It can help! Or at least look into my books, especially the last book, the Fan-Hero Family System, so you can know that you aren’t alone, and that there is hope for healing and a happy life filled with the relationships you want.

      sending love and hugs,

  11. Isolated says:

    Thank you so much Elaine for your advice. I left years of therapy because my therapist, though very skilled and understanding, could not answer my question: How is it possible that I attract these people where ever I go! She was very spiritual herself and we often talked about energy work, and I know this was the universe preparing me to do the work that I need to do. Thank you so much for your kindness and empathy and also for writing these books that I will now read. I am ready to be healed and I do not want to give up on myself! Blessings and gratitude,

    • Elaine says:

      You are so welcome!! Let me know how it goes, and if you have any questions about the process.

      much love,

  12. Zoe says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! ?You are that voice of reason and wisdom, that we empaths needed to hear. My heartfelt gratitude for the work you are doing so that we who have been in bondage to negative and toxic experiences can finally be set be free! Namaste~

    • Elaine says:

      You are so welcome, Zoe! I am glad I can help. xoxoxoxo Elaine

      • Zoe says:

        Just last evening I was invited to partake of dinner and ‘hang-out’ time with my narcissistic sister and her enablers (she’s the self appointed ‘family hero’ in the family dynamic). Because of what I had read earlier in the day on your blog, there was no tension or the need to escape the scenario; but instead, I chose to be a member of the audience quietly observing the interactions amongst the ‘players.’ So liberating! I didn’t allow myself to get sucked in the mix, but simply chose to be a distant and silent witness. The entire evening, I was grateful to have that choice. It was so very nice to be able to say good night and gracefully exit w/o the pain and disappoinment of prior experiences. Thank you Elaine! I am your #1 fan!

        • Elaine says:

          Wow, Zoe, great work!!! I am so glad you were able to see what was really going on and choose not to participate in your sister’s game (which sounds like it always has an unhappy outcome for you.) I am happy I could offer insight into that dynamic, but you must give yourself tons of credit for disengaging!! Non-engagement is so hard for Empaths–you’ve done it! xoxoElaine

  13. Paige says:

    When I was little I was sure I’d been adopted because that would explain why I didn’t fit in with my family and why they hated me so much. I knew I was different and I could explain their personalities but just this last week I learned the official names: my mom is classic narcissistic; my oldest sibling is a sociopath; my youngest sibling the golden child; my father is the apath/enabler and I am an empath. It is liberating to know I am not the mean, crazy one. It is gut wrenching to relive painful memories when I read the various traits associated with the personalities and even more sickening when I recall moments when I reflected my mom’s behaviors in my own, having learned what I lived and having that desire to be special. Especially since she worked so very hard to ensure that I knew I was not. Also, recognizing previous friendships with narcissists – UGH! And knowing I work with a few….bleah. Thank you for your insight. Now, on to purging!

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Paige,

      I’m so glad you are well on your way to healing! It’s a process, so go easy on yourself. You deserve to have a happy, Drama free life!

      much love,

  14. Christie says:

    Thank you for your helpful information. I am currently in emotional turmoil. I fell for a man that is a mild narcissist, I believe. I am probably a hsp, but I am guilty of participating in this messed up situation. I am married, yet responded to his romantic overtures (missing this in my marriage). We did not physically act on them, but did virtually through sensual/sexual messages online. Anyway, after I had opened my heart to him in emotional as well as physical ways for a few months, he suddenly ended it, telling me that he had a deepening of his relationship with his significant other (another married woman–yes, I know this is a mess. I did not know that he was seeing this woman when he first started making overtures to me. All three of us are in the same social group, but they kept their relationship hidden, probably b/c she is married to someone else).

    When he “broke up” with me, I didn’t respond for about 3 weeks. I was devastated, and extremely confused. Then I sent him a message apologizing for my silence. He was out of town for an extended period of time, and he wanted us to meet to “talk over” things before we saw each other in our social group. I have been insanely busy, so we are planning a meeting, but have already seen each other in the group. I have been crushed by how he has acted around me in the group. The first time he was very cold towards me. He and his girlfriend have gone out of their way to be very affectionate towards each other when they know I can see them, which hurts a lot. What’s crazy is that I have not pursued him, and I have definitely not had any romantic correspondence with him since he “broke up” with me. So I am perplexed and confused and hurt by this very hard push from both of them. In fact, he flirts with other women in front of me in this group, but is still a bit stiff around me, and he doesn’t talk with me about the things we used to talk about for fun. I have been hoping to at least have a friendship with him, because I felt that we had become very close emotionally. I was willing to go through the pain of still being in love with him but just having a friendship to keep the deep connection. But now I don’t know what I’m going to say at our “talk.” I’m really hurting, and I’m a little angry now, too. Am I insane to try to have a friendship with this guy? If he is only a mild narcissist, can he have a positive and caring friendship with me?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Christie,

      I’m so sorry you are in such a painful situation, especially since it involves your group of friends. However, I have to ask you, WHY would you want a friendship with this person? He has hurt you, trampled on your feelings, shown that he doesn’t care for his wife’s feelings, and has involved himself in yet another affair while tormenting you whenever he gets a sly opportunity! Why ever would you want to strike up a friendship with someone who shows a complete lack of character, integrity, or empathy for the people he purports to care for? This is a selfish being that needs to do some serious personal work. He can’t honestly care for anyone!

      The most important thing to consider is what made you fall for such a person. If you are lacking certain qualities in your marriage, can they be cultivated there? If not, why are you married? What do you want in a relationship, in a friendship? Are you the type of person that you would want to be in relationship with? If not, can you work on yourself? This is where the focus should be, not on this other person that seems to get a kick out of creating Drama and emotionally stirring up as much trouble as possible.

      I highly encourage you to consider reading my first book on the Archetypal Drama Triangle. You may find it hard to read, but it is a good place to start in understanding relationships, and how they go awry. You don’t have to be ensnared in this vicious game of his. Walk away with no regrets, and focus on yourself so you will never be ensnared again.

      Sending you love and hugs!

      • Zoe says:

        I feel sad for Christie and can’t help but wonder if regarding seeking relationships that lead to moral pitfalls, has she ever heard the following expression: “if he does with you, he’ll do it to you.” Sounds like this man likes to play with a woman’s feelings and emotons just for the sport of it. Time to do some serious ‘soul path work.’ So grateful for Elaine and her nuggets of truth and wisdom.

  15. Alone in Dallas says:

    Hi Elaine,

    Where to begin. I met a wonderfully charming gentleman last year via a dating site. Our first conversation was magical, an immediate connection. I found myself longing for this gentleman. What I had considered the most perfect day in my life, turned into the worst nightmare of my life, yet I love him. Beyond the emotional abuse, the physical abuse was unimaginable to me, I was whipped over 100 times one evening by an array of leather belts he brought, he needed to discern which caused the most pain. He would pull me to the floor by my hair and beat me. When I would put face down, my attempt to diminish the pain, I was not allowed, he would pull my head up by my hair. He put large binder clamps on my nipples as punishment, I was not allowed to look or speak to him. When I was allowed, no direct eye contact and I must address him by showing him proper respect of Sir, may I. He choked and attempted to suffocate me. Through all this I still love him, even though he is no longer hurting me, I miss him.
    I study my past to improve my future, I know he cannot be included. I left my home, job, lost my friends for this man, a man who lied about being married with children. His life is intact, mine is in shambles, but I am working with the church and counselors to try to reassemble what is such a mess. I keep wondering, is he a sociopath, narcissist or like my father, the victim of an evil, dark, woman. I wanted him to see how wonderful he is, I believed in him, but the him I believed, I am not sure exists. When took the Empathy Quotient, my score was 70 out of 80, so I want to be fair. I want to forgive him, but for the first time in my life I see how he betrayed me, although he feels I betrayed him. I was the one woman, who saw him for the man he could be and believed he could have it all. I am so lost, can you help me understand what I am going through. My head says I replicated my childhood, it closely resembles my family entity, just different faces. I always felt great compassion for my dad, maybe that is why I am so connected to this charming gentleman. So confusing.
    Alone in Dallas

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Alone in Dallas,

      You miss him? You love him? You want him to see how wonderful he is???? This man is the definition of a sadist!! You are his willing Victim!!! Take the focus off of him, and ask yourself why on earth would you care that he feels you betrayed him? I am so glad you are seeing a counselor and a therapist, but you must get yourself to a shaman and get down to the root cause of why your whole system thinks it is OK to let yourself be abused and then to think that the connection you feel is love!!!! This is NOT the way to express love and connection. Everything you describe here is downright criminal. Why didn’t you press charges for assault? Who cares if he is a sociopath, a narcissist, or the victim of an evil dark woman. He’s gladly done evil dark acts, he’s not someone to love or to understand, he’s just sad and sick and dangerous. Thank god you escaped, but if you do not want to repeat this sort of abusive relationship, you must get down to the heart of why this feels at all like love to you. I’m sure it has to do with the relationship with your father. A shaman will be able to help you untangle this subconscious belief that feelings of love and connection make abuse OK.

      Don’t stand for abuse, EVER, and say this is love. Abuse is not a loving act. This man’s behavior is the very definition of sick and twisted! Sure, offer this lost soul compassion, but get yourself out of danger, and then start the hard hard personal work of seeing how and why you chose this person, how your internal radar could let you think it was love, and how love and charm became confused.

      Sending you love and encouragement! It takes courage to get off the Drama Triangle when you have been trained by your childhood to be a Victim. You can get better though. Forget about him, focus on you and what would be healthy and loving for you!


  16. Milly says:

    Hi Elaine,
    Very interesting article. Do you have any thoughts/ advice on the relationship between a narcissist mother and an empath daughter?
    My mother is a seemingly charming, attractive, helpful ‘christian’ churchgoer.
    In reality, she is a single mum with all the traits of a narcissist. As for me, I’ve known for several years that I’m more empathic than most people, but have just recently discovered that that I’m an “empath”. I had no idea that existed. I cut contact with my mother almost a year ago, and am learning to let myself feel. But at the same time, I’m getting drained by the outside world. I’d built up this protective wall. For example, I never used to cry (my mum would scream at me to stop crying when I was very young). Now, I cry often. When I met my husband, I remember crying one evening and smiling and laughing at the same time. It was very strange and embarrassing. But I was happy. And I think that’s when I started to let down the wall.
    Sometimes I feel bad I’ve cut ties with my mum, but I can’t face her. The idea of it freaks me out.
    She’s tried to contact me a number of times, always at appropriate times for her. Birthdays, Christmas and very recently, mother’s day. I politely but firmly, once and for all, told her how I felt and that I don’t want anything to do with her. That was just a few weeks ago. I have not had any news from her since. She usually insists and pushes until she gets her way. But this time, she’s just given up. Which is both relieving yet sad at the same time. I’m kind of lost right now, so any advice or words of wisdom would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Milly,

      I’m so glad you have managed to set the boundaries that you need with your family! It can be terribly difficult to do when you are an Empath and it is your narcissist mother. I have actually written about this relationship in my book called Motivations of the Empath. I also explore it more in the Fan-Hero Family System book. You might want to check those out, but I do encourage you to read my books in order since I introduce terminology and concepts of which most people are not familiar.

      The most important point to know is that you are only a supporting character in your mother’s life. A narcissist doesn’t see people as actual people with their own needs, and with the right to be self-absorbed as they are. Empaths with narcissistic mothers tend to have their boundaries over run on such a regular basis that they wind up not knowing how to erect them. This is why they tend to become psychic–even the hidden world is allowed in once we are overwhelmed.

      Do not feel guilty for doing what you need to do to stay sane. Go seek support from a therapist and a shaman, and definitely delve more into what it is like to be an Empath so you know you aren’t alone!

      much love,

      • Milly says:

        Hi Elaine,
        Thank you for your helpful reply. Your books sound interesting, I shall certainly take a look.
        I saw a therapist for a while, until I moved cities. I should really find another one now.
        Please excuse my ignorance, but I’m not sure what a shaman is, but thank goodness for Google 🙂
        I’ll look into it.
        Keep up the blog! Thanks again.
        Take care

  17. Shana says:

    What kinds of questions should I be asking about potential partners myself, so that I may be able to distinguish between those in reality and those avoiding reality?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Shana,

      This is a great question! The answer can be complicated, given your own personal history. First, I would take a look at the relationships you’ve already had and see if there are patterns. Do you tend to attract narcissists? Do you tend to attract wounded people? Have you done your own personal work on your own wounds and traumas so you don’t have to work those out in another relationship? Are you able to see another person for themselves? Do you tend to be the caretaker or support person in relationships? Lots right there to explore!

      From there, when looking at potential partners and friends, see how charming they are. Some charisma is good–too much charm is a bad sign. What do you have in common? Do they remind you of anyone? If they remind you of parents, old partners, or if they seem like a dream come true, those are warning signs to look again at your own personal patterns.

      And in general, people who tend to avoid reality tend to ignore or deny opinions or even facts. They tend to paint rosy pictures instead of balanced pictures of people. Or they are black and white. A real person dealing with reality knows on some level that reality is a mixture of grey. If you are an Empath, the danger is romanticizing relationships.

      I hope that helps! It’s crucial to work on your own patterns as much as possible. Once you are more clear there, it’s much easier to see other people.

      Let me know if you have more questions.

  18. Michelle says:

    Wow. I recently saw a comment about narcissism on a friends FB page and it was an “aha” moment of realization that my previous relationship, that I am struggling to recover from even after 3 years, was with a narcissist. So, I googled “narcissism hero” and found this article. This is SO helpful! Looking back, my first clue should have been when we were are a disaster training seminar and he was made the leader on his team (as he always is). I left to go home to grab lunch for us both, and my dog had gotten out. I was panicked and I called him and his reply was “what do you want me to do, I’m the team leader, and I can’t leave” – he would rather look like the hero/was enjoying being the hero for his team MORE than he wanted to help me in my distress. Overtime, he began to tell me that if I didn’t start giving him more of what he wanted in the relationship, he’d go find it elsewhere. I stayed because we worked with dogs, and everyone thought he was so great, and I’d think “this person loves dogs, so he can’t be THAT bad, can he?” We’d fight – we would rescue a dog together and he’d tell everyone “he” rescued the dog, never “we” rescued the dog and I would get mad and he’d say I was “competing” with him. I’d tell him I was going to leave and he’d say “oh, sure, abandon me just like everyone else” – so I’d stay because I didn’t want to hurt him. This went on UNTIL he met a girl who thought he was the best thing ever. She worshiped him and she does not “compete” with him, she just tells him he is her hero and how amazing he is. He left me INSTANTLY upon finding her. He cared not about how I felt, only about how he felt and appeared to others. OMG. I am trying really hard to heal. It has been a long journey (3 freaking years of trying to heal, ugh) but I think that has taken so long because I only recently started learning about narcissism. I needed this piece to the puzzle. I will get there – THANK YOU!!!

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I’m so sorry you went through such a crazy-making relationship! That is one of the key signs of a Hero narcissist–everyone is the problem except them. Everyone is there to play a supporting or worshiping role in their life. The closest people to them are the ones that either go crazy with self-doubt, or are content to be this supporting player, making everything look good. I’m so sorry you’ve been suffering for three years, but rest assured, you are so much better off without him! Take good care of yourself!


  19. Candice says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of literature on empaths, as well as narcissists and the people they attract.. This, out of all I have read so far really reaches me. I am definitely an empath and an intuitive as well. Thank you so much for this insightful article.

    I am in a relationship with an individual who has built quite the world for himself in the underground music scene. We are both musicians. I am in one band, I sing. He is in 2 bands, he sings in one, and plays drums in the other. He also books shows, djs, is out about 6-7 nights out of the week, and works days at a department store. He’s been at it for about 12 years, and I’ve been on the scene for about 2.5 years.
    I don’t soley identify with the music world, I am also a masters student of social work, and I work with children on the autism spectrum. I love learning about the tarot, and am newly into healing literature, and food as medicine. Family and a few close friends is my ideal social situation. I do though really love playing shows, writing new songs, and collaborating with other artists. I haven’t had quite the creative outlet such as this, its been life altering in some very great ways, but in also some very draining ways. The person that I am with and I drank a lot of booze together.. however fairly recently I have stopped due to the interference it has on my daily life, and interpersonal life.
    Initially he helped me out a lot navigating through the music world, and booked us a lot of shows.. which I expressed great gratitude for. I thought we had it made together for a short period of time. I thought he was so kind and loving.. and strangly enough I still see those glimmers, its just really tough under all his exhaustion, hangovers, and overall emotional disconnectedness.. He gets verbally abusive, and character assassins me. And not soon after I began picking up and playing more shows, he became increasingly hostile, and judgmental towards me about everything.. but privately. He would continue to book my shows, but then would privately shame me for being “too sexy,” or a “poser,” or a “rockstar.” He would, and still does treat me really good in public, but as soon as we get into the car I am slammed with how much I ignored him, and how I acted like a rockstar, that all I care about is myself and my band, and how everyone is going to know who I really am.. It really took the fun out of it. He would compare his bands to mine, and tell me I was a fake, and full of shit all of the time. And to make the matters even more complicated one of my best friends (who is also a front woman like myself) is in one of his bands. I kind of feel like I have been the scapegoat that you were talking about in that relationship. The hero/family/fan thing will probably nail it on the head with those dynamics I experienced. She has also called me a fake for wanting to play music at one point too. That is for her to reconcile, not me. I love what I do, it is one of greatest releases. What she said though was a really long time ago.. and I think or at least hope that she too is working on herself. It didn’t take long for the loyalties in that friendship to wain as soon as he and I became a couple. That tanglement was for a long time one of the biggest sources of frustration in my life. Loyalties tangled..

    Ive experience with my partner a major lack of emotional validation for my feelings. Yet I have to carry the burden of his lack of accountability for his behaviors, actions, and verbal abuse.

    As you can see I am in the slow process of healing, and regaining boundaries. I am trying to not react from a place of ego, and stay in the light. I have had problems with my own romantic jealousy, and that is something my partner uses against me. Again that is another place of growth I will constantly have to attend to and cope with, especially if I am in a relationship like this. It is quite clear, as I sit here awake in our studio apartment at 2am on this site.. while he is out celebrating his third birthday party show of the week.. (since his bday was last sunday,) that I am with someone who needs high amounts of social validation and praise and stimulation to deflect any time to sit and reflect on his emotional well being.

    I need to continue to find strength in myself. I have given up booze, and going out to all the shows. I have began my spiritual, and emotional quest by reading plenty of literature.. including the teachings of Abraham- laws of attraction, The Four Agreements.. etc. I am hoping that I will come to a place where I can integrate it all, and not be afraid to play in the same scene muscially. I’m doing ideal partner affirmations as well, all empassing, protection, light, and guiding my intuition and feeling.

    Being an empath doesn’t have to be analogues to the detriments of the popculture term of codependency. I understand the reason for the literature.. but cannot ignore the total lack of recognition for the gifts that people in situations like ours carry. Your literature sheds light on the empath with a compassionate lens, not a waek and negative lens. Empath’s strengths lay within their intuition.. and I know this. I am in a position where that is all I can really rely on. Theres a lot of crazymaking to this relationship.. it deplets me and makes me believe that sometimes I am a faulted and bad person. But after some alone time with some introspection I always come to realize that no.. I am actually quite the opposite. I am a very valuable, loving, and worthwhile individual.

    I hope to find a support group that frames this situation the very way you did. You even express compassion for the narcissist as well, which is fair and good. I like to view the world through rainbow colored glasses, but first I have to view myself that way. I cannot allow this relationship to drain all of my many colors.

    To all the other individuals who are faced with similar situations.. protect your gifts, and save them for those who can reciprocate from a real authentic place. I can at least try to honor that responsibility.

    Thank you again for this insightful, and helpful work. So very valuable.

    Best Regards,


    • Elaine says:

      Hello Candice,

      I’m so glad the blog post was helpful for you! It sounds like your relationship with your partner is very crazy-making and dramatic. I highly recommend that you study the archetypal drama triangle so you can immediately tell when you are being baited into Drama so you can sidestep it. I’ve written a short book about this very subject that I think will really help you stay objective about your life. Take good care of yourself, and let me know if you have any questions!


  20. Mary says:

    I am in divorce recovery mode. My divorce was final 4 months ago. He is a narcissist and I am the empath. this article is bringing much needed clarification to what was so terribly wrong with the relationship from the beginning, 38 years ago. My boundaries are so weak, I was participating in him wanting to “talk” or text each other once a week or so. This was draining for me, as his communication was self serving and same old same old – criticizing our children….on and on…. Last night I let him know that the calls and texts must stop – so I can move on and begin to recover. I want to move on and start a new life, but I don’t trust my ability to choose the right people for me. I’m 57 and feel my life is slipping away…..that I don’t have time to spend years in recovery mode. I lost so much in the Divorce, but I know I had to get out, an am so glad that I finally did.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Mary,

      I am so glad you escaped such a draining marriage. Don’t lose hope! If you want a quicker recovery, do look into shamanic work. It is very helpful for getting to the root of the original wounds and beliefs that set you up for a draining marriage. Then, you can get on to having the life you really want!

      much love,

  21. charles says:

    I find the article interesting (the empath and the narcissist) in that it refers to the empath as the female and the narcissist as the male. I have experienced the opposite. I am an extremely sensitive person and always have been. I have the tendency to feel for others. In my family of 3 daughters and my wife of 20 years, I’m typically the first to cry in a movie or any other emotional moment. I am hurt easily by others.

    I was considering a business partnership with a female professional. I have known her for 4 years, trusted her and we were in a meeting that I had invited her too in which she had no regard for boundaries with another male in the meeting. This was my company meeting, she was a guest of mine because we were testing the possibility of a business partnership. I had a bad vibe and was very uncomfortable in meeting. Three days later I questioned her on this, telling her we needed to be on the same page regarding business relationships and business ediqutte expectations. She immediately abandoned our business relationship and treated me as if I never existed. Even worse, she went to one of my potential clients and stated she was no longer affiliated with my company due to “business ethics”. Unbelievable! I always talk to an individual if I have wronged them or if they have wronged me. Communication solves problems and can even prevent wars. Not knowing what I was getting into, I immediately attempted to communicate, telling her we need to discuss this like two professionals. Also asked her why she would go to a client saying what she said. She has never allowed a conversation, yet has made me out to be the devil to others. This hurts.

    She has not spoken to me in 18 months and I feel threatened at any professional meetings that we may both be at. She has actually scoffed at me on two occasions around my fellow peers. This hurts, I did nothing wrong. I have recently realized that she is most likely a narcissist. There is nothing I can do. She has turned on me like a viper, will not communicate, and is tearing me down to other professionals.

    What do I do? I realize there I nothing I can do but she is potentially ruining my reputation only because I called her out regarding that meeting. I have a strong tendency to want to help her or fix her. I just keep believing she is better than this. This is not the professional knew and worked with for 4 years. This really hurt and has me walking on eggs shells at public event, not knowing what she may do next or what she has said to others.


    • Elaine says:

      Hi Charles,

      I am so sorry you are going through this uncomfortable situation with your former business associate. You definitely sound like an Empath to me. I am not sure if she’s a narcissist or not, but it sounds like you really triggered her with your calling her out on her behavior at the meeting 18 months ago. Her defense mechanism seems to be retaliation by defamation.

      We tend to go into relationships thinking that people are rational and reasonable. But the truth is when our wounds are triggered we are irrational and unreasonable. You will have to accept that she will continue to hate you for whatever mirror you placed in front of her that she did not want to see. She will not be reasonable, she will not be rational, and in fact, it sounds like she will attack you as much as she can.

      While this seems very personal, it really isn’t. You must give up this notion that she is better than this. She is not. She’s pretty willing to be malicious and unprofessional when she is hurt, or as a defense from feeling hurt. People that have strong characters can handle old emotions coming up from old wounds and stand in the face of pain and hurt while still managing to do their best at doing the right thing. You are one of those people, Charles, she obviously is not.

      If she won’t speak to you, there is nothing you can do. You must move on with your life and your career without another thought (besides your basic protection) of her. I highly recommend learning about the Drama Triangle. (My first book describes this dynamic) so you will step out of feeling victimized and resist the urge to fix her, and will also avoid the notion that she can succeed in bullying and victimizing you. Then your energy will cease to be wasted, and you can move on confidently.

      Hang in there! And YES most definitely there are male Empaths and female Narcissists. Women have no monopoly on Empathy, that is for sure.


  22. Confused says:

    Hi Elaine,

    Thank you for this article. I read a lot on the internet about Narcissistic persons, emotional unavailability. I believe my ex is not a full blown narcissists, but he is emotional difficult and I am not a full blown emphatic. Is your article also applicable to my situation? Insights would be extremely helpful. As I am so confused.

    So, I do believe the balance in our short, relationship was completely off. Me going with the gut and he dominant, distand and jealous.In the end, He really opened up and even told me he made love for the first time. The next day he started to put me down. So I told him that he can’t be jealous without a commitment and we broke up.

    He insisted on being ‘friends’ and crossed my boundaries several times (sex, touching etc), always saying I am crazy for interpreting his behaviour wrong .
    After 3 months of NC (my decision), we decided to try as friends. I found out he was lying along and recently I found out that I was the other woman (without knowing before). He tells her I am psycho etc, of course I got the blame. He denied before he was seeing someone else.

    What I think is strange that she and his other exes are completely different from me. All the complements he makes are about qualities that these girls don’t possess. Sounds maybe strange but I can clearly tell he is comparing us. He is still very jealous about me moving on and me doing well.

    I still feel I opened him up. I don’t want him back. He totally ignores me now I found out about the infidelity and the betrayal.

    But before I found out, he still wanted to be friends, he still was jealous, gave mixed signals, while she was there all the time. I still believe I really touched him. It feels he took the easy non emotional way out. Is this possible or happens this more often?

    I am so confused. I feel hurt and betrayed. I was so nice and sincere to him and he lied in my face.
    Is the situation may suit the description of an Emotionally Dissociated Hero

    Thank you for reading this!

    • Elaine says:

      HI Confused,

      I’m so sorry you went through such a strange relationship. I suspect that this person is not a Hero (or Type Three on the Enneagram) but more likely a Type Eight or what I like to call a Get Things Done Guy/Gal. When healthy these people are natural leaders and are well loved. MLK was an Eight. They can inspire people to achieve great things collectively. When unhealthy these people can be aggressive and vicious. They can lie, cheat, and steal and justify it to themselves with their own code of honor. What’s disturbing is that they can also inspire, but for not such good ends.

      The thing about Eights is that they are highly sensitive, but they are defended from their tender feelings and emotions. They are very easily hurt, but they immediately and somewhat unconsciously push that hurt away. All we see on the outside is a tough outer shell. To get to the inside means the Eight has let down his defenses and trusts you, which is a great compliment. Eights are the type that as children tend to hurt others innocently because of their high energy and spirits. They don’t realize how much power and exuberance they possess. Society tends to tell Eights that they are not welcome to be truly themselves.

      If the Eight is unhealthy, and it sounds like this person was, they can work out their old traumas at the people that wounded them in their past by viciously taking it out on the people in their present. I’ve written a case study on this in my first book, The Empath and the Archetypal Drama Triangle, called the Over-Educated Righteous Bully. You might want to take a look at that and see if it fits your situation.

      Unhealthy Eights tend to have a tough facade that they need to maintain. Sometimes they maintain it with a lot of partners, or with lots of money and the appearance of influence. Like the Hero (Type Three) it’s a facade, but they aren’t dissociated from their emotions the same way the Three is. Unhealthy Eights are angry people looking to find revenge. They are especially put out when someone escapes their influence and does well without them.

      Be thankful that you got away!

      I hope that brief explanation helps.
      much love,

      • Confused says:

        Thank you for your insights and your tips. I will dig into that.
        I couldn’t label the person but I knew he is unhealthy!
        I like what you said: “The thing about Eights is that they are highly sensitive, but they are defended from their tender feelings and emotions. They are very easily hurt, but they immediately and somewhat unconsciously push that hurt away. All we see on the outside is a tough outer shell. To get to the inside means the Eight has let down his defenses and trusts you, which is a great compliment.”

        I did get inside but after that he started to put me down. After every sensitive emotions always a negative comment about me.

        I am not familiar with shaman etc. But I do feel energies and my “gut” is always right. It is nice to hear that you also believe in energies.
        I have the natural habits to attract people. Random people on the street talk to me and trust me (that is why I will become a MD)
        I believe I have a healthy energy en my ex told me that he never trusted a person so soon. But he has some negative energy. Everytime he visited me after the break up with his defences up, I would feel empty,tired and disturbed like his negative energy stayed in my house for a long time. Like he took parts of my positive energy, using my kindness and my excitement to enlight himself.

        I am glad that I got away ( It took me longer than should have but I did). I still forgave him, as I said I saw his beautiful inner side but he chose to go with another relationship in which his outer shell dominates which is safe for him!

        Thank you Elaine!!

        • Chris says:

          Hi Confused,

          I hope you (and Elaine) don’t mind my jumping in here, but your comments reminded me so much of what I’m going through since breaking off a ‘friendship’ with a narcissist, that I had to comment. Some things you said made me think maybe you stayed longer than you did for the same reasons I did. They have to do with ‘seeing his beautiful inner side’ and feeling like you may have had a different or deeper connection with your ex than others did.

          I stayed way longer than I should have too, but after reading Psychopathy Free and some other things on this topic, I’ve learned about the grooming (or idealization) phase, and I believe that is what kept me hooked. During this initial ‘getting to know you’ part of the relationship, a Narcissist will instinctively hone in on what it is you value, fear, and wish for. And because they are so empty inside, they’ve spent their whole life learning how to mirror those things back to you, precisely in order to make you feel like you’ve met your soulmate. They will even say, “I’ve never felt like this with anyone else before – I feel safe and understood with you.” (What Empath doesn’t melt at the idea?)

          They’ll tell you their secrets (ploys to play on your sympathies); share their vulnerabilities (another ploy – they will be the same as your vulnerabilities and make you want to relieve their pain – just like you wish someone could relieve yours.) And those things they say as compliments? As this book said, they’re not compliments, they’re “instructions” for how you must act in order to stay in their favor. “She always nagged me but you never do” – “She’s full of drama, but you aren’t – you’re so easy going,.” That’s code for ‘don’t ever nag me, and don’t ever rock the boat even if you’re upset. And then when they give you the cold shoulder for no reason and you ask what’s wrong – boom, oh, now you’re all about the drama – just like his ex! But by then you’re hooked and you want nothing more than to show you’re NOT like that, so you backtrack and apologize and try to get back to the happy feelings you shared.

          I appreciate Elaine’s perspective and I’ve ordered the 5-volume book because if there’s a kinder, more understanding way to look at these types of harmful people, I want to be able to learn to do that. But right now I’m early in my healing journey, so forgive me if I sound a little bitter or hypervigilant – I won’t deny, that’s where I am right now. (But I don’t plan on dwelling in this space for long, which is the bigger reason I ordered the books – I want to work on healing myself!)

          I wish you the best in finding the answers you seek, and I hope you take my comments in the spirit they were given. I stayed in my situation so long because I thought the early (nice) version of my N was his ‘beautiful inner self’ when really all along it was just the thin mask he created just for me. I bought it hook, line and sinker, and I don’t want that to happen to you. Had I known about this phase, I might have seen it for what it was and taken myself out of that situation much sooner. So that is what I wanted to share with you.

          Best wishes!

          • Elaine says:

            Hi Chris,

            Thank you so much for purchasing my books! I really appreciate it, and I hope they were helpful. Yes, you make excellent points on how manipulative a Narcissist (and even a sociopath) can be and how they can reel us in. And while it is compassionate to know intellectually that the Narcissist is the way he/she is because of a tremendous wound to the soul in childhood, it doesn’t excuse the manipulative, crazy-making behavior. I am glad you escaped!

            much love,

  23. WakingUp says:

    hi elaine,
    i found your article while searching for the answer to a very specific question, “if a narcissist lacks empathy, how does he figure out what uniquie qualities to mirror and reflect back to each new target?”

    interestingly, something in your article touched on another question i want very much to answer, and that is, “especially given that i feel like a relatively strong person, what is it about me that made me vulnerable to this person’s grooming?” when you referred to “the Empath’s own tendency to need to be the special, bonded one in another person’s life,” a christmas tree of lightbulbs lit up!!

    are my two questions related? how DOES a narcissist tune into a person’s inner workings if they lack empathy? and where can i learn more about my own very deep need to “be that special, bonded one”?

    peace 🙂

    • Elaine says:

      Hi WakingUp,

      I’m so glad my article gave you insight! If you would like to learn more about the Empath’s need to be unique and special and emotionally bonded, please read up on the Enneagram Type Four. There’s lots of resources on the web (including this site). Also, I’ve written the Empath as Archetype, which has five small books describing Empaths and our relationship pitfalls. Other books that I like are by Riso and Hudson, and cover the Enneagram in general, not just type Four.

      As for how a Narcissist tunes into a person’s inner workings, it is because they’ve developed this skill as a survival mechanism. Even if it isn’t apparent, somewhere in their childhood they were horribly abandoned. To defend against abandonment they have developed hypervigilant observational skills on how other people work, without the ability to feel the emotional content that goes along with these behaviors. In shamanic terms, they’ve experienced deep soul loss, which dissociates them from their emotional body. It’s a very sad state, and we should feel compassion for them, but also understand that they can cause damage to the rest of us because they really can’t care about anyone but themselves.

      I hope that helps!
      much love,

  24. Diane says:

    Thank you Elaine,

    My mind is reeling right now.

    Now I understand. I felt this article was for me. You painted the picture of a number of my past relationships and I am now understanding how this dynamic was created. I’m moving on and healing as I write this to you.


  25. Pingback: Part 4: Behind the mask of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic abuse – life through the narcissist’s eyes | Happiness Weekly

  26. Mel Rol says:

    Great article. I am the adult child of a Narcissistic mother. I have a dissociative disorder (DP/DR) from all of the abuse my mother put me through as a child. Luckily this disorder saved me from becoming just like her. I have a ‘thing’ for hero worship regarding the male relationships in my life. I need this kind of bond to feel emotionally satisfied, but I’m learning this is not healthy for either parties. My inner need is also my weak point that attracts Narcissists to me. I’m learning to heal. It’s so hard to describe the relationship pattern to others, but your article does it perfectly.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Mel,

      Thank you for the kind feedback! It sounds like you are doing really good work healing from your traumatic past. I applaud you! You sound like you have a good understanding of your own patterns and movtivations. If you haven’t already, look into working with a shaman who can do underworld and soul retrieval work so you can move more quickly through the healing process.

      much love to you,

  27. Haystack Rock says:

    Hi Elaine, thank you for this great website. I am starting to accept my intuition and empathy as who I really am, rather than the labels of being overly sensitive or over analytical. My question is related to narcissism. I am realizing that I have always had narcissists in my life: stepfather, friends, colleagues. I am now wondering if what I felt was their rejections and rebuff of me as me myself as a person, or if I was taking on thier own issues and emotions that they were projecting onto me and accepting them as my own. I wonder if I am doing that now.

    I am currently in a friendship (that at one point had the potential to be romantic) with a man who speaks spiritually, philosophically, who lives without rules, loves yoga and is highly enthusiastic about life. Yet from the beginning, I have been incredibly confused by his behaviour, and have equated it to my being naive as he is older and has children, or that there is something wrong with me (is this part of the narcissistic behaviour that I have always bumped up against?) this person has an inability to verbalized his romantic emotions, so he demonstrates it by art and music, by physical closeness and many “me too” moments, but never actually forthright with his romantic feelings and never taking things to the next level, with scattered hot/cold cycles. In turn, I have misunderstood past cues and have become mixed up in a mental mess of analysis and regret, thinking I could have, should have as he’s declared on many occasions between hot/cold cycles that he’s happy being single, despite his occasionally wanting to be close, or wanting attention through flirting. I find myself both emotionally high with him, and then crashing and burning, exhausted. As an empath, I am cued to his behaviour, and when I think he wants more than friendship I act, and am rejected. Then when I act as friends, the cues of flirting and want of emotional closeness come back out, but I am in protection mode and am not returning the signals. Then he stops, I realize I missed a window, then I start again and he’s closed and protected. It’s been a viscous cycle.

    His history of relationships is scattered, 6 years here, 4 years there, and in general it has been the “woman’s fault” I am told, except for a “stunning beauty” who was introverted who did not like children – this is the only relationship where I hear some regret about his part in the relationship. I have been exiting out of a 17 year relationship with a high functioning alcoholic who has been unable to release me from our financial partnerships, which keeps me emotionally tied to him, and we still live together as roommates.

    I guess my question is that I feel this is someone who has empathy, and then at times no empathy at all. Someone who is emotional, and then void of emotion. Someone who is passionate, and then can discard the passion for something else. It is so confusing, as I can feel very connected to him. I see his light that he rarely shows (his vulnerability), yet when I realize this vulnerability is showing, I have missed the cue and the door has been shut, not knowing it was a rare occurrence, which then has me sitting in regret with mental analysis gymnastics.

    Is this part of the drama circle you describe? I find myself so consumed, and confused, and I am desperate to break out of this cycle I am in. If this would be better to correspond by email, I would appreciate setting up this service with you.

    Thank you

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Haystack Rock,

      Wow, it sounds like this man has you wrapped around his finger! He’s definitely using you as a plaything, even if he wouldn’t see it that way, and even if he’s unconscious of it. The best way to get someone addicted or obsessed is to offer connection or reward some of the time. Then the person keeps coming back to check to see if this will be the time when love (or the reward) is offered. A truly loving person doesn’t play this game.

      Why would such a person play this game? My track of your particular situation is that this man is really angry with his mother, and that by controlling you he gets to control her subconsciously. You are simply the stand-in for mom. He really has a lot of healing work to do, and of course isn’t interested in doing it. Notice how he’s always blaming the woman and not looking at himself.

      So, I would ask yourself how long you want to play his game with him. His unconscious goal is to punish mom, and that’s where he needs to do his healing work. Then I would ask yourself what you really want in a relationship with a man, what you were trained to expect from your childhood and your parents, and then dive into your own healing work. I bet that then you will be able to find the right partnership for you.

      much love,

  28. kitten says:

    This post is amazing! It took me years to figure out the dynamics that are so plainly laid out here. The narcissist hero, the empath and the scapegoating! In my case, I was attacked (I’m the empath) when I tried to be truthful with a group of narcissists. Something I noticed when I was being made the scapegoat was a sense of joy and excitement amongst the group, even though I truly believe they knew what they were doing was cruel and morally wrong. What is that about?

    Anyway, I have been trying for years to meet other intuitive, empath, healer types and haven’t found any. I am an INFP, Enneagram 4/5, and I’m extremely, painfully, almost unbearably intuitive. I really want to help people, but it seems that most people know that I can see through them (even though I’m not trying to or saying anything about what I sense), and they HATE it. I feel like the best intentioned, most hated person in the world for intuition that I have no control over.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Kitten,

      I’m so sorry you were in such a painful group dynamic. It’s very hard to be the only sane person in a group that’s bent on twisting reality. You have to remember that a scapegoat always is attacked, and the other person’s (people’s) shadow and negativity is projected upon the scapegoat. That’s part of why they are so glad–they are getting rid of feelings that they don’t want to hold.

      As for being an isolated intuitive introvert, don’t lose hope! Most of my clients are Type Four. I am a 4/5 myself. We are out there. Don’t worry so much about helping people. Instead, find your tribe, find your support first. Then you’ll be better able to be of service. Hang in there!

      much love,

  29. Gregg says:

    I am a narcissist who has destroyed my wife and marriage. I have three kids and am scared to death that I’ll destroy them too. I do have some awareness of the destructive tendencies I have but am unwilling to deal with them. Rather than surrounding myself with people who will or won’t challenge me I have chosen to isolate myself. How do I begin to unravel the emotional wounds I’m currently terrified of so I can have healthy relationships?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Gregg,

      The first step is realizing that you are causing pain to those around you, and that you want to change. If you do want to go through the painful process of healing, I suggest that you find a good shaman who does Underworld and Soul Retrieval Work. I have a few of them listed on the homepage of my website. They can help undo the energetic programming and beliefs that are fueling your behaviors. But, you will still have to do the work of changing those behaviors and staying conscious. The nice thing about shamanic work is that you do not have to tell much of your story, like you would in therapy. The work is done on the energetic and mythic levels. (See my website and my book on shamanic work for more explanation) Anyone can get better, even narcissists. I wish you lots of luck and courage in your quest to heal!!

      much love,

  30. JJ says:

    Thank you for this. I am looking forward to reading more. The only trouble I had was referring to the female as the Empath and the male as the Hero. It can make discerning our own situations complicated while referencing this piece for examples or insights. I believe a female could just as easily be the Hero, and the male just as easy the Empath? No?

    • Elaine says:

      Yes JJ, the Hero most certainly can be female. In my book, The Empath and the Fan-Hero Family System, I give an example of an Empath and Hero friendship in which both are women. And of course there are lots of male Empaths out there, too.


  31. Ionna says:

    Thank you, Elaine, for such precise information. After reading a lot about narcissists I realized that a friend of mine who has proposed to me several times starting a relationship together is a narcissist. But your description applies so much better to him. I am an empath, but fortunately I was cautious enough to follow my interior alarm signals regarding him. I have learnt from this experience a great deal about myself, my boundaries and my objectives. I would like to ask you: how could I silence my tireless desire to go and help him? I still feel like I need to go and caress him because of his saddening darkness. I am in that emotional trap that you described perfectly: The blind spot for Empaths to watch out for is our unconscious belief that going deep and seeing the inner world of another is the best way to bond. Moreover, when you talk about our own tendency to need to be the special, bonded one in another person’s life, does it mean that we are in a way disconnected from the reality? Do we want too much from ordinary people? Are there in the world men that could satisfy this inner need?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Ionna,

      Good for you for avoiding the trap of becoming involved with a narcissist! They are usually charming, and can really make us feel special, which is one of the best ways to manipulate an Empath into fall right into the narcissist’s needy trap.

      As for silencing your desire to go help him, remind yourself of what that really is. Empaths are psychically attuned to vibration, and especially to emotional vibration. He is putting out a signal that says, help me, love me, pay attention to me, give all your energy to me. You are sensing that call. See it as a radio signal he is radiating outward, and then make a conscious choice to say no, I don’t want to do that. Eventually someone will heed his call and take up the role. I hope it won’t be you!

      Empaths can get disconnected from reality by romanticizing reality to the point of fantasizing. In that sense, then we do become disconnected from what is really there in front of us. We tend to choose people to bond to that don’t fulfill our needs, and then convince ourselves that our needs are getting met by romanticizing what is really going on. We can be with a partner that simply isn’t right for us, but convince ourselves that he is our soul mate.

      I would say that yes, there are men out there that can satisfy our need for closeness and intimacy. I am married to one myself. However, before I was ready for such an intimate, real, relationship, I had to get over my fantasy notions of what real intimacy was. True intimacy is hard work. It isn’t romantic all the time, and in fact a lot of the time it is pretty darned humdrum, just like real life! However, by being with someone who can share a deep connection with me, we make the daily grind of life (like the dishes, the laundry, etc.) enjoyable. There’s a mythic purpose to even the humdrum, especially now that we are raising a child.

      Empaths can suffer a very severe childhood wound in which we don’t get the nurturing we need. Then we try to get this bondedness out of our primary relationships. We can expect too much from a flawed person. If you have suffered a tramautic childhood, or you feel like you just can’t get what you need out of relationships, I would go to a shaman to get the childhood wound cleared, and then see if your primary relationships become more fulfilling. I hope this helps!

      much love,

  32. Pingback: The Empath and the Narcissist by Elaine La Joie | Voice for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse

  33. Anon says:

    H Elaine, I’m seeking some advice as I’m devastated my husband has just said he doesn’t want to work on our relationship and he is going to move out. We have been together a while, some of it long distance due to my studies. In my gut I have always felt it was a bad match so I have no idea why I am resisting this. My husband frequently says things in a hurtful way, things I do that anger him, and then is angry at me for finding them upsetting. I have tried to explain every time that I wish he would just communicate his feelings in a constructive way; he believes I can’t take criticism and I think I’m perfect but actually I am upset that he is angered at the things I do unintentionally and would welcome a discussion held in a constructive way so I could understand the root problem and address them. It all came to a head the other night; we were out with friends, he said something insulting and unnecessary to me and then immediately expected me to move on. I chose to ignore him the rest of the evening. I wish I hadn’t, I know how childish that is. Actually, now that this arguement has happened, I realise that I always display passive aggressive behaviour after one of his comments. I do so because I feel like the issue isn’t resolved, still hurt or that I know it will happen again. After a huge argument about that night and three days of not talking, we have spoken and I explained that I want our relationship to grow constructively and that all I ask is, not that he refrains from getting angry, but that he talks to me like an equal. He said he didn’t want to work on the relationship. I know I am fault for being passive aggressive. I want to change that but I feel I my changes will be unsuccessful without his input. Incidentally, he gets angry with me for small things, such as getting the wrong type of meat at the supermarket. I have given up so much, supported my husband and invested a lot into this relationship and actually I’m sending this message because I am alone in another country, where I moved to for him. I’m really after an outsider’s perspective about both of our behaviour. We both had upsetting childhoods and whilst I feel I understand my demons and accept how they interfere, if not try to avoid that all together, I think he is still that damaged child and I feel so helpless to make this situation better. Not that it will have an effect anyway. I just needed to ask someone their opinion of this. I really appreciate your advice. Thank you.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Anon,

      I am so sorry you are in this painful situation with your husband, and that you are feeling so isolated. It is so hard when we play out the same pattern with our partners and it ends in pain for both people. The way out of this behavior is to understand how the pattern operates, and then to do something differently, to respond in a different way, than what has always gone before. Since your husband no longer wants to work on the relationship your options are to work on how YOU are in relationship. Map out how this destructive pattern happened with your husband. Has the same thing happened in other relationships? How was the relationship between your parents, how was the relationship with you and your father? See if you can discover where the passive aggressiveness started for you. See where you started to believe that holding back could help you and punish the person mistreating you. When you have a clear idea of how your wounds and behavior tend to operate, then you have a better chance of changing the behavior. If you find that you are up against a severe emotional wound from childhood that simple changes in behavior won’t fix, then it is time to go to a shaman and get some underworld work done. This advice can be applied to anyone stuck in a relationship dynamic that always leads to unhappiness and disconnection. Let me know if you have more questions!

      Sending love and a hug your way,

  34. Affy says:

    This blog is interesting!!

    I have recently been involved with a narc and was left quite disheartened, depressed and anxious. Through the healing process i needed a closure which the narc will provide. So this charismatic chap is in a relationship with what now see as a co-dependent. I met the couple through a close friend who told me that their relationship was near the end and that he was nice chap, with a good character reference i put my guard down. Initially we met for fun and then i became attached, trying to support the narc and help him understand his issues and how he was with the wrong man…. Anyway i know i had an affair so i was wrong to do that. Although im married and out and didnt think twice at the time, i know i was wrong.

    As time went on i heard about him and his ex partners and how he was a victim. etc…. I once met one of his ex’s who still claimed to be in love with him and i found that unusual.. this guy was happy just to come and see him and nothing else. I thought he was mental but now i realise that he was a nice guy who had no understanding of narcs and psychopaths.

    As time went on i become nervous being around him, and though it was me who had the issue as he was normal and happy with his life. i asked a few of my other gay friends and they maintained his safe but over time 2 of them said leave him his no good for you even though previously saying his an amazing person.

    I saw him for the last time last week to get clarification on our relationship but he said i still love the man im with and i love you, cant let either go. furthermore we had been over to his sisters where he disclosed a list of things he expected me to help with and his partner with… we agreed to continue with an affair, The next day he text to say im going to manchester with his boyfriend and if i was ok, as after the night before his thought there was more he can use me for. . I replied by saying im ending our affair and im happy for him and his partner…..

    He didnt reply for 2 days and then calls to say you have not been over for 2 days and that he had not been well. I told him did you not read my text. He did but said that i may have misunderstood our last conversation. I said did u not relaise ive not been myself, lost 1 stone in weight and take anti-depressats now. on top of which his boyfriend stole£100 from my bag. he went quiet and said he will call later. not heard back since.

    Throughout this i felt betrayed by the narc and more by our mutual friends (they had known him longer). They dont call anymore either.

    Yes it nearly killed me but i survived had it not been for my supportive wife.

    More interestingly, i began to put things down on paper and read the net to understand him as a person and his actions. After which the question was ‘HOW DID I ALLLOW ALL THIS TO HAPPEN’.

    So after more research i relaise my own weaknesses and desperations for love and to care for others gets me into these kind of situations. Although i was a painful struggle to understand him, my so called friends, and ME i feel happier and as each day goes by i feel stronger knowing im ok alone. (all this in the spate of 6 months), i guess i had a lucky escape.

    I got chatting to his ex one day and explained that he is a normal person but like me had an encounter with a narc/psychopath, the only thing was he still claiming to love him. I gave him some insight into me , my experiences and what i think about him. It seems that after 3 years he struggled alone over the narc , with a bit of my help, his life is now sorted.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Affy,

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience with a narcissist. It sounds like you have moved through it, though. I encourage you to read my books for Empaths, especially the first one which covers the Drama Triangle. I think that will really help you understand the relationship dynamics that can happen when we become ensnared in these types of relationships and help you avoid such traps in the future.

      sending you a big hug!

  35. Nitsy says:

    Nice to read your article Elane. I have been dealing with a narcissist father for last 28 years or so I feel. He has managed to manipulate me to the extent that I could not gain financial independence and neither could I move out. I am the youngest of three sisters and while the other two managed to move out of town and country after their marriages, I am still stuck in the same house.

    Last year I realized about the narcissist abuse and how it keeps empaths entangled and Ive known myself to be an empath for 3 years now. I have finally made the decision to move out and though with much difficulty and argument, have conveyed the same to my father. I should be making the move this week, though Ill be in the same city. Like you said, my sisters and parents all feel I am crazy for doing this (because in my country girls usually live with their parents till they are married and I’m still single).

    My only concern is I keep fearing that my father will manage to manipulate me again and bring me back closer to him so he can abuse me. How do I deal with this fear? Any advise?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Nitsy,

      Congratulations on arranging your escape! You should give yourself lots of credit–it can be nigh impossible to leave this kind of relationship with a parent. As for your fear that he will manipulate you again, you need to consider that this fear is your ally and not ignore it, and not try to get rid of it. It is trying to keep you aware of the danger that you must not fall asleep to in the future!

      Nitsy, have you had a chance to read my books? I think you will feel inspired and more confident in yourself if you follow the story of Ron in my fifth book, called the Empath and the Fan-Hero Family System. It is how he escaped two relationships with family narcissists, one a parent, one a sibling. However, you’ll need to read the 1st four books to understand all the concepts presented. You can find all five books in one volume called Empath as Archetype. Each book is written for Empaths but covers universal human behavior traps so we don’t have to play those out again in our lives. When dealing with a narcissist it’s important to remember that they are only concerned with getting their needs met. Your needs don’t count as high as theirs, even if they love you. They simply don’t see others as important as they are–the wounds for them are too deep to do anything but be in survival mode. They may say they love you and may sometimes act like they do, but when it comes right down to it, they will be the first to throw you under the bus if there’s something they want.

      Congratulations again on moving out of that toxic environment. You are very brave, especially since you are going against the norm in your culture.

      love and hugs to you,

  36. Rachel says:

    So much of this rings true for me. Except the narcissist is a relative who also has durable power of attorney for some money that I am dependent on for living expenses. I know what my legal rights are, but this ties me to him in a way that feels sometimes suffocating. Also he knows he is wounded but he blames me and my mother for his pain.

    I recently sent him a letter stating that I was setting some boundaries around what I would tolerate and he reacted by being wounded.

    It’s taking every bit of my strength to just cope with this without looking back.

    Thanks very much for this article. The classification of empath/narcissist is very helpful in allaying my feelings of confusion about how this person can be so hateful and hostile.

    Thanks, Rachel

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Rachel,

      I am so sorry you are in this situation! It sounds very painful. Yes, one of the hallmarks of being in a relationship with a narcissist is the amount of confusion we can experience. The narcissist is so good at denying reality it can make us doubt ourselves. But good for you for setting boundaries and honoring yourself! Keep going!

      sending you encouragement and a big hug,

  37. Ana says:


    This article has been very helpful for me in a very difficult time. It has very much validated an experience that I have not been able to articulate as I still doubt my own sanity at this time. I would very much appreciate it if you would email me directly because I have a few questions but don’t feel safe asking on this public forum. Thank you and blessings.

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Ana,

      I am so sorry you are going through a difficult time with a narcissist. Yes, such situations can make you doubt your sanity! If you would like to email with me directly, please sign up for a week of email support. Just fill out the contact form on my website, and we will go from there.

      sending you a big hug!

  38. Lee says:

    Wow, this has been an amazing read for me. First of all I have just in the last few days accepted that I am an empath. It explains a lot of things, I keep getting intense feelings of depression despite the healing work I have been doing on myself, particularly inner child work. In the course of this work I have had the most amazing visions/images and insights and I think it’s possible that this has somehow opened up channels (best way I can put it) and I seem to be more sensitive than ever to other peoples’ emotions and cannot tolerate being in crowds for long. Everything I read about empaths is ringing true for me and I know I need to start grounding myself on a daily basis and getting some advice about it. I am seeing it now as a gift though the pain is very tough to bear. The other significant thing is that I am still reeling from a relationship with a narcissist (it was a same sex relationship by the way) It only lasted a few months but it went from total elation, euphoria etc to confusion, hurt and pain in a short time. She has blocked me now and others around her are colluding with her. One confusing thing about it was that she seemed quite psychically gifted and able to give healing to others – the reason I found your page is because I googled “can someone be a narcissist and an empath” ! I also recognise that some of my own behavior was possibly narcissistic in the way I reacted to what she was doing, especially the silent treatment which was soul destroying. But the dynamics you describe in your blog are spot on, I so wanted to help heal her pain, she was (and is) so stressed and hurt from the past.

    I apologise for such a long post but I am relieved to find such identification. Thanks again for your blog and all the responses, I don’t feel so alone. I am very glad I have found your website!

  39. Elaine says:

    Hi Lee,

    I am so glad my blog post was so helpful! Let me know if you have further questions.


  40. Matty says:

    Great article! At 76, I am just beginning to understand my family narcissistic dynamic. “Old too soon, too late smart.” I was the empath/scapegoat in the family and still am with some members, because I no longer keep my mouth shut “to keep peace” which is just superficiality at its best/worst. I was considered oversensitive if I expressed any feelings
    which were not allowed (very stoic.) What different decisions I would have made if I had known this dynamic earlier. I would never have exposed my children to this influence. My struggle is with my resentment. I think it is healed only to crop up again (as I am writing this, for example.)

  41. Elaine says:

    Hi Matty,

    I am so glad this essay was helpful! Yes, it can be so hard to realize how much time has been wasted in this setup. So many of us spend years playing our scapegoat part, and then spend even more years in confusion and resentment. I know how hard it is, but I encourage you to be glad that you have escaped the dynamic–so many people do not get free. Remember that the narcissist stuck in this dynamic is suffering as well, although he/she probably will never know it.

    sending you hugs!

  42. Ryan says:

    I have so many questions; sadly I fit role more of narsasist role and her empath. One of my biggest problems is stress consumes me which she internalizes and from my position the stress grows. How do I approach stress in a healthier manner? While that is a challenge for me I am curious of how to also better for her best interest. How to I not let her become consumed in me and maintain her self being and worth. How do I let her know all that she means to me and how important she is to me? I have so many questions!

  43. Elaine says:

    Hi Ryan,

    That is great that you are not so defended that you can recognize narcissist tendencies in yourself! Good for you! It’s definitely important to minimize the stressors in your life. However, I’ve seen many narcissists who are addicted to stress and drama–it helps them feel alive. Does this sound accurate? If not, then that is also a good sign.

    With any personal work, you have to focus on yourself and why you have these behaviors that distance you from your partner. She has to do her work on the unhealthy tendencies of Empaths to absorb negativity, but don’t hesitate to show her and to tell her how much you care and value the relationship.

    If you have more specific questions, please feel free to ask them here, or email me directly and we can set up a week of email support to help you start moving in the right direction.

    much love,

  44. Ryan says:

    Honestly she explained she was an empath and I was to self absorbed to recognize what she was telling me. I don’t like drama and tend to push or isolate from it. Not understanding her or her needs viewed them as drama and did not allow her to flourish. Financial failure in my past left a horrible scar and right after we met that fear came as my industry crumbled. I was so stuck in fear I didn’t identify anything else. I wasn’t a good person and I’m not proud of it. I want to do better and support what ever her path is regardless as she is worth it. I got a therapist and honestly to learn all at once feel like I ate an elephant in one bite. Yes please I am interested in help!

  45. June says:

    What advise could you give to someone who realizes they have narsasistic behaviors and want to change those behaviors?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi June,

      First of all that is GREAT if the narcissist can see his or her behavior. Most cannot–they are too defended. So if you are a narcissist, and you are able to recognize yourself in this essay, then you have a chance of healing yourself. If you do not have a therapist, I would start there. Then, I would start exploring those deeply hidden feelings of worthlessness and where those came from. Many experts say that narcissist cannot heal. I do not think that is true–anyone can get better, especially with a commitment and willingness to do the hard personal and shadow work. Shamanic work can be very helpful, although it is not a guarantee. If this essay resonated with you, then I’d suggest reading my Empath as Archetype series. You can purchase all five volumes in one big book, or separately from Amazon. The pdf version is available through this website. The books talk about basic relationship problems for Empaths, however they also touch upon shamanic healing, and they give a good example of a narcissist family dynamic in the last book. Good luck!

      much love,

  46. Ryan says:

    And how as the person that caused the pain help an empath release that anger. I rather carry the pain than her

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Ryan,

      It’s not up to you to help her release her pain. That is something that she has to do for herself, not you. It’s very important to maintain good boundaries. Empaths have a tendency to absorb emotions and run other people’s unwanted energy. But ultimately, that is not your problem to deal with, that is HERS. She needs to go do her work, or if she doesn’t know how to help herself, she needs to go get help.

      What I would focus on is to look at your behaviors that caused her so much pain, and then see if you want to change those behaviors and if you are capable of changing those behaviors. Of course you want to be conscious of your effect on her–but she needs to make her own decisions on what behaviors she will tolerate.


  47. jwon says:

    I’m married for 13 years, separated for one.

    Your post resonated with me, but I’m confused about this. I identify with both sides. Empathic – I crave to be bonded with somebody special. Fall in “love” too quickly, easily decide to make big life changes to be with someone special. I find myself eagerly flooding through boundaries and sharing emotions with someone. “belief that going deep and seeing the inner world of another is the best way to bond” COMPLETELY rings true with me. But the narcissistic side shows too – I feel empty unless the person responds to me positively and enthusiastically, and I feel entitled to appreciation for my perceptiveness and support. I feel competent and worthy when I can comfort and fix my wife’s emotional crises – a big ego boost to me. I expect and dread being abandoned, and at any big fight, in the back of my mind I just know it’s going to happen.

    My wife seems empathic and giving – I know she would describe herself this way. We were longtime friends before marrying at 27, but she came from a rough background wounded and afraid, and has big volatile and dramatic emotions. I think she would see me as the narcissist in this story. Of course I always want to deny that when it comes from her, even if on my own I can recognize truth in it.

    But, I believe I do care genuinely about others’ feelings… although I have learned the bad habit over the years of seeing her as irrational and discounting her needs because they come out of fear… And, surely I can’t be a total narcissist, because I am here questioning myself and trying to figure out how to be better… is it just self-deception?

    So many people on here reading and commenting they were partnered with a narcissist. But what does the world look like from the N perspective? And if I might tend to be one, or developed N habits out of self-preservation, how do I stop it? How to preserve a relationship that has developed those dynamics, if neither partner is too extreme to change? Am I just convinced she is my soulmate, but wrong, as you told one commenter? I feel without her I will just be attracted to unstable women who are not equal to her in any way.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Jwon,

      From tracking through your comment, I do not think that you are a Narcissist. You sound more like the typical unhealthy male Empath. Which is great, because Empaths have an easier time starting their personal work than most people. When we are willing to see ourselves honestly and see how our behavior impacts others, then we can really make deep changes quickly.

      Narcissist tend to think everyone else is unreasonable and they have an easy time believing their own lies. Their sense of unworthiness is so deep that they do no feel it consciously–in fact they can exude confidence and charm instead.

      As for your own healing, I think that perhaps you have projected a lot of your own issues onto your wife, she absorbed some of your stuff, and the whole thing might have escalated. In your projection you were able to tell yourself that her reactions were over the top and dramatic. That of course would annoy the heck out of any spouse who was an Empath herself.

      What I would suggest if you haven’t already is to get yourself into some therapy, and to read up on the Ennagram Type Four. Riso and Hudson’s work is a good place to start. Or you can read my books–I have a series called the Empath as Archetype. See if that resonates with you. Although many of the examples are female Empaths, you might find some of the pitfalls and blindspots familiar. At the very least, study up on the Drama Triangle, since Empaths get caught there much of the time.

      Remember, from the Narcissist’s perspective, the world is the audience, and they are the star. The world revolves around them, and other people play roles in their lives to build them up and keep them feeling good about themselves. I hope that helps clear up your questions!


  48. Lisa says:

    Hi thank you for the article it really has made an impact on me.
    I have always been a person to be free and able to feel others emotions.. And use this ability to bring them up and focus on positive things.

    In the last 2 years I have lost this ability in a relationship and am starting to forget who I am. I feel constantly worried that I will disappoint this person, because if something is not done right he will point it out and I instsntly punish myself within and my anxiety rises.
    I question our arguments as I always remember them differently but when we talk about it I am lead to believe I was over sensitive and it blew out of proportion because of me, and I am left feeling unstable and greatful for his support and honesty. Causing myself to be very dependant on him and wanting to not upset him again.
    As time goes on I am noticing that I do so many things wrong more frequently, or not to his standards.. That my anxiety is becoming constant. I feel silly for this feeling because once I explain to him how i feel he points out that I am just not in control of my emotions because these little things I miss should not be that hard and definitely not upset me and cause me to be anxious when I miss them.

    When something happens that I truly feel that I was not in the wrong for.. I get a great need to escape this relationship. He always comes back and talks to me and explains everything to the point where I am left feeling stupid that the escape feelings ever came across..

    I am feeling quite lost at the moment.. It is such a scary feeling. And your article really did open my eyes a little.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I am so glad that my article was helpful. I am so sorry your relationship is causing you so much anxiety. It sounds like this person is exerting emotional control over you to the extent that your personal power and strength is diminishing. This is not a healthy relationship. Your gut feelings and your original thoughts are important feedback–if he is talking you out of your thoughts and feelings something is not right. I encourage you to talk to an objective third party about these incidents so you can have a better idea of what is truly going on. There are people out there who believe their own lies so thoroughly that we Empaths can believe we are the crazy ones when in reality our original assessment was spot on.

      sending you hugs!

  49. Victor says:

    Why is it you refer to the Empath as she and the Narcissist as he? Why isn’t it possible in your eyes that the woman can be narcissistic and the man an empath?

    I’ve lived with a narcissistic woman for 12 years. She is my wife. She left me, once, for another who was 18 years younger than herself. After 8 months, she came back to me but has never acted like a wife. She only thinks about herself. She makes poor choices and then blames me for the results. Nothing I do for her to for us is ever praiseworthy. It only brings about her negative comments. She’s constantly observing me, waiting for me to make a mistake. And, when it doesn’t happen, she creates in her mind a mistake I’ve done. She never takes responsibility for anything. When she chooses to stay home all day, on her day off, it’s my fault she didn’t go out. She never makes a compromise. It’s all about her needs and wants. She’ll keep insisting on things her way until it happens. I just give in because it’s emotionally draining. Yet, if I merely ask for something to go my way, and I don’t insist, I just ask, then she’ll respond,”you always need to have things your way!”

    I have no reason to lie. I seek help, for us both. I’m not delusional. Therefore, I know that being honest is the first step to any solution. She keeps saying that every problem we have ever had was my fault. The only thing she will admit to being wrong about is marrying me. Outside of that, she says she has never done anything wrong in our relationship and that I’m the one who has done everything wrong.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Victor,

      Of course a woman can be a narcissist and a man can be an empath. The article was just one example. If you scroll through the comments you will see others’ examples, too. In my book, the Fan-Hero Family System, I discuss the relationship between two women, one who is the Narcissist, and one who is an Empath.

      I cannot tell from your response if you are an archetypal Empath and your wife is a archetypal Narcissist, however, what I noticed immediately is that the both of you are stuck on the Drama Triangle of Disempowerment. If you do not know what that is, please read my first book called the Empath and the Archetypal Drama Triangle. All people get caught on the Triangle at one time or another. It always leads to unhappy outcomes. You can tell when you are stuck there if you tend to feel like the victim in your relationship. It sounds like from your description that the both of you are living there right now.

      But that is great that you want to change that. Ask yourself why you are choosing to stay in what sounds like a miserable relationship for both of you. Why did you take her back? What does it say about you that you would put up with her blaming, her demands, and her projections? Such a relationship is toxic!

      Let me know if you have more questions.
      much love,

  50. Amber says:

    Hi Elaine,
    I’ve read your article, others’ comments, and your replies with interest. Our son, whom I believe to be an empath, has been married to a woman we believe to be a narcissist for 4 years now. My husband and I felt “something” was wrong right from the start, and now know for sure that their relationship is certainly different from the norm. Our daughter-in-law has never emotionally connected to us – even though we have tried hard to create a loving relationship with her – and has increasingly isolated our son from us and from his circle of friends. Now that they have a child, her negative behaviour towards us has escalated to the point that she has forbidden us from ever seeing our grandchild. She has verbally assaulted us on a couple of occasions, once in public. Our son has recently come to us telling us that even though he loves us, he can no longer spend any time with us — he has said goodbye. Over the years of their marriage, his behaviour has changed bit by bit, to the point that now, we hardly recognize him. He seems to us to be depleted of energy, affect and logic! He looks to us to be like someone brainwashed. The description you give of the relationship between an empath and a narcissist could be a description of them. We have gone to therapists to try to come to some understanding of this crazy, illogical and destructive turn of events, and have now come to the conclusion that we cannot change the course of events. We have to step back and allow this destructive situation to play out, hoping that the loving, supportive and healthy upbringing our son had will help him come to his senses and deal with the horrible situation he now lives in. We are just not very certain at this moment that he sees the situation as horrible!! She is using her child as a weapon to hurt us, and unfortunately and to our enormous dismay, our son is going along with this. We are heartbroken. It is unbelievably painful to watch your child change in such a terrible way, and to understand that your sweet, innocent grandchild is being kept away from you in order to somehow satisfy a need to be in control. A nightmare.

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Amber,

      I am so sorry to hear of your painful family situation! Your son’s relationship with his wife does sound very controlling and punitive. As a parent, it must be very heartbreaking to watch. I agree, I do not think that you can change the course of events–it’s up to your son to decide at some point that he no longer wants to put up with it. It sounds like you have already spoken to therapists about whether there was anything unseen on your parts that could have caused a rift, which is good work. It really does sound like your daughter-in-law might be an unhealthy Enneagram Type Eight. This Type, when unhealthy, can be very controlling, punitive, and abusive. I have worked with Empaths married to unhealthy Type Eights, and it can be a very difficult relationship for the Empath to leave. They become isolated and weak, but don’t realize what is happening because they are spending so much of their energy placating the volatile Eight. In some cases the Empath can find himself locked out of financial accounts but not understand how he had helped make that happen. The unhealthy Type Eight is all about control in order to appease an inner fear of their own vulnerability and weaknesses. They have a need to be strong–they can be the archetypal bully when unhealthy. Please keep the door open for your son and grandchild. We can all hope that he will find the strength to observe how bad his situation is, and begin extricating himself.

      sending you big hugs!!

  51. Mary says:

    This very same thing is happening to our son. His wife has alienating everyone in his family, recently me. I am divorced, he told me not to call for help unless it is a 911 call, and took away my key to his house, all because of something i borrowed wigh my sons permission, but he is to afraid to tell her. I feel i have been “gaslighted” by them both.
    Something is terribly wrong. His Father, brother and I are terribly hurt. It’s horrible to sit by and watcb this happen. What can we do?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Mary,

      I am so sorry to hear about your situation with your son. Unfortunately, there is not much to do except leave the door open to continue the relationship if he changes his mind. In the meantime, please do your own work–make sure you talk to a therapist about this relationship and look at how you might have contributed to the rift. If there are places where you inadvertently strained the relationship, you can heal those. If it does turn out that your daughter-in-law is bent on isolating and controlling your son, then it is up to him to figure this out and take steps to extricate himself from the relationship. I understand how hurt you must feel–keep the door open anyway. If this is an abusive, controlling relationship, he is stuck in a confusing fog.

      much love,

  52. Monica says:

    Wow, I think I might be your textbook case.

    I don’t want to write my whole story here as so much of it can be boiled down to what you have already said. The behaviors are as would be typically expected: manipulation, control, lies, exploitation, blaming, put downs, incessant criticism, etc.

    So, I suspect that my partner is a narcissist and that if I don’t leave this relationship I will be losing my mind. I don’t recognize this cruel person who has no empathy whatsoever and is willing to put me through hell so she can protect her fragile ego. This is not who I fell in love with, but that is the point you are making. I feel so foolish and hurt.

    Recently, I broke my own rule of not discussing my relationship issues with anyone other than my partner and i opened Pandora’s box. I spoke to her mother and one of her daughters who both told me that they wanted to tell me to not get involved at the beginning but they didn’t in case I was going to be the “one” that would make her happy and break her pattern. Her daughter asked me to please stay because I am the only partner who has even stood up to her mother and that, “she needs that”.

    That was so devastating to hear, but part of me understands a mother’s and a daughter’s unconditional love. They are the family you describe. They know deep down that something is fundamentally wrong, but they choose to live a lie because it is easier than having to confront her and get hurt in the process; which they have experienced. I understand because that is how I feel every day, but I have no desire to be a sacrificial lamb.

    The worst part in this whole mess is that it brings out all my defence mechanisms and makes me feel dizzy and out of control. I am so exhausted from being hypervigilant that I don’t have the energy to pick myself up and leave; which is the only logical conclusion to this abusive relationship.

    How do I do this without turning my life upside down?

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Monica,

      I am so sorry you are in this situation with your partner. Yes, it can be very confusing and exhausting to sort out what is really going on. I am glad my article could help you. If you haven’t already, please consider talking to a therapist so you can have that anchor to reality and objectivity as you sort out how to extricate yourself. In my experience with clients you will have to turn your life upside down. There’s no easy way out once you have invested so much of yourself into the relationship. But getting out is really about saving yourself. You may find my book series, The Empath as Archetype helpful. The last book, The Fan-Hero Family System, describes how one of my clients managed to escape.

      Sending you love and hugs!

      • Monica says:

        Thank you Elaine.

        I am talking to a therapist and it is helping. In addition to reading, journaling is quite helpful in sorting out what is fact and what isn’t.

        My biggest struggle is to accept that this person I love so very much probably never loved me for who I am, but only for the image she had constructed of me and for me; and then started tearing me down when I refused to live up to it and tried to keep my sense of self.

        My heart is broken and my soul feels deeply disturbed, but I am hopeful I will regain balance and develop better and stronger boundaries in the process.

        • Elaine says:

          Yes, Monica, it is heartbreaking when we realize that the narcissist really was incapable of seeing us for ourselves. We are simply roles and objects to the narcissist. I am so sorry you are going through the heartbreak, but you do sound like you are going to come out of it wiser and better able to spot such people in the future.

          sending you love and hugs!

  53. Evangalion says:

    Hello Elaine,

    I have just recently discovered that I am an HSP/Empath, and the type of relationships that I have seemed to attract in my life. I have always seen myself as a caretaker, and willing to put other needs before mine.I have a big heart, with alot of love to give, but that often leads me into getting in relationships that are not ideal for me.

    I really enjoyed this article, and I will most definitely read and comment on the others that you have wrote. I have to admit, I am currently in a “Fan-Hero Family System”with someone. I realize now that this person is a Cerebral Narcissist. It’s scary to think how “empty” and “shallow” these type of people are.

    As with the case of most narcissists, the beginning of our friendship was amazing. He gave me the impression that he could give me all that I wanted. We shared the same interested, similar goals, and habits. What I do realize now, he was just mimicking the imagine I wanted to see. He is a retired narcissist, so he has had many years to perfect his “skill”.

    He knew I lacked a father figure in my life, and took on that role. His false self came in to play, and I took the bait. (unfortunately) Now the friendship is 3 years old, and I now know that he could never truly give me what I NEED.I have just come to realization of the level of his narcissism, and it is frightening to say the least. I am glad I discovered this before I actually had moved in with him. However, I am still not able to get to that “No Contact” phase…. His claws are deeply ingrained into me…

    However, the toughest part in that being an empath, we want to try to heal people. We try to see the good in all people. We want to give people the benefit of doubt, because us ourselves would expect the same in return. When we see someone hurting, we want to get to the root of that pain, and try to extract it ourselves. Empath’s are good counsellors, but some times we forget that we need counselling ourselves. That is the lesson I am starting to learn, one baby step at a time.

    I really do appreciate these articles that you have taken the time and effort to write. It is very therapeutic. What I am amazed is to see how many people out there are going through similar situations. It doesn’t bring justification to those situations, but it is comforting knowing that I am not alone, and that I am not the only one in this type of “toxic” situation.

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Evangalion,

      I am so glad this blog post has been so helpful for you, and I am so sorry you find yourself at the end game of a relationship with a Narcissist. I hope you are able to extricate yourself quickly–you have an advantage in that you haven’t blended your homes.

      If you have just discovered you are an Empath, I highly encourage you to read my series called the Empath as Archetype. You can buy it in one volume on Amazon or buy it here on my website. Please start with the first book, called the Archetypal Drama Triangle, and go all the way through to the last book on the Fan-Hero Family System. From what you describe in your comment, you have fallen into one of the pitfalls for Empaths–this idea that we can heal people. This is a trap! It’s the Rescuer Role Trap, and you must discard that as part of your identity, or you will recreate these painful relationship situations.

      In truth, we can not heal anyone EXCEPT ourselves. We can facilitate, we can support, we can teach, but the person responsible for the healing, and the person actually doing the hard work of healing is always the healee, NEVER the healer. Any caretaking is always suspicious. It’s a great way to hook in an Empath. Don’t fall for it any longer!

      Thank you again for your kind words. Please do check out the rest of the articles on the blog and website, and let me know if you have questions.

      much love,

  54. Mat says:

    This really rings a bell with me. I just wish that the gender pronouns were left out. So much of what I read about abuse paints the male as the abuser and the female as the victim. This is not how it always works, and it’s not how it worked with me. This categorizing makes it even more difficult for a male who is being abused to realize it, admit it, and get out of that situation. There’s already a stigma attached to being an abused man without having articles about it bent in that direction.

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Mat,

      I am so sorry you are going through extricating yourself from a relationship with a narcissist. Yes, there is a societal stigma attached to being a man and being the one abused in a relationship. I hope you have found your way out despite societal ideas about manhood.

      Yes of course women can be narcissists. In fact, in my last book I write about this relationship between two women friends. Yes, men can be Empaths, and as you already noted it’s harder in our culture for men to be Empaths.

      I am glad my article helped you to see the hidden dynamic in your relationship–I am sorry that the pronouns chosen rubbed a sensitive spot.


  55. Michelle Evans says:

    First off hugs to everyone!!! I am an empath married to a narcissist, I can relate to every post, it is as if they follow a script 🙁 PUT YOURSELF AND YOUR NEEDS FIRST……ALWAYS!!!! One of my coping mechanisms is when my husband is degrading, or name calling I say “you should say these things in a mirror, as you are referring to yourself” and I go about whatever it is I was doing, refusing to let the negative drag me down!!! Hope this helps everyone!!! God Bless us all, and grant us strength!! Amen

  56. Mike the narcissus says:

    As someone who has come to the realization that I am the cause of the love of my life’s heartache (it seems to be so text book), I feel the need to say I am sorry.
    I never knew that I was narcissistic, but after stepping out of my little world it seems to be as I said, text book.
    My wife of five years has endured so much from me, (my thoughts and feelings) and on occasion words and actions (not physical)
    As someone who MAY be about to begin a journey of self discovery, I ask what is the point? I see how this “understanding” of self seems to lead to more hurt than good in the society that most of are part of.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Mike,
      You pose a very good question. The key here is to make your suffering constructive. As you get better (which is hard and painful work) you will inflict less harm on others, and that makes it much more probable that you can have real, reciprocal, meaningful, deep relationships with your loved ones.

      Individual personal work is the surest way to change the world for the better. The more you do that hard work, the better your impact on others. Yes, going through this is very difficult, but it really is worth i–for you, and for everyone around you. It’s a way of life–a life long process. As someone that’s been at it conscious for more than 20 years, I couldn’t live any other way–it’s too painful not to.

      wishing you all the best on your journey!
      much love,

  57. Pingback: A Letter From Home: Dear Sara | Art by Rob Goldstein


  59. Cynthia Baumeister says:

    I cannot express to you enough how informative and helpful your sharing has been to me. I just found out blog and didn’t stop reading till I read everything posted. I already feel a big shift starting to emerge, something I’ve been working on for years-I’m not crazy(because I know things)and its not my fault that their crazy. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, but what’s unclear to me is she was never charismatic, very weak, wears her emotions on her sleeve, I of course was and to some degree still her emotional caretaker. I know, or feel to let go entirely but to do so will create problems for my father, whom I’m very close to, as they are both pushing 80 my mother has only severely gotten worse, and my Dad is not as capable of stuffing his emotions over her craziness, I’ve offered for my Dad to live with me, but he feels loyal,(stuck for healthy reasons), so I feel Xxx I need to keep some kind of relationship open, for my dad’s sake. I’ve already set a boundary, the one and only boundary, which is for her to not talk bad about my Dad to me about how it’s all his fault for het misery, which she is incapable of respecting, so I told her our relationship is on the line, because it’s inevitable once we get together, she shows her disgusts towards my father(which all I see is a man who has dedicated his life to trying yo make her happy). And has asked nothing in return. Too painful to listen to het blame such a person, not just because he’s my Dad. What he puts up with her he wouldn’t put up with anybody else, nobody would suspect this, he is a strong, excellent character of a man in every other way. Doesn’t deserve it.

    Thank you for all your support, I’ve already ordered your books and can’t wait to obsorb the wisdom.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you for sharing some of your situation with me. I am so sorry you are dealing with a narcissistic mother. It sounds like she blames your father for everything that went wrong in her life, which of course is unfair, and shows how stuck she is in the Victim role. Living your life out as Victim pretty much guarantees a suffering life for her and those around her. But you are right–your parents are both so old and have been living this way for so long that at this point it is very unlikely either one can change their situation. Good for you for setting boundaries, and for being realistic about what your mother’s capabilities are. Thank you for ordering my books–I hope they are helpful!

      much love,

  60. Pingback: What is a Narcissist? | An Upturned Soul

  61. Emilio says:

    Hi Elaine,

    I discovered your books some days ago. Before that, I had no idea I was an empath; I had never seen my core and essence described in such a pragmatic manner. I can identify with most of what you have written and that has brought me great confort, for now I can consciously start healing those wounds that I couldn’t understand before.

    I had a relationship with a narcissistic man that lasted 3 years, 2 of them we spent sharing a home and professional projects. During the last year of our relationship, I felt, as you have mentioned in your article, almost entirely drained of any energy and focus. Our crisis began when I started feeling insecure about his fidelity towards me, and after I invaded his privacy (I read some texts and emails), I confirmed what I had dreaded: he was seeing other men. It took me several months to make the decision of leaving him, and the only way I could find the will and strength to do so was through meeting somebody else. I didn’t give myself any time to heal and jumped directly into a new relationship. It only took some months before I relived that same pattern and discovered that my new boyfriend was also unfaithful. And so was I, once again. Now I was digging deeper into that wound, victimising myself and blaming my new boyfriend (he didn’t know I had been unfaithful too). We’ve been together for 3 years now, and even though we have talked about it, I can’t fully commit to a monogamous relationship, which is our agreement. He fits into the description of a logical scientist (he is actually studying to be a surgeon) and most of our time together we have spent acting the triangle of disempowerment. A week ago I asked him for some time off, because deep down I knew I couldn’t keep projecting my negative shadow on him and remaining blind to how hurt I still feel. I even developed a serious case of recurring tonsillitis during the years we’ve been together.

    It was until I decided to embark in this self discovery journey that I found your books. I am hoping to encounter some clarity regarding our future as a couple, specially now that I feel like I finally found a starting point for my self-healing process. Is there a particular book, activity or advice you could give me to unravel the pattern of infidelities I have constructed? Is is still worth it to discover if there is something to salvage from our relationship? I am worried that if I decide to be with him again I will quickly fall into that same behaviour, but I am also aware that I can do that too in any future relationship.

    I have many uncertainties, but after reading your books I feel lighter and more focused to deal with these essential conflicts.

    Thank you.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Emilio,

      Thank you for sharing your story with me. Yes, whether you stay with your current boyfriend or not, it is definitely worth it to continue with your own self-exploration and healing journey. We take our stuff with us wherever we go–as you already know, it’s very likely that you will repeat the same pattern with another boyfriend because you haven’t healed whatever is motivating you to have these kinds of relationships.

      I don’t know of a particular book that I can recommend to you regarding why we have affairs–there’s of course multiple motivations for that–it depends on the situation. Ask yourself what you are feeling before you engage in an affair. Are you afraid? Do you need comfort? conquest? control? a way out of the current relationship? In my Fan-Hero book I talk about how affairs are a way of punishing the spouse and subconsciously the parent that wounded us. It can be convoluted–I’d suggest doing some journalling around the subject.

      It can be very helpful to get support from a counselor or therapist with these hard subjects–the therapist may be able to spot shadow that you can’t at the moment. I also offer weekly email support, or you can write back on this blog

      Good Luck! It’s great that you are taking care of yourself by doing your personal work. If only more of us did, this would be a much better world.

      much love,

  62. Thomas Franey says:

    I finally found the right sight to help with my situation. I think , after research on BPD, Narcissists, and psychopathy. I am in deep pain tonight writing this, but thankful for handful of friends to reach out to me. This is my story, thanks for listening.

    I always believed to be an intelligent, mostly professional guy with a great heart and decent look. I was born Autistic which my obscure behavior started, as an empath I guess with some sociopathic tendencies. I had some not too healthy relationships, but I am focusing on my latest friendship / wishful relationship as this one has found my deep love inside of me and destroyed it slowly. Facts about me, I am a software Engineer who suffered some trouble with DWI and taking care of my family (if helps).

    I met the guy, casually, on a social site called tagged back in 2013. I was in the middle of considering to break my relationship with my ex-fiance at the time. He was certainly in my type, Asian/Indian , yet american born, cute, and actually friendly. Unlike most stories there was not any crazy love-bombing as I am use to, but a fast connection that I found my type that actually responded positively to me. We chatted a a lot, a shared that we both are attracted, and quickly quickly he asked to talk on phone.We hit it off well, as shared our ideas, hobbies, fears, and issues (like his roommate issues). The confusion started some on rather he liked me as a friend, FWB, or more. I worked with him and we grew closer in a bond, but still hesitance.
    There were times I sent money to keep his phone on.
    fast forward, We got into an argument that he thought I was over-bearing when he backed-away without reason, before Valentines he message me saying he found his lover to be with on that day, crushed me but I moved on.

    Summer of 2014 I reconnected him to see if he was okay , and he was alone, jobless, and depressed, he barely remembered but finally started talking. This is when we really bonded. We talked and I felt deep connection I never felt, He used to compliment as well, about my sweetness, occasionally my looks, and other things. He had deep crying sessions where I took care of him, I payed some of his bills, had food delivered to him, watch movies with him, and anything he wanted. I have tried to visit him before but he kept making excuses, so my intent was to see him in person (lived 4 hours away). Then I suddenly felt his cold behavior, no longer loving, then we fight, he gave me silent treatments weeks ata time, but accuses me of being jealous of nothing. Then he tells me he is not in love, but best friends. then flip back and forth, once instance he acted as I’m his last choice “sickly” he asked me officially to be his guy, but quick to forget it as he disappeared again after I picked him up from depression and sent money. Before my Birthday and holidays he broke up totally and the first time he presented me with the worst words I never experience by someone I totally loved, that I was stupid, irritating, not worthy of love, somewhat not attraactive. I tried to reconnect to him but He Smeared me , sending nude pics of me (in which I did not know he had) to my mother, posting pics of me calling me stalker. It was a nightmare.

    Months pass, and I finally got him to calm down ad talk to me. He was excited to hear my voice again, and the same routine started, but much more expensive, and much more rapid like a bipolar system. I am hurt more, but I felt closer love during movies, I told him my darkest secrets, shared opinions, Yet he goes cold. I have to send money just to get him to “unblock” and talk to me, every few weeks i get a weekend of watching movies and talking deeply. I fight to keep things going as I never felt so loved, yet so confused in my life. I get into trouble for sending so much money to him as I am suppose to support my family . Are fights were getting so bad that I strike back with insults. At the point after giving him a nice ring, that one of his boyfriends lost, or a gift of chocolates or just paying for his night out, I am met more darker insults, my family is trailer trash, I am an idiot, I am stupid, And now Unattractive and ugly. After I bought his greatest gift (#3), I treated him a night out with drinks, he kept asking, and decide to do another movie night (it’s now this month 2015). Everything was great until he confronted me about my dismay of him showing off that he had sex with a local guy. He told me he never want’s to sleep with me and I am not cute or attractive, broke my heart again after 3 years of at least a best friend level, or something. I did respond harshly after he blocked me on Whatsapp, trying to show how much I was in pain by reflecting on his insecurities (learned his weaknesses, didn’t want to though). He went silent while i cried and continue to take pain pills to curb the pain. I contacted him again to make another chance and I was met that I am not allowed to watch movies or be on voice to him and took my memory away from me as being his best friend, told me he never claim that as well as boyfriend. 3 years was … what.. I am dying with pain. All I did is love this one, my first person I really invested that much effort, despite long term domestic partnership I had before. Is this meaningful to you guys, or am I that a bad person. Am i worth only money ??

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Thomas,

      I am so sorry you have found yourself in such a painful dynamic with this person. Please read my first book on the Drama Triangle. It’s free on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo right now. I think it will help you make sense of what has happened to you in this push-pull relationship. I encourage you to take care of Yourself and walk away for good from this relationship. This person gives you just what you need only some of the time–it’s a very good way of creating an obsession in you. You won’t get what you really need out of this relationship. You cannot count on this person to do anything but what he has already done–reel you in, get you to pay for a few things for him, manipulate you by using closeness to make you trust him, then reject you, repeat. It’s a very painful cycle. It’s up to you to say no more!

      sending you a big hug,

      • Thomas Franey says:

        thank you. I just never saw my self worthless or unattractive to anyone that said I mattered at one time. What is wrong with me to attract that.

        • Elaine says:

          Dear Thomas,

          Instead of framing the question, “What is wrong with me?” why not something less judging towards the self. How about, “What can I learn about myself and this relationship?” It’s so easy for us to beat ourselves up, when in fact we were in a very confusing and painful situation. Please give yourself a break! You are doing the work to make sure you can recognize this pattern in the future–but be gentle with yourself–shadow work is really hard and painful. Treat yourself kindly.


  63. Osh says:

    Hello Elaine,
    At a time when I am healing from being with a Narcsistist teacher for serveral years, your article spoke directly to my heart. As an empath, this was not the first time I fell into this dynamic to some degree, but it was by far the most painful and hurtful and extreme. I am hoping this extreme was what I needed to illuminate the pattern and never allow this again. I feel that is true. I find myself at times in deep sorrow when facing the level of self abondonment from ignoring my own emotions inside to consider the Heros unwavering perception of reality. As an empath, I was willing to look at my side of the any issue to grow and heal, and as you know, there is only one side of an issue with a Hero or Narcissist. This was an endless turning on myself on the one hand and on the positive side, I was willing to explore any way I co-created it which ultimately led me to leaving and more intimately in contact with this wound. I have read many articles on this topic, but your words and sentiment touched me the deepest and are giving words to an experience that I am now healing. Thank you so much. Osh

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Osh,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad my essay could help you gain clarity and validation! Please give yourself credit for being willing to do the hard shadow work required for personal growth. It isn’t easy–not everyone is capable of doing it!

      sending you love and hugs,

  64. janice says:

    Can you elaborate on the Empath’s own tendency to need to be the special, bonded one in another person’s life? I am interested in what it means to need to be the special, bonded one.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Janice,

      This need to be special is usually unconscious in Empaths–We don’t realize that we are motivated to be validated as unique and special. That makes us easy to manipulate when others clue in to this. We can be easily charmed by a narcissist for making us feel like we are uniquely special in the narcissists life, or we can be devastated if someone we admire sees us as ordinary and not special at all. Empaths tend to feel different than everyone else (usually for good reason) but many times we can get attached to being different as an identity. It’s a good thing to watch out for this in ourselves so we can be more at choice about this hidden motivation. I hope that helps explain.


      • Dawn says:

        Your comment, “many times we can get attached to being different as an identity” I don’t understand. Isn’t that who I am? An Empath learning how to accept who I am, knowing my place as in how close to get & know when to back off so that Me, the Empath (my identity) doesn’t get to drained with the confusion?

        • Elaine says:

          Hi Dawn,

          This is a great question! By identity I mean an ego-fixation in the sense that Empaths can think of themselves as, “I’m so different, I am special, and I should be treated as special.” When an Empath does this, the Empath can start thinking she doesn’t have to follow through on social obligations and other social norms that apply to everyone else, who isn’t special.

          This is different than what you are talking about–knowing ourselves, our limits and boundaries, so that we don’t enmesh ourselves with others. I hope that helps clarify!


  65. Susan King says:

    I have just figured out I am an empath and I have ongoing relationship.with nativists. I I am 64 years old and I need a relationship that is equal, is there a chance for me?

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Susan,

      Yes of course there is a chance for you! It will take hard work on your part to break the patterns you’ve been in, but you can get better. If you haven’t already, please start talking to a therapist, and if my work appeals to you, please explore my website and read my books–they were written just for Empaths.

      sending love,

  66. Human Being says:

    Definitely doesn’t only apply to personal relationships. I have had this dance with an investor, mentor who has literally wiped out a decade of my life in this dance. I am taking accountability and accepting the hundreds of thousands in debt his denial has created for me and that his family propogates the lie of his “heroic” past. They dumped him on me and didn’t care what destruction he made as long as it didn’t impact them anymore. I’ve decided that my success is all I can focus on as a means to heal and somehow extricate from this lifetime sociopath who’s money has hid his sickness.

    • Elaine says:

      I am so sorry you are going through that! Yes, dealing with a narcissist usually is costly. I am so glad you are focusing on yourself and your own healing.

      sending love,

  67. Pingback: Narcissist & Empaths What's The Connection? - Moonbeam's Dreams : Moonbeam's Dreams

  68. Sonja says:

    To The Intellectually and Emotionally Gifted One Who Wrote This Article: Brilliant!! Thank you. My years of torment have unfolded in your article providing the critical and dire need I had to understand my confusion, so that I could escape the chaos in my drive to analyze and understand before I abandoned the relationship. Thank you!! Incredible explanation of my exact nightmare. Now I know I am not “crazy” as his family and group of ‘friends’ tell everyone. Peace. Sonja

  69. Helen says:

    You described me to the T! I too place on importance on knowing people on a deep emotional level and it kills me each time that all the other person sees me is a therapist and not as a friend. I see the act of sharing feelings and thoughts as a sign of a friendship and something sacred but they don’t. It’s so easy for them to share their pain and secrets with me and forget me when they are happy or don’t see me as a close friend. It’s so easy for them to dump or forget me when it’s convenient and come back to me when they need a listening ear again. It’s comes to a point where I hate people to talk to me about their pain/concern or anything intimate, especially if I don’t know them well or don’t hang out with them often. Which itself is a problem as I don’t have friends and want to make friends with deep connection. I have come to a point where I want people to talk about fun or good things and don’t ever share their pain with me. I have a lifetime of dealing with that, which began with my mother sharing all her pain she had to deal with with my father when I was about 4 perhaps. I became so concern about her feelings and her pain. I am sooo sick of these crap friendships. And I seem to attract all these assholes men. It’s not that I don’t tell everyone what I want, I do, very clear and firmly, but they just don’t care about my feelings. My mother also didn’t care about how I felt when I told her. What can I do to get out of this nightmare?It’s getting pathetic as I am now 33.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Helen,

      I’m so sorry you are having a hard time with your friendships. It sounds like you have a deeply ingrained pattern that you could use some help digging out of your system. Have you read my books yet? It’d be a good introduction to shamanic work and soul retrieval, which I think could help you. These books are written for Empaths so I think you’d really relate to them. You can download the first one for free on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes. If you decide you like the information, you can get all five volumes in one book. I hope that helps! If you have questions, please sign up for a week of email support, and we can go more in depth.

      much love,

  70. SY says:

    Thank you. I have just read this article and it completely describes what I have been going through this past year with someone who I regarded as my best friend, which has been one awful nightmare. Now I am beginning to understand everything and I feel certain that walking away from the relationship was the right thing to do and that I should never let this person back into my life again. Thank you again!

  71. Kaizer says:

    Holy shit, I’m in complete awe right now. This entire article describes the exact situation I’ve been in for the past 3 years living with this old woman. This was written amazingly well, too. Very good job, I really appreciate this. Is there any way I can talk to you? I’m trying to heal from this situation in the best possible way and my entire family just doesn’t get it and thinks I’m crazy. If you can give me some advice I would really appreciate it. Please email me @ if you can help me out at all in any way. Much appreciation. Take care and have good one.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Kaizer,

      I’m so glad my article could help! If you’d like to sign up for for a week of email support just contact me through my website contact form, and I can tell you how to get started.

      thanks so much,

  72. Crazycatlady says:

    Amazing article….Really helpful thanks so much xxx

  73. Lauren Hall says:

    Hello, my name is Lauren. I’ve been in this type of relationship for over 8 years now and am just now putting a name to the disease. Thank you for helping me realize it. Do you have any suggestions about how one can leave this type of relationship? Is there a way out?

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Lauren,

      I am so sorry you are in this type of relationship. Extricating yourself can be very difficult and confusing. It’s important to understand the pattern of how you and the other person behave so you can start making different choices. I’ve written a case study about leaving this type of dynamic in my Empath as Archetype series in the fifth book on the family system. Please read the books in order, because I use a lot of shamanic terminology. Good luck!

      much love,

  74. Char Herndon says:

    Hello Elaine, I was glad to find your article on narcissists. I was married to one for 10 years! On top of which he was physically, mentally & verbally abusive. I just today learned why I am the way I am, I’d never heard of an Empath before. I always felt so deeply what he felt, good or bad. I always thought that was so bizarre. We’ve been separated for 9 mos, but he still has the ability to control my emotions. The cherry on top of all this is that at almost 3 years married he fell at work and it left him paralyzed from the waist down. I stayed and spent 7 years taking complete care of him. Then two years ago he ‘decided’ I was cheating on him and things became so violent and unbearable I finally left him. So he still calls for help with some things,(knowing I won’t say no) but is still accusatory and hateful after he gets what he wants. So I stay in an almost constant state of negative energy when he calls. Your article REALLY helped me to understand him better. I know I have much healing to do! And so much learning to do on what being an Empath means. Thanks for posting this!

  75. SearchingForBalance says:

    I have to say, that I feel like the very nature of this article is, in fact, quite narcissistic. This whole article focuses on the fact that narcissistic people “hunt out” empaths so that they may exploit there caring abilities. It is more on the narcissistic scale to say “they used me so that I cared for them and then left” (implying you have the gift to heal someone). Being in touch with other people’s emotions does not give you the key to fix their problems or make them happy. And believing so, again, rings more narcisstic than empathetic. One may be able to understand, and even feel, another persons emotions. However, we are all created with a very different back story and learning how to help someone cope is a very different thing than understanding.

    I am an empath and can also have narcissistic tendencies, though those usually come from desperation from holding onto a relationship that I should probably let go, and seasonal depression. Although, I can say that I don’t (at least consciously) manipulate people in these times, the selfishness arises and shorter temper comes along with it. And the best thing that nips that in the bud is a TRUE empath, who does not narcisstically think that their heightened sense of your emotions makes them the answer to your prayers. But rather takes a step back, says I understands how you are feeling, please don’t treat me this way, how can we get help to make you feel better.

    This whole articles puts the blame on the narcissistic and accepting no part of the empaths fault. I am, truly, deeply sorry that so many have been hurt by a narcissist (as I too have). However, a deeper problem is why empaths allow these relationships to drag them down so much. Human beings are animals and they get away with what works for them. So rather than dismissing people who have narciastic tendencies (as these usually arise from deep pain) empaths should also take responsibility for setting their boundaries. Which is very important, especially if a person truly is damagingly narcissistic.

    Isn’t it narcisstic to assume that the person in question is living a lie because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted? Because empathetic or not, no one really knows what someone else feels. The truth is, we recognize in others what we know in ourselves. Maybe it’s very accurate, but empaths, still, can only understand feelings in others that they themselves can understand/feel.

    Empaths have a gift, when used correctly. But, don’t cover up narcissism with “empath”.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Searching for Balance,

      Yes, it is true that Empaths can be narcissists just like any type on the Enneagram can be a narcissist. However, the point of this article was to show a common pattern between an Empath and a narcissist in that the Empath can find confusing and hard to break free from the dynamic. If a person is caught in this type of pattern/relationship, then that points to healing and personal work for both sides.

      The point is to not blame the narcissist or blame the Empath. That is just Drama, and Drama leads only to more of the same. The point is to understand the dynamic and then do the work so that the Empath isn’t caught in the pattern. As you said, that means the Empath needs to work on his/her part, which is usually about boundary setting, about giving up Rescuer Roles, and about being understanding of others who are wounded but who are also dangerous, and compassionately letting them embark on their own healing path without any Drama Triangle dynamics in play.


  76. Claire says:

    Thank you for this article which gives me a new way to look at a relationship I’m in. I am definitely an empath and it seems to me that the man exhibits the characterisits of a narcissist. In conversations he offers very little to me but talks mostly about himself. When we met he was very depressed and not doing well and after we got together he perked up considerably. Now he has taken up writing again, and is doing much better socially. When I leave him I often feel a strong desire to drink, although I’m not a regular drinker, or sugar. Often I feel devalued in his presence.. He claims to treasure me but I think that it is because I make him feel so good about himself while I am often left feeling poorly about me. He came from a terrible home situation and has been deeply wounded. However he is aware of this and has done a great deal of work on himself. I have tried many times to leave the relationship but each time he has convinced me to return. I am wondering if he, who claims to be an empath, can also be a narcissist? Or are we both both? I’m confused, feel bad about myself and somewhat desperate to hang on to him. Yikes! Thank you for your help!

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Claire,

      I’m so sorry that you’re having a hard time in your relationship. Yes, it definitely possible to be both an Empath and a Narcissist. After all, narcissists tend to be terribly wounded people who are coping the best way they can. They have to be focused on themselves or they might not be able to function at all.

      The issue for both of you is to work on your personal healing–him on his, you on yours. Whether this can be done inside the relationship, I don’t know. You should start by focusing on why you chose such a relationship for yourself. In other words, focus on your own healing and take your attention away from making him feel good.

      I also encourage you to read my first book, which is on the Drama Triangle. You can download it for free on Amazon and the other digital booksellers. This will give you a good idea if you are stuck in a Rescuer Role. Once you’ve taken care of that, it will be much clearer what to do next.

      Good luck, and I’m wishing you all the best!

      • Claire says:

        Thank you very much, Elaine, for your response. I will definitely read your book. I have been troubled about things in our relationship for a long time, mostly because I have felt drained while he has flourished. It wasn’t until I heard about the Narcissist-Empath dynamic that I thought of it in that way. I do believe that this man is a classicl Narcissist. He was very wounded in childhood, but he does not fit the rest of the profile. He is not charming or charismatic although I think he’d like to be.. When I met him he was downtrodden and depressed. He has spent many years in an effort to heal himself so he is aware of his problems. He actually works as a healer, as I do, and we have tried to use our various skills to work on our own issues. Ha! We have come along quite a ways and I have had hope that we might use our relationship to further each other’s healing, even if we don’t salvage the relationship.. I don’t know if this is possible or not. I think we need a referee!

        • Elaine says:

          Hi Claire,

          If you haven’t done shamanic energy work, like soul retrieval, I highly recommend it with a experienced shaman, especially since the two of you work as healers. If your own tools have only gotten you so far, you may need the deep underworld work to really get to the root of the deep soul loss, which can belong to the generational line instead of you individually. Please take a look around my website for more information, or read my second book, which is about shamanic work. Good luck!!

          much love,

          • Claire says:

            Thank you again for your comment. I will investigate the shamanic work on your website. That is a new way of working for me. This man and I had two past lives together, one in which a destructive male/female pattern was created. The ironic thing is that he has been supporting me in overcoming the negative pattern. Well supporting in words, but in deeds, he has been perpetuating it. I think I met him this time around to finally confront and uproot the old pattern. After reading your work and several other books on Narcisssism and seeing how closely his behavior (and mine) fit into the pattern I put the relationship on hold for a while. I have finally set some boundaries and made some demands. If he can meet my standards of behavior I’ll consider working with him again. Otherwise, not. This has really been a good experience for me. I’m so grateful to you and others in this field for alerting me to this phenomenon.!!

  77. Male empath says:

    I fell for narcassist and yup, 4 years down the tubes. Regardless, I’m way over it but it is as this article reads.

    What i wonder is what an empath man like me should be searching for in a relationship. I mean I know alot about myself at this moment but what I really have yet to experience is an authentic, mature, traditional type of empath. I’m a gentleman kinda guy, rare as it is. I think I found her this last new years as we kissed… I knew my intuition. I kept a slow pace too w her. She braught me to her house amd we slept w no sex of course together. When cuddling she rolled over and for the first time in my entire life, i slept on my back with what seemed like the world on my chest (her head laying on me). Anyways, point being, I’m rebuilding my life finacially from my ex (7 months ago) and it takes time. Emotionally i am ready but I guess i will take it slow and just leave it to the universe. Idk if i beleive much in zodiac sigs… but if so we r both sags.

    • Elaine says:

      Hello Male Empath,

      Yes, I agree that taking it very slow is the best way forward. Recovering from a relationship with a narcissist takes time. Make sure you talk to someone about that previous relationship and get to all the root causes of what made that person attractive to you. You want to make sure all that is healed and out of the way of your new relationship. Take good care of yourself! Let me know if you have more specific questions.


  78. Robert Adair says:

    How to deal with the separation when kids are involved. Its hard to stay out of the clutches of the narcissist.

    Are there any solutions to this?

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Robert,

      I am so sorry you are going through a separation with a Narcissist. Yes, when kids are involved it adds another dimension of confusion on what is best for everyone involved. I don’t think I can give advice without knowing more about your particular situation. Just remember that Narcissists tend to see the people around them as objects, including their children. I highly recommend working with a therapist than understands someone stuck in this state. If you have specific questions that you wouldn’t mind sharing in this public forum, feel free to do so. Otherwise you might want to email me privately and set up email support. Sending you hugs!


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  80. cat dougherty says:

    it’s been suggested that my boyfriend of 18 years is a narcissist and i need special therapy.i’m nearly certain he’s an Enneagram type 7 (for one, he had never acknowledged his part in anything gone wrong) in July ’15 he said i was being controlling by keeping our dog quiet after an injury and bf gave me angry silent treatment for the dog’s six months of recovery (I developed behavior of a battered woman) until bf moved across the country. i have wept and fought sadness since july ’15, every day. I am a type 2. and still “in love” with him, though I don’t miss him in my home. now i’m studying narcissism to see what he can work on. it is too sad that he is willing to throw us away for his unwillingness to self-reflect and process what happened. an article in psychology today, i think, suggests dating again, so that i don’t become an isolationist. i might join a love addict 12 step group. thank you for caring, Elaine.

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Cat,

      I am so sorry you are going through such a hard break up. Being with a narcissist for 18 years is going to leave you confused. I encourage you to keep going to therapy so you can understand the dynamic between the two of you. Then you might want to go to a shaman and look at some of the root emotional causes of why you would choose such a person as a partner, and do energy work to heal those wounds. It’s hard to tell from your post what Enneagram types you are–it’d be better right now to focus just on you and your healing. I really would encourage you not to start another romantic relationship until this painful one has been more sorted out so you do not create more of the same.

      Sending you big hugs!

  81. Pingback: Empath’s Are the Best Mind Detectives! 10 Reasons why you Shouldn’t Ever Mess with an Empath – Evolve Me

  82. Linda Dann says:

    This is not the first relationship I’ve had with a narcissist. I clearly haven’t learned too much. I worked many years in mental health- was highly regarded and now it seems especially that I’m older a fact he continues to point out to me and others I feel especially frightened that I will be alone forever- however I was alone with narcissists before.
    what attracted me to your blog was the ‘shaman’ part. I too practice shamanism though I wouldn’t identify myself as such.
    any suggestion as to how I might incorporate shamanism into my attempt to recover?

    • Elaine says:

      HI Linda,

      Yes, consider going to a good shaman and doing underworld work together. It can really help unravel these sticky relationships at the mythic and energetic level–making it easier for you to break free at the emotional/mental. Please read about energy work on my website, and also my second book on shamanic energy work for a few case studies. Vanessa Wolf is very good–her contact info is on the homepage of my website.

      sending hugs!

    • Jan says:

      My sister in law is my narc and she’s had a confrontation with everyone in my family one way or another . The problem is I work with her and I’m an empath my husband is more of a realist and he wants me to stay away from her. However, the narc and my brother have kids and my husband and I don’t. So I have the dilemma with family holidays? What can we do we want to be there with everyone else. However, she is the only one that really screams for attention. She’s loud and really kind of nuts and everyone complains to me about how mean she can be . She gossips about everyone she very manic. So here I am what do I do? The sick part is I use to do anything for her until we crossed hairs now she ignores me. Where do I go from here our relationship will never be the same because I’ve lost my trust she has abused me and my family and all we’ve ever done was try to help her.

      • Elaine says:

        Hi Jan,

        I’m so sorry your relationship with your sister-in-law has been so painful. I find it interesting that your husband (her brother) wants you to stay away from her–that right there says a lot! I understand how you want to be there for her kids and for the family gatherings. What does your husband think about that?

        In any case, what is important to do, is to accept what your sister-in-law is like, and given that she is so wounded she isn’t likely to change. Hopefully at some point she will get herself some help, but maybe not. If you can accept that she is the way she is, then it might be easier to make a choice knowing what you are likely to get. There are no wrong answers here–you get to decide how much you want to put up with. Perhaps limited contact would work for you? A change of job?

        It’s something to think about–what is best for you, knowing exactly what you are choosing regarding her limitations and your expectations that she might grow out of them. It’s definitely a hard situation, and there are no wrong answers, only weighted choices.

        sending hugs,

  83. Linda Dann says:

    Thanks very much- I really like the concept of entering this stuff at a mythic level and in energy work. So much of the recent spate of NPD discussion keeps it at some surface place- but I already KNOW that level of understanding and I continue to immerse myself with these people – I must reach that place where I can be free- or I will literally die. I will indeed read what you’ve suggested and get back to you.

  84. Jan says:

    Thank you Elaine for your quick reaponse. I really appreciate the time you took to read this quiry. My husband actually said to stay away from her. I have seen a therapist about this matter and it has helped some but as controlling as my family is It’s still very important to me to have a relationship with all of themI just hate the fact that she’s been in my life for so long and now she can’t get past the argument we had. I’ve gotten past it I just wish she could. Maybe in time I’ll just be myself I guess but I can’t beg her to like me.

  85. Kyle says:

    I think its quite funny how you label the narc he and empath she.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Kyle,

      Oh yes, the narcissistic can certainly be a she, and the empath a he. It’s definitely not gender specific.

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