*Author’s note: this article is not aimed at those who suffer from a diagnosed medical or mental health condition.
I am an empath.
I am incredibly sensitive. I have permeable boundaries. I’m up and down. I reach out and feel everything everyone feels, and all too easily, I find myself lost at sea, often mixed up with the wrong type of people and ending up deeply hurt and confused.
However, more than once, I’ve found myself the person doing the hurting.
I have devastated my fair share of people, cheated on them because I was too soft to find the balls to leave them. I broke up with lovers and felt justified in doing so because they were the narcissists. And afterward I had a wonderful pity party for myself.
Of course, there have been times where I’ve genuinely been wronged and my softer nature has been taken advantage of. But wallowing in that only creates a holier than thou sense of entitlement that fuels a belief that I was somehow not responsible for anything.
At least, I wasn’t responsible for anything but being too giving. There was something I was looking for in all that giving and it’s taken a good few years of therapy to unravel my motives and face them truthfully.
We all just want to be loved and accepted.
But the ways we go about doing that vary according to our basic nature, our upbringing and many other factors.
I have a rudimentary understanding of the exact personality traits that both of these terms have assigned to them, but the general consensus seems to be that empaths are good, and narcissists are bad.
These are just some of many damaging labels out there that we apply to ourselves willy nilly. I find this absolutely outrageous and downright dangerous. Anyone who is feeling lost, confused and unsure where to place blame in a failed relationship may read these articles and assign themselves one of these personality traits without visiting a psychologist or a mental health professional. Alternatively, they may beat themselves up over being self-involved at some stage in their life, needing more healing or being the doormat—the one who gave too much.
Either one of these outcomes is damaging.
Here’s the thing—we all have both inside us. How could we not? We are both light and dark beings, it is the nature of the universe.
Nothing can ultimately be good or bad. It is a matter of perception. This is of course, aside from hard to forgive actions such as murder or abuse. I am talking about the relatively average human being with the usual or even more than usual hangups and baggage.
And speaking of baggage, who hasn’t got a skeleton or two in the closet? I certainly do, probably much more than most.
This has had a detrimental effect on my relationships and I have found myself stuck in situations that tore me down instead of building me up and vice versa. In this life we all get the chance to play the hurt lover or the one who does the hurting. How else do we learn, and get perspective?
I could definitely say with confidence, that I have been both the narcissist and the empath. I have dated both types and seen different sides of myself brought out by them. As someone with a very low self worth, when I read articles reviling narcissists I weep inside because I know what it feels like to be one.
This is the eternal battle of having both sides in all of us—and remember, whichever wolf we feed wins. If we feed the empath, we will keep building a victim mentality and placing the blame on the other. Instead why not explore
the darker side of ourselves that has been aroused. Why identify where are we refusing to take responsibility?
It is all too easy to become the empath.
Everyone wants to be them.
Who wants to walk away from a failed relationship carrying the heavy weight of blame? No one. Its much easier to be hurt than to be the one hurting others. We quickly jump into the empath boat and console one another, shaking our heads at the evil-doing of the narcissist. No one thinks for a minute that we may have been the one to display those qualities.
Are we not mirrors for those we love?
What about projection?
What you don’t like in others is almost certainly in yourself.
Of course, with repeated relationships with narcissists, we start displaying those qualities more and more ourselves as they come up to be healed. Both are two sides of the same coin—sensitive, unhealed issues displaying themselves in different ways.
Ultimately, it’s all about seeking love and approval.
We live in a society where some aspects of narcissism are valued—love yourself, think of yourself first. This isn’t entirely wrong, but it leaves no room for sometimes putting aside our own needs for the one we love and care for. Does this make us an empath and them narcissistic?
Have we taken a deep look inside ourselves and really questioned our motives or are we too eager to be the martyr, the one carrying the pain of the world?
We need to shape up our perception of these two much-used labels.
We need to realise that the potential for both live inside us, and that at certain times in our lives, by certain people, one or both types will be triggered. Sometimes one quality rears its head more than the other. At those times, we need to support the ones we love. Unless of course it has become abusive or unbearable, in which case we need to leave.
But, for the love of all that is right, we absolutely must stop making people who display narcissistic tendencies beat themselves up so badly.
Stop the labeling.
The problem with having both of these qualities is that it can become an endless cycle of guilt, despair, anger, helplessness and blame.
Own both. Celebrate all that we are. Know that all is balanced.
We should not give more than we have and we should not don’t take more than we should. Forgive ourselves. Stop blaming others. Take charge. We are not martyrs or victims, nor should we overpower other gentler than ourselves.
Be compassionate to all. No one is completely bad or completely good. We must know one to know the other.
As Osho says, “A certain darkness is needed to see the stars”.
Author: Margarita Stoffberg
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren