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Why Some Become Narcissists & Others Become Empaths

Updated on April 20, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.

We often find that people who are more empathic come from similar circumstances as those who are more narcissistic. In fact, they may even come from the exact same circumstances, even the same family. So why do they end up differently?

One reason could be that though the children in a family are treated similarly, they are often not treated the same. Let's look at the golden child/scapegoat dynamic. Though both children are being mistreated and abused in this situation, they are not treated the same. The way they are related to by the parents and often the family at large is very different, and this will cause the personality, defense mechanisms and other developmental types of things to be different from each other.

Something that we may need to be reminded of is that creating personalities and identities in people is not like a recipe, where you add two cups of this and five spoons of that and you get a narcissist, or 4 cups of this and 8 spoons of that and you get an empathic person. Though we as a society mostly know what things will be detrimental to a child, such as neglect and abuse, no one can ever know how much or how little these things will affect somebody. Some people have gone through really serious abuse and they are basically OK. Others go through things that don't seem to have been that bad and they are just devastated. It's the same with all types of trauma and all experiences in general. It is very often about the individual themselves and their personal makeup more than anything else.

For example, people are sexually assaulted every day. Some are able to move on pretty quickly and others' lives are totally ruined by this terrible violation for years. Even two victims of the same trauma by the same abuser or perpetrator often do not react the same way to what has happened to them. Everyone reacts differently and it is really more about who they are and how they deal with things.

Whether someone develops into an empathic type of person or a narcissistic type of person has to do with the type of coping mechanisms they employed when they were children, their individual personality and what worked for them. It's a marriage of many things. There also may be some herditary or genetic influence here, too. They are researching that now and hopefully in the future, we will have a definitive answer. More than likely, it will be like just about everything else, which is to say it is both nature and nurture, meaning a combination of both environment and genetics.

It's important to remember, too, that even if someone has a genetic predisposition to something, they are still responsible for their own choices and their own behavior. Genetics cannot be reliably used to predict everything, unfortunately. For example, virtually all human diseases - even infectious diseases - have a genetic component, (though it may be small in some instances) but not all humans who have the genetic predisposition for these diseases actually develop these diseases. There is no way to know who will and who won't. When it comes to behavior, science is even less able to predict what will happen. It has been found that environmental influences have just as much of an effect on someone's behavior as genetics, if not more in some cases. There are many people walking around who may be genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic, yet they have never taken a drink in their lives, or are able to drink responsibly. It has to do with a person's choices and the kind of person they are. So that's just something to think about.

Basic personality coupled with environment really has a lot to do with how a person turns out. For example, it may be that narcissistic people were just born needing more than others and this never changes. They may never get enough from their parent or caregiver and as a result, they feel rejected, unloved, neglected and cannot mature or develop correctly. The parent could be overworked, they could have many children, they could have been ill for a long time, they could have been being abused themselves, it could just be a "bad match" of personalities, so to speak, with a needy child and a parent that is not emotionally available... emotional neglect is often not something that is done maliciously or intentionally. The parent may not even realize it's happening. A child that will become a narcissist from this situation may develop self-focused coping mechanisms or may retreat into fantasy and immature denial. The child who becomes an empath may be better-able to deal with this situation realistically, or develop coping mechanisms that are other-focused, rather than on the self.

Both seem to develop the ability to read people, but only one the ability or inclination to understand them. Narcissists and empaths are actually similar in many ways, odd as that sounds. On the spiritual level, it may even be that narcissists are unevolved or immature empaths who have not yet reached the spiritual maturity level necessary to develop their gift for healing. It's an interesting theory and one I have explored in other episodes of the show. They are linked on the screen at the end of this video. Also, it's important not to confuse empaths and codependents in these discussions, because they are not the same. An episode of the show devoted to the differences there is linked on the screen at the end of this video as well.

In the end, everyone is different and that is why we all evolve, develop and mature differently. This is why questions like this are so hard to definitively answer. The human mind is still a mystery in so many ways, and the human spirit even more so. The ability of the mind to cope with awful things and still survive is nothing short of amazing. It's a shame that narcissistic people cannot see that their survival route has now become their prison.


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    • profile image

      susan floyd 

      13 months ago

      at 4 yrs old i stood at my sisters crib and watched her. she wasnt crying but i thot she should be held. she was a beautiful baby but there was something odd. it seemed even though she moved her head and eyes that she wasnt seeing or having any thoughts. i thought she seemed empty. she became my moms sinester helper and the only child of 8 that my mom had a soft spot for. that made her the golden child

      my theory is that god blesses parets with a child who has

      no personality, a clean slate. the parent is allowed to be molded entirely by their parent. that would be quite a golden child yet some parents abuse the gift and mold an evil child.

      susan floyd


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