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Empath or Narcissist?

Updated on October 29, 2019
Grigorii Rasputin: The Russian royal family was tricked by a Narcissist masquerading as a healer; many people believe he was solely responsible for the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty.
Grigorii Rasputin: The Russian royal family was tricked by a Narcissist masquerading as a healer; many people believe he was solely responsible for the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty.

Narcissists have been getting a lot of press lately; a diagnosis previously reserved for serial killers is now being recognized in all kinds of people, in all facets of society.

Unfortunately, there is little information about Empaths outside the New Age community. More and more people are recognizing their empathic gifts, but have little control over them. Recognizing those gifts isn't enough; Empaths have to learn, above all else, to protect themselves from other people's energy. When Empaths aren't able shut out that external energy, they shut down; in turn, people wrongly interpret that response (turning off) as narcissistic ambivalence.

Here are some tips to tell a (good) Empath from an (evil) Narcissist.

Charming Narcissists vs. Genuine Empaths

People search out Empaths. Most of us believe that we have been blessed as healers, and feel that people are strongly attracted to us. And they're attracted to us all the time.

Narcissists would (literally) kill to possess our natural gift of effortlessly attracting people; our subconscious ability that compels people to divulge their deepest, darkest secrets. Thankfully, Narcissists can only fake it.

Narcissists are outgoing, the life of the party. Upon closer examination, however, many of those "friends" aren't friends at all. Note what kind of people a Narcissist befriends: Are they powerful? Rich? Of course, even rich and powerful people need friends, but a narcissist only has friends that benefit him/her.

How else can you determine whether someone is a Narcissist or Empath? Step back and think carefully about why you feel good when you're with someone. If just being near them makes you feel good, without any flattery or gifts, you're probably in the company of an Empath.

If you enjoy being with someone because they constantly flatter you or give you gifts, you are probably in the company of a Narcissist. Narcissists go out of their way to actively, through words and actions, make you like them.

Anatomy of an Empath

Their Needs vs. Your Needs

An Empath may disagree with your life choices, and they might urge you to change. If you're sad or sick, Empaths feel your pain or illness like it was their own. Empaths want you to get better. This behavior might come across as controlling or manipulative, but nothing could be farther from reality.

It's closer to a "fight or flight" response; and if fighting the toxic behavior doesn't work, they run. They run out of self-preservation, not fear.

Narcissists, on the other hand, just like being mean. No, really. When narcissists are mean, it increases the dopamine in their brains, which rewards them for being jerks.

For example: Narcissists encourage you to drink one too many glasses of wine at the office Christmas party, knowing you'll do something stupid in front of everyone. They'll stoke the fires of a toxic relationship you ended.

And they will ditch you the moment they can't use you anymore.

Anton LaVey preached selfishness above all else; he and Ayn Rand ushered in the current Era of Psychopaths.
Anton LaVey preached selfishness above all else; he and Ayn Rand ushered in the current Era of Psychopaths.

Grandiose Self-Worth of the Narcissist

Empaths want to heal the world. They take on people's pain as if it were their own. Empaths say and do nice things for the people around them, and even for strangers, because it's their nature. Their one purpose on this earth is to make people feel better.

Empaths are usually embarrassed by more than a simple "Thank You." Empaths will help you again, even if you forget to thank them.

Narcissists, however, just want you to make them feel better; they buy you fantastic gifts, take you on vacation, or introduce you to important people with one goal in mind: You feeding their egos by telling them how rich, important, interesting or well connected they are. Narcissists never, ever, ever let you forget anything they ever did for you, no matter how small. And if they feel you didn't thank them enough, or weren't grateful enough, they punish you.

This is one of narcissists' more toxic traits, because it breeds their victims' mistrust of ... well, everyone. This is especially true if someone is consciously in a close relationship with a narcissist. Narcissists teach their victims that no amount of gratitude is ever enough.

Anyone who demands gratitude is not an Empath.

Controlling vs. Concerned

Because they want the best for you, Empaths can get a little pushy when they see you in a toxic situation or relationship. One sign that you are dealing with a Empath, rather than a Narcissist, is that Empaths will make their opinion clear to everyone, including the toxic person. The situation is entirely transparent.

Narcissists, however, will isolate you from everyone - especially from the positive influences in your life - while encouraging toxic relationships. They will tell you that Jim is "boring" because he doesn't do drugs. They will tell you that Brooke is "fun" because she gets blackout drunk every night.

And the scary part is, Narcissists can be so patient and so subtle, you may never expose their games. This is called "Covert Narcissism."

Unfortunately, this is one of their most effective tools. They have to do it; otherwise, their games won't work. Unlike Empaths, Narcissists maintain strong relationships with the same people they don't want you to spend time with, often meeting them in secret or telling you that it's a "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" thing.

If you've ever tried keeping your enemies closer than your friends, you know it's way more time and effort than it's worth, unless you're a Narcissist.

Narcissists idolize figures like Ayn Rand; empaths despise them.
Narcissists idolize figures like Ayn Rand; empaths despise them.

Antisocial vs. Exhausted

Empaths are often approached by strangers who want to talk to them about their problems; they sense the Empath's healing light. Many Empaths feel blessed to have this gift, but it can be overwhelming.

Sometimes, Empaths need to be alone. Experienced Empaths know how to protect themselves with an invisible wall; It can makes them seem uncaring, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's no different than being sick with the flu. Just a few days of rest and we're as good as new!

A Narcissist, on the other hand, just doesn't care. They know how to pretend to care, which is why their reactions may seem especially genuine, or even over the top. But that's because they're acting. They don't understand how to feel the real sadness, embarrassment or other emotions, they watched someone else feel so they could mimic their movements.

Additionally, If an Empath drops off the face of the planet for a week, it is because s/he is exhausted from people. You should never take it personally, and you should give them their space. This behavior could be easily misinterpreted as psychopathic, like they don't care. But it is actually the opposite: Empaths are so overloaded with caring that they have to take a break from everybody.

Narcissist, on the other hand, will go out of their way to remind you of their existence. People are their puppets. If they're sick, they make sure you know about it. Their one fear is that they will lose control of their victims, so they never take a break.


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      This is highly informative, and very compelling. I appreciate the fact that you bounced the psychopath and the empath against each other to explain the difference, and in this way made each category more clarifying. Yes, Rasputin was a psychopath. If you read the book, Nicholas and Alexandra, you will see how he led such a double life. He used people by exploiting their weaknesses.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      3 years ago from Brisbane

      The Russian empire was very corrupt and ready to fall. Rasputin personally did not hurt anyone but healed people even prior to entering the palaces.

      He just doesn't look like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt.

    • Brynn Thorssen profile imageAUTHOR

      Carrie Peterson 

      3 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Rasputin was one of the worst psychopaths of all time! Many people believe that he caused the downfall of the Russian Empire. He hurt many people with his puppeteering.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      3 years ago from Brisbane

      Sociopaths are often very good at being mistaken for "normal people" but psychopaths can't act normal enough.

      Rasputin was an empath who could heal. In the royal court he was surrounded by many Sociopaths. Rasputin spent nearly his whole life in poor obscurity going on arduous pilgrimages. He never hurt anyone. He was murdered by two psychopaths.


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