The Empath/Narcissist Connection
by Elisa Romeo
In my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist and during Soul Sessions, I have heard countless stories from my empath clients about falling for the charismatic manipulation of narcissists. As a highly-sensitive empath myself, I also have had personal experience becoming energetically and emotionally drained in narcissistic relationships. It took me years to really identify, understand and heal this common empath issue and resulted in my first book, Authentic Intuition (originally titled: Energetic Codependency).
Empaths are the perfect prey for narcissists. Empaths are (by nature) big-hearted, altruistic, super-sensitive, deep-feelers who see the best Soul-potential in everyone they meet.
Empaths feel the emotions of others in their own bodies (through the 2nd chakra or ClairSentience), making us highly susceptible to all forms of codependency. I often say empaths don’t have a problem walking a mile in someone else’s shoes (building empathy) but a problem taking their shoes off our feet after the hike is over!
Common Empath Codependency Issues:
- feeling drained and unclear/unable to meet your own goals
- losing your own reality or Soul truth to friends/family/societal expectations often leading to relationships/career choices that were never a good fit
- seeing Soul potential in another and dismissing current red flags out of a desire to heal all the ‘wounded birds’ of humanity.
Narcissists seek out empaths because they are on the hunt for a source of ‘Narcissistic Supply’. Narcissistic Supply is when a narcissist gets a ‘power hit’ off another because they can’t recharge off their inherent connection to Source/Love/God/Universal energy. It is like using another person as your own personal battery recharger. Because of this predatory power drain, narcissist are often called energetic vampires. The depletion in life-force energy is very physically real and leads to anxiety, depression and physical health symptoms.
I have witnessed many empaths leave these relationships (or even just go on a trip) and suddenly feel clear for the first time in ages. They will often become more bright, healthy and empowered in the process of separation.
Image from Barbara Brennan's book Hands of Light
Coming out of an emotionally abusive relationship can feel as challenging as leaving a cult. There is a long period of questioning everything you have experienced and ever known (due to the programmed disregarding of your reality known as ‘Gaslighting‘) and it is common to doubt all your intuitions while needing to reprogram your self-worth.
The Soul lessons can be intense but also highly transformational if you survive and empower your way out of a narcissistic relationship. I see often with my clients how these relationships are often an initiation to learn just where you will never give your power away again. We become fierce and clear in our own boundaries and self-worth through this inner-transformation.
Some people believe that labeling is discriminatory and we should not pathologize people by calling them narcissists or energy vampires. This may be true if the playing ground was equal but there are deep manipulation and control games that happen because of their invisibility.
Labeling has benefits to categorize and understand behaviors. What if we refused to label consistently elevated blood sugar levels as the diagnosis of ‘diabetes’. The label helps us to identify, manage and potentially heal the illness. It is the same for mental health. Labeling should not be about making egoic judgments (i.e. “I am better than the Narcissist”) but as a tool to bring real Love and discernment to the whole situation, for all Souls involved. It does not serve a narcissist to help enable their addictive behaviors. As I often say: Sometimes you have to hurt an ego to love a Soul. If we never tell someone, or ourselves, the truth because we are scared of hurting feelings, we have made Fear our God and submitted to codependent behavior. Love is much stronger than that.
The truth is we have all, at times, had moments of energy vampirism. It can be natural, when feeling insecure or hopeless, to grab onto the light of others around us. Like someone drowning, we may reach for the swimmer next to us and inadvertently pull them under. This happens when we are overwhelmed and forget to look to our own Source of life-giving energy (Your own Soul for comfort, validation, and directions). This is what a spiritual practice and Soul journaling, which I teach in my book Meet Your Soul, is about.
Yet, for some people, this insecure behavior is not contextual and they don’t grow out of it. They may have been so seriously traumatized as children that they can’t fathom another way of gaining energy, or have been born with a severe personality disorder. Healing is always possible but the famous psychologist Carl Jung frequently wrote about the number one mistake we make as humans—assuming others are psychologically similar to ourselves.
As big-hearted altruistic empaths, we often cannot fathom the motivations of a narcissist, and therefore, continually attempt to heal and minimize their actions as mere misinterpretations while disregarding our own still small voice telling us to set a boundary or leave.
It is hard to imagine others may not have the same positive intentions as ourselves and accept that someone could be so self-serving. But due to trauma or personality difference, this can be the cold hard truth.
Stay tuned for my next blog on an incredible resource to help empaths avoid and heal these relationships.
I would love to hear from you on this topic. Have you had a narcissist initiation on your empath journey? What did you learn from it? Do you have any tools you employ to keep you energetically and emotionally protected and clear?