Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
No doubt that narcissism is a hot topic with we all being such a self-centered lot on top of the pandemic of pathological narcissists wreaking havoc in government and even those posing as healers on social media to support their parasitic need for adulation even from the victims they victimized. So we not only have lots of them we deal with daily but experience the damage they cause as well.
This inundation of life across the globe by both has led to much confusion that I see in the 1000’s of blogs and threads I read weekly! One of the most frequent and popular questions I see and receive is from victims of narcissistic abuse asking if they are the narcissist! I have tons of articles in the Blog and 1000’s of posts at Yourlifelifter that break this subject down. I will summarize them here for those needing clarity and for newbies searching for answers on the differences between being narcissistic and being a Pathological Narcissist.
Being Narcissistic is a Human Trait
Narcissism like compassion is a normal human characteristic that falls on a spectrum however, like most things, too much or too little of either can cause issues. We see the consequences of both more so in our vested relationships with ourselves and others and in our own degree and comfort with self-worth and self-care. Since our relationships are core to our self-worth and our happiness, the degree of our narcissism and compassion can seriously impact both. Too much or too little compassion can imbalance power in relationships, hinder management of personal boundaries, and put healthy mutually respectful interactions at risk.
What Impacts Does Too Much Compassion Have
Caring too much can motivate us to rescue others we believe need help even those who don’t need or want rescuing. It can cause us to give too much, become a people pleaser and to neglect our needs over the needs of others where we put greater value than our own worth. We become vulnerable to anyone or anything that triggers that overabundance of compassion and need for validation of our worth. We are vulnerable to codependency we learn from being exploited as children. Having too much compassion (that we commonly see in empaths) can make us vulnerable to those who will intentionally exploit our compassion with no intention of returning the benefit. Giving too much and not being validated for that effort can lead to emotional fatigue and depression and even trauma.
People, with too much compassion, however, as Dr. Kristin Neff demonstrates in her studies, can learn self-care and how to use their compassion responsibly and to treat themselves mindfully with more kindness especially when they are in pain. They can heal the wounds that caused these faulty beliefs and unhealthy behaviors. They can learn internal boundaries that allow them to monitor and show compassion in ways that will promote their emotional health and self-worth.
Too little compassion, on the other hand, that we see in highly narcissistic people, and worse, in many personality disorders, makes us dependent on others as well but for totally different and more nefarious reasons. Healing for some is not possible.
What Impacts Does Too Little Compassion Have
Like in those with too much compassion, we see the biggest impacts from low levels of compassion on the health of relationships. The narcissistically disordered with very low to non-existent compassion have no internal brakes that would motivate them to respect other’s needs or wishes or boundaries and that would prevent them from mooching and using others to service their needs at their expense. They also have little to no motivation to return the favor. Other people become essentially their “prey.” They become masters at identifying emotions in others and how to trigger them to direct other’s power for their personal benefit but are not able with compassion to recognize those same emotions in themselves. They, in fact, as the McGregor studies show, target empaths with too much compassion who they have learned are the most vulnerable to their manipulation tactics. Interestingly enough, narcissists themselves are very easily manipulated and can target other narcissists.
They also use others with lower levels of compassion (but not pathologically low) who Dr. Jane McGregor refers as “apaths” to help them in their attacks. We in the narcissistic abuse recovery community refer to them as “flying monkeys.” These apaths have enough compassion to prevent them from an all out premeditated stealthy attack on another, but not enough to put another’s safety or needs ahead of their own especially when doing so would disturb them or upset them, cost them, or make them appear less acceptable to the audience, group, family, job, etc. Apaths have brakes, just faulty selective ones.
What Causes Us to Have Too Little or Too Much Compassion
As discussed earlier, empaths with too much compassion learn to give it away freely in exploitive childhoods where their emotional needs were not met in healthy ways. While the brains of those with too much compassion and moderate levels can rewire and they can learn to fix their skewed beliefs and use their compassion more responsibly to improve their emotional and relational health, those with pathologically low levels cannot.
Experts believe the roots of pathological narcissism, the clinically disordered are genetic and triggered by events in early childhood that permanently arrest development and cannot be reversed. In short, pathological narcissists, essentially remain dependent on other people to survive and cannot ever fend for themselves. They know what they do and simply do not care, because they are not able to. There is no cure. Some refer to it as “living hell.” Read more in the articles below: