What is empathy? Are empathy and sympathy the same thing? Are empathy and compassion the same thing?
This blog is brand new but I just realized that my tag cloud about narcissistic abuse is huge while there is nothing yet about empathy, compassion, self-love, or anything else that helps you avoid and/or get out of relationships and situations with these people. That’s going to change! While I need to keep writing about and sharing my story for my own healing purposes, I also want focus of this blog and what I share with you to be on the good, the positive.
They say that the only way to win against a narcissist is not to play. I say narcissism can’t even exist in the face of empathy. So, let’s get started talking about the empathy, compassion, and self-love that I believe will save the world from narcissistic insanity. Here we go…
During my interview with Steve from The HSP Experience a couple of weeks ago we talked a lot about empathy and I suggested to him that in the same way that darkness can’t exist in light, narcissism can’t exist in empathy. A true narcissist is devoid of empathy. They can understand it intellectually, they can have conversations about it, but they are incapable of experiencing it. There is a big distinction, in my mind, between empathy and sympathy. They’re barely even related but a lot of people use the terms interchangeably.
Here’s the difference I see–sympathy sees suffering and wants to make the suffering go away so the observer doesn’t have to feel bad. It’s really about the observer rather than the one experiencing the suffering. Empathy, on the other hand, is the observer saying “I will hold space for your emotions that are causing you suffering. I’ll sit with you. I’ll let you rest your weary head on my shoulder. We’ll sit together. When you are feeling better, we’ll stand and we’ll walk together.” Sympathy is about abandoning the emotions, pretending they don’t exist. Nobody gets better this way. Empathy is about acknowledging suffering, holding space for the emotions until they pass, and then growing stronger together.
A narcissist can’t experience empathy because everything is ultimately about them.
What is the difference between empathy and compassion? To me, these two things are much more closely related. I see compassion as the feeling, the emotion that comes up in your stomach when you see suffering. Empathy is the action you choose to take as a result of the emotion of compassion you experience.
Can Empathy be Learned?
There’s a great book called Never Split the Difference that I think every empath, co-dependent, or anyone else who has ever found themselves in a situation with a narcissist should read. The book is actually written to teach people how to be better negotiators but it provides, practical knowledge of empathy. It will give you great insights into how you function as an empath as well as giving you tools to be more prepared in the world of narcissists. This is because empathy without boundaries is self-destructive. Books like these help you with understanding the boundaries side of being an empath.
Check it out and let me know what you think. Being an empath is a superpower. Being an empath with boundaries will make you unstoppable!!