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Whilst anyone can be forgiven for being fooled by the Narcissist’s charming exterior, it takes a special kind of person to put up with the toxic abuse that then develops. As it turns out, there is a category of person whom the narcissist will be drawn to, and who makes the perfect bedfellow. Bring on the Empath (aka Codependent and Echoist).
The Qualities of Empaths
As you would imagine from the adjective they are named after, Empaths are empathic types who have an amazing ability to sense other people’s feelings. They are often kind and selfless, and will be the first to jump to a friend’s aid. They are the types who will help grannies across the street, work for charities, become social campaigners fighting for the underdog. Kind, strong, optimistic and dynamic – all of these qualities scream narcissistic fuel to the ravenous narcissist.
Their Achille’s Heal is that they invariably put other people’s needs ahead of their own. People-pleasers with weak boundaries, they are open to exploitation and often end up in relationships in which they do all the giving but do not either look after their own needs or ensure that these are met.
Indeed, many have prior inner childhood wounds (that they may not even be aware of), the healing of which is achieved, they believe, vicariously through the nurturing of their narcissist.
Traits of Empaths that make them stay
Empaths like to be needed. They are the types who want to fix everything and make it all better. With tremendous resolve and faith, they are sure that the traits of narcs are behaviours that can be fixed with love and nurture – and a lot of patience.
Narcissists are dependent on narcissistic supply. They need a constant stream of it in quantities that are as abundant as they can find. They derive it from a variety of sources, but invariably have a primary supply who is their partner.
It is this partner who is codependent. Once the first Phase 1 – Idealisation (lovebombing, mirroring etc) of the relation is achieved, and the partner is sufficient hooked, the relationship moves to Phase 2 – Devaluation. It is doing this phase that the narcissists derives narcissistic supply in two forms (positive: admiration, adulation, praise, compliments, acts of kindness, hard work, money etc, and negative: control, drama, upset, stress).
Empath Sucked Dry
The relationship becomes increasingly one-sided and toxic, but the Empath clings on to the belief that the narcissist can be fixed. Surely it just needs some love and nurture, and they can nursed back to being the loving person evident during the lovebombing phase. Sadly this belief, and the unhealthy and it slowly starts to erode the self-confidence and sanity of the victim – often without the victim even realising it. The abuse happens in a variety of forms – psychological, emotional, physical, financial, sexual etc. – through tactics such as gaslighting, projection, deflection etc. But by now they are addicted to their abuser and the drama in what is called Trauma Bonding (also known as Stockholm Syndrome) – they are, in effect, codependent. Wedded to the need to be needed for the fuel they supply.
The Codependent/Narcissist Dance
Welcome to the inherently dysfunctional dance between narcissist and their codependent, two opposite but well-matched partners: the taker/controller of the narcissist/abuser, and the pleaser/fixer of the empath/codependent.
As codependents they are enabling their own abuse, feeding their partner’s dependency on, and need for, narcissistic supply in a roller-coaster ride that oscillates between love and normality on the one side, and drama and the silent treatment on the other.
Sadly the tangle doesn’t end well for the Empath. Whether they realise they can give no longer and break away from the Narcopath, or are dumped by the Narc who sense the supply is running dangerous low and jumps ship before it sinks, the worst is yet to come. It’s time for Phase 3 – Discard. The breakup of a relationship is traumatic for both sides, but which the Narcissist is keen to show all and sundry that they are on top of the world, the Empath is left dealing with Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.
If kids are involved, anticipate Parental Alienation.
More ominously, the narcissist goes into overdrive with a smear campaign – in a scorched earth policy, they’re on a mission to destroy their ex.
Sometimes the Narcopath’s partner is called an Echoist. Essentially the Echoist mirrors back to the narcissist what the narcissist needs to hear – hence the term echo. “I’m beautiful” “You’re beautiful”, “I’m clever”’ “You’re clever” etc.
< Enablers | The Empath |NPD in Context >
The Empath, the Narcissist and the Path to Freedom
The Empath and the “Wounded” Narcissist
The 21 Stages of Relationship between Narcissist and Empath
The Toxic Relationship between Narcissist and Empath – Elephant Journal
The 6 Types of Empath – Learning Mind
Why Empaths find it so difficult finding True Love | The Minds Journal
The Super Empath – Views on Empaths by self-confessed Narcissist HG Tudor
Empaths and their role in their own Abuse