Can a Narcissist feel Empathy? The Answer May Surprise You

The short answer to the question “Can a narcissist feel empathy?” is “Yes.” It is psychopaths who are incapable of feeling empathy, not narcissists.

There is a common misconception that narcissists do not feel empathy because they are selfish. However, this is not true.

The issue with narcissists is that although they can empathize and understand what others are feeling, they simply do not care.

In other words they are very much aware that they are hurting people, but they choose to do it anyway.

Their focus is on themselves and their own needs and they are willing to sacrifice whoever is in their way in order to attain what they want.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.

It can be a powerful tool for connecting with others, building relationships, and resolving conflicts.

Empathy allows us to see the world from another person’s perspective, which can help us to better understand their thoughts and emotions.

Can a Narcissist Feel Empathy?

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-5 lists “lacks empathy” as one of the criteria used to diagnose people with narcissistic personality disorder.

However it then goes on to say that in some cases, a narcissist “is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.”

In other words, a narcissist can feel empathy but still choose not to act on it in a caring manner.

Can a Narcissist feel Empathy

Narcissists Feel Empathy, But Use it as a Weapon

Anyone who has ever had to deal with a narcissist knows they are experts of the art of manipulation.

And understanding what another person is feeling or what is important to them is key when it comes to manipulating them.

For people who do not have a personality disorder, empathy is a positive trait that enables them to feel for others.

It is an essential part of our humanity.

But for narcissists, empathy is just another weapon in their arsenal, one that they use to control and manipulate others.

So, can narcissists feel empathy?

The answer is both yes and no.

They are capable of feeling it but in most cases choose not to act on it.

And when they do, it is often for despicable purposes.

Can a Narcissist feel Empathy

An Example of How a Narcissist Uses Empathy as a Weapon

A perfect example of narcissistic empathy in action is on display during the love bombing stage of a relationship.

The narcissist will say and do all the right things in order to make their partner feel loved and special.

They will go out of their way to shower them with attention and affection.

In such a situation it is clear that the narcissist is skilled at understanding what makes their partner tick.

They can sense what makes their partner happy and they use this knowledge to get them hooked.

However once the love bombing stage is over, the narcissist stops caring what their partner feels.

From that point onwards, their empathy is used to come up with the best tactics to gaslight and abuse their partner.

Can a Narcissist feel Empathy

An Example of How a Narcissist Uses Empathy as a Means to an End

Narcissists are also able to use empathy to fake a caring reaction, when it suits them to do so.

For example, they may pretend to be concerned about a friend’s problems in order to gain their trust. Or they may offer help and support to if they see that their friend is struggling.

In these cases, the narcissist is not actually feeling empathy for the other person. They are merely using empathy as a means to an end.

And once they have what they want, they will go back to their usual callous and self-centred ways.

narcissists cognitive empathy

Why Do Narcissists Behave This Way?

This can be difficult to understand for people who are not narcissists themselves. After all, if you can feel empathy, why wouldn’t you care about others?

The answer lies in the fact that narcissists view other people as objects to be used for their own purposes. They don’t see other people as individuals with their own needs and feelings.

So, while it is true that narcissists are capable of feeling empathy, they do not use it in the same way that most people do.

Instead of using it to connect with others and build relationships, they use it to exploit them.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About Narcissists and Empathy

Do narcissists have empathy?

While it’s commonly believed that narcissists lack empathy entirely, it’s more accurate to say they have a different kind of empathy.

Most narcissists have what’s called cognitive empathy, the ability to recognize and understand other people’s emotions.

However, they typically lack emotional empathy, the ability to share or relate to those emotions.

What is the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy?

Cognitive empathy refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples’ emotions.

Emotional empathy, on the other hand, involves sharing those emotions.

When someone feels emotional empathy, they can feel the joy or pain of another person.

Narcissists often have cognitive empathy but lack emotional empathy.

How do narcissists use empathy as a weapon?

Narcissists can weaponize empathy in several ways.

They may feign emotional empathy to manipulate others or gain their trust.

They might also use their understanding of a person’s emotions (cognitive empathy) to exploit their vulnerabilities and control them.

Can narcissists develop emotional empathy?

While it’s challenging for narcissists to develop emotional empathy due to their personality disorder, some research suggests that with long-term therapy and a willingness to change, it’s not impossible.

It’s important to note, however, that this is a long process and requires a commitment from the narcissist to self-improvement.

Why is empathy important in relationships with narcissists?

Empathy is crucial in any relationship as it facilitates understanding and emotional connection.

In relationships with narcissists, however, it can be a double-edged sword.

While empathy can help in understanding the narcissist’s behavior, it can also be exploited by the narcissist for manipulation.

How can one protect themselves when dealing with a narcissist?

Setting clear boundaries is crucial when dealing with narcissists.

It’s also important to remember that you can’t change a narcissist’s behavior – only they can do that.

Seeking support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional can also be beneficial.

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