How to Stop Being Empathic and Become a Complete Narcissist (a.k.a. Arsecissist)

by Caroline van Kimmenade

Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a bit.

Admittedly, that can be hard (and let’s be grateful that it IS hard to understand those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Yet, for us HSPs, it’s essential to stop assuming that narcissists are “just like us”. It’s essential to stop assuming that we want the same things or that we go about getting those things in the same way. When we forget that narcissists are significantly different, then we get hurt.

So here’s my “what if they’re actually thinking THIS?” list to get you started. I’m not claiming that this is “The Truth”. I do think it’s close enough to the truth to help you to start imagining any narcissist in your life as being significantly different.  When it comes to handling narcissists, we have to start by rewriting the “how we think they work” stuff in our own head.

In dealing with a narcissist, it’s easy for us HSPs to slip into the “nobody would do that / think that / want that etc.” mode, which effectively throws up a smokescreen that keeps us from seeing what is -or is likely- going on. So let’s explore some shocking possibilities, and note where you feel a tug of “that makes more sense than I’d like to admit about X”…

Devil’s advocate, right. How do you become a narcissist?

So, just in case you wanted to ditch the whole HSP/empath approach for a bit (yep, let’s pretend you can!). Or if you wanted to try out the “if you can’t beat them, join them approach”(ever notice how hard it is to either please or “beat” a narcissist?)… Here’s what you’d need to do.

1. Convince yourself that the world sucks

This is very important. You want to get to the point where you believe with all your little black heart (pretend you have one for starters) that there is nothing really intrinsically worthwhile and that anyone who tells you differently is just a smug and self-delusional liar.

2. Take what you want

That’s right. The world sucks remember, so noone is going to give you what you want. So, you have to take it. If you’re smart, you’ll recognize that, since nothing is intrinsically worthwhile, nothing is really worth having, so your best bet is to ruin other people’s enjoyment of what they have. Hey, they’re delusional about anything having “value”anyway, so you’re actually doing them a favour!

3. Nobody is your friend

You are not a friend, you don’t have friends and real friends don’t exist. That’s just the way things are, get over it.

4. There is no such thing as a win-win

There’s just one winner and many losers. Make sure you’re the winner. If that can’t be done, your best bet is to convince the others that they’re losers. This is easier than it seems. Most people have some insecurities and shame: play it, exploit it, rub salt into those wounds.

5. Give up on love

It’s a four letter word, that’s all you need to know about it.

6. Aim for praise, admiration and envy

You want to be praised, admired and envied.

7. Anyone who has something that you don’t have doesn’t deserve it

Remember that.

8. Lie to yourself

You’re lying to everyone else already, so why not lie to yourself too. It makes life a lot easier.

9. Never question your own (faulty) logic

You believe it, so it’s true.

10. Your stuff is always biggest

No matter how great someone else’s success, it’s always irrelevant compared to yours. No matter how great someone else’s problems, yours are always bigger.

11. You only sympathize or congratulate to a) to get attention and b) introduce your own BIGGER story

Other people’s stories are a great way to gauge what to say in order to get all the attention. (It’s not about getting a particular kind of attention. It’s about controlling your audience. You are centre stage, no matter what).

12. Put on some frosting

People are not completely stupid (where would be the fun in that anyway?) So you’ll have to lure them and dazzle them with some convincing bling. Remember, your bling is just like Santa Claus, it doesn’t exist, but people so desperately want to believe in it that they won’t recognize a fake beard when they see one.

13. If you can’t have it, hate it

Clear, yes?

14. If someone tries to please you, make sure you’re never satisfied so that they’ll keep pleasing

Remember, life sucks and you have nothing to offer others in the form of genuine care. So, you better keep dangling the carrot and hope nobody discovers that it’s made of plastic.

15. If someone gives you an inch, walk all over them

You know the drill. Get your foot between the door!

16. Pretend you don’t know what you’re doing

Remember: wolf in sheep’s clothing.

17. Never mind self-doubt

If you master all the above to the point of even being narcissistically honest with yourself, you might admit that there is such a thing as “virtue” and that you don’t have it. But, no worries, apart from the fact that definitions are always philosophically debatable, I’ve got the remedy right here: when you meet anyone with virtue (or who is happy – horror of all horrors) just pile a whole load of crap on them. It doesn’t matter what it is. Recite the whole bad news list of the week if you have to. As long as you can make them feel bad, you’ve succeeded in dampening their smug little whatever. Just remember one word: negative.

17. Find an HSP or Empath to “team” up with

They want to help. Suckers. So, exploit that. Hey, you’re doing them a service, waking them up to the harsh realities of life. Meanwhile, be sure to exploit their social intel as well. Sensitive people have great insight into others, use that info for your own benefit.

18 OK, now this point is kind of complicated

Even though everyone else is stupid, you might still feel inexplicably insecure and scared at times. And OK, so maybe you’re not that fantastic in every possible single way at all times. Obviously this feeling sucks. To make it go away: Destroy the things that bring out the insecurities. It’s those things that are the real culprit. It’s not you, OK? There is nothing wrong with you. It’s just the twisted bragging of others that confuses your emotions to think that you are “less than”. But you’re not. You just need to stay on top of the game by squashing the opposition is all.

19 Keep things simple

Granted, life can be confusing and you may almost lose your head at times. It’s easy though. Just remember: “I am right and others are wrong”.

20. Your mind exists to protect you and create evidence to make you right

Just stay focused on the truth: “I am right” and all confused thinking will automatically auto correct to state what others need to hear to see that you are right.

21 Don’t worry about who you are, just worry about getting what you want

Put this one on a post-it.

22 Give goodness your own little twist

Here’s a great way to “do good” and thus raise your perceived “virtue” and still get your narcissistic needs met. Offer to help others and, while doing so, either completely mess up (creating more work than there was from the outset) or use your offering to rub in the helplessness and inferiority of the other person. Get it? By helping, you get to show that you are better than them and you get to be virtuous too, because helping is by definition virtuous! Plus, you get to mess up big time and, if you get any complaints on that, you can then make people feel bad for their ingratitude (another bonus for you!). The drama that this creates is something you’ll be able to capitalize on for weeks (if not months!)

23. Happy people suck

You know that, they don’t. Do whatever it takes to make them understand and take their joy down a few notches until it’s bearable.

24. It’s all about power

You praise someone if this is to your advantage. There is no need for consistency. Switch allegiance mid-sentence if that will put you on the winner’s team.

Troubleshooting: What if you’re having a disagreement with someone but it turns out you can’t win? How do you change tactics without losing face? It’s simple: simply pretend you agreed with the other from the start. Just rewrite the whole conversation in your head (it’s called Artful Amnesia) and, if any questions are asked, just say there’s been a misunderstanding.

25. Throw lots of pity parties

A great way to get attention from others is to do the “poor you act”. Poor you: nobody understands you, nobody appreciates you, nobody likes you…don’t just think these things (thinking it doesn’t distinguish you from non-narcissists!) Go on about it, endlessly! The word is “recycle”. Recycle all your hurts. By retelling them again and again, you also make sure that you won’t forget them. Over time, you’ll have an endless repertoire of poor you stories. There will lots of natural transitions between one story and another. In the midst of one story you’ll be reminded of an even worse (read: better) one. This way, you could talk for hours! Ahhh, bliss!

26.What about the unimaginable?

Every now and again you might come across someone who seems unusually caring. Deep down you know it’s just a façade but you find yourself affected anyway. Here’s what you do: challenge them and criticize them. Just keep at it and, at some point, they will show their true uncaring face and not want anything to do with you. Then you can relax because you knew you were right about them all along.

27. Attack is your best defense – and at one point or another everyone is out to get you

Don’t hesitate to attack others, you’re just one step ahead of their game is all.

28. Say whatever you need to in order to meet your current goal/need

Argumentative coherence just gets in the way of getting your needs met. Just be in the moment and strategically respond to what is happening in the moment, without any concern for what you may or may not have said before.

29. Repeat the narcissist mantra: “my life is unusually difficult and painful, entitling me to take out my frustrations on others without reserve or limitation”

At least 20 times a day.

30. If people are not 100% with you, then they are against you

“In between” and “shades of grey” is for wimps and liars.

31. You crave attention

Here’s a way to get more: make yourself unpredictable. Make yourself into an unhappy enigma. Others will spend oodles of time and energy trying to figure out what you want. This will make you the centre of their universe.

32. As with anything worth being, you can’t just relate to a few points and proclaim yourself a narcissist

You gotta practice all of it. Sure, give it your own spin: no slacking though! Make your fellow narcissists proud.

33. Are you now (rightly) convinced that narcissism is a fantastic and superior way of being?

Well, too bad because you probably can’t pull it off properly anyway. (Exit: the narcissist.)

ED: Btw I think it should be called arsecissism. Note: When I am referring to narcissism I am referring to the full-blown extreme of anti-social (yet often outwardly charming) self-obsession that pretty much fools every HSP at (hopefully only) one point. For your own mental health, it’s probably better to overestimate it rather than underestimate it. If you’re caught in “it couldn’t possibly be that bad”  thinking, then make an effort to emphasize the bad stuff. Really put a spotlight on it until the reality of the situation starts to sink in. Narcissists tend to have a way of  “looking good” and remaining an eternal mystery to those they are “close” to. The air of mystery functions as a fata morgana. AS an HSP, it’s easy to imagine things that exist in others, as if they exist in the narcissist.

Also note that the inner pain and frustration, upset with the world etc. are not what make narcissists narcissists.  What makes them narcissists is the assumption that they are entitled to structurally take their frustration out on others -and make the lives of others miserable- with no true regard for the well-being of anyone but themselves.

So, just because you can relate to the inner woundedness of a narcissist, doesn’t mean they are entitled to your active support and compassion. There are many people who have hurt and disappointment that needs healing, yet not all of those people take it out on others. As an HSP, you know this. When you allow yourself to remember, you’ll come up with oodles of people who, despite their inner pain, care for and truly support other people. Don’t buy into the myth that narcissists are more of a victim in this way than anyone else. They have free will just like any and all of us, and they have the ability to choose how they direct that free will. 


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1 Mattie April 9, 2013

Absolutely brilliant! BUT… what about the narcissist who really does (at least seem to) have a best friend and give or herself to that person? I can see everything of the traits above with me and everyone else in the N’s life– this is a classic case– but I don’t see it with the best friend (who is constantly held up to me-the inadequate friend- as the center of the universe). Only clue I see is the best friend is in a profession that is useful to the N. I am absolutely baffled, though, because you’d think you’d see the abuse show up somewhere. What am I missing?

2 Caroline van Kimmenade April 9, 2013

Hi Mattie,

That’s an interesting question. Ok, there’s a few different scenarios:

1. They really are supposedly “good” friends somehow. The narcissist may be on their best charming behaviour (because there’s more to gain that way) and the “best friend” may be susceptible to the over the top admiration-bombing. Since everything is going the way the narcissist wants things to go, there is no need for abuse. In this scenario, a narcissist can be loyal and giving because they are getting way more in return. This doesn’t mean they’ll stick around for the other person when there’s no longer something in it for them though! The “best friend” is still being used, it may not seem that way though since narcissists are masters at making things appear different than they are.
2. They are not good friends at all, but the narcissist knows that holding up this other person as the perfect centre of their universe somehow gets under your skin. The N may be doing the exact same thing to the “best friend”: holding you up as the perfect example. In short, just because they talk to you about this friend in this way, doesn’t mean they say the same things to their face.
3. Narcissists tend to praise others in public, because it makes them look good by association. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all. It could just be an influence strategy.

Hope that helps throw some light on the situation!

3 No thanks August 5, 2013

What about someone who is very narcissistic, but does have emotions, although it ends up being the cause of a lot of stress and self-loathing?

4 Caroline van Kimmenade August 19, 2013

What kind of emotions? Narcissists tend to have a chronic sense of anger and rage. I suspect that underneath that, there is actually a bigger variety of emotions, but they’re so deeply hidden that for all practical purposes, they’re pretty much absent. Someone can also have strong narcissistic traits without having full-blown narcissistic personality disorder though. Typically, narcissists see having any emotions at all as weakness, so that could be a source of self-loathing.

5 Madonna April 22, 2013

This article posted just when I discovered the narcissistic personality. Very cool =) My situation is: I fell for a witty, clever, seductive & talented narcissist. I had no idea he was one and no idea there’s a whole personality type on it! In fact, he fits all the above behaviors…and get this….I ADMIRED him for it!!

I idealized his ‘ability’ to stay aware and focused on his needs and not be rocked by or sucked in by the expectations of others (my weakness). I also admired his wit, accomplishments, and exacting standards because I felt like finally I could interact with someone who challenged me intellectually (although definitely not on my level intuitionally or empathically). It was stimulating to debate and explore our views, and it was even fascinating trying to understand him. His earthiness (materialistic-ness?) also made me feel grounded and solid..whereas..I usually feel detached from material things…even my body.

The problem was…he sucked the life out of me!!! He was constantly pulling guilt trips and using emotional blackmail against me…saying things like “you don’t really love me…” “you don’t really want me…” “I guess I’ll leave then…” etc It was too much….too much trying to please him…too much feeling bulldozed all the time. He exuded warmth and affection when he wanted something….yet turned cold as ice if I didn’t reciprocate in the exact manner he demanded. He had no problems ignoring me for long periods…and always minimized my feelings or concerns. I even admired him for that!!

I regarded his emotional detachment and so-called perpetual, present-moment focus as some kind of spiritual achievement. In this way, I always felt he was stronger than me…more capable than me…as someone who’s always being blown to and fro by the emotional winds of whoever or whatever surrounds her.

Of course, I was livid with how he treated me, and I left him countless times (and returned countless times). Somewhere deep inside, I figured I’m too emotionally needy anyway, so at least I could be useful to him, help him, really love him and make him feel good. And it felt really nice that someone needed me or wanted me that much. Of course, I found out I wasn’t special to him at all b/c he cheated on me. But I reasoned that was my fault because I kept pushing him away.

Anyway, wow…I’m really messed up! Oh, I also have to say that…I figure this abusive relationship worked out really well for me. I’ve got a fearful-avoidant relating issue and being with the narcissist meant I never had to fully open up and become vulnerable to another person. With him, I could stay safely tucked inside my own inner security blanket. How I ever expected to experience true intimacy this way, I have no idea….But well, at least I can see now why I would ever be attracted to someone like this. Thank you for writing this article because…Wow…I’m almost ashamed at how much it’s opened my eyes. Thank you for giving it to me straight though.

6 Caroline van Kimmenade April 24, 2013

Hi Madonna,

You spell out some super key insights (also for others reading this). It’s crucial for healing to acknowledge our own wounds, the places where we prefer to distract ourself and (overly) focus on someone else. The one you mentioned here is especially key: “Somewhere deep inside, I figured I’m too emotionally needy anyway, so at least I could be useful to him, help him, really love him and make him feel good.” . I dare say this is a universal empath theme. Somewhere along the way, a perception lodged itself inside of not being loveable for who we are, and we deal with that by focusing all our love on others. That’s the craziness. The healing happens in facing that sense of not being loveable, and peeling back and healing that one layer at a time. Since narcissists initially “reward” us for giving all our love away, they are the ones we get hooked into when that wound is still subconscious and not tended to.

Facing the insanity of it all is painful, but it’s a big step on the way out of this pattern!

7 lee June 18, 2013

Narcs are lunatics. They are delirious. Try beingwith one that uses alcohol to fill the endless void they have in their heart

8 Carmen October 2, 2013

Lee, out of all the research I have done to see if I can save my relationship, I think you have summed it up the best! It’s the best statement I have read, thank you! There’s just nothing I can do it’s such a pity. My N is a lunatic & delirious and I am lonely & exhausted. I need to sort my life out, grow up, stop using my friends as counsellers and get the heck out!

9 Hampton August 23, 2014

clear. Brief. True. and to the point. Hot on the trail, for TRUTH IS THE ONLY PAINKILLER……..

10 Marie June 25, 2013

Yes, it is almost impossible for me, an HSP, to even wrap my mind around some of the things my narcissistic mother and mother-in-law say and do! Your list was very eye-opening. I find myself beyond frustrated when dealing with either of them. My deep empathy and compassion keeps me, in a way, from being able to grasp how any human being could be so entirely self-absorbed and self-serving. I am sooooooo not like narcissists. (Any tests I take reveal that I am on the opposite end of narcissism……well, the results actually tell me that I don’t have ENOUGH “healthy” narcissism, which sort of makes me sad.) Even today, my narcissistic MIL projected onto me some feelings and actions which which so far out of left field that I was flabbergasted. I keep trying to explain to my husband that his mother’s narcissism is very toxic, but he keeps telling me I need “to try harder.” Yeah, right. I think the narcissism in his family is a trait. I see it in my husband and his brother, too. I don’t know his sisters well enough to gauge if they fit the bill. Narcissists project, they blame, they play martyr, they play victim, they are never wrong, they one-up every conversation, they monopolize all conversations. I mean, what’s to like about them??! All I can manage to do is to tolerate them. I bet that if I weren’t a very empathic HSP, I’d just go no contact with the lot of them. It’s doubly frustrating to me because I can’t discuss any of my feelings about his mother with my husband. I think it’s partially because he himself is a narcissist and sees nothing wrong with her behavior. It’s maddening, at times. I yearn to be free of all of the. I think about leaving my husband day and night, but feel as if my self-esteem is too low to even entertain the thought of leaving. How in the world I ended up in such a state is a sad commentary of what growing up with a narcissistic mother tends to do to a child. I am the poster child of having had such a mother. When I married my husband, I didn’t have a clue what narcissism was, and I sure didn’t know that my mother or my husband fit the bill. Anyway…….I’m veering off the subject……… I just wanted to say how much I enjoy what you’ve written, and I’m printing it off and referring back to it whenever I feel overly sympathetic with them! Sometimes it feels as if being a highly sensitive empath is nothing but a curse……but, of course, I realize that I may only feel that way because I currently feel surrounded by narcissists.

11 Caroline van Kimmenade June 25, 2013

Hi Marie,

It’s like you say, being an HSP and empath is only a curse when you’re surrounded by narcissists. Like being a zebra is a curse when you’re surrounded by lions. Having very white skin is a curse when you’re out in the desert. etc. Being in the wrong social environment drastically lowers self-esteem. You don’t need self-esteem to take self-supporting decisions, you just need to understand that the low self-esteem is a consequence, not a fixed trait. It’s like feeling like you can’t possibly get out of the sun because you have a really bad sunstroke and so you huddle, stay in the sun, praying things will get better…

12 Chris July 18, 2013

This is internally repetitive, and seems based more upon a personal bias against the narcissistic-type than it is a factual guide to becoming one. Narcissists tend to be more realistic and grounded than the empathetic HSP-type, and are influential (as a positive trait). Narcs aren’t motivated by a desire to outright hurt others (they just tend to when someone becomes wise to the fact that they are more interested in themselves than others). I’m a narc and I don’t like others to suffer, most of us just have a more grounded, realistic (and less self-gratifying emotional) mindset and dedicate a lot of ourselves to reasonable-self interest. Narcs are people too.

13 Caroline van Kimmenade July 19, 2013

Hello Chris,

It was not meant to be an actual factual guide to becoming a narcissist, as that would be ludicrous. Whatever it is like to be or not be a narcissist goes beyond the scope of the article or anything else I could write or address.

I do not claim to have written an objective article about what (all) narcissists actually think or what actually motivates them (all), and I state that upfront. It was my intention to provide some food for thought about what might be going on in a particular narcissist’s head. Yes narcissists are humans too, and hence they are all unique individuals with different behaviours and motivations. It’s up to the (HSP) reader to see what applies in their particular relationships.

Obviously, if I were to interview an unhappy couple of 1 person who is an HSP and the other who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then their own depictions of what is actually going on would necessarily be very different. There is also a difference between NPD versus “narcissism” – of the latter, someone may have more or less traits, arguably creating a scale of “less or more” narcissism. So “narcissism” as it is commonly used is in and of itself quite a broad category.

14 ang January 23, 2014

My narcissists says this all the time, ‘but I don’t intentionally set out to hurt people’. Does it really matter if it was their ‘intention’ or just an after the fact result? Not to those of us who have suffered it doesn’t. Thats like comparing murder to manslaughter, still ends in death, only the ‘intention’ is lacking.

15 ang January 23, 2014

It really is sad to know there’s little to no hope for them, but the sooner we accept that, the better off we’ll be

16 amelia September 26, 2014

Of course, if you are a narcissist, it is highly likely you are lying about that, because that’s what narcissists do. They don’t want to look bad. Admitting that you like hurting people you can realistically identify as something that will make you look bad. So of course you will deny that. Narcs most certainly do cause pain intentionally when their delusions are threatened. Further, if you are a narcissist, it is likely that you take glee in others’ pain when you have caused it because that makes you feel powerful. Or something. I don’t really care. If you cause pain without having to, I don’t care about your reasons, because you just suck and aren’t worth my time.

Possibly you are not full blown NPD, too. Maybe you’re just self-centered.

17 Patricia July 18, 2013

Thanks, Caroline, for this and all your other posts on this topic. My HSP teenage step-daughter’s mother is a full-blown narcissist and unfortunately my SD doesn’t recognize it. She doesn’t see how her mother manipulates and uses her for her own ends. It would be great if you could write a post aimed at kids/teens who are so susceptible to abuse by a narcissistic parent and need help to recognize and understand what it is happening to them.

18 Caroline van Kimmenade July 19, 2013

Hi Patricia,

It’s really hard for kids to come to terms with the fact that a parent (on whom they are still emotionally and financially and practically dependent) would be a narcissist. It’s like trying to convince a 5 year old that Santa doesn’t exist. They’ll blow you off as silly for making the suggestion – because, what on earth would be the upside of not believing in Santa?

I’m afraid that writing an article -while a noble undertaking – would do little good. It’s painful to come to terms with narcissism in people that are close. Furthermore, we build psychological defenses to “make sense” of narcissistic behaviours and adapt to them…challenging that is no less that a complete worldview rewiring (which in and of itself is very stressful). It often takes grown-ups (who are theoretically independent) years to fully let the reality of narcissism sink in. Now add to that being a teen and having all the hormonal and independence struggles that come with that too. Sadly, the most “peaceful” way to cohabitate with a narcissist is by believing the stories they tell us.

It’s painful to watch in others, seeing someone we love being manipulated. Yet, there are many reasons why it may in fact be best for her to come to terms with this later, when she’s an adult, and in her own time. Hope that helps.

19 Patricia July 22, 2013

Thanks Caroline. You’re absolutely right, of course. She needs to come to the realization in her own time. And her father and I have to accept that we can do nothing about the fact that she has completely rejected her paternal family, and that she believes herself to be too fragile physically and emotionally to ever be independent of her mother. We also have to accept that it’s possible she may never realize the truth, or worse yet, she may develop a narcissistic personality disorder herself. It’s like having a loved one with an eating disorder who has a completely false self-image and being unable to do anything about it. It breaks my heart.

20 Caroline van Kimmenade July 27, 2013

Hi Patricia,

This may sound “selfish”, but be sure you give yourself the care and attention you need through all this. A situation like this is a painful and extreme ‘lesson’ in letting go, and forces a re-evaluation of many “how-things-should-be’s” and can open up a whole plethora of worldview questions. The heart-breaking can be an opening into something bigger, but you need to give yourself the love and attention at every step of the way. People have more room to change when we no longer “need” them to (although this by no means guarantees that they will change). In a way, everyone can be everyone’s teacher and catalyst.

21 Patricia August 6, 2013

Thank you again, Caroline. I just have to say that in a few short paragraphs yours has been the most compassionate and insightful response I’ve encountered in the many years that we’ve been dealing with this. That alone is tremendously helpful :)

22 Sandy May 1, 2014

so almost a year later and i came across your post. wow can i sympathize. my SD also has an mother with NPD and she is now 24 and realizing this. I came into the picture when she was 2 and was shocked at she was used so often as a pawn. We went for about three years when she was older (around20) without having too much contact with the SD as we felt it was time to let her make her own decisions and choices. We are a family of five and this was taking away from the other kids too.
Anyways needless to say…..I was out buying her wedding dress the other day. Such a special moment between us. She is realizing the damage her mother has caused to her and all of us. My husband still has residual effects and he was only married to her for five years! Imagine the effects my SD has!
Do I still think my SD is an extension of her mom ? Absolutely! But then I see her and we laugh and talk and she tells me about her therapy sessions etc. We’ve come a long way. Time and patience and unconditional love. And it can seem very hard at points along the way. it will change. I am lucky my SD has her Dad’s heart!!!

23 Ana October 30, 2013

Hi. I’d like you to know I’m 31 and have a narcissistic mother. I also have an awesome step mother and only now I discovered about narcissism and talked to her. She didn’t know anything about narcissism but she told me many cruel things my mother did to her – and the cruel things the talked about me. I was always the difficult one, she sold this image to my dad and my step mom.
Today, that I’m 31, we talk about this and she’s my confident. She validates me. I’m currently in a no contact mode with mother and I just can’t think of saying even a hi – I don’t feel like it. Maybe your step daughter will realise someday and that pain of yours can be liberated. Good luck.

24 Patricia February 28, 2014

Hi Ana, I just saw your post today. It must have been so hard to go through what you’ve had to. It takes a lot of strength to break free of a narcissist’s grip, something I know my step daughter doesn’t have right now. But maybe she will one day and we will wait for that. Thank you for reminding me that it can happen!

25 Karen August 12, 2013

Can an HSP also be a narcissist? I joined an HSP support group and became friendly with one of the members. Away from the group I have found her to be an insensitive and self-centered person. Whenever she has a crisis she expects me and other people to drop everything and rush to her aid. She becomes quite incensed if you tell her you won’t or can’t do what she wants. She was furious today because a very depressed friend who is going through a divorce didn’t want to take care of her (the group member’s) sick dog while she was on vacation. She asked me to pick her up when she returns from her trip and when I hesitated she said, “Well, there’s no reason you can’t since you’re not working that day.” It upsets me that she assumes I want to drop everything and invest a good chunk of my day driving 200 miles to pick her up.

26 Caroline van Kimmenade August 19, 2013

Hi Karen,

HSP’s can definitely be narcissists. I’ve met at least one. Unfortunately. narcissism seems to be one (extreme) reaction to trauma or too much childhood pampering, or both. This can happen to HSP’s too. HSP is just one of the categories that may apply to someone. Someone can definitely be in multiple categories. On the flipside, narcissists may seem like HSP’s (or think they are HSP’s) because they’d definitely describe themselves as “sensitive” (which they are in a completely different way). More on all that in this article

27 Echo September 2, 2013

N’s may have free will and choice of direction, but if it was that simple, there wouldn’t be such a thing as NPD in the first place. Narcissism is ingrained into the personality, you can’t just switch it off. That of course doesn’t give the N a get-out-of-jail card for free for all transgressions, but what it does indicate is that the (self-aware) N is just as much a victim as other people suffering from personality disorders.

28 Caroline van Kimmenade September 2, 2013

So basically, what you are saying is that if a person were truly able to choose their personality, they would never choose to be a narcissist. I think a lot of narcissists would disagree with that. Part of NPD is that they are convinced that there’s nothing in them that needs to change. Now, is that because they have NPD and it’s a kind of “distortion” or is it because deep deep down, people simply disagree about what is worth having and being?

One of the pitfalls of HSP’s is assuming that everyone wants to put caring first, if they could choose it. So a lot of pain results from the assumption that a narcissist is a victim of their own personality, and if they could choose, they’d prefer to be different. But that’s how things look from the HSP perspective, it’s not necessarily how they actually are. It’s what would make sense to us, not necessarily what would make sense to everyone.

29 Ana October 30, 2013

I have many things I don’t like in my personality that hurt me and others, but I search for treatment and commit myself to be better. The narcissist doesn’t think he has any problem and doesn’t look for treatment.
My mother has many times used this excuse (it’s not that I don’t wanna change, it’s just that I can’t) when none of the others worked anymore (yes she tried the I’m too old one recently. Didn’t work for me. My moto is “I don’t feel pitty for abandoned old people. They must have been awful if any of their children wants to see them. Remember bad people also get old). Oh you can’t change by yourself? How about searching for a professional, just like I and many people empathic do, huh? She just wants the poor you supply, that’s all.

30 Alex September 3, 2013

Hi I have only in the last few months become aware that I am a HSP. Which makes me feel less alone and abnormal I guess. I constantly think about all the suffering that goes on in the world ever since I was a young child, it’s been going on for years and I have had clinical depression since I was 15, I am now 22. Like you say it is very hard to accept that not everyone has the best intentions towards people like us empaths do. My mother has never been helpful and thinks I need to toughen up. I wouldn’t say my mother is a narc, but she definitely has some traits. Her main problem is she is very very selfish and has always put men and herself before her kids needs. Usually controlling men with mental health or alcohol problems. I don’t know if my childhood has affected my empathy more due to me being ignored through most of it and even as a small child felt very vulnerable and alone most of the time. If anyone has any advice it would be much appreciated. I do not have a victim mentality and most of my sadness is related to innocent people and animals being abused/tortured, its permanently on my mind. Does anyone else feel like this???

31 Ana October 30, 2013

Oh yes. Especially little children suffering for me. If you ever feel like, try reading the book “you’re not crazy – it’s your mother”. It gave me a lot of insight.

32 Megan September 14, 2014

Absolutely! It’s taken me a lot longer to get to this point, good on you that you have figured it out:-)! I thought I was the crazy one.

What has helped me (whenever I remember to do it) is visualising a bubble around me, filled with love, where her fears, doubts, anything to do with her, cannot come through. Hope this helps!

33 Heather September 16, 2013

This is hilarious–as an empath, I love the title. Just what I needed, some humor plus insight. Thank you.

These people get into your mind and energy system like a virus. It’s extremely difficult to get rid of them internally and stop going back to them. No matter how spiritually strong you think you are, I recommend to run like hell if you ever even suspect a partner is. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief. It’s like trying to have a relationship with an unconscious vampire.

34 Sian October 3, 2013

Yickes, I’m dealing with this guy at work. Why didn’t I read this 4 months ago I may have saved my sanity. You make some really good points, particularly the bit at the end about just because they are in pain that isn’t an excuse, there are many people in pain who are decent people, we all have free will. May be I can stop beating myself up for not being able to help him and stop letting him hurt me. Thank you very much I really needed this.

35 Caroline van Kimmenade October 7, 2013

You’re very welcome Sian. Glad it helped! People need to truly help themselves before anyone else can help them anyway. A big aspect of narcissism is that they don’t see themselves as broke, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”! If they do the “help me” dance, it’s usually just a way to get more attention. More on the why and how they don’t want to change here

36 Kevin October 15, 2013

I know it’s weird but I discovered I am a narcissist and then found this website. I felt most of the descriptions really described me and I am kind of offended that you generalize “us” as bad people.

37 Caroline van Kimmenade October 16, 2013

Interesting observation Kevin

38 Ana October 30, 2013

Hahaah this made me laugh. It’s just so typical – everything is about them, huh? Even an article about them to open the not-them eyes should be corrected so that any of them who comes here won’t be offended for being criticized.

39 Caroline van Kimmenade October 31, 2013

Right on! :) They’re a sensitive lot :P

40 Bobbie December 27, 2013

Dear Kevin, it’s not weird that you discovered that your ego self thinks that you are narcissist; for how will you know what you truly are, until you’ve discovered what you’re not. Duality serves a great purpose. How would we know that we are indeed bright stars when there is no darkness to support our experience? And by the way, you’re not a “bad” person. You probably resonate with the descriptions above because you’re in the process of releasing what is no longer what you perceive as you; meaning, you are ready to let go of what your ego self thinks you are, and embrace who you truly are. I believe everything happens in Divine perfect timing for everyone’s soul growth, to include all of us coming upon this site. I wrote about my deeper understanding of “narcissists” in my posts, “Unconditional Love from Angels and Aliens” and “Facing the Unknown: An Examination of True Love” from my blog if you’re interested in checking it out. I learned that my biological parents are “narcissists,” and I realized that they have appeared in my reality as disguised blessings so that I may learn (as a human being)/remember (as a soul) life lessons (to release judgment by unconditionally loving my shadow aspects) for my soul evolution as my expanded self. Even the Ascended Master Jesus chose to be around much darkness in order to realize/experience in the physical plane that He is the Light. Remember your authentic, true self/higher self/soul/Unconditional Love essence/individuations of God, Goddess & Divine SPirit/All That Is. Thank you for your courage and transparency.

41 Shiva October 12, 2013

You’re half and half on this.
Your first points are incorrect, such as convincing yourself the world sucks.
The modern narcissist thinks they world is great, mostly because they’re benefitting from it.

A lot of the rest IS accurate, though.

I feel you may wish to revisit this, based on the new research from experts such as Dr. Baumeister, or Dr. Twenge.

42 Caroline van Kimmenade October 16, 2013

Hi Shiva,

Trying to understand narcissism is a constant work in progress for sure, and a work one can easily get lost in. Theories on the specific why, what and how of narcissism differ, it’s a research field in and of itself. This is not to dismiss suggestions and different points of view, just that, as it is, the article seems to be serving its purpose (getting HSP’s to think outside the HSP-box) quite well regardless of possible improvements. From an HSP perspective one could wonder: if narcissists are indeed convinced the world is so great, then why do they see the need to manipulate people all the time, instead of letting things be as they are? Perhaps a narcissist would care to answer? I gather quite a few find this post and it would be interesting to hear their view – which will be posted if it isn’t agressive or attacking in nature.

43 Elaine November 6, 2013

Wow! Wow! Wow! What an absolutely brilliant article. I laughed, yes laughed having been in a ‘relationship’ with a true narcissist for over 5 years on and off as I’m sure you understand why, and now being in a position of strength where his games no longer leave me puzzled, insecure or emotionally spent.

At first it was painful and I left scarred and emotionally spent, now having faced my own stuff, I am stronger and much more able to deal with such a person. I’ve got to say yes, your article was so accurate about the type of person he really is and confirmed my own hunches, even though I too suffered from ‘ no one would do that’ syndrome.

But once I got over that and realised that he is a broken person, I have spent the time healing my own needs to ‘help and rescue’ others and that has been the best gift I could give myself.

Thank you again .

44 Caroline van Kimmenade November 6, 2013

Congrats Elaine! Sounds like you’re on a great path! :)

45 Lori December 7, 2013

I laughed all the way through this. I am living with this narc right now. Sure helps to be able to find a way to laugh about this living hell I’m in right now.

46 Amy December 16, 2013

Everything I keep reading and listening to on your website is like you are describing exactly who I am (an empath) and describing every man I’ve ever dated (a narc). It’s crazy and concerning to me. But I finally feel like a light has finally been shed on this horrible pattern I’m in with men (I’m 37 and too old for this btw!). I am desperate to NEVER let this happen again. Can you please recommend some specific tools, practices, anything that I can learn to avoid narcs in the future and help me to have a healthy, honest, vulnerable, loving relationship with a man? Thank you SO MUCH.

47 Caroline van Kimmenade December 18, 2013

Hi Amy,

The short answer is, love yourself more. Don’t look for love outside yourself and don’t give someone else permission to decide for you whether you are loveable or not. Also, practice more receiving, and less giving. I’m working on creating more specific tools for that. Good to hear you hit that light switch! :)

48 Bobbie December 27, 2013


Thank you for your series of posts regarding “narcissism” that have been very helpful. May we all develop a deeper understanding of “narcissists,” and others who society may look down upon with judgment, so that we can encourage unity rather than separation in our world.

49 Caroline van Kimmenade January 4, 2014

Many of us HSP’s need to come to a better understanding and appreciation of separation, before we can focus on unity in a way that is not co-dependent. It’s more important to focus on inner unity first. What we usually try to do though is create unity with others while we are divided internally. In part, this is because of the kind of spiritual / religious teachings we receive, in part it’s due to our natural craving for unity which we see and seek outside of ourself, when really, we need to seek it within.

50 Tom January 18, 2014

Hi, I feel this article is misguided and somehow very smug. You first state that there is a big dividing line, that there are two kind of people in the world: the “us” the caring nice happy people and the “them” the selfish bad sad ones. It seems also essential that we understand that people in that second group aren’t really people at all, they work differently think differently they are probably aliens. And who qualifies to that second group? Well anyone who is “problematic” in any way, the depressed, the insecure, the withdrawn, the egoist. So now that we have this handy tool to label all this unhappy bunch we can shut them out of our happy world and be happily sensitive about ourselves instead.

51 Caroline van Kimmenade January 18, 2014

Do you feel both represented and misrepresented? Or are you trying to defend someone else who fits the bill?

52 Jess January 19, 2014

Is it possible that spending too much time in a romantic relationship with a narcissist can cause an empath to become cold and introverted? I used to be a “Florence Nightingale,” but now I just want to hide under a rock. I’m no longer in relationship with an N, but so much time spent being mocked and criticized for my emotional reactions left me feeling like I never wanted to care for another person again. My now husband and children suffer from what I feel is utter imbalance in my once loving and compassionate nature. I’m still very sensitive to others, but moreso to negativity. How can I get back to the fun-loving, eagerly altruistic person that I used to be?

53 Caroline van Kimmenade January 22, 2014

Hi Jess,

I’ll do my best to do your question justice in a comment here.

When we spend a lot of time being very open and compassionate at the expense of nurturing ourself, then we can burn out emotionally. When that happens, we go into a survival reaction which will involve shutting down or hiding out in some shape or form. At heart, the feeling of not wanting to care for anyone ever again is not as awful as it seems. At root, both narcissism and excessive empathy are out of balance. To bring excessive empathy back into balance, we sometimes need to swing to the other extreme for a while, simply to experience what it’s like not to care about and for other people for a while. In other words, I think a helpful way to look at what you’re experiencing now is to say: “oh, I’m having a big reaction against caring, because a part of me is telling me that I am fed up with caring so much for and about others. It doesn’t work, and I need to find another balance.”

This also means that getting back to your old and altruistic self would not be the goal here. It’s about finding a new balance, one that has a healthy balance between caring for yourself and caring for others. The more you put truly caring for yourself central right away, the quicker you’ll feel the desire to care for others come back. But when you over do the other-orientedness, you’ll probably burn out really quickly again.

So it’s about filling up your own reservoirs first, and sharing compassion after you’ve compassionately cared for yourself (and hence you feel full and loved). It can take a while. Letting your family know how they can be there for you (what you need from them) can help you get back into balance sooner.

The more you try or want to get back to your old self, the more you’ll likely stay stuck, so this is something to be mindful of (as it’s natural to want to try and get back to our “old self” after things seem to take a turn for the worse somehow. Yet the key is to see how your current state is -in the bigger scheme of things- part of your deeper inner desire to find a sustainable balance, and how it’s helping you find it)

While you’re probably feeling way too antisocial already right now, disconnecting from caring for others (for now) is just the first step to finding balance. The second step is to truly put caring attention on yourself, ask yourself what you need and ask other people to help you. This can be tricky after so much time of putting others first (and likely feeling like you don’t deserve it because you’re not “giving back” like you want to right now). But when you truly practice reconnecting with your own needs, you’ll require less distance from others, as the distance is an indirect strategy to try and get more in touch with yourself.

54 Tom January 19, 2014

So if I dont like your article it must be becaue I feel personally offended by it? Maybe you did become a narcissist afterall.

55 Tammy March 26, 2014

I’m in the process of ending a relationship with a narcissist and I have him losing his mind since I figured out who he is and how to mirror him(just for laughs at this point) I know it sounds cruel, but he has been playing me the entire time so I figured I deserved a memorable exit. Your article is on point in its prescription of how the narcissist thinks and behaves. If you are an HSP and are able to play his game, you will find yourself giggling at his desperate attempts to regain control. Most likely this person has taken a lot from you over the time you spent with him (dignity, self respect, emotional stability, etc), so make a list of what you want, take it with a smile on your face, and then walk away with your head held high. I doubt it will have any real impact on the way this person behaves in the future, but you will feel like you walked away with everything that was previously taken from you and then some.

56 Francesca May 26, 2014

I have been taking life too seriously the past few days and this article helped me snap out of it! Thank you!

57 Caroline van Kimmenade May 26, 2014

Love that Francesca!

58 xtina June 8, 2014

narcissists don’t want to be pitied.It seems that you are not that experienced after all or you just can’t think their way which is healthy,you sould be grateful about that lol. I’ve been dealing with several narcissists my whole life and I can tell you that some of the things you listed above are not true.They might make their problems seem bigger than they truly are,but true narcissists want to be envied and adored,they will try their best to be better than you absolutely,but they don’t want to be pitied.

59 Caroline van Kimmenade June 9, 2014

actually xtina, some narcissists do crave pity. They’re always “poor me”. It’s just another control tactic and a way to ensure constant attention, and hence control. There’s no narcissist “standard” that applies to all.

60 Nancy July 24, 2014

My experience is that my NPD husband loves to play the victim role- that is how he rationalizes treating me so poorly whenever I call him out on his bad behavior. He takes zero responsibility for any of the outcomes of his poor choices, and in fact, blames me entirely for everything he does not like about his life. Our daughter cannot stand him because of the way he chooses to behave, so he accused me of brainwashing her against him. He doesn’t recognize what an insult that is to both me and her because anything he says he considers to be factual- regardless of the truth. I think playing the perpetual victim allows him an excuse for his manipulation and rage. I do think that he recognizes (briefly) the insanity of some of his behaviors, and that is when he tries to justify them by playing the victim role. That seems to help him regain his sense of superiority and banish any guilty feelings that may have started to surface. Of course, he repeatedly accuses me of trying to make him feel guilty- because everything is my fault. It is truly amazing how much effort they exert trying to rationalize their behaviors when called on them. And of course, you can never be right with them- they must win at any cost.

61 nancy June 30, 2014

I relate to so much of Madonna’s comments ( April 22, 2013), My thinking was very similar until my narcissistic friend hurt me so deeply I was forced to question every thing

62 Molly Cook August 11, 2014

As I have just broken off with a narcissist, I enjoyed reading this post. I was seriously taking it all in until I got to #26 which caused me to shriek and burst out laughing with recognition. My ex told me so often what a caring and loving person I was, “You’re the best person I know,” and then – well, I’m sure you can deduce the rest: challenge and criticize. I have just this week demonstrated to him what an uncaring person I really am by ending the relationship. He is perhaps even now telling himself and/or others that I am in fact an uncaring person and he knew it all the time. Brilliant. I feel so much better. Your work is terrific. Thank you.

63 Caroline van Kimmenade August 12, 2014

Thank you Molly and I love how you owned the “doing what is right may seem uncaring to others, and that is fine with me!”, it’s so key!

64 kristine August 22, 2014

so funny, i recently ended my relationship with a narc too, and #26 also made me laugh at the irony! after telling him: i’ve had enough, i’ve tried everything, and i am done playing this game, he literally told me i was proving that i was not the person HE thought i was because i was kicking him out! i’m so grateful he acted so hatefully after that, because it made the no-contact a pleasure! i see the pain people are in over missing the person they thought they had, and it breaks my heart for them that they have to go through that.

65 Star Petal September 12, 2014

Everything you have written has been incredibly helpful. Thank you :)

66 Sally November 19, 2014

i was with a narc briefly, about six months. i could see that he was “eating well and enjoying” when he would get me upset, or angry. i admit, and confess, that i felt pretty good when i caught on, and used his own tactics against him a couple of times. yes, it was great watching HIM turn beet red, and shake with rage and frustration for a change! sorry, if that sounds bad. i got out of the strangelationship pretty fast. i think i can spot a narc now without too much effort. if you are with one — get away, they are just poison in a human shaped bottle.

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