The Three Strands of Empathy


The concept of empathy can be divided into three types. There are three identifiable strands.

First of all there is the idea of cognitive empathy whereby one can understand the point of view of another person. I am able to understand another person’s point of view but I will rarely accede to it, unless I see some ulterior gain to be obtained from expressing that I understand their point of view. Even where I explain I understand, I am still unlikely to accept it. The Lesser and the Mid-Range are unable to understand that person’s point of view because it will oppose their own, stand in the way of what they want to achieve and frustrate their aims owing to their differing perspective. They lack the cognitive function to address this. Of course, empathic individuals are experts at understanding another person’s point of view but they will go further than this. They will exhibit patience to allow that point of view to be articulated, they will ask questions to draw out this view and they will apply it to their own situation and experiences. Empathic individuals want to understand the other person’s point of view. They not only give it a platform to begin with, but they also allow it to be aired, expanded and applied. It is little wonder therefore that this cognitive empathy bleeds into the empathic traits of patience, needing to understand and needing to know the truth. Furthermore, having such cognitive empathy means that the empathic individual is far more susceptible to the word salad, circular conversations, lies and half-answers that our kind provide. The empathic individual endures these manipulations as he or she tries to wade through the quagmire in order to flex their cognitive empathy so that they understand the narcissist’s point of view. Of course, since our point of view operates from a completely distorted and different perspective, you have little hope of achieving it.

Secondly, there is also empathy concern whereby one is able to recognise the emotional state of another person, feel a need to address that emotional state and therefore exhibit the appropriate concern for the individual. In all three schools of narcissism, our capacity with regard to empathy concern is skewed. The Greater is always able to perform the recognition part of this but has never been created with the sense of needing to address it even though our increased cognitive function means we can work out, through observation and experience, what the appropriate concerned response should be. This means that we can recognise somebody is in distress, understand that they need help but feel no compulsion whatsoever to provide it. We will however, because we have two of the three parts of empathy concern, feign a concern based on our understanding, but only if we see it as serving our interests. This is why, during seduction especially or for the benefit of the façade during devaluation, we can appear that we are concerned that somebody is worried or upset. We do not feel any need to assist them, but we recognise our own need can be served by doing so.

The Lesser is able to recognise the emotional state of another person, feels no need to address it and is unable to exhibit the appropriate concern for the individual. As a consequence, even during seduction, the Lesser will present as blank-faced when dealing with certain emotional episodes and will often vacate him or herself from the situation. During devaluation, he will only see the fuel advantage from this emotional state and indeed rather than be supportive, since he feels not need to, he will just exploit it further.

The Mid-Ranger also recognises the emotional state, feels not need to address it and has a limited repertoire by way of fake concern. Thus in some instances he can pretend that he is concern and in others he has no answer and will leave the victim to their woe and distress and has enough calculation to state he has somewhere urgent he must be and thus he escapes the demand for assistance and help made by the victim.

Unsurprisingly, the empathic individual has all three elements of this particular strand of empathy intact and in intense quantities. The empathic individual is able to recognise the emotional state of another with considerable ease, even if they are trying to mask it. They absolutely feel and recognise the need to do something when they see somebody else’s emotional reaction. This compulsion is almost irresistible for the empathic individual and they are also fully-acquainted with what they should do by way of response. They will share in the joy, congratulate when someone is happy through good news, console when someone is miserable and hold them when they are heart-broken. The empathic individual is no different with our kind and see our emotional response – albeit from a limited selection – feels the need to address it and also knows how to address it. Thus when we discharge our fury, our hatred, our envy and our antipathy, the empathic individual owing to this concern empathy is always galvanised into action, will rarely shirk the challenge and addresses the issue even at considerable cost to themselves.

Finally there comes the idea of the emotional contagion. This is a deep-seated and one may even regard it as a spiritual element of the empathic individual. This is not just about understanding a point of view or recognising an emotional need and response, this is about feeling the emotion just as somebody else does. Thus if a friend is upset over the death of a parent, the empathic individual is contaminated by this grief and experiences the same emotions as if they were grieving themselves. This not only means that they fountain with fuel which of course our kind will exploit but that they are powered into recognising the need and doing something about even more than would be afforded by the cognitive empathy and concern empathy. The emotional contagion exists in all empathic individuals but is more intense in certain people. Indeed, its intensity may even go beyond being proximate to the person experiencing the emotion. A highly-attuned individual with the emotional contagion will watch a television programme and where the main character is frightened,they will feel that fear also. They will read a moving newspaper article about the plight of an orphan and they will feel that despair as well. It is an immensely powerful part of empathy and causes the empathic individual to have to respond to it.

We have no such emotional contagion. It is completely absent and therefore we have nothing which might cause us to feel something so we act upon it. There is nothing there. The plight of the orphan is not felt by us and we are utterly unmoved. The fear of the heroine on television is regarded with annoyance since our primary source seems more concerned about that person than us. The only time that we regard this emotional contagion as any use is when it serves our purposes when the empathic individual fountains with fuel because of it and directs their empathic traits towards us. We do not have this contagion and we do not feel anything in the way that you would do.

34 thoughts on “The Three Strands of Empathy

  1. Steph says:

    How does a (assuming) Mid-Range Narcissist KNOW when an Empath is looking at them when they are not looking at the Empath?

    Plus, he/she was bold enough to SHOW this Empath how THEY are able to look upon them without detection. The only time the Empath feels the Narc’s stare is when he/she does so that sets off a trigger– (deep warning/alarm/survival whatever…the Empath doesn’t really know how it works but, it has helped keep them away from Predators (for lack of a better word) –within the Empath and that trigger MAKES the Empath look at the Narc involuntarily. Which, of course, is why the Narc does it. The Empath won’t give the Narc attention and this is how he/she gets it. The Narc is 21– (He/she has manners though. Says Thank You after every time the Empath gives fuel). –The Empath 45 (Says Thank You to those who make people laugh. Has so for years), newly escaped from a 13 year battle with a 54 year old Narc. Of which the Empath never even considered narcissism until they came across the same odd/unnatural occurrences with the younger Narc. Then, the Empath found you on YT.

    You deserve many Thank You’s. Emotionally and Intellectually.

  2. At the birth of our daughter, the doctors showed her to us and then whisked her away to the scale to clean her up. I looked over and my ex-husband had tears coming out of his eyes.Now, knowing what I know he is a great narc. I didn’t believe the tears and I’m glad I laughed when I saw them. Claimed he had something in his eye.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Delivery rooms are infamously dusty places TCM.

      1. What does that mean? I’ve been reading a lot of your articles but not up on all the terms yet. Dusty places? TCM?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Dust got in his eye. TCM = The Complacent Mind.

          1. There was no period. I’m glad I laughed.

  3. Stephanie Farlow says:

    Yes I know that feeling well. The one where you actually feel what the other person is feeling.
    I remember I was 3 months in as IPPS and his nephew was killed instantly in a car crash.
    Before I knew what had even happened he called on the phone and said “I am coming to pick you up.” ok I replied.
    As soon as I got in the car I said “someone died .” He was amazed that he hadn’t said a word and he told me then what happened.
    I spent the days leading up to the funeral w him. I was the one beside him holding his hand.
    It was 2 weeks before Christmas and straight through to the holiday I stayed with him every chance I could.
    By the few days after Christmas I was a complete and total zombie. I couldn’t function. I remember calling him and saying I have been curled in a the fetal position for the last 2 days . I think I absorbed your grief.
    I had never realized that he had no grief . That was him sucking in every morsal of my energy.

    1. NP says:

      No kidding.

  4. Great post- xoxo

  5. Once i got a call about some upsetting news. I started crying. My ex just looked at me with a blank stare lol.

  6. ANK says:

    Slightly off topic – if empaths are so honest and full of integrity, why do they succumb to married narcs, and have an affair despite knowing it is morally wrong etc

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Because their desire to heal and to fix (spun by the lies told by the narcissist that his marriage is loveless/dead/like brother and sister etc) overrides the integrity. It is also those empaths which have some narcissistic traits which succumb to this because as you might expect, they otherwise ought to resist.

      Then there are those who did not know the narcissist is married at first and when they find out, they have already been seduced and cannot go back.

      1. ANK says:

        Thank you.

        I’m sure you have an article somewhere about the narcissistic traits that these empaths have but could you list them here? Are these empaths inverted narcissists?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          No they are not. I haven’t done an article in that regard ANK.

          1. ANK says:

            Thank you. I look forward to a post sometime about the narcissistic traits that these empaths have and/or inverted narcissim.

      2. Amber says:

        Re empaths who are the other woman, yes it’s due to their own sociopathic traits to an extent. But they’re also extremely easy to disable as far as an affair goes. Just appeal to their conscience and they’ll shut off the affair from the narc cheater.

      3. Gabrielle says:

        Yep. This is where I am (was) at.

  7. Alan says:

    The thing that really comes across for me in your writing is the lack of feeling. Narcissists are very taxonomical, aren’t they. They love to just bury you in undifferentiated detail. You never get the sense that there’s much emotional impact from any of this or that it means much of anything. There’s a marked absence of what we call in my profession “landscape of consciousness.”

    1. Matilda says:

      “landscape of consciousness” – that sounds beautiful. Is the phrase used in the context of psychotherapy? Or performing arts? Or is it a narrative technique? I am intrigued. 🙂

  8. Kit says:

    Do you actually LIKE when people feel sorry for you? I hate pity more than anything. And pretending you like people? Makes my skin crawl. I mean if you found something that works for you, good on you. But, ugh.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    The worst characteristic is the last of what you mentioned. It’s hard at times to even to sort oit your own emotions from others. I could feel what everyone is feeling. Even physical pain.Malls and partys are out of the question unless I meditate before hand. I dont look at it as a curse though but a gift. I never understood it fully either until you explained it like you have H.G. So thank you for explaining in full detail not only the narcassist that ensnared me but myself as well.

    1. NP says:

      That’s me to a T.

      I feel everything around me, and at times it’s so strong that going out of the house is a problem, going to church is a very big problem, and I prefer to take walks where there’s no ’emotional sensory input from others,’ or in the evening when there are no many people on the roads and walkways.

      I feel everything…and where there are a group of people I know or a place I frequent, then it’s almost as if I feel the conflicting emotions of each and every individual.

      So I simultaneously feel sadness, rage envy, admiration – I don’t even understand it myself, I end up feeling crazy coz it’s like cannot process each emotion separately and I keep on being bombarded.

      I ended up with a breakdown when I worked in a toxic office with a conglomeration of Narcs and lieutenants, each brewing their own pot of drama – it was too much. I now cannot even dare go back to a formal/traditional employment office. I work from home. So much peace, and I ensure all my clients are several thousand miles away so I can have time to process any emotional input they might be imparting on me through our correspondence. It’s crazy. Sounds crazy even to me.

      I so enjoy being a homebody. So much peace.

      When I was a child I preferred staying home and reading a good book to going out with friends. I didn’t understand it then. Now I enjoy staying home and watching a good movie, show or documentary. Connecting with the people in movies and books is much much safer than people on the streets.

      Too much ’emotional sensory input.’

      1. gabbanzobean says:

        Yep this is where I’m at as well.

  10. Karin says:

    The emotional contagion… I love the way you coined that term.

    I had always experienced that, but I remember the first time I experienced to an extreme degree. I was in a yoga class, we had been doing back bends, which are considered “heart opening”.

    I was resting blissfully in our “final relaxation” when a woman in the room starting bawling in the deepest expression of grief I’d ever heard. Instaneously and involuntarily, my own being wracked with sobs and grief. Tears gushed, wails sounded, and I thought, “who is doing the crying here?”

    I was actually embarrassed and felt guilty – clearly she had been grieving for a real reason. I was only grieving by proxy.

    At the same time, I was also struck by the wonder and uniqueness of the experience. It was captivating to behold its mystery and beauty.

  11. HG,
    How did I miss this post the first time around? How did you get such an understanding of empathy without being able to feel it? Once I understood what feelings matched my thoughts I couldn’t help but apply them. I had to develop them. I did not know what I felt. My good doctor had to explain it to me. I had to cultivate the feeling. Why do you resist this? I know you do what works for you. I sometimes just can’t believe that someone as educated and experienced as you would want to stay the way you are. I’ll think it through and say that I don’t want to give up my crazy sometimes, I get that, but at least now I am able to decide to feel or not. Why don’t you give yourself that choice? I’m not trying to ignite your fury. Please don’t take what I said as a criticism. I really would like to know.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Simple. I am very intelligent hence I work things out so that is the cognitive empathy. i have had the emotional empathy and the emotional contagion described to me by victims and also by the good doctors.

  12. Red Rider says:

    How I wish all you N’s would just date each other, the world would be a better place. I really hate being an Empath. The pain and suffering that happens when you find out you were nothing but fuel/object is unconcivable. I’m reading your books HG. They are bringing out every emotion but mostly a sad anger. I realize I have to be done with him or should I say the illusion of him, so thank you for that!

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome Red Rider.

    2. Sunshine says:

      That’s a wonderful idea, Red! They can just paw at each other with adoration all day long:

      “You’re wonderful!”
      “No, YOU’RE wonderful!”
      “Oh but you are just incredibly wonderful!”
      “And you are MAGNIFICENTLY wonderful!”

      And on and on.

      I wonder how it can be engineered so narcs only date narcs?

      HG – what happens when narcs get attracted to narcs?

      1. HG Tudor says:

        Read the two articles When Narcissists Collide.

    3. ANK says:

      Ha ha Red Rider,

      Was thinking along similar lines – all the narcs should be put on an island with each other and left to manipulate and destroy each other.

  13. Amber says:

    So, is it like spiritual autism? With all due respect.

  14. Owned says:

    well…lucky You…It’s tiring being an empath…it’s living not only our lifes but others too….

    1. Kit says:

      I bet it’s tiring being a narc too. They need their own Private Idaho. Yes, you know what I mean,

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