The Three Strands of Empathy

THE3STRANDSOF 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 no need to, he will just exploit it further.

The Mid-Ranger also recognises the emotional state, feels no need to address it and has a limited repertoire by way of fake concern. Thus in some instances he can pretend that he is concerned 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.

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59 thoughts on “The Three Strands of Empathy”

  1. Twilight. Yes! Especially when I’m physically weak, then I find myself especially exposed. Like a raw nerve.
    It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions since my escape. Most days it’s just one foot in front of the other.

    1. Jasmine

      I learned when I was married to protect my weak spots. It was when I started to hide my abilities. I was barely a child myself when I was forced to marry. I stayed married for a selfish reason, if (and I believed he would) he murdered my children. How would I go on. When I was around 24 I almost escaped, he did something to me that kept me trap until the day he died.

      I thought about this song

      https://youtu.be/UIwfruNJNUU

      1. I love that ❤ Yes the rain..
        *hugs.
        So sorry for all that you endured. I hope you are in a better place 💞

      2. Thank you Jasmine

        I am. Many believe I am weak, I am not. I just prefer peace over war. Yet one can not know one with out the other.
        Balance is in everything, with out it chaos will over run or peace will. To much of either is not a good thing.
        Hugs 🤗

  2. Consoling to read. Thank you. Feigning and fake is now recognisable for this empath. At one point, during too many years of wondering what the heck was going on…the self flagellation; eating one’s own head and pulling out own eye balls and so on. After the mess; there it is. In all its glory. Wow. When the ping moments occurs and you ‘see it’, almost tangibly see the narcissism inherent in the person and in action, that’s when things begin to get better. Good luck all empaths and gentle innocents; don’t be a Little Red Riding Hood as I was. Your Woodsman/Woodsperson is there somewhere.

  3. I understand the spiritual aspect. For myself, I am not only affected by people, the weather, etc.. but I FEEL a strong connection to the world around me. I’ve always had strong connections to animals, children, people, even nature. Anyone else? Or do I just sound crazy? 🙃🌼

      1. Twilight,
        I don’t know. It often washes over me, like a tidal wave, I’m emersed suspended floating in the sea of emotion. Sometimes drowning, sometimes riding that high. The bonds though.. they feel like a string, or cable, touching myself to another

      2. Jasmine

        I understand. If I am not prepared another’s emotions can trigger memories and I drown within my own emotions once that happens the dam can break and I am flooded with all that is around me.
        Sometimes my own emotions can trigger this flood, either way it takes a minute to switch from fighting it to flowing with it.
        It is like when one is swimming across a river and doing so against the currant, you become exhausted, worn out, and can drown become stuck in the river, go with the currant and one may become exhausted yet you will make it to land again.

        There is a connection to everything.

      3. Twilight,
        .. my aunt (long passed) used to always tell me.. “Just go with the flow” one of those few gems that I rely on. XO Thanks for reminding me. ❤

      4. Jasmine

        Sometimes that is easier said then done.

        For myself once I start to drown, it is never easy and very painful for me. Feeling another’s pain….many times I just wish I could shut it off.

    1. lol not crazy.

      I also connect to animals…not even just my own.

      Small children find me appealing and sneak up in my lap.

      I talk to houseplants.

      Ok maybe a little crazy.

      1. Yes plants. Exactly Sandra. A recent article I read showed that plants respond better to female voices.

      1. Thank you k. XO. These last 18mos have done a doozy on my sanity. 4 mos out. Now beginning the task of sorting myself.

    2. I have full on conversations with my cats. I don’t feel a connection to kids though. And I feel a connection to certain individuals, definitely not all. Mostly I go about feeling like an alien.

      1. I totally get that Bibi. I have been labeled “unique” on more than one occasion. Just a nice word for “alien”. I wouldn’t dare bring up empath et al.

      2. My pleasure, Jasmine. My MMRN did a number on my sanity too. I am happy that you are in “the sorting it out” stage and sorry about the pet trauma. Narcissists can be very cruel.

        Thanks for the laugh, Bibi!
        He deserves to be choked and have his balls singed. Glad the fur baby is ok.

  4. This is where i went wrong. The mmrn was displaying cognitive empathy. I thought – even tho he has no empathy, he is trying hard to have cognitive empathy, and found it commendable. What i did not realize is he was displaying the cognitive empathy not becoz he was ‘trying hard’ to be nice. He was displaying cognitive empathy so that it serves his purposes only. It can change if it no longer serves his purposes. He kept it up for abt 4 yrs total, pre-escape and post-hoover. I am sure if the circumstances had permitted, he wud keep it up for yrs longer. I predict that he will keep it up w his wife for a lifetime, but idk.

  5. I definitely have this contagion I can think of hundreds of examples but the first one that springs to mind I watched the movie roots probably about fifteen years ago and there’s one scene where a particular slave owner had promised one of his slaves he’d never sell her children but then he got mad at her and did it and there’s a scene of the girl being taken away in a wagon and the mothers on the ground screaming in agony for her daughter and then the slave owners wife comes over to her and tells her something to the effect that slaves don’t need or love their kids like white people so get back to work I literally think a bout this scene at least once a week and I can feel this mothers pain and my rage at the white woman who said it to her and of course they aren’t even real people but it really did happen like that of course during slavery but yeah I can feel the pain of fictional movie characters

  6. It’s intriguingly interesting… yet utterly incomprehensible to be so devoid of empathy As someone who blubs at braveheart no mater how many times she watches it empathy can be quite exhausting. I guess we all have our crosses to bare.

  7. What is your opinion on pets? Can narcissistic individuals bond with animals and actually care about them? Might be a silly question, but I am interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Pets may be used for the purposes of triangulation or the facade – either pretending to care for a pet to create the image of being a caring person and to triangulate in a favourable way (“aww how sweet is it how he looks after his labrador”) or in an unfavourable way (giving the pet more attention than the relevant appliance or hurting/threatening to hurt the pet if it belongs to the appliance) to draw fuel. It might be used to draw fuel and as part of the seduction (buying someone a pet and they are appreciative), to create ever presence (once disengaged from you are reminded of the narcissist because he bought you the cat) to use as a basis for hoovering (I want to see the dog or he is my dog, I want him and you cannot keep him).

      We do not bond with them and any appearance of caring is precisely that – an appearance.

      1. That’s interesting. I love animals; I love dogs especially and my ex professed to having had a dog for a couple of years before we met. He told me these long stories about his beloved dog but there was never a photo of the dog to show and I never saw him reacting favourable to animals at all. I used to think of this dog even then as his imaginary friend. I can’t in my wildest imagination even see him with a dog! What on earth would he do with the poor creature? Accuse it of infidelity? Ask it to accept responsibility for the drama and the barking he himself provoked in it? Ha ha…

      2. Or kill it. I woke up to my favorite kitty being choked. It looked like he was sleeping.. but his hand was grasped around the kitty’s neck. Cat was FREAKING OUT .. Narcs and pets don’t mix. Imho.

      3. Catherine, yes. Kitty is okay. I also found a video he made, on his phone (when he was in jail). It was of him dropping my disabled pet and then blaming- the- pet- for falling.. cruel. I remember a few mornings, waking up and wondering why the little disabled one was limping, acting off.. now I know why.
        We were lucky to get out with the damage we have. My kid is safe, I’m healing, we will be fine. Some of these narcissists are dangerous. And the scariest part… they don’t care

      4. Oh Jasmine, that is so terrible about the kitty! I HATE people who are cruel to animals. He deserves to be choked and have his balls singed. Glad the fur baby is ok.

      5. Thank you Bibi. ❤ Kitty is ok, the disabled one passed away last week. I haven’t had the heart to bury it yet. 😢 It’s been cold out, so.. the cleanup and packaging her up were hard enough. Too many memories

      6. can i use this as a detector test somehow?

        my sister’s dog got hit by a car and she did cry and cry. she didn’t want to tell me and she apologized for being sad about it because she said obviously my situation was much sadder based on my being widowed for a month. i was kind of stunned that she would compare her dog to my husband, but she was saying that my husband was more important, by the rules of propriety.

      7. HG,
        this comment really resonated with me and I feel as though I do agree with you… to an extent. For example, I presume my dad is either a mid range or greater narcissist, and I can see how he has used pets for creating the image of being a caring person, and once divorced from my mom, a possible way to gather fuel through her evident hurt that she does not have the dog? it was never flaunted, but i’m sure he knew that she loved their dog as well and pained her that it was no longer hers. In addition, he seemingly treated the dog worse when he moved into a new home with my step-mom who is not pet-friendly. The dog was then only allowed to sleep in a crate in the basement and allowed to play outside during the day, rather than in the home. But he still thoroughly cared for the dog, by grooming, walking, feeding, and playing… he even regularly brushed it’s teeth! Regardless, this could have all been for appearance, although, pretty unlikely as no one was really watching… Anyways, what I do remember, is how distraught he was when his dog passed away. I remember when he told me he was sobbing so hard he could barely get the words out.. I do not think this was fake or manipulated because I have witnessed his fake and manipulation tears on many other occasions for many other reasons. I don’t necessarily think he is able to love in the way I am, but I do strongly believe true emotion was seen and I do think he has genuine care for some..

        Your thoughts are appreciated! Thank you!!

  8. Thank you so much for addressing this nameless dynamic. I have waited patiently.

    I thought there were only the first two strands (for which i had no names).

    Clearly narcissists are supremely adept at picking up emotional energy; it’s how they choose to respond to it that is a problem.

    3rd strand which is “completely absent” I have seen flawlessly faked. I can name so many examples of my own experience and knew every instance was patently artificial and over the top.

    I feel so much saner having read this.

    Thank you again. I will add this to my daily list of “good things” I’m using in my healing.

  9. What a great article HG. I especially like the part about the orphan’s plight being lost on narcs. When I read that I flashed back to a conversation with my ex.

    I teach little kids in public school and one day I remember telling my ex that it is so sad that some kids (who owe the school 10 dollars) don’t get a hot lunch until their parents pay their bill for school lunch and sometimes their parents never pay for months. I teach at a school where all the kids are poor and I mean like holes in their shoes poor. I was telling him how I was thinking about paying for one of the kids because she cries every day and it’s awful to watch. I remember he told me “Don’t you dare pay it’s not your problem. Sucks to suck. Why should we feed someone else’s kid? It’s like sweeping leaves on a rainy day. Those kids are so depraved and are going to end up ghetto just like their parents.”

    I used to think he was not empathic to people because he was a trust fund kid who went to private school but now I know he’s a mid range narcissist.

    1. Brilliant example. And…in the next sentence mine would roll out a better, more pitiful story in relation to himself to correct the flow of my fuel to its “rightful” claimant XD

    2. Alison, not all trust fund babies are bad. Some are super saviors. 😉
      That would be difficult, as a teacher. I volunteered a lot in the schools here. There are very few that can’t afford it (in my area) and there are still kids that do without. It IS heartbreaking. 😞

    3. If this girl is still in your school please pay for her lunch this is gonna haunt me for I don’t know how long

    4. Don’t they have the federal free lunch program there and I’d like to kick your ex in his nuts for what he said

    5. Hi allison,

      Just like ugotit, this has been on my mind too. Can ur school organize something with the local salvation army and get proper shoes for these kids? This shud be addressed. It breaks my heart.

  10. HG, so when the mid ranger expresses concern about his IPPS’ s feelings, does he really care? He bashed his ex-IPPS but so far has been talking about the current IPPS positively, with apparent care, and concern. Such a striking contrast that makes me wonder.

      1. Thank you, HG! Why say it then? It’s like he is a changed man with this IPPS.

    1. Insatiable,
      They lie, lie, lie. I’ve never seen so many lies about me… and then in contrast.. sweet nothings. It’s no wonder the “normal person” gets so conflicted. It’s insanity in motion. Yes. The IPPS is degraded, lied about, smeared, cut to nothing, and mourned.. at the same time

  11. HG: If a midranger tells you their ex cheated and thats why he dumped her which of the following is probably the actual truth:
    a) they cheated on their ex not the ex cheating on them
    b) the ex actually did cheat like the narc claimed
    c) no one cheated

    1. It’s Kryptonite..
      I don’t know whether we can learn apathy, and if we can, at what price to ourselves?
      If experienced, and I am not morally compelled to stick around, ( to experience it with a distraught friend for example), I just walk. Put something happy on the headphones.. Switch gears. Block it.
      Also, don’t watch or read the news. Or watch movies…Or go out.. Just don’t interact..With anyone.. Ever. ( ;

    2. I have it too. It sucks. When someone shows me an injury (a coworker showed me her broken toe once), I could feel a surge of pain go through my body. Most normal people might cringe at the thought of the pain but I can actually feel it momentarily when looking at it.

      1. Bibi

        I am curious are you sure you felt this or was it that you knew it was painful and you thought you felt it? I ask because you said you saw it then felt it, which is a emotional contagion aspect, you had to see it to feel it thou. You didn’t know they were in pain until that moment. Or am I understanding you wrong?

      2. Twilight:

        Before physically seeing it, I didn’t feel anything. But when I saw the purple swelling I felt this surge of pain throughout my body–not in my toe or foot, just like an ache that went throughout.

        I don’t necessarily need to see it if someone is good at describing it. If you just tell me, ‘I broke my arm’ that is an abstraction to me, hence I won’t feel anything immediately.

        But if you show me the broken bone (ex ray) and describe what happened, the snap of the bone, etc. Then I will both cringe and then feel that momentary ache.

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