The Empathy Cake



Many of you find difficulty in interpreting behaviours to determine whether you are dealing with a narcissist, a normal or an empath.

This is understandable for two reasons :-

  1. A lack of understanding about the behaviours of the various groups of people; and
  2. The presence of emotional thinking which clouds the application of logic.

To help you gain some understanding and to marshal logic for the purposes of controlling The Enemy Within (namely emotional thinking) it is time to talk cake and one cake in particular The Empathy Cake.

To understand the various layers of the Empathy Cake, we are going to use a straight forward scenario. Paul works in an office. He works with Linda. Linda has a rather large nose, so Paul always calls Linda ‘Babs’ after Barbara Streisand whenever he sees her. Linda does not like this. It upsets her being called ‘Babs’, she is sensitive about the size of her nose and wishes it was smaller. Her feelings are hurt by this label.

Layer One – Instinctive Emotional Empathy (“IEE”)

Here Paul is an empath. He does not know Linda very well, but he knows her well enough as a colleague. He would not call her Babs. He sees she has a large nose but it never occurs to him to call her by a name. Why is this? Paul, as an empath, has Instinctive Emotional Empathy which means he just does not do certain things which would be problematic. Accordingly his IEE means he respects boundaries, does not behave with a sense of entitlement, he demonstrates accountability, he takes other people into consideration, he acts with honesty and decency. He is not a saint but he has this instinctive behaviours because as an empath he has IEE. He has a natural ‘buffer’ which means that he does not engage in particular behaviours which would be viewed as problematic, harmful or difficult. He does not have to think about how he behaves, he just behaves in this way.

This is not to say that he always behaves this way. His IEE can be affected adversely, so that he might insult somebody, however this would be for instance

  • His IEE is reduced by a sporadic external agent such as bereavement or fatigue
  • His IEE is reduced by the application of an external abusing agent, namely the behaviour of a narcissist
  • The IEE is reduced because the target is well known to Paul and he knows that this person is not offended by the label/insult because he has used it many times before, the target has always laughed at it and is a longstanding friend for example.

Paul as an empath operates in an instinctive manner, without having to think about it so that he avoid causes problems and therefore he never calls Linda a name.

Layer Two – Safeguarding Emotional Empathy (“SEE”)

This is applicable to both empaths and empathic people.

In this instance Paul sees Linda and thinks

‘Blimey she has a big hooter,  just like Barbara Streisand’. He considers calling out to her and saying ‘Hey there Babs’. However, his emotional empathy kicks in through an active thought process and he thinks to himself,

‘Wait a moment. She might not like it if I say that. Plus, I would not like it if I had a big nose and someone called me Barry Manilow or Cyrano De Bergerac.’

Accordingly, he does not call her a name. He reigns in the behaviour by a braking effect on his thoughts and actions as his emotional empathy safeguards his thoughts and behaviours. This applies to empaths, thus they have the first two layers of the Empathy Cake influencing their behaviours and also to empathic people (who are not empaths).

So such a person might find a wallet with money in it in the street and they think about keeping the money but then consider this might cause particular hardship to someone and that they would prefer it if someone found their wallet that they would return it with the money intact.

Layer Three – Activated Emotional Empathy

In this instance, Paul does indeed call Linda, ‘Babs’ and does so each time he sees her. He says it with a grin and he intends it as a joke. He does not realise that it is troubling to Linda. Linda decides to act and takes Paul to one side. She, as an empath, empathic person or normal person, does not need to exert control over Paul but she wants the behaviour to be addressed to stop herself feeling hurt. She approaches this desire to resolve the matter in a constructive and low-key fashion. The conversation proceeds in this fashion :-

Linda “Paul, I wonder if I could just have a quick chat about something personal with you in the break-out room?”

Paul – ” Sure, that’s on your mind?”

Linda – “I know you call me Babs and I am sure you do not mean anything by it and just mean it as a joke, but I would prefer it if you didn’t say it to me. I am a bit sensitive about the size of my nose, you see. Is that okay?”

Paul – “Oh sorry Linda, I didn’t realise it was upsetting you. Sorry about that. Sure, I won’t say it again, I’m sorry I’ve hurt your feelings. No problem, Linda it is from now on and thanks for raising it with me this way, I appreciate you coming to me and explaining.”

Linda – “Thank you. That’s okay, I prefer to work things out in a low-key manner.”

Problem solved.

Paul was unaware (as he lacks Instinctive Emotional Empathy and Safeguarding Emotional Empathy) that his behaviour was hurtful. In any way, his emotional intelligence was lacking. He neither had a built-in buffer which meant he just did not behave in this way, nor did his mind alert him to the fact that his intended jokey epitaph might not be well-received. However, when he is alerted to the fact that his behaviour is upsetting someone, his emotional empathy means that he responds in a positive fashion and he is genuinely remorseful and thereafter adjusts his behaviour as requested.

This is the behaviour of normals. They will behave in a particular way and the response to that behaviour of course depends on circumstance and the type of individual or individuals on the receiving end, but where they are alerted to the fact that their behaviour is causing a problem, they will respond with Activated Emotional Empathy. In a way, normals are somewhat short-sighted but not ‘bad’ people and when ‘bad’ behaviour is pointed out to them, they will adjust, but otherwise if there is no complaint they will carry on. They are not oblivious to their behaviour but do not regard it as problematic, witness Paul didn’t think Linda would be upset because he meant it as a joke, but his emotional empathy is not developed sufficiently to cause him just not to behave like that to begin with or to arrest his behaviour by considering how Linda might feel about being called ‘Babs’ before he started doing it.

Layer Four – Minimal Emotional Empathy

Paul has been calling Linda ‘Babs’. She does not like it. She approaches him about it in the way describe in Layer Three above. This time, when she flags it with Paul, he respond thus :-

‘Oh come on, don’t be such a softy, it’s only a joke.’

‘Well,” says Linda, ‘you may see it as a joke, but I do not like it. Please stop it.’

‘Really? It’s just a joke you know, there’s no need to get so worked up about it.’

‘I can see why you think it’s just a joke, but it upsets me, Paul, so I am asking, politely, for you to stop it.’

‘Well, if it really is such a problem for you and it’ll stop you getting your panties in a twist, but it is just banter.’

‘Not to me it isn’t Paul and if you keep doing it, I will have to raise it with HR.’

‘Alright, alright, calm down, no need for that. I won’t say it again.’

‘Thank you.’

Paul took longer to appreciate Linda’s feelings, he was dismissive of them and needed both persuading that it was problematic to her (in effect he struggled to understand why it was problematic owing to his Minimal Emotional Empathy) and also the potential issue of HR getting involved (which Paul did not want) meant he eventually agreed about it. Paul wold likely moan about Linda being over-sensitive, to his friends, still call her ‘Babs’ behind her back but stop doing so in front of her. He does not have a need to control the situation (as a narcissist ) would when she challenges him about his behaviour, but his response is one of resistance and disbelief owing to his Minimal Emotional Empathy.  This is the response of someone who is narcissistic but not a narcissist, they have some emotional empathy, but not a lot.

Layer Five – No Emotional Empathy

Linda again raises the issue with Paul. Paul responds as follows :-

‘What are you talking about, I’ve never called you that name.’

‘Er, yes you have Paul, you say it every time you see me.’

‘Nonsense, you are mistaken.’

‘No, I am not, you call me Babs because of the size of my nose.’

‘No I don’t, I’ve never said it all. Why are you being like this.’

Paul has no emotional empathy at all. He is a narcissist. Linda is challenging him. Her annoyance and upset is fuel to him, but her insistence that he has done something wrong offends Paul’s sense of entitlement (to do and say as he pleases), offends his lack of accountability (by trying to make him accountable), demonstrates his lack of boundary recognition and feels to Paul (unconsciously) that Linda is trying to exert control over him. Being a narcissist, Paul MUST reject this control over him and therefore his First Narcissistic Line of Defence (denial) is activated. Since it is a ‘he said/she said’ scenario, this First Line of Defence is applicable.

Linda will not withdraw the challenge however, so Paul (genuinely believing he has never said it because his narcissism blinds him to having done so in order to exert control) continues to deny. Linda must back down so Paul has control.

Linda continues

‘Look Paul, I know you might be embarrassed about this but you have said it and I am asking you politely to stop it, please?’

More Challenge Fuel.

“And I am telling you that I have never called you this name, right?’ Paul responds as his narcissism defends him and presses to cause Linda to withdraw her challenge. Linda pauses and feels this is going nowhere and she is feeling more upset by Paul’s denial and also confused. Has he said something else that sounds like Babs perhaps.

‘So you’re saying you’ve never called me Babs?’ she asks.

‘That’s what I am saying.’ Paul says firmly. His tone is aggressive as is his stance.

‘Right, okay, well, if you say that’s the case, then we will leave it.’

Linda backs down, unnerved and uncomfortable with the experience. Paul lets her walk away because she has backed down, he has control and all is well in his world. Linda remains upset. Paul as a narcissist and lacking emotional empathy has not helped her.

Let’s examine some alternative outcomes.

A. Linda Stands Firm

‘You have said it Paul and if you do not stop, I am going to tell HR.’

Challenge Fuel.

‘I have not, but go ahead and tell HR, they will do nothing.’

Maintained denial. Grandiosity (‘HR cannot touch me’). Lack of accountability (to Lind and to HR).

‘Then that is what I will do.’

‘It’s your funeral’ says Paul and he walks off. By walking off he is in effect giving Linda a Silent Treatment and asserting control over her by declaring ‘this is over, I have won because I do not care’. It also shows once again his lack of emotional empathy, his sense of entitlement and lack of accountability. He has however asserted control and Linda’s rebellion is quashed in that instant. He may have something to deal with later but that is not his concern, he needs control NOW.

B. Linda Brings An Ally

Paul maintains the denial so Linda turns to Meghan.

‘Please tell Paul, Meghan, that you have heard him.’

Meghan obliges

‘You say it all the time Paul, I have heard you repeatedly.’

More Challenge Fuel. Paul may maintain denial (First Line of the Defence) or if his narcissism feels that this corroboration (particularly let’s say if Meghan is of seniority to Paul) breaches the First Line of the Defence, he unleashes the Second Line (alternative manipulation).

‘Well, she started it, she calls me names, so I am just giving her back what she says to me.’ (Projection)


‘I am not saying Babs, I am saying Dabs, as in Linda’s surname (she is called Dabrinski) so it’s just a short form of her surname.’ (Lie/Deflection)


‘I am not saying Babs, I am saying Dabs, as in Linda’s surname (she is called Dabrinski) so it’s just a short form of her surname. Jesus, why so sensitive. That’s the problem with having so many women in the workplace, you get on your PC horses far too often. (Lie/Deflection and Insult)


‘She has never complained about it before, she usually laughs at it. I think she is only complaining about it now because I knocked her back when she asked me out. (Lie/Blameshift)

There are a variety of differing outcomes based on circumstance and the school of narcissist that Paul is, the fundamental point however is that he lacks emotional empathy so he has no instinctive buffer against this behaviour, his sense of entitlement, need for control and lack of boundary recognition cause him to call Linda this name and when it is pointed out to him, his lack of emotional empathy and his need for control result in the outcomes described.

Accordingly, you can use this Empathy Cake across a wide range of interactions with people to help you assess where they fit on the behaviour spectrum and as always, I, as your expert, are on hand through consultation to assist you fine tune and interpret what is really going on and what you can do about it.


Logic Defences







  1. I find it difficult to choose which layer of this lovely LGBT 🏳️‍🌈 cake I belong to. I must be the cherry 🍒 on the cake I guess.

  2. Dear Mr Tudor,
    Your cake has many well structured coloured layers with subtle differing flavours yet all complimenting each other
    It was absolutely delicious
    “Please sir, I want some more”
    Thank you for sharing your secret recipe and finishing it off with all your 100’s n 1000’s
    Luv Bubbles xx 😘

  3. Lorelei: I am not brand specific, but ingredient specific. I prefer 1) all natural and 2) Hickory. The ingredients in the back should only say: Water, Hickory Smoke Concentrate. Or whatever style you prefer. I personally prefer hickory from my childhood and I have not tested any other. I currently have All Natural Wright`s liquid Smoke: Hickory.

  4. MB,
    I totally get it… I’m the same way. I’d end up feeling guilty later for flipping someone off too, no matter if the person was at fault or not. Actually, I’d also be scared the guy might follow me, so I just don’t do those types of things. Anyway, stay true to yourself.

    What I’m going to break down is nothing new under the sun — not sexy, just simple. It’s logic, like HG preaches…and I find it really helps when it comes to the false blame/shame game. Logic (and then later, if you want, you can work on positive affirmations you deliberately give yourself daily, which is separate from this). Both have helped my sense of false guilt, when I’m taking way too much responsibility for other people/things they have done that are wrong and out of my control, yet I feel like I can’t “give up on them” — to my own detriment.

    So go back to what you wrote about the semi incident, and maybe read your account again… the key thing you wrote was about the driver/what he did: “screams up on my ass/flashes his lights” <<< THAT.


    1) LOGIC (accountability) STATEMENT: This driver did something rude/unnecessary/potentially dangerous.
    2) STATEMENT OF TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF: You did nothing wrong! (Which, you'll notice, you said) <good! You're not accountable for his behavior.

    Now, with just those two things, you've held the right person accountable. Calm, cool logic. It will become much more natural for you not to shame yourself later, when you describe it/think it out like that, shortly after an incident happens.

    Also, as an empath, I may (not always, but it helps me stay calm) go to #3: tell myself a reason why someone might behave like that to me. In this case, logic tells me he's an impatient guy, rather impulsive, who isn't TRYING to scare the crap out of me… he's just clueless/thoughtless. He probably does it quite regularly, unfortunately.

    I then won't feel like it was personal against me (he doesn't even know me) — it would be anyone he would do that to — it's about HIM, not me…and also, the need to get all mad at him, which does me no good anyway, goes way down. Poor clueless dude! I may exit off the road for awhile to collect myself, as it would tend to rattle me too.

    I hope that simple example helps. It's just pausing to be a bit more deliberate about the facts of the situation, and using your sensible logic.:-)

    1. Pure gold Caroline-is-fine! Thank you. The recurring theme in my life is “it’s not all about me.” If somebody mistreats me, it’s about them! I keep forgetting that and think I deserve mistreatment because I am bad. When situations like this happen, it only reinforces my belief that I’m bad. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

      1. We ALL need reminders of this, MB, as it’s hard not to take things personally… but another phrase that has helped me regarding this is: “I’m not in it.” :-) It’s a good way to psychologically draw that line, which gives me clarity when my emotions rev up.

          1. It doesn’t feel the same as GOSO when I say it to myself. It’s used in a different context in my mind. GOSO is good! I agree. I need to think on this a bit.

          2. HG,
            Yes, yours is always better. (See? I can resist the urge to counter a Greater).

            P.S. Even though, to be fair, I actually wasn’t referring to getting out/staying out of narcissistic entanglements with the “I’m not in it” phrase. I was referring to feelings that empaths have when anyone behaves in a way that’s wrong — yet we take the shame/blame for it.
            P.P.S. Yeah, I know…I see it what I just did there — more work for me to do. It’s the “watch how you go” thing you told me.

          3. Caroline-is-fine, GOSO and “I’m not in it” have different applications.

            GOSO removes me from a bad situation.

            I’m not in it reminds me that I was never in the situation to begin with and shouldn’t trouble myself with it.

          4. Nice, MB! Make that into a poster & slap it on your wall. ;-)

            [Here’s irony: I hurt my middle finger pretty badly last night – a guy tried to catch a door for me, but instead, it slammed hard on my finger – and now everything I do seems to involve that middle finger…& all I can think of is the “MB trucker story,” lol]

          5. Caroline-is-hurt, I’m sorry you hurt your finger, but I’m glad it helps to think of my trucker story! Feel better ❤️

          6. Thanks, MB… the funny part of it was what I was thinking when it happened…you know when you’re in so much pain you can’t even speak? I was like that, squeezing that finger really hard with my other hand, kind of half-bent over, while still seeing the guy’s face — he was upset/kept profusely apologizing and, clearly, felt like crap — and the Empath in me was thinking: “Gawd, this bitch-slap pain has to stop soon, so I can make this guy feel better.” lol. I’m just glad it’s not broken.

            Can you do me a big favor? Can you give me a reply link to the “Come On, Come All” thread? I’m having a tech issue, flipping back to it.

          7. I know what you mean Caroline-is-fine, I’m always so embarrassed if I get hurt and other people see. Like you, I’d be more concerned about his feelings and discomfort.
            I’ll head over there.

          8. Caroline-is-fine, I can’t find the latest post on that one. I never have much luck with the search function. I know it’s been posted since 2017!

          9. Thanks much, MB. Please don’t spend too much time on it… I’m sure I’ll get a ping from there soon. Just checking on an empath. :-)

          10. I’m so sorry about your finger

            Couldn t help facepalming at myself though. So very recognized your reaction “Gawd this pain has to stop soon, so I can make this guy feel better.”

          11. Thanks, cb~that’s sweet of you. It looks pretty awful (I’ve got clear nail polish on — maybe time to redo, in a really dark purple, lol).

            Yep, you feel me…I did end up trying to reassure that guy. I think he was an empath – he started gently touching the side of my head, which would tend to creep me out if he was a normal. ;-) Of course, if he was a narcissist, I’d have probably ended up dining by candlelight with him afterward…kidding — just a little empath humor!

  5. Would a man not respecting his girlfriends feelings about going on a vacation with female (and some male) friends without her by defending his actions saying the problem is her not trusting him… be a level 4?

  6. I love this example!
    It reminded me of one of my sisters.
    I used to work at a job in finance. I did very well I my position there, because i was able to establish relationships with clients, and build rapport. Soon after, my sister asked me to get her a job with me. I did. I always thought all of my sisters were empaths. Long story short, there was multiple red flags that indicated she could be a narcissist. I don’t work there anymore, but I found out recently that she was bullying one of my friends. At first I excused it, as she was bullying my friend, because she was MY friend. Then I realized, that she was probably bullying my friend, because she could get away with it.
    I think my sister could actually be a piggy back narcissist.
    The more I am becoming aware of narcissism, the more I cant stand midrangers. They are cowards

  7. Great article HG!

    It’s very informative about the different levels of empathy. It’s also interesting to think about how so-called ‘banter’ can be interpreted by different people depending on what level of the ’empathy cake’ they sit on. Also, the word ‘banter’ can cover up a minefield of what is and what isn’t considered to be insulting.

    Personally, I can relate to both the IEE and SEE levels of empathy. Calling someone a disparaging nickname because of their looks or something they have no control over feels very rude and insensitive to me and I wouldn’t go there, or even think about going there.

    Sometimes though, I have teased people I care about in a loving or affectionate way, but only because I can see something funny or endearing about a so-called ‘fault’ they may have and it’s a way to have a little joke with them about it. If I thought it was going to offend or insult them, I definitely wouldn’t do it.

    Thank you for providing a clear and organised explanation of the ways different people communicate and also react to communication based on their level of empathy.

      1. HG,
        On further thought about the empathy cake, it got me thinking about people with borderline personalities. What level of the cake would you describe them as being on?

          1. I won’t answer that question, since it’s not for me… but I feel like I’m seeing a fair amount of borderlines come & go on this blog… for me, they can seem like Mid-Rangers at first, but then there are more dramatic discrepancies in their personality/stability. They get “over-the-top” in several directions, like a mish-mash of chaos, and they seem less pulled-in… seems like they have less shame than Mid-rangers, in that you can drive a truck through their lies, but they keep “reinventing” themselves.

          2. HG,
            I’d say their level of empathy was not stable on one or two levels, but moved between different levels depending on their state of mind. Depending on the situation or the level of stress they’re under, they may swing back and forth from having very little empathy (say Level 4) to having a higher level of emotional or innate empathy (Levels 1 or 2).

            That’s a guess though, because my knowledge about borderline personalities is fairly basic. What are your thoughts HG?

          3. Ok, I thought they had more emotional empathy than that and tended to have unstable levels as well. Thanks for your insight HG.

          4. I see. Does that mean they have a similar underlying psychological makeup as narcissists, but are better able to ‘act’ like they have empathy without actually feeling emotional empathy?

          5. Think about this WN, who has no emotional empathy but has differing ranges of cognitive empathy?

          6. HG,
            If your question relates to the empath/narcissist spectrum, I would say those with cognitive empathy but no emotional empathy would fall on the spectrum ranging from say, the halfway point (mid-way through ‘normals’) to those narcissists who aren’t at the very end of the spectrum (say mid-way through narcissists). I hope that makes sense.

            To be honest HG, I don’t fully understand ‘cognitive empathy’ and how it can be recognised when expressed by someone. It would be great if you wrote an article to explain it, if you haven’t already done so, that is.

          7. Does that article answer whether borderliners have emotional empathy?

            (I thought only NPDers lacked emotional empathy)

          8. Thank you HG. I have now re-read The Three Strands of Empathy. This line in the article stands out to me…

            “Our cognitive empathy (where applicable) ..[i.e. ‘our’ here means Greater or Mid-Range narcissists].. enables us to recognise something is wrong, what the response of the individual means (anger, hurt, upset, frustration etc) and therefore we can (should we deem it in our interests (calculated where Greater or instinct for the Mid Range Narcissist) to respond in a particular way, but we do not feel anything.”

            …and this… “We merely observe and intellectualise the response (where appropriate). We feel nothing.” ..[again, ‘we’ here means Greater or Mid-Range narcissists].

            [Note: the words in square brackets ..[ ].. are my own.]

            Ok… I understand ‘cognitive empathy’ a little better now. I liken it to learning a skill rather than having a natural talent for it. For instance, someone with a natural talent for singing or being able to read maps or knowing how to hit a billiard ball accurately just seems to ‘have’ that ability. The ability can be ‘learned’ through many hours of practice, but the natural talent is either there or it isn’t. Anyway, that’s sort of how I see it.

            The interesting (and very telling) aspect you mention HG, in the quote above is “should we deem it in our interests”. I think this is the major difference. Emotional empathy just happens whether an empath ‘thinks’ about it or not or whether they want it to happen or not. Indeed, sometimes it is a nuisance because it gets in the way of self-interest and logical thinking.

            Narcissists ‘use’ cognitive empathy if they deem it to be useful for them. Therefore it is another tool of manipulation, because they can either decide to use it or not depending on their own interests rather than feeling it as an emotion. Very interesting.

          9. Yes, you are grasping the concept effectively WN. Emotional empathy is an instinctive ‘feel’ which causes you to act in a certain way, express yourself in a certain way, show certain facial expressions, do certain things etc.
            We do not feel this. Instead we learn to evaluate, respond (where we deem in appropriate) and then emulate the appropriate action, expression, words, tone etc. Of course some of our kind are not that good at it and this shows as inappropriate comments, flat tones, strange mismatched facial expressions and so forth.

          10. HG, thank you.

            So, cognitive empathy is not real ’empathy’ when you think about it, because it’s expressed when/if it is ‘deemed appropriate’. Therefore, it’s based on whether the person expressing it believes it’s the right thing to do, which is ultimately in their own cognitively assessed self-interest.

            True emotional empathy arises out of an instinctive motivation to help, or support, or relieve another person, not due to self-interest as such, but because doing so helps the person in need, which in turn gives the empathic person a benefit by fulfilling their instinctive urge or motivation and thereby providing a sense of intrinsic self-worth or self-purpose.

            They are two quite different things.

            Thanks HG, for your insight.

          11. So interesting re the words not matching the facial expressions.

            I was at a conference recently and observed a CEO talking about a very sensitive subject and required alot of compassion. It was the most insincere delivery I’ve ever witnessed.

            Everyone was saying what a caring person he must be and therefore would lead well on this project. He completely struggled with conveying any emotion. It is baffling to observe how disingenuous he was and yet no-one else seemed to pick up on this.

          12. I do try and convert where ever I go! I’m not quite at the stage of knocking and leafleting door to door yet. But I have a couple of ideas to spread the word

          13. Hi Alexis, It is most probable the CEO did not write his own speech. Some do, but most have one or more people that write their messages for them. Clearly, the words did not match his own feelings. You are wise to pick up on the nonverbal cues. Many people don’t.

            PS: I agree HG.

          14. That’s an interesting example Alexissmith2016.

            When thinking about the ‘context’ of what you have described, it makes me see some stark contradictions in your example.

            Firstly, the CEO was a male. Generally speaking, males have a biologically higher level of testosterone, which makes them naturally more prone to being aggressive, action-oriented, prideful and ego-driven. Social conditioning also means that men, in general, also need to ‘show’ less emotion, show less emotional vulnerability, less outward compassion and more ‘machismo’ etc. (Not all men are like this, and that’s why I said ‘in general’.)

            Secondly, this man is a CEO, which means that his social environment makes him a ‘leader’. As such, he is constantly being treated with either admiration and respect, or with fear and submission, and he is probably very conscious of his place in the ‘hierarchy’ of the group he leads. He probably has a lot of narcissistic traits, which he would have to have in order to rise to the level of CEO in the first place.

            Thirdly, he was speaking to a group at a conference (from what I gather from your comment). This means he is on display and is probably wearing a ‘mask’ that is appropriate for his public image and his position as CEO in that group.

            Thinking about all these aspects, it doesn’t greatly surprise me that he had difficulty showing emotion and compassion when delivering a speech. As a male CEO speaking to a group, any display of emotion would probably make him uncomfortable because he’d believe it made him look weak or vulnerable, and that would instinctively feel ‘wrong’ to him.

            But, considering the subject-matter, he probably thought that he needed to be ‘influential’ and therefore, needed to adopt a compassionate ‘mask’.

            I don’t think your example in isolation necessarily makes him a ‘narcissist’. I think the example can be interpreted in a number of ways. This CEO would have to be known by someone in both his private and public moments over a longer period of time to really get a better understanding, I think.

            That could explain why the audience seemed oblivious to the mis-match of his words and emotional expression too. It may not have been because the audience members were stupid or confused. It could have been because their own various levels of empathy or narcissistic traits could have made them interpret the speech in very different ways.

            When in a social setting, most people adopt a ‘positive’ mindset too, because being outwardly critical or negative is not generally a ‘good look’, so who knows what those same audience members were truly thinking in their private thoughts.

            Thank you for an interesting example. It really made me think and evaluate the context of certain things and how ‘society’ thinks in general.

        1. WiserNow

          I would put the borderline I knew in the fruitcake section. Very little sweet with a lot of nuts. Little goes a long way, and once a year was enough.

          1. Lol NarcAngel 😂 I think your analysis is on point. Plus, your description has everything .. accuracy, brevity, humour and storytelling to engage the reader. Nicely done! 😂😂

        2. Good question WiserNow – I’m also wondering where those who demonstrate false contrition fall, as in an over the top response like “I am SO sorry – if only I’d known it would hurt your feelings; I would NEVER have done that.” (Said strictly for facade management – especially with observers on hand – only to file that little bit of info for later or to use behind the person’s back.)
          I like this cake example HG but it confuses me when I think about narcs who absolutely *believe* they have real, affective, empathy, when they only possess cognitive empathy.

          1. WhoCares,
            Yes, the facade management can cloud the issue. The fake empathy and exaggerated responses can be confusing … it can potentially make the cake look more like a marble cake lol.

            The way I see it is that the person’s ‘authentic’ level of empathy will determine their level on the cake. This would mean that any fake empathy would have to be ignored until the person’s real intentions were known.

          2. WiserNow,

            “This would mean that any fake empathy would have to be ignored until the person’s real intentions were known.”

            Thank-you WiserNow; I agree – the person’s authentic empathy will determine their level on the cake. It is definitely the cognitive empathy piece that is hard to separate out from real empathy. I think it is easier to differentiate if you’ve been entangled with a mid-ranger and put their real empathy to the test. Admittedly, I did this with my mother before going no contact. It was a sad realization that she lacked affective empathy but the experience helped to recognize similar others in my life and environment. But of course, this was only possible with having the benefit of HG’s insightful work.

          3. WhoCares
            Liken it to being colourblind. They don’t know that they don’t have true empathy because they’ve never known what it’s like or have forgotten. So they’re unaware that this particular shade of blue exists. A Greater with his higher cognitive function is able to differentiate between what he experiences and what other people are like, but it does not concern him because from where he stands, there is no reason to be any different.

          4. Thank-you Desiree, that is a really good way of explaining how narcissists understand/recognize their own empathy – or rather, a way of explaining their lack of recognition of the fact that they don’t know they don’t have real empathy (outside of Greaters). I can grasp that and I’ve had many hands-on opportunities (especially lately) of recognizing how this looks and plays out in real life (i.e. affective empathy vs. cognitive empathy in mid-rangers) – with particular attention paid to how these types have most people around them fooled.
            My question to HG was where on the cake these ones land because in his example the narcissist response (not narcissistic) exhibits a complete lack of empathy. And I think that certain mid-rangers would exhibit a different response.

  8. I’ve seen narcs behave like level 4 – in the interest of the facade, while behaving like level 5 with their IPPS in a similar situation

  9. Oki doke, I’m layer one.
    Or layer zero.
    Never mentioned anyone’s weight or face shape, neither to them nor to others. Ever in my life. Not even when I was in kindergarten.

    I understand that I’m a bit unusual.

    1. But this doesn t mean I don t like to joke around with friends.
      My banter just happens to avoid their looks or skincolor. It’s a skill I have.

  10. I fluctuate between layer one and two it depends on how much I like the person or not.
    This does make me wonder about my Ex though, I was certain he is a Middle Mid Range Narcissist but he has many times displayed layer five. When confronted with something like the scenario described that is exactly how he reacted. However, he has said ” After all, I have done for you” Name-calling, blame shifted. Is it because he is getting older (over 50) he does say he feels his age and has slowed down. I am a little bit at a loss here.

        1. Some times level 5 can be mistaken for level 4.

          I guess.

          You think you made him ponder his behaviour and he apologizes, but what actually happened was that you fuelled him with your tears or emotions and therefore he gives a little Respite.

          This can be seen by him repeating the behaviour a week later etc etc.

          But if he quits the behaviour, then you have a level 4, you made an impact.

          1. Thanks!

            First time we complain at a person with NPD, if we show that his bullying words had great power over us, we cry and plead, he/she might apologize and change for a few days. Then it’s over. He is weaponized.

            A little bit of a warning: midrange narcs are often the main HR representative of a workplace.

            I’d do a calm grey rock approach just in case, when talking to HR. It helps.

  11. A bit off topic, but the title reminded me of the film Layer Cake, which starred Daniel Craig. Brilliant film. It got him the Bond job, allegedly. The film keeps you guessing like a narc too!

      1. Dearest HG: I think the most difficult thing to believe, when it is happening, is how an intelligent person like many mid rangers, ( at least 2 of the 5 workplace narcs are mid rangers I think), totally get lost in the NOW, at times. Then the narcs wonder, when the dust settles, why no one trusts them any longer, because the narcs seem to even have a touch of amnesia about the NOW event. And the parties involved are just flabbergasted. And, I guess the Narcissist`s magical thinking rushes in to convince the Narcissist that everything happened just like he said, during the NOW event. To try to change their minds otherwise is fruitless and their other lines of defense jump into the lead, just in case someone tries. THANKFULLY< i was already on here, when I saw it happen for the first time. I did not blink. I SAID NOTHING< and never did. The odd part was the Narcissist kept looking at me expectantly, each day for a while, like I would challenge what he said. And I believe he had replies ready. So it seems that instinctively they are aware that something happened that was going to be challenged, during the NOW event. He looked confused, I could tell, that I never challenged the one future fake and the one gaslight event that I was exposed to. But, like I said, I was already on Narcite when I first encountered such odd behaviour. And I knew not to bother: One Point For Me.

  12. I’d venture to say that there is another level of hurt for empaths as well, the projection pain, when people insult us. Like most humans, empaths project our empathy on to other people. We assume they are wired like us. I’m approaching middle age and still often shocked at how many/most people actually think and feel. Therefore, if someone insulted me as per the examples in this article, I would assume that they were deeply aware of my feelings and were knowingly and intentionally causing that level of pain, as I would be if I insulted them. That’s just another way we’re vulnerable.

    1. That is a valid observation Michelle caused by the empaths worldview and as the article explains those individuals (unless a Greater Narcissist) would not knowingly and intentionally cause that level of pain.

    2. I agree entirely and this was a major hurdle for me when I first discovered HG and NPD. I assumed (wrongly) that everything MRN did and said was intensely malicious.
      Time (and calming of ET) leads to us realizing it’s just about the same old boring control and fuel. **yawn**

      1. Absolutely. Once you get your ET under control, it really does demystify the dynamic and you see Lesser and Mid-Rangers as far less than you once thought they were.

      2. So true! “The thrill is gone.” HG sure knows how to take the wind out of the sails of other narcs! Do you get thought fuel from that HG? Foiling the MO of your own kind.

        1. Not as a general principle no. I do gain a dollop of Thought Fuel when I see off a narcissist here who fails to respond because they have to withdraw in an attempt to assert a sense of superiority. Cue dum dum dum another one bites the dust….

          1. I love this HG, you just reminded me how lame my MRN was. Vanishing was his main manipulation technique. Get some new tricks man!!! Ha

      3. Dealing with greedy children who pull hair. Not in touch with the reality of other people even slightly.

  13. HG this is helpful to me for two reasons:
    1. I often have a hard time differentiating normals from narcissistic people. I am so hyper aware now and anyone who doesn’t act as an empath makes the hair stand up on my neck haha
    2. I appreciate all reminders that it is about control IN THE NOW (especially for mid rangers). I often was confused about how MRN couldn’t think one or two steps ahead to see how his actions would damage my fuel line. You’ve educated me and now I know that that aspect didn’t matter, at least not until later, and then I was a treacherous bitch who wouldn’t give fuel…not his fault at all!!

    1. You are welcome SDE. When you grasp that narcissism for narcissists is ALL about the control in the NOW you take a giant step forward in your understanding. Greaters are adept at controlling now without adverse consequence later because we have an eye on both (and the resource and ability to do so) . Lesser and Mid Range do not, so their resources are all focused on CONTROL NOW.

    2. SDE
      It took me awhile as well to catch on to the “in the now” component but now that understand it, so many other things make better sense.

  14. HG, An absolutely brilliant post! I will share this post with many people. I live in the land of IEE, but I have also learned to reframe communication (post HGTU) for those with AEE and MEE in terms of how they might experience something and it has been working quite well. Thank you so much. I wonder sometimes if you realize the enormity of the possitive affect you bring to our lives.

  15. Excellent article, HG. I will be rereading this one later. Another deflection might be the narcissist claiming the reason he says Babs is for some other obscure reason–curly hair, likes to sing or whatever.

    Once when I addressed an issue with a narcissist, he took my pad of paper and said to me that my claim was invalid. Then he physically wrote the word ‘invalid’ on the paper.

          1. Maybe I’ll be a passive aggressive mid ranger and make my new avatar unbaked cake mix that is all stirred up in a bowl!

      1. That was an LMR who I mentioned hated the UMR and vice versa. While it was interesting to see 2 narcs in retrospect interact, (literally ignoring each other but talking about each other behind their backs), it made work unpleasant.

        The UMR was much more sophisticated in his charm than the LMR and both could easily identify each other’s flaws but both were oblivious to his own.

        It was like one was either expected to be on UMR’s side or LMR’s side. I don’t like choosing ‘sides’ and it made it difficult when the UMR trained me, so I got to know him 1st and the LMR was on my shift, so had to work with him directly.

        The UMR would never be dumb enough to write ‘invalid’ as the LMR did. UMR is more a slimy snake and the LMR is a whiny bitch.

    1. I enjoy telling narcs THEIR claims are invalid. Whoo boy they hate it
      I once , quite firmly, told my kid’s dad “I don’t believe your reality” when he was trying to gaslight me…he turned IMMEDIATELY and stormed off , telling me to get lost as he went.

      Hey HG two questions ;
      Do “narcissistic but not a narcissist” ppl ever gaslight?

      And , you’ve said The genetic component combined with childhood abuse/trauma causes narcissism.
      Do you feel that there’s a genetic component for empaths that also needs to be combined with sat, being raised by empaths or an empath? Or…do a family of normals produce an empath or super empath? Thoughts? Thx

  16. A cake ugh WHY. It’s summertime and I’m trying to be fit 😪😪

    This is a great article. Love the example and wow does that hit home! Reminds me so much of my stepfather AND my narc with that “joking” nickname bullshit.

    The layering really helps to classify though. Even myself. Sometimes I question whether or not I really am an empath or just ‘HSP’ normal. These layers would suggest that I am an empath although I know there’s more to it than just that one piece.

  17. Love this breakdown with examples format. You are an excellent teacher. I especially had a lightbulb moment when you explained about the N walking away when faced with possible HR intervention later. They need control in the NOW. I had wondered about that reaction previously. I thoroughly enjoyed and understood this. Thank you.

  18. Wow HG! Correct—I wouldn’t even think to call someone this name. I would acknowledge it as humorous only if it was said by another person and I didn’t like the person with the big nose anyway because I felt they are an ass in their own right. If it was said and I liked the individual I’d be turned off by the perpetrator of the comment. Either way—I would never say it. My husband is too facade driven to engage in this behavior in public but this scenario modified for “at home” is him to a tee. Many narcissists I believe are too smart instinctively to do this at work. (Is that correct?) I can also see some fairly sophisticated narcissists backing off instinctively and exhibiting a false empathic response so it goes back to assessing the “aggregate” of behavior as you discuss.. Yet, the scene played out would be a dead ringer for a narcissist because of all the descriptors off blame shifting, denial etc.
    The example is very tangible though. Extremely useful and work worth passing on! Well done as usual.

    1. Great article and very helpful! I was wondering about this point too : “Many narcissists I believe are too smart instinctively to do this at work. (Is that correct?)”

      My narc-ex-husband who had uncomfortable names for whomever he chose deflected by saying things along the lines of “you don’t get it, I didn’t mean it like that, you don’t have a sense of humour, and your reaction proves the point, I am just teasing”. He did this at work and did so at home.

      My n-ext however would never engage in behaviour such as derogatory name calling, he would know (cognitively I suppose) that this is wrong. He would, if he read this article, regard himself as an empath. I figured out in the end that he did not have any emotional empathy – and since I didn’t know at the time that there was no point confronting him with his narcissism I did. He was most affronted by my saying he lacked empathy (he is a GP). I believe him that he believes that he doesn’t.

      My question would be: is there a way of distinguishing real and fake emotional empathy at an early stage?

        1. Thank you! And thinking about it, I suppose that is how I / resp. my therapist figured out the MRN… Glad the empathy cake model provides further guidance.

        2. The problem with actions matching words is realizing the crumbs they drop on the floor for you
          are not actually the Michelin Meal they claim them to be. A skewed and tainted perception is the perfect illusion of their reality.

        3. HG
          This is my favourite litmus test.
          It’s validity is only strengthened over time.

          It would be another great design for your workout wear tops…..

          1. My comment about it being my favourite litmus test references HG’s “actions match words” comment, just in case WP places my reply in a completely irrelevant spot in the thread.
            It’s been doing that a lot lately.

          2. Words are easy to use as HG says. They set expectation. Non-narcs expect people to do what they say. When they don’t, we are confused. I can’t make myself get used to having no expectations. How do you do that?

      1. LC—I wouldn’t think so but I do recall my dad paying attention to me as a young kid one day. (Irrelevant story) and even at age 5-6 it felt weird and forced. It was not polished.

        1. Lorelei. It’s interesting that you can remember the forced feeling! Means your empathic traits must have been fully developed by then, but possibly also your “tolerance” for fake empathy? I am wondering why we put up with fake empathy when we KNOW and can FEEL the difference. Why we doubt our perception.

          1. I was what 5 or 6? It felt off. Too nice, uncharacteristic of his generally stale demeanor. He was fawning over me. I was his favorite but he wasn’t affectionate. The reality is that my dad was extremely smart, did some really beneficial things, it’s just a reflective thing.

          2. Lorelei. Sure, I didn’t mean to suggest you should have known when you were 5! I am sorry if it came over that way. I was just wondering generally how we – as empathic adults or empaths – can’t or don’t act on the knowledge that we have that things feel “off”. I know we don’t act on it or we would not have gotten ourselves into that narcy mess. So we feel “offness” and have tolerance for “offness” I guess. At least this is how I think I managed to survive a sadistic mother – the realisation that she was a sadist came late, but I also knew that things were not right with her – even if I blamed myself for her behaviour. She was consciously sadistic, it was not an instinctive Thing with her, even though she also acted on instinct. On a different note: I am very sorry to hear that your father treated you in such a sick way. I think you explained somewhere that he didn’t get “physical” or that you do not remember. But memory is physical all the same. And fawning is abuse.

          3. I think our brain gets addicted to the narcissist, so we don’t want to notice the red flags.

            We feel stresshormon without N
            and dopamine rush when we are with him/in contact.
            Plus he is surrounded by ppl who tell us how lovely he is.

    2. Lorelei: I agree about the public facade at work, etc. This would depend on the level of narc.

      I could see a Lesser doing this but the Mid Ranger, if it did happen, could also play victim. ‘All I’m doing is trying to tell a joke and now she’s trying to get me fired! Really, I meant it as a compliment, as I believe Barbara to be a fabulous singer and The Way We Were was so great, etc.’

      It is hard sometimes to differentiate narcs from normals with narc traits because in the above example, I could also see a narc backing down in the moment out of fear of perhaps getting fired, but then that narc would be sure to retaliate behind Linda’s back.

      A good indicator in the work place, I have found, is that those who are narcs will have supporters/worshipers but there will also be groups of people who avoid or greatly dislike this person.

      A recent coworker of mine quit and so I said goodbye to him and we hugged, etc. He informed me that he would miss me and the people here, etc. “All except for UMR.”

      It’s funny how he had little interaction with UMR yet could see enough to know that he never liked how UMR treated people. This coworker was a normal with high empathic traits.

      There was once a time when at work the management wanted our shift to perform a test, but I was in opposition to this because we worked a later time and if anything went wrong, the test should be performed earlier in the day when there are more people here to observe it/ resolve issues.

      I left the room and then returned, to where the UMR said to me in a very belittling tone, ‘Your complaining paid off. You don’t have to perform the test.’ This meant his shift would have to perform it.

      I said, ‘Oh, good,’ and completely did not react as result to his condescending remark. Afterwards, the coworker who quit (the normal with high empathic traits) got frustrated with me and said, ‘Why did you let UMR speak to you like that? You need to defend yourself!’

      He was about to say something to UMR but I told him not to bother. ‘Alright, but if he says it again, I’m saying something.’

      I avoided the issue b/c it was clear that UMR was trying to get an emotional response from me, which he did not get. But this can also pose a problem down the line t where he might think that speaking to me that way is ok. This is why I just avoid him.

      I have other examples, but he does not like being stood up to or being told no.

      1. My work is crawling with them, they are like cockroaches but they can be dangerous. I referenced one female physician in fact just last night? She’s such a total bitch that not even the other band of narcs like her. As a result she has no support and she is new. She’s an easy dump and sucks overall. I wouldn’t want to have her in a critical situation. (Being objective from my observations) If she keeps it up she will be out the door and I may be a source of the nudge. The others have supporters so I tend to act dumb and be nice so they aren’t challenged as easily. One followed me around like a puppy the other night and I was sweet as candy. Inside I was seething because of things I know she has done. My boss said she was a sociopath! (Long story)

        1. It’s always a long story with coworkers, isn’t it? I am fortunate that I have a number of empaths and empathic people where I work, but like the cockroach every so often there is one of those narcs that appear. I was saying to someone that I thought the UMR missed his calling as a lawyer because my God he would be great at it. That guy is such a grand bullshitter.

          I’d be a terrible lawyer. I’d end up engaging in some cross examination and I’d be forced to say, ‘Alright, I see what you’re saying, but I know that isn’t right. Just can you give me 24 hrs to come up with a rebuttal? Thanks.’

          A case over a speeding ticket would end up a longer trial than OJ.

          1. Haha Bibi—I would like law but probably something like contracts or taxes/real estate. I considered a part-time program where I live, although it’s very expensive and at this point I can’t put everyone (kids) out for 4-5 years and wrack up huge debt to do it. See, the problem I’ve had during my marriage has been hopping from one thing to the next to try and cope with his (formerly) bizarre behavior/abuse. I have had various outlets and all have taken a toll on my mental wellness and kept me from being a decent parent. Distraction became survival until exhaustion won and I could not move from a couch. I’ve not really shared the level of decompensation I experienced but it included a huge weight gain in like a year or two. Constant sleep, complete evacuation of critical thinking capacity which actually was longer term but quite substantial for a long time. (I can generally do impressive math in my head quickly and could hardly perform a series of steps due the executive function required) Affairs, mood issues, bewilderment, baffling relationships, no exercise/no energy, loss of interest in self care or care of my house.. Shall I go on! Much of this is better or mostly better. The problem with work is that I need to focus on the good things but because I’m hyper sensitive to toxic people it impacts me more than a normal people.

          2. Bibi,
            That actually just happened to me . I have been in and out of court with my ex narc for 3 years. We are about to go to trial, and will need to reserve my resources for that. On Monday, we will be going into our third hearing over one motion I filed. People can not believe how long it takes for us to get to a ruling. The last hearing, my ex lied the whole time while his attorney had him on the stand. I did exactly that. I verbally motioned for another hearing, to make sure I had the right documents to prove his lies. There was no way I was going to let a ruling be made on a he said she said basis. I would lose everytime if I allowed that.

  19. Excellent and informative article – thank you.

    Just wanted to say that the new design of the blog is lovely and clean to navigate – it’s simple so your traffic should find everything they need easily. The changes are really noticeable on the desktop and it’s a much nicer design. Flows nice.

  20. Dear HG 🌷 When you told me about this I was surprised! I assumed everyone had layers 1 and 2 on the Empathy Cake. Thanks for empowering Empaths with knowledge.

    1. Whitney, thanks for pointing that out! I spent all my life so far assuming that everyone is just kind of an empath Any horrible behaviour people portray must be situational and I am not seeing the full picture. This might add to why when narcs give you a short moment of respite after they abused you for forever, you take that as evidence of their “true” nature and are more inclined to stay.

      1. Yes Desiree! All you naturally know is your Empath brain. It skews how you interpret everyone’s motives and behaviour.
        I had zero idea I was an Empath before the Narc experience!

        1. Yeah I didn’t know about being an empath before HG. I also had no idea honestly about normals .It’s hard to picture being a normal
          That’s not “normal” at all is it? Meaning the majority of the population is like that ?!

          I should think “empathic but not an empath” layer is the norm

          It’s easier to imagine being a narc lol

          1. I thought HG made the word empath up. I inwardly snicker at anyone thinking it’s an absolute positive—it has not gotten me very far whatever it is. If I had a magic wand I’d make myself normal because I’d be less vulnerable. I can still be an arrogant asshole too but it’s generally when I need to be to achieve an outcome much like a narcissist. I genuinely thought I was in some weird land of oz with all this empath crap when I was initially reading. I thought everyone was a saint rubbing everyone’s feet on the streets and it was really strange but the information kept hitting home. I was pretty desperate to talk to someone self describing as HG does but despondent enough that I actually cared not one ounce. The empath stuff does heavily resonate with me—I do have to admit this. I’m highly anticipating (eagerly) the day I’m not a flaming flaky whack job.

          2. Lorelei,
            You are not a flaming flaky whack job! You are amazing and have come so far in such a short time, you should be very proud of what you have accomplished. Besides that, you are my friend! 😘💞

          3. Haha—maybe I should tell HG you are worried I’m too high maintenance to camp! :)

          4. Uh just so you know.. I am totally wanting to do a portion of the Appalachian Trail. (I’m not doing the entire thing) Alone. I have back packed some rugged rough horrible excursions. Like back aching, bug bites, putting tablets in nasty water. I’ve swam in caves to get through spots.. I am good to go!

          5. Omg younger pre-current spouse-but I’m not incapable! My kids are actually more prima donna by far but I am working to temper it. Admittedly, the spelunking was as a teenager.

          6. Fool me & Lorelie y’all should come camp where I live. You’ll nvr wanna leave and if you don’t, you can just live in a tent as many do. (Or a treehouse, a school bus, a float home….anything goes here)

          7. WokeAF,
            I love camping, all that you mentioned sounds wonderful. I believe however if I am with Lorelei, I will need to pack a lifetime supply of earplugs! Hahaha! 🙃😘