The Cold Comfort

It is a well-recognised trait of ours that we do not feel empathy. We know how to show empathy. You and others have exhibited this on many occasions so we understand the facial expression to adopt, the tilt of the head, the appropriate body language such as a hand on the arm or an arm around the shoulders. We have listened most carefully so we understand the phrases to trot out,

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Is there anything I can do to help; it must feel terrible.”

“I understand where you are coming from, believe me and just tell me how I can help you.”

“I know how you feel.”

“I would feel upset too if this had happened to me.”

I have watched people like you in action as they exhibit their empathic nature and I have scoured the internet as well to gather a few choice phrases there also. Put all of this together and our kind is able to exhibit a convincing display of empathy which will fool almost everyone. You will see this false empathy exhibited during seduction when we want to show you how we are a kind, caring and sympathetic person so you will feel drawn to us even more. We know the correct recipients of this false empathy as well, the sick, the elderly, the stray cat, the homeless, the earthquake victim, the child with the distended stomach because he has not eaten for days, the earnest looking villagers crowded around a newly sunk well and so on. Yes, I know all of those who need some empathic reactions and I will provide them in front of you so you are all the more attracted to me. So that I fit in.

It is, of course, all for show. I do not feel it. Not at all. Not one iota, speck or scintilla of empathy. Show me a report of some tragedy and my eyes will glide across the text as I register what has happened. Inside I feel nothing. There is no response. I do not feel sorry for the people involved in the aftermath of the hurricane. I do not imagine what it must be like for them and how they must feel. Certainly I am intelligent enough to know how they must feel but I do not put myself in their shoes. I do not imagine what it must be like for them. There is no pulling at my heart strings, a feeling of upset, despondency or even anger at the injustice they may have suffered. Of course as you seek my response from alerting me to this latest disaster I will form a furrowed brow, shake my head and issue some suitable words to make you think that I care. That is of course if I want your positive reaction whereby you look on approvingly at my supposed compassion. If I no longer seek positive fuel from you then I will use it as an opportunity to provoke you.

“And?” is usually a good starting point for drawing a reaction from an empathic individual to something terrible.

“What do you mean and? These people are homeless and injured. They live on a small island and have no power and no clean water.”

“What do you expect me to do about it? They shouldn’t live there then.”

“What? Do you really mean that?”

“Yes. Their choice. They have to deal with it.”

This will invariably provoke a stunned silence or protestations. You may follow me as I walk away asking me how can I not feel for these people. You may express anger or outrage and naturally this is what I want you to do. The fact is I feel nothing. If I see a charity appeal on television I am unmoved. I have nothing in common with the people who are requesting help. I cannot identify with how they must feel in any way. It is a total disconnection.

The situation is different with those who I interact with and especially those who are an intimate partner when I am devaluing you. If you are ill and wanting some support and those three dreaded words “tender loving care” I do not feel nothing. I feel an overwhelming sense of disgust and revulsion. How have I come to couple with someone so pathetic and weak? Why did I agree to live with someone who is sneezing, coughing and rasping? They are trying to infect me aren’t they? Trying to bring me down to their level. I know what their plan is and I will not be duped. I see no reason why I should waste my time and energy dealing with somebody like this. It is a drain on my resources and there is little or no fuel to be had. Moreover, the sense of disgust drives me to get away from you. I cannot stand to see such weakness, such illness and such infirmity. I must escape it and thus I will disappear, sometimes with an excuse and often without in order to avoid this horrific scene.

When you are upset, perhaps over a bad day at work or an argument with a friend and you tearfully explain what is troubling you, expect to be met with a shrug. What do you expect me to do about it? It is your problem, not mine. Sort it out yourself. If you persist pleading with me to listen and to help you then I become irritated at your commandeering my time in this manner. Do you not realise I have much to do myself? I cannot forgo my own machinations and fuel gathering to play agony aunt to your whinging and whining. Your pathetic concerns annoy me and you will can expect me to berate you in order to further your misery so I at least draw some negative fuel from your upset. That way the situation is not one which will be completely written off. If your upset is even greater following the loss of your job or a bereavement, we will show no regard for your feelings and indeed exploit your misery during our devaluation. We will take this opportunity when you are vulnerable to extract further fuel. That is what matters to us. We feel the need for fuel. We do not feel any compassion or warmth towards you and indeed your selfishness in concentrating on yourself when you should be attending to us infuriates us. We will suggest that you never bothered much with that family member when they were alive so why are you now getting upset when they have passed away? You cry about your sacking and we suggest that you deserved it because you were not working hard enough. We will extract that negative fuel from your tears, your hurt, your frustration and your anger and once that has been obtained we will leave you to it. We have got what we want and there are other things, notably other people we can better spend our time with, rather than remaining with you and being subjected to your self-centred pity. We know you find such an approach heartless and abhorrent but there is no hope for anything else. We do not feel compassion or sympathy. There is no need for us to fake it because we can draw negative fuel, we do not need to make you like us or admire us and provide positive fuel. This is how we have been created. This is the cold comfort that you will always receive from us whenever you have a moment of need, upset or anguish. Deal with it

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35 Comments

    1. Their actions and words are positive fuel. However, it is a form of intimacy which I automatically reject. During the golden period, the disgust is hidden, not the case during devaluation.

  1. Now I’m worried about my narcy traits. My then-boyfriend found out his father had died just after we’d come back from visiting my family for Thanksgiving. I stayed with him for a few hours (we didn’t live together), cuddled him and let him cry, but I felt numb. My relationship with my father had been so bad at some points that I didn’t know how to comfort someone who’d had a good one. I was relieved when I could go home with the excuse I had no clean changes in my bags.

    I called him that night after I’d showered and changed, said all the right things, but I was appalled at how little I felt. I almost envied him for having a father worth mourning.

    1. That you were aware of feeling appalled at how little you felt indicates a depth of feeling that you might not find in a narcissist. When my father (with whom I was very close) passed away, quite a many friends came across as being cold and distant. And a while later some of them told me the reason- they were estranged from their fathers that they struggled to empathise AND the thought of mortality made them uncomfortable. Would Narcs admit that? I am inclined to think not.

  2. It’s almost as though most of the kind, regardless of other individual variables, are following a common instruction manual with tricks (e.g. empathy towards the homeless and animals- especially during the first phase) and even the same phrases! It was only during the “disengagement” phase that their unadulterated, callous reaction to the death of someone close indicated that such “empathy” was just an act.

  3. “I’m sorry you feel that way” implied his rejection of any accountability for my misery.

    If I asserted that, it only made me look crazier because he would just say that he meant well and I was reading too much into it. Then he’d punish me further.

    I was subtly groomed for so long to believe it just wasn’t worth it to confront. They depend on this.

    “‘m sorry you feel that way” is the worst insulting apology ever.

  4. Dead on balls accurate ! I learned a long time ago not to expect any sympathy or comfort from him. Not if I’m ill, not if I’m grieving , not for anything. He’s not capable. I’ve discussed that with him in the past, he knows I’m aware he’s not capable of those things.
    I rely on emotional support from my children, parents, siblings, friends.
    He’s useless, bordering on cruel under some of the circumstances mentioned.

  5. Great post. Recently I read somwhere that when we feel disgust, revulsion towards a person our brain can not feel empathy as the mirror neurons (responsible for empathy) are blocked. For example emotions of contempt and disgust allow people to commit acts of terrorism on children, inocent people without feeling bad about it.
    I will leave it at that and you can draw yoyr own conclusion how thus apply to narcissism.

  6. I find when they get sick they certainly want attention and play victim. We need to tailor to their every need . Shouldnt it work both ways ?

      1. I do remember back in March when i had the stomach flu ,he went to work and came back very ,very very late .He ended up buying a lap top for my oldest daughter . I had no energy to even get a drink and was watching my 5 year old too.

        1. I totally understand. My daughter is 9 and keeps me on my toes. When you are sick it is 10 times harder. I hope you are able to escape your narc. It is hard but you will see how much happier your life will be without him ❤️

    1. Mine wouldn’t even come visit me in the hospital after my car accident. He only came the first night when I was in the emergency room. But didn’t stay very long. After I was discharged we went out to dinner and he got an attitude with me because I wasn’t acting happy. I was still in pain.

        1. Pati
          Yes I have recovered, thank you. The accident could have been a lot worse. The worst injury I sustained was a fractured sternum which is extremely painful. Also, I have no memory of what happened. This puzzeled the doctors.
          As far as the ex, it will be a year in December since I escaped him. During which time I made several stupid mistakes as far as no contact goes. But I have gotten better. As I look back now I see how useless he was and didn’t add anything positive to my life. He is a lesser and they are dumb as a rock, useless, basically a waste of space. The thing I struggle with now is knowing my dad is a narcissist too.

          1. Candacemarie, i am so happy for you going no contact ,thats a huge step for you good for you.
            Knowing your dad is a N must be very difficult.
            HG has really taught us to spot these creatures he really knows what he is talking about.
            My inlaws are Narcs, I avoid them. The other day my mother in law knocked on my door and i didnt answer.
            Good luck to you sweety!

      1. What a piece of shit. I’m sorry about the accident, and I’m glad you recovered from both the accident and the turd.

          1. SP, it was really tough especially when he was admitted to a place to get help . He is much better. Thank you !

          2. I’m glad to hear that Pati, but I’m worried that you don’t dare to leave your husband because of fear your son might get worse. Agh, I so wish I could help. The situation is difficult, I’m sorry you’re having to put up with so much, but I’m sure with HG’s help and the blog you will be able to figure out the best way.

          3. SP, you really do understand. Breaking up the family will make him worse . The doctors said no stress or it can put him back to square one .
            This blog has helped me alot. I will consult with HG and see what he says. I am not happy in this marriage and makes things even more difficult for me to leave.(GOSO)
            I fake things just the way the N does with his facade management. For the sake of keeping the family together .
            Again SP i really thank you for understanding

    2. Exactly! It should be, but it will never be both ways, cuz it’s all about them and meeting their needs and their needs alone..

          1. I do believe there is a slim chance as I believe anyone can change if they are willing to see their need for a change. In many cases there is no change as they don’t think they are the problem.However, I don’t believe in a concept that there is not hope for narcs.I believe it is a choice..

          2. Pati

            Logic says HG IS a narcissist so he would know better than empaths who wish and hope where there is no evidence that they can, (other than temporarily to suck you back in). If they could change, someone would have cracked the code by now and we wouldn’t all be here. Has wishing and hoping on your part caused any change in your husband? No need to answer – that is just for you to consider using logic. Emotional thinking wants you to hope because that means you will not have to change anything and change is scary. People don’t mean to pressure you here, they just want what’s best for you and you say you want to leave. I’m not so sure. Reading between the lines, I think you want to get out your frustration (and this is the best place to do that), but you will remain hoping for him to change.

          3. Hi NA,
            I know he wont change he hasnt in 23 years – minus the golden period. Yes ,i do get my frustration out here on this blog because i dont have anywhere else to do so as no one will believe me.
            I do read HG’s books and have a consultation coming up soon.
            I know the logic i just need to apply it and yes i do have a hard time i am not going to lie.
            Having kids with him and one with a mental illness makes it even more difficult for me to leave
            I have suffered emotionally with him yes . Do i want to leave Yes !!!! It may take a lot longer than i thought .
            NA i do appreciate and read your comments and I thank you for it more than you know.

    3. Pati,
      Mines not like that. He usually downplays it when he’s not well. I do fuss over him when he’s sick though. He never seems very appreciative of it , more like annoyed by it ? I don’t know, maybe my narc sees it as weakness on his part that he is being cared for , and that annoys him?

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