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

13 thoughts on “The Cold Comfort

  1. blackcoffee30 says:

    There were times I noticed the lack of empathy, but chalked it up to something else. I thought, surely, there was some reason. I once cut my foot badly while we were vacationing. He wasn’t going to leave with me to go to urgent care. When I called him out in disbelief the empathy switched on. I’ll never miss such signs again.

  2. autiempath says:

    This article reminded me of the moment i noticed no emotional empathy with the now ex N. Cerebral.
    He cheated on me with man.
    Also did work with the sick and eldery, and played music and sing for them.
    Seems like such a good guy…..

    We were watching the docu series, Surviving R. Kelly.
    It reminded me about my own situation with the N. Somatic, father of my children, many years ago.
    Andrea, ex wife of R. Kelly explanes how difficult it was to escape, with 3 children, and no money.

    His reaction, she should deal with it!

    I said, she just explained how difficult it was for her and her children.
    I got very emotional, explaining it again for him.

    Then silence treatment.

    And i told him before, my story of my escape from the N. with 2 children, little money.
    I had to start al over again in a different town, far away from my family .
    He knew all about this.

    I was flabbergasted by his casual, cold reaction then.

    Now iam happy this happend, it was the beginning of the end of my love for him.

    1. WhoCares says:


      “And i told him before, my story of my escape from the N. with 2 children, little money.
      I had to start al over again in a different town, far away from my family.”

      Good for you! I know this storyline far too well – it isn’t an easy go of it.

      And good for you, seeing through the cerebral narcissist’s reaction. In hindsight, when we look back we often have ‘see through’ moments – we couldn’t recognize them for exactly what they are – or we recognize them but cannot do anything about it at the time because of the constraints of our situation. They gave us clues along the way…we just didn’t know what we searching for.

      1. WhoCares says:

        …we just didn’t know what we *were searching for.

      2. autiempath says:

        Thank you WhoCares!
        It sure was not easy. Iam sure you know this to for your own situation.

        But iam now very happy that i made it!
        Iam now free!
        Thank’s to HG his work and this blog.
        Such a good feeling.

        Ofcourse i stay allert, bc Narc’s are everywhere.
        I hope you are free to.

  3. Empath says:

    The sociopath I was involved with was brilliant faking empathy. To the extent he would play music at assisted living facilities, and sing, and walk around touching and greeting the residents-making each one feel like they were the most important person in the room. When in truth, he was the only important person in the room. He could also weep on command, huge crocodile tears as he told yet another made up story regarding growing up in foster care and how he suffered so much abuse and malnutrition. The level of acting was Oscar-worthy. All a front to manipulate people…he stole from the nursing homes he worked for and slept with half the staff and probably some of the residents since it turned out he was a closet pansexual. He still works at a nursing home, disguised as a director of maintenance. He maintained a false identity for five years.

  4. lickemtomorrow says:

    Oh no, my most disliked phrase ‘deal with it’ has shown up again.

    No empathy in that phrase.

    I read an interesting article about narcs and empathy yesterday. It focused on the use of the word ‘lack’ of empathy. It didn’t say they had none. And there were some musings on cognitive vs emotional empathy.

    Total nullification of empathy is disputed. And a very enlightening point made by one person in a quora about the difference between a narcissist and a psychopath as well. Discussion was around underlying factors for this lack of empathy. Apparently this is often overlooked. Where the psychopath apparently is incapable of any type of empathy due to differences in brain structure, the narcissist is in self preservation mode which leads more to a sense of what was described as ‘indifference’ in terms of their lack of empathy, So no empathy vs lack of empathy = indifference.

    I thought it was interesting in terms of drawing out the discussion.

    1. FYC says:

      Hi L, I’m glad you brought this us as there are many misperceptions regarding the lack of empathy. Quora is not your best source for information. I highly recommend HG’s Understanding Empathy and Empathy Cake accessible in the Knowledge Vault. If you want to delve into scholarly research, you can use

      I have read a many studies on empathy from different disciplines. Emotional empathy is very complex and activates several parts of the brain. NPD/APD individuals are not missing these parts of the brain, but they lack certain structures of synapses/connections of certain neurons/receptors associated with emotional empathy. People do vary in the size of their brain structures as well. Studies have shown that when NPD/APD individuals were shown images of horrific crimes or accidents and were specifically instructed to think of the crime/accident happening to them, their brain empathy centers lit up the same as normals. Yet when they were instructed to consider the same event happening to another person, there was no demonstrable change in brain activity, ie, no empathy triggered. Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to intellectually work out what another might experience or expect under certain circumstances. NPD/APD individuals with higher cognitive function capacities can use cognitive empathy effectively to enhance their manipulation of their targets (many example of this). If you would like study citations, I would be happy to supply them.

      1. lickemtomorrow says:

        Hi FYC, I have enjoyed many of your comments here and this is another great insight.

        It’s obviously a very complex issue, and today I have read more of Love and Loathing with a chapter HG included on the three strands of empathy.

        I think I was trying to comprehend this lack of empathy and the pay dirt for me was in understanding the difference between a ‘lack’ of empathy and ‘no’ empathy. So, it’s interesting you bring up the detail around the brain scans which show there was a response to the occurrence of an event if it happened to the NPD/APD subject. This appears to relate to the notion of ‘indifference’ I commented on and further highlights the ‘lack’ as opposed to ‘no’ empathy.

        Obviously I was winging it on Quora, but found the input/discussion interesting. Certainly to see various people’s understanding of the difference if there was any.

        It is wonderful to have someone as knowledgeable as yourself here, and I appreciate you pointing me to the scholarly articles. I’m finding HG’s easy to understand, no nonsense sharing of information and insights to be invaluable right now and I think scientific articles might just weigh me down with what I already have on my plate. That’s not to say I won’t want to come back to them!

        So, thank you again for the offer and the input. It is very much appreciated.

        HG, there are two other things you touch on in that book I have really appreciated. The insight into familial narcissism – where once again you pull no punches – and also the focus you have given in that book to do with dating advice ‘gurus’. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to investigate these, and I concur with everything you have written there. It is a BRAVO! from me to you again tonight that you’ve had the foresight to do this and warn of the dangers of relying on information which is next to useless when it comes to tackling the issue of narcissistic relationships.

        I know this is long, but just wanted to get all that out there. Everything I read here is incredibly helpful, not just to me, but I’m sure to many, many others. I’m so glad I stumbled upon you all <3

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Thank you and you are welcome.

  5. truthseeker6157 says:

    HG, You claim to have only cognitive empathy. This article would suggest that is the case. However, I read ‘The three that got away’ today. Interesting reading. I am sorry for your loss of Karen. It raises several questions for me.

    You do appear to exhibit caring behaviour towards Karen. ‘ I decided I would race back to the lodge….‘ You go and get a large towel, make a fire and then make her a hot chocolate, ready for when she arrives back. There is no need to do this as she wasn’t expecting it. She would have been just as happy to see you without your doing that. Negligible difference in fuel intake. You put it down to the fact she was painted white, ( that addition looks like an excuse). I’m not sure that is reason enough.

    Cognitive empathy, you recognise she will be cold. To actually do something to make that better for her suggests thought and a degree of caring, or a level of real empathy exhibited in just that situation to just that particular person. This passage about the lodge, reads as if you almost feel guilty, almost feel sorry for her. Different tone to the one used regarding the other two women.

    Also, you go out into the rain and cold after her. You do not remain at the lodge sitting on your hands. It’s unlikely you would go out after a dog in that weather. You do go out looking for Karen though. Therefore Karen is above a lost pet in the pecking order. Hence suggesting non inanimate.

    Both instances show caring. You will likely argue, ‘The Prime Aims.’ The likely reaction of Karen to receiving towel and hot chocolate. The likely reaction of Karen to being found if she was in difficulty as you suspected. Both reactions providing fuel. I’m not convinced that’s all that was motivating you in this particular situation. Could you clarify please?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are imposing your values and world view on my behaviour, which is a classic yet understandable error of the victim. I am a narcissistic psychopath, I have no emotional empathy at all. Everything I do is for the Prime Aims.

  6. Love says:

    I’ve noticed there is a difference in you lately in comparison to a few years ago. Your new articles and blog comments have an easier tone. You seem more content, perhaps as close to happy as possible?

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