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

9 thoughts on “The Cold Comfort

  1. December Infinity says:

    I lived this many times. I was subjected to his constant whining and illnesses but the minute anything happened to me he lashed out at me. Unbelievable. A few months before I finally decided I had enough of his BS I tried out a few scenarios to see how he would react ….. I mentioned possible job changes or relocation, a potential illness … and he blew up. The same standards never applied to me that he placed on his own entitlement and self importance. Cold and heartless. So I waited until the right moment to end it.

  2. Asp Emp says:

    Oh, that chair must be every so comfy HG 😉

    1. Eternity says:

      I am afraid I would get frostbite just sitting on it. Since I have a empathetic heart I would melt it quickly

  3. Eternity says:

    HG, you have just explained Cognitive Empathy. So basically the Narcissist learns to behave this way.

    1. lickemtomorrow says:

      My narcissist was a ‘watcher’. I’m sure that was one way he learned this behaviour.

      1. Eternity says:

        Yes, I have noticed that too. They do like to observe.

        1. lickemtomorrow says:

          Mine told me he was like this from the time he was a child. He used to listen in to adult conversations, which in some ways all children do at times so I thought nothing of it when he said it. But, now it makes more sense because that was his demeanour in other situations as well. Hanging back, watching and observing. Goes very much to what I later came to understand as the predatory aspect of his nature as well. It seems to be a common denominator amongst narcissist’s for the reason given. To download that element of cognitive empathy required. Knowing how to act in certain situations. Because they don’t feel the things that we naturally do. It’s a sin that ability was robbed from them. It makes me angry every time I think about it. That a child was forced to deny their feelings in order to accommodate another. And on the basis of that had to learn how to copy feelings.

          I’m a two feet in girl from the get go. That’s part of who I am. I don’t hang back, but join right in normally. Never even have to think about it. Take me as you find me, I won’t back down. And I don’t expect others to back down either. It’s a two way street. But, it’s open and honest and a no B/S zone that I try to apply wherever I am. I forget that others are watching me … or at least I never had cause to think about it before I realized there were predators in the wings. They’ve taken me by surprise before and probably will attempt to do so again.

          My one motto being that I won’t change who I am to suit somebody else.

          And the one modification being that I will be much more aware of their approach.

        2. Duchessbea says:

          Totally agree. Mine was a watcher too. He is also still watching, allbeit from afar.

  4. lickemtomorrow says:

    This post brings up so many memories for me … cold comfort memories.

    Every single one of the significant narcissists in my life (mother, ex-husband, lover) treated me the same way in this respect. I would spend the majority of my time being concerned about others and when it came to my turn … nada. It wasn’t very often, but there was a consistent failure to show caring and concern. Exactly as stated, they would disappear, dismiss, ignore and generally behave as though it mattered not what was happening with me.

    There were also gloating moments. The worst of all. Gloating over my misfortune.

    How on earth did I ever respect and even love these people? It beggars belief.

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