How to detect and deal with this dangerous personality

12 Min Read

It’s usually good to have empaths in your social circle. After all, an empath is someone who is highly attuned to the emotions of others, which allows him or her to understand how you feel and in turn provide timely support, advice, comfort, and assistance. However, not all empaths are safe and cuddly to be around. If you hop on TikTok, you’ll notice that the term “dark empathy” is trending with over 2.5 million mentions. And what dark empaths can apparently do is dark, really dark.

Dark empaths have been described as people who do not use their empathy (i.e. the ability to detect and understand the feelings and emotions of others) to help others, but instead to manipulate others for personal gain. They can make you feel more understood and heard than ever before and give you the impression that they really care about you. But at the end of the day, what they really, and maybe even only, care about is how you can help them achieve their financial, business, social, or whatever goals.

This is because not all types of empathy are equal. Psychologists often divide empathy into three different types: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Cognitive empathy is about logically understanding the feelings and needs of others. Those with only cognitive empathy know essentially what makes others tick, but can remain detached as cool, scientific observers even as others around them suffer.

In contrast, people with emotional empathy cannot remain distant because they actually feel what others feel, as if they are going through the same experiences together. For example, if you are experiencing a health crisis, they may experience the same worries, fears, and even pain that you are facing. Instead of standing on the sidelines as cold observers, they should either leave with remorse or do something to alleviate the situation to assuage their own feelings.

Compassionate empathy goes one step further and is characterized by a strong desire to help others. This is when someone is intrinsically motivated to provide support, help, or anything to help others feel better. When you are experiencing a health crisis, someone with compassionate empathy may feel compelled to put aside his or her own personal goals for a moment to focus on you until the crisis passes. If someone has all three types of empathy and can understand it, feel it, and be motivated to roll up their sleeves to help, then a lot of magic can happen.

That’s not the case with dark empaths, who typically have only cognitive empathy, which allows them to manipulate others without feeling the consequences. Of course, dark empaths may claim to have other forms of empathy because their cognitive empathy tells them that this is what others want to see. After all, who wants to hear, “I know what’s hurting you and how I can help you, but honestly, I won’t budge.”

Dark empathy is not yet an official condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). But an internet search will turn up articles describing how a dark empath typically exhibits behaviors from each of the three components of the “Dark Triad”: Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Machiavellianism is the tendency to exploit and manipulate others. Psychopathy is a personality construct characterized by callousness, lack of remorse, and absence of concern for others, mixed with superficial charm and the appearance of normality. Narcissism is where a person believes that he or she is somehow more important than and superior to everyone else.

While dark empaths may exhibit Dark Triad tendencies, they are different from psychopaths and narcissists. For example, while narcissists may be unaware of their own shortcomings and have difficulty reading others, dark empaths may be acutely aware of their own weaknesses and may in fact have cognitive empathy. This cognitive empathy is also one of the things that sets them apart from psychopaths, whose fanny packs lack empathy.

Plus, things aren’t always black and white, or completely dark versus light. Such categories can help organize interactions with people, but are not mutually exclusive and not immutable. People can change over time. And while some people fit the dark empathy archetype completely, others may overlap, but not completely. Furthermore, people can exhibit some dark empathic tendencies in some situations, but not in all.

Nevertheless, for anyone with dark empathetic tendencies, it can be quite dangerous to be around, assuming you don’t want to be used as a disposable pair of underwear. They can use their keen understanding of you and the bond they form with you to manipulate you into doing what they want. This includes showering them with praise (e.g. love bombing) to mollify you and guilt trips that push you to meet their needs. And if you discover and question their manipulative tactics, they may convince you that you are completely misunderstanding them and judging them unfairly. That’s certainly not gas, but it can be quite gaslighting, a tactic I’ve described Forbes earlier. Another danger is that when you are in a vulnerable position, you may wrongly rely on dark empaths as they brazenly abandon you and leave you in an even worse position.

The problem is that dark empaths are very difficult to detect, like mud in a sea of ​​chocolate. Because of their cognitive empathy they know what people want to see and they can put on a friendly, understanding, caring, social and fun mask. By quickly making connections with you, they can blindside you with your trust in them. You can’t see how they are quietly building mental libraries of information about you that they can use to exploit you, kind of like a shady social media company.

All the while, dark empaths continue to maintain their emotional distance from you in order to maintain control and the upper hand. After all, they don’t want feelings for you to get in the way of manipulating you, right?

This doesn’t mean that dark empaths don’t recognize that they are playing you. In fact, they may even criticize themselves for doing this and other things. They may openly seem quite down on themselves, which makes them appear humble and makes it even more difficult to discover their dark empathetic qualities. However, such self-criticism may have more to do with them wanting to get better at what they do, rather than them actually feeling remorse for everything they’ve done to you.

So how do you deal with dark empaths? If you assume that you don’t want to just serve someone who doesn’t really care about you, the first thing you need to do is see him for who he really is. A good way to unmask dark empaths is to see if they stand up for you in times of need. If dark empaths don’t immediately see clear benefits for themselves in such situations, they can push back hard.

Once you shed light on dark empaths, they may simply leave your life because they can no longer do their manipulation in the shadows. Of course, on the way out, they may blame you for the failure of the relationship instead of showing any remorse for their actions – which is a strong indication that they are indeed dark empaths. If the dark empaths don’t go away, consider cutting them out of your life. Or at least set very strong boundaries to limit their interactions with you, to limit the damage they can cause. Although dark empaths can change – especially with counseling – they must first acknowledge and express remorse for what they have done to you and be willing to change for the better.

In the meantime, realize the full extent of their manipulative tendencies and true goals so that you don’t continue to have idealized lollipop-unicorn-rainbow visions of them. Your support network can help you better see who the dark empaths really are and what has been done to you.

At the same time, don’t blame yourself for having faith, for keeping your heart open to what you thought was an authentic connection, and for allowing such termites into your life’s home. Again, dark empaths can be very good at keeping you in the dark. The fact that a dark empath has chosen to take advantage of you and your trust says more about that person than it does about you. Don’t allow a dark, dark experience with a dark empath to cast a shadow on future relationships with well-meaning empaths who truly want to bring light into your life.

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