Yes, it's completely normal and healthy to start losing friends once you wake up and realize what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship. Once we begin to understand narcissism, we see that not only do we attract narcissistic romantic partners, but friends as well. I have lost more than one friend this past year.
As a result, I've started asking myself why I'm so drawn to these personality types and would like to understand why they’re drawn to me. The first part of this question is a no-brainer. It’s easy to fall for a narcissist. They are very charming, witty and often the life of the party. To spend time with them is intoxicating and exciting. There’s never a dull moment.
On the other hand, understanding why they are drawn to me is a bit more perplexing. Recently, I have finally started to understand this and want to share it with everyone here. Just like many of us here, I am an Empath, which is a relatively new term in psychology, but one worth noting for purposes of getting over a narcissistic relationship.
An Empath is someone who is highly tuned into other’s emotions and extremely sensitive. I have always been this way. In fact, my childhood buddy was asked to describe me in one word and without hesitation she responded by saying “She’s SENSITIVE.” I was surprised by the rapid-fire response she gave, but it was eye-opening, to say the least.
Being an Empath is both a blessing and a curse. I can feel other people’s emotions as if they’re my own. This has worked very well for me in my career as an HR professional. I am always aware of an employee’s feelings even when disciplinary action is required. I’ve been told by colleagues that my ability to empathize with them is palpable. I absorb and feel the pain of others while talking to them in such a way that they know I have considered their feelings and have done everything possible to minimize their pain. Without a doubt, this is the most consistent piece of feedback I have received in my career as an HR professional.
While this is a blessing in many ways, it proves tricky in interpersonal relationships. As a business professional, I have no difficulty setting boundaries. No one has or will ever take advantage of my ability to feel for them in the workplace. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about relationships outside of work. A narcissist picks up on the sensitivity of an Empath like white on rice. An Empath is the perfect accoutrement to a narcissist.
Empaths are incredible listeners, naturally giving and always there for people they care about. Narcissists notice this immediately because they purposefully seek out relationships with people who are compassionate and in tune with their never-ending emotional needs. An Empath absorbs the emotions of others and will easily fall prey to a narcissist, who simply uses others as an emotional sponge.
Whereas a narcissist doesn’t connect well with others, an Empath connects too much. When Empaths are around peace and love, they flourish. However, when surrounded by an emotional vampire, like a narcissist, an Empath is ravaged.
An Empath absorbs the negativity, fear and rage of a narcissist. So much so that they take on these problems as their own and try to fix things for others. This is precisely what a narcissist is looking for in someone and exactly why they seek out relationships with Empaths.
Recognizing that you are an Empath is the first step to taking charge of your emotions instead of letting others take advantage of you. If someone asks too much of you, it’s ok to say no. You need to start standing up for yourself and setting boundaries. I have finally started doing this in my personal life and it’s amazing how friends I have known for years are reacting. Some really don’t like it.
A high school friend recently sent me an e-mail to tell me “You bring nothing to the table.” I was astounded. I didn’t know after 25 years of friendship, the only thing that matters to her is what she can get out of our relationship. A college friend chose to end our friendship this year when I told her that her direct reports were talking about the affair she had with her boss. She ended our 20 year friendship by telling me I was wrong for being in a position to hear this type of information.
Unfortunately, this just goes to show what kind of people we surround ourselves with as Empaths. I have been putting other people’s needs before my own to the point of self-destruction. Instead of absorbing everyone’s feelings, I am starting to notice how my own emotions make me feel and I’m acting on these feelings. I will never again allow anyone to take advantage of me or insult me without defending myself. I have learned who my real friends are and I cherish them.
Overall, I believe being an Empath is truly a gift, but we must be careful not to allow others to take advantage of us. By setting boundaries and surrounding yourself with positive, healthy, well-adjusted people, it is my hope you will begin to appreciate this gift and find it as life-changing and transformative as I have.