One of the hallmarks of a narcissist is a lack of empathy. Narcissists are so self-absorbed that they find it incredibly difficult—almost impossible—to care about others. But does that mean that they are completely incapable of it? Can a narcissist care about you? Are narcissists simply doomed to go through life without forming any genuine connections?
Fortunately, the answer is no. There are ways to cultivate empathy, such as forming a collaborative alliance with the narcissist, establishing a calm and focused presence, and practicing active listening, among others. Empathy can be learned, but it will take practice and patience on both sides of the relationship.
Can a Narcissist Care About You?
Navigating the Maze of Narcissistic Relationships
Dr. David Hawkins, Director of the Marriage Recovery Center, raises a burning question: Can narcissists feel empathy? It’s a topic that baffles many, and he provides insights into the complex world of narcissistic men and their capacity for genuine care. In this article, we’ll delve into the complexities of narcissism, explore the possibility of empathy in these individuals, and discover practical strategies for fostering empathy in such relationships.
Understanding Narcissistic Men
Narcissistic individuals, particularly men, often come across as self-involved and fragile. Their behavior can be reminiscent of wounded little boys who have developed a strong self-protective and defensive mechanism. Dr. Hawkins highlights that this defensiveness can create a barrier to feeling empathy, which is a critical component of any healthy relationship.
The Quest for Empathy
So, can narcissists truly empathize with others? Dr. Hawkins suggests that while it may be challenging, it is not entirely impossible. The key lies in teaching them empathy by focusing on what is alive in their partner. In the midst of their self-concern, narcissistic men need to learn to listen and understand the concerns, issues, and emotions of their partners.
Tools for Overcoming Defensiveness
The primary tool for overcoming defensiveness in narcissistic individuals is encouraging them to listen attentively to what is alive in their partner. It involves asking questions like, “What is your concern?” or “What is bothering you about this?” This shift in focus from themselves to their partner’s feelings and needs is a significant step towards fostering empathy.
Making Specific Requests
Another crucial aspect of cultivating empathy in a narcissistic relationship is making specific requests. Instead of vague demands or negative criticisms, partners can approach the issue gently and ask for understanding. A positive, proactive approach is more likely to encourage cooperation.
To foster empathy, partners should work together to solve problems. Dr. Hawkins refers to this as a collaborative alliance. By inviting their narcissistic partners to participate in finding solutions, they can help bridge the gap between self-centeredness and empathy.
The Steps to Cultivate Empathy
Dr. Hawkins emphasizes several steps to cultivate empathy in a narcissistic relationship:
- Focused Presence: Practice being fully present when discussing concerns with your partner. This means giving them your undivided attention and listening actively.
- Listening to What’s Alive: Pay close attention to your partner’s emotions and what matters most to them. Understanding their emotional state can be a significant step towards empathy.
- Checking In: Ensure that you have genuinely heard your partner. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand their perspective correctly.
- Inviting More: Encourage your partner to share more if they need to. Sometimes, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Empathy Can Be Learned
While dealing with a narcissistic partner can be challenging, it’s essential to recognize that empathy can be learned. It’s a skill that requires practice, patience, and a calm presence from both parties involved. Dr. Hawkins encourages couples to watch and discuss videos like this to open up conversations about empathy in their relationships.
In conclusion, the question of whether narcissists can truly care about others is a complex one. While narcissistic men may initially come across as self-absorbed and defensive, there is hope for cultivating empathy in these relationships. By using the tools and strategies discussed here, partners can work together to bridge the gap between narcissism and empathy, fostering healthier and more fulfilling connections. Empathy is a skill that can be nurtured and developed, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Also read: Can EMDR Heal Narcissists?
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.