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Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, one of which is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Dealing with this kind of behavior without understanding the “why” behind it was frustrating, depressing, infuriating, and confusing. That is why I feel the need to address this issue in-depth in this blog.
I can’t even begin to count the number of occasions that I witnessed lack of empathy in dealing with the narcissistic family in my past. As you probably know from my previous blogs, I had adenomyosis (a painful and debilitating uterine disorder) for seventeen years. During that time, I went through most of my attacks on my own without any help from the narcissistic individuals at that time. I had nights where I thought my abdomen was going to explode (literally!), and there were narcissists in the other room who never checked up on me even though they knew I was sick. I could have been dead in the other room, and they never would have known. I went through many years of this disorder on my own with very little support, and this is one of the main reasons I am so vocal about this disorder. Not only have I been through all of the physical pain, but I have also been down the road of emotional and mental neglect involved in this disorder. There was only one time that a narcissist showed any emotion over my condition, and this is when I actually received the diagnosis of adenomyosis. However, this display of emotion occurred in front of other family members. I now know that this display was for show only. Narcissists like to “appear” like they care, but they really don’t.
There were times when I desperately needed to go to the hospital due to abdominal pain from adenomyosis, and a narcissist actually argued with me about having to go there because they just didn’t want to go. It was too much trouble for them. This happened at another time when I had severe back pain due to a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. Even though this person was seen at the hospital with me, it usually was preceded by a lot of complaining before we arrived.
I witnessed one of the narcissists telling a family member to “get up and go get me some face cream” when that person had been up all night vomiting.
One of the narcissists wanted to go on vacation so badly that she made her sick husband drive over twenty hours, and when they arrived, we noticed that he had red streaks running up his leg. He had cellulitis, and we had to take him straight to the doctor for immediate treatment. They knew he was sick before he left on the trip, but the narcissist insisted that they go anyway.
One narcissist was sick with a head cold, and we were scheduled to go to visit them. We wanted to wait until she was better, but she insisted that we come, saying that “she needed to see us”. While I was there, I came down with a serious head infection. In fact, when we arrived home, my doctor told me that my ears were on the verge of rupturing due to the infection. The narcissist insisted that she didn’t get me sick, saying “It must have come from the plane”.
One day, we received a call about my dad who was in the hospital. The doctors told my mom that she needed to call in the family because he had taken a turn for the worse. The narcissist who drove me to the hospital complained the entire time, asking me if I knew for sure the end was near. This narcissist did not want to go. I cried almost all the way there, but he showed no emotion. He just complained.
Do you see what was going on here? These are all perfect examples of a lack of empathy on the part of the narcissists. They don’t care at all about any discomfort that others are in – they only care about their own needs and wants. During these years, I started to question myself. Did I just complain too much? Shouldn’t I just be a stronger person and deal with these health issues better? Did that infection actually come from the plane? I actually began to feel like I had to “prove” that I had these health problems. One narcissist insisted that I would feel better if I just went to the gym. This shows the ignorance in the knowledge of adenomyosis. Exercise in itself will not heal adenomyosis. Neither will it heal a herniated disc and broken vertebrae. In fact, it may actually worsen the back condition!
I can’t prove that the head infection came from the narcissist, but chances are pretty high. Other than that, the answers to these questions are an emphatic “NO!” The problem is with them, not me. Adenomyosis is a serious uterine disorder that significantly disrupts a woman’s life! If my ears were on the verge of rupturing with that head infection, I had one serious infection! There was no apology – just another incidence of trying to put the blame on someone on the plane. If they can’t understand that – don’t have the ability to empathize – that is their problem – their own personality disorder that THEY need to deal with. I have learned that there is nothing wrong with me. The problem is narcissism and their lack of understanding that they need help.
I now am surrounded by people who actually empathize/sympathize with my health conditions. I have to say that it catches me by surprise when someone is actually sympathetic or empathetic. I’m not used to it. But I can tell you this – I couldn’t be happier that these narcissists are gone and that I actually now have people around me who really care about my well-being. It is refreshing…so refreshing…to have empathetic/sympathetic people in my life who truly want to help me get through the rough times.
If you feel like the people in your life are not empathetic in rough times, I strongly urge you to re-evaluate those relationships and get out of them if possible. Lack of empathy is one of the hallmark signs of many personality disorders, and if they can’t empathize/sympathize, that is a HUGE warning sign that you are not in a healthy relationship. I would advise to get counseling as soon as possible, but don’t expect a change in the narcissist. They rarely admit to having a problem. You may just have to end the relationship.
Hope this information helps. Have a great day, everyone!
This is going to be a hard topic to write about because I struggled with it for so many years during the time in my life that I dealt with narcissists, and I don’t want to sound selfish. I was raised by my parents to always appreciate everything that was given to me, and I tried to do just that. However, at times, I found it very difficult to be truly thankful when receiving gifts from narcissists. Let me explain.
During holidays, I was asked by many people to let them know what I wanted as a gift. This happened most often at Christmas. My mom was wonderful when it came to this – she never, ever questioned my list. I tried to ask for things that I needed but weren’t that expensive – towels, wash cloths, dish rags, a pot, sheets for the bed, etc. She always bought the things on the list, and I was so thankful for that.
However, the narcissists that I dealt with were truly the worst gift-givers. I truly appreciate any gift that is given to me, but dealing with gift-giving with this group was a nightmare. One of them would ask for a list, and I would give one to her just like I did with my mom. She would look at the list and get a funny look on her face. Then she would say “I don’t want to get this kind of stuff. I want to get you something fun!” To try to keep the peace, I would tell her to just get me whatever she wanted, and that made her happy. There were times that she even gave the list back to me. The presents that I received from this person almost never went along with my tastes; regardless, I always thanked them and told them that I appreciated the gifts. Most of the time, the gifts would end up in a cabinet or a closet and would stay there for years. I ended up donating quite a few of these gifts to a thrift store.
Narcissists will give gifts that they want to give according to their own tastes. They don’t consider the recipient’s tastes because narcissists are the center of their own world. According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD. in an article in Psychology today:
“To put it in psychological terms, the poorest gift-givers are likely to be the highest in the personality quality of narcissism, particularly the component of narcissism having to do with empathy.”
She goes on to say that in its extreme form, narcissists will go “off-list” which is exactly what happened in my case. Narcissists are out to please themselves – they don’t care if they please the recipient. Again, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all gifts…but it can get difficult when gifts are given to feed a narcissist’s ego rather than just given out of love for the other person.
I look back now and feel like these narcissists were trying to change me into what they wanted me to be. Even the gifts that were given to me were things that they liked, not things that I liked. This ties into one of my previous blogs on the “false-self”. I unknowingly was being molded into someone that they wanted – they were not willing to accept me just as I am. It has been a true blessing to be separated from this family as it has allowed me to progress to self-awareness. I have learned to love my true self, and I have found peace at last!
Lack of empathy is another distinctive feature of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, and that will be discussed in-depth in my next blog.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Whitbourne, Susan K. (2015). The narcissist’s guide to gift-giving. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201512/the-narcissist-s-guide-gift-giving