dark empath

Here’s Why The ‘Dark Empath’ Myth Needs To Be Debunked

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The term ‘dark empath’ has been lurking on the Internet in recent months. It’s a concerning trend that needs to be addressed, particularly when it comes to narcissistic abuse recovery.

The dark empath term refers to the idea that some empaths are secretly narcissistic and that they are the most dangerous people of all. In other words, these “kindhearted people” are actual sociopaths using cognitive empathy to meet their needs.

At first glance, the concept might seem plausible.  After all, even the most empathic and altruistic person feels frustrated from time to time. And if you’ve had disturbing thoughts about the narcissist in your life, you might question your motives, too. You might doubt if your intentions were ever truly positive.

But dark empaths don’t exist, and this myth is a dangerous one. It can cause unnecessary shame and self-loathing. It can also even perpetuate faulty beliefs about narcissists and their true intentions. Let’s dive deeper.

What Does It Mean To Be An Empath?

Empathy allows us to understand and relate to the emotions that other people experience. Empathic people are curious about others, and they can readily see situations from another perspective. Empathy is an essential ingredient in healthy relationships- it’s what makes people feel safe and validated. 

People have varying degrees of empathy. In fact, with practice and intention, you can learn to cultivate more empathy in your life.

A true empath, however, has more than just empathy. They essentially take on the emotions of other people as if they were their own. In other words, if you identify as an empath, when someone else is in pain, you are also in pain. If they’re scared, you’re scared.

It’s no secret that empaths feel emotions intensely. That’s because they’re constantly experiencing different feelings at different frequencies.

But they also can’t just turn these emotions on and off. People often tell empaths to stop caring so much, but empaths cannot voluntarily “choose” how much they care about other people- the caring is part of who they are. It’s as automatic as anything else. 

Empaths desperately value human connection. Because this connection is so important, they tend to be patient, compassionate, and good at listening. Many people gravitate towards them for their generosity. 

At times, however, empaths may also come across as fragile, sensitive, or needy. Because they feel emotions so profoundly, they may struggle with self-regulation and impulse control. Additionally, they might feel like they have no identity- often, they judge their worth by how well they give to other people. 

How Do You Know if You’re an Empath?

Empaths are highly attuned to other people’s emotions. As mentioned, this attunement extends beyond understanding emotions- true empaths embody what other people feel. In some cases, empaths even experience physical pain when someone they love is in pain.

Here are some other ways to tell if you’re an empath:

  • You may experience intense emotions out of nowhere.
  • You feel “vibes” wherever you go, and you can’t always explain them.
  • You feel incredibly overwhelmed with love for animals.
  • You can’t help but want to help other people. 
  • You are sensitive to any shift in someone else’s energy.
  • You naturally seem to calm other people down (even if you’re not trying)
  • You hate conflict and want to avoid it at all costs.
  • You become overstimulated by noises or bright lights.
  • You get overwhelmed when you have too many tasks.

Not all empaths have every trait. However, a true empath will relate to most of these items. Moreover, it isn’t just about having empathy with a single person. Empaths experience these tendencies in all situations. 

Why Do People Believe In The Dark Empath Theory?

The dark empath theory emerges from the idea that some empaths rely on cognitive empathy to meet their needs. According to this theory, they use the same manipulation tactics that narcissists use on their victims. Their empathy (even if it seems incredibly legitimate) isn’t genuine. 

Cognitive empathy refers to artificial empathy used to build connections or validate someone else. Many narcissists use this fine-tuned skill to function in everyday life. It allows them to get what they want while tricking their victims into thinking they care about them. 

Narcissists understand the benefits associated with empathy. They know that people want to feel understood and appreciated. They also know that connecting to emotions is often key to making loved ones feel safe.

However, the lack of real empathy helps define narcissism. Narcissists don’t switch between cognitive empathy and real empathy. They only act to serve their best interest. 

Therefore, the dark empath theory isn’t accurate. Empaths aren’t being manipulative with their actions. Their empathy is part of who they are- and, in fact, many times, people wish they could turn it on or off! 

Can Empaths Fake Empathy? 

We all fake emotions sometimes. For example, you can pretend to feel sad for your coworker if they get in trouble at work (even if you can’t stand them). You can pretend to love your mother-in-law’s tasteless lasagna. 

Faking emotions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We all depend on various social cues to connect with other people. Consequently, it isn’t always appropriate to be brutally honest in all situations.

Additionally, anyone can indeed use cognitive empathy. After all, many of us practice this skill in our lives. We want to make an important sale, so we think about what will compel our client to buy the product. We hope to make a good impression on our new neighbor, so we listen intently and empathize with their long-winded story. 

But true empathy isn’t something you can fake. And true empaths have true empathy- it’s what makes them an empath in the first place!

Why The Dark Empath Idea Is So Damaging

Let’s be real. If you’ve been with a narcissist, you’ve already experienced an intense gauntlet of emotional abuse. You know what it feels like to be with someone who doesn’t care about your needs or feelings. You also know what it feels like to already believe you’re the constant problem.

The dark empath idea can perpetuate gaslighting. Instead of focusing the attention on the narcissist, this theory blames empaths for doing something wrong. In a sense, it justifies narcissistic behavior, as if the empath is to blame for the issue. 

Of course, this also happens when the empath already feels beaten down. By this time, their self-esteem is already compromised. 

Instead of the empath feeling empowered, they now have another reason to torment themselves. Are they really as empathic as they think they are? Are they really as loving and kind as they try to be? Or are they just as bad- if not worse- than the narcissist? 

Do Only Narcissists Use Cognitive Empathy?

No, as mentioned anyone can use cognitive empathy. It isn’t always wrong, either. 

However, narcissists thrive on this type of empathy to manipulate the people in their life. It’s how they keep loved ones hooked. Narcissists don’t experience normal empathy for other people. They don’t comprehend anyone else’s needs or feelings.

Instead, they use cognitive empathy to foster a sense of learned helplessness. In other words, they aren’t being compassionate for the sake of being compassionate. They’re being compassionate because it gets them closer to what they want. Later, they may turn and exploit this against you.

Are Empaths Attracted to Narcissists? 

There’s a common belief that empaths are attracted to narcissists. It’s as if someone’s compassionate nature targets hostility and abuse.

While it’s true that empath-narcissist relationships are common, it’s dangerous to assume that empaths inherently desire such awful behavior. This mindset essentially dooms empaths- it’s as if they are destined to crave turmoil and chaos. 

Instead, it’s usually the other way around. Narcissists want to fulfill their own emotional needs. They want someone who can comfort, validate, and affirm their wonderful selves. That’s why they feel drawn to empaths- at times, empaths are the only people who seemingly listen to them.

Unfortunately, once the empath starts gaining insight into the problem, the narcissist engages in a vicious merry-go-round full of hoovering, love-bombing, and hate-bombing. These tactics are all designed to keep the empath closely contained and controlled.

What if You’re an Empath Suffering From Narcissistic Abuse?

It’s important to remember that this abuse isn’t your fault. No matter what the narcissist tries to tell you, nobody deserves idle threats, confusing mind games, or physical pain. 

Don’t blame yourself for not seeing the signs sooner. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re a dark empath or that something is inherently wrong with you. Many narcissists are skilled in tricking people into believing they are the root of the problem. If you’re an empath, it’s easy to fall right into this faulty mindset. 

Narcissistic abuse is as insidious as it is devastating. Often, the abuse progresses over time. The end goal is always about fulfilling the narcissist’s needs. It’s never about your well-being or happiness, despite what they might try to convince you.

Exiting the relationship is the best solution for ending this pain.

If this article resonates with you and you know it’s time to stop the chaos, end the mental torture, and begin healing your life, then I’d love for you to join us in our Inner Circle by claiming your free Beginner’s Healing Roadmap.

You can .

If you’re ready to go deeper and change your life right NOW (or become an Empowered Empath), I offer a wide range of effective resources and techniques to protect against toxic people – in my bestselling program, The Essential Break Free Bootcamp.

I’m excited to share with you the psychological tools I and thousands of others have used to heal from narcissistic abuse.

Explore techniques derived from behavioral therapy (vetted by the psychological and neuro-psychological communities) to finally heal your life.

Learn more here!

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Leave a Comment:

Goorgot Molmuve says October 31, 2023

The true origins of the idea behind “Dark Empath” come from a special access program started during the Cold War. The individuals that were a part of that program had their gifts weaponized and this is what took over from the Stargate Program. The Dark Empath propagation serves an agenda.

Matt says May 24, 2023

Thank God someone is fighting back against this absurd term. I don’t like the term “dark empath.” It’s like giving the Narcissist Lite types a free pass. (I see it as a term that empaths use as a desperate Hail Mary pass to hold on to something or someone they shouldn’t.)

I’ve always liked your videos/commentary on the NPD trends of the day, so I am pleasantly surprised to see this link show up first on my web search against such an absurd misnomer of a term.

Joy says May 31, 2021

Thank you for clarifying this absurdity and for explaining cognitive empathy which, to my mind, is a tool used effectively by the predators that narcissists are

    Kim Saeed says June 2, 2021

    You’re welcome, Joy 😉

Carol says April 3, 2021

Mirror /fake?

Claudia says February 6, 2021

I interpreted it as the normal shitty person , like the bully who verbally insults you just to break his boredom it doesn’t need to be as severe as aspd or npd case.
A good portion of people are assholes and somewhat cruel , and they have less of an excuse than people with actual personality disorders.

Pasha says October 31, 2020

Fantastic piece – characteristically clearly thought out and distinguished, and entirely true going by real life experience!

Bob says October 21, 2020

nice article Kim, I don’t know where I heard about this concept before but I have..
I like the definition of an empath… Yes towards the end… it still befalls be how the empath can be made to look bad…. most all my relatives that know of my relationship… still think I am the manipulative one, among other things also bad for lack of not using a worse word…
I’ve been out a while now… they will always think of me negatively…
I try to stay away from them… they drain my energy . that is sad in itself… nothing I can do about it so not trying anymore… just moving on to people that can see things more clearly..

    Joy says May 31, 2021

    Chances are they are toxic themselves. I’ve pondered this dynamic for years (prior to learning about narcissism in the past year) and realized that those who are genuine gravitate to me and understand me even if they didn’t always agree with my methods when I was a youngster. But the ones who have unexplained issues with me, without fail, turn out to be toxic people. Unfortunately, this includes several family members – they just have a knack for saying or doing something that breaks your spirit. You stay away for a period of time to recover but fate brings you back together, all is well but only for a time that gets shorter each occurrence but, inevitably, the same old lack of genuine love gets expressed in one way or another. It is best to have as little as possible to do with them (if you cannot cut them out of your life) because they will NOT change.

Jon Rhodes says October 14, 2020

Thanks for this Kim. I think you hit the nail on the head right at the end. Narcissists love to pass the buck and project their deficiencies onto others. So many accuse their partners of being the narcissist. I could see many replacing this with accusations of being a “dark empath” in order to make their partners feel they’re the problem, and not the narcissist.

Candace says October 13, 2020

Thank you Kim for dispelling this, and other, harmful myths. I’ve known that I’m an empath since I was four years old and most of friends have accepted it and thought it was pretty cool that I could “read” people so accurately. I agree with Claire that this “dark empath” BS was probably started by a narcissist who hoped it would catch on and leave us true empaths having to explain and justify ourselves.

Rugia says October 13, 2020

I really enjoyed reading every bit of this article. There are many new ideas I never knew before.
It’s an upgrade for me. Thank you Kim.

Anonymous says October 13, 2020

Constantly hoping my gut is wrong but always ending up disappointed. I pray I can stop this cycle for good and forget him. It’s not fair to keep hoping for truth or change only to be let down again and again.

carlotta price says October 13, 2020

Thank you for this information. My mother-in-law first told me she thinks I’m a empath I wasn’t sure what that was until now. Can you please tell others that we also feel the anger of others and it will ramp up being around these types of people who are intentionally trying to hurt or abuse our loved ones or ourselves. Mostly loved ones cause we are able to deal with most bs and rather not fight unless there isn’t another way out. I think thats why when we mirror narcissists they claim we are evil and hateful and we have no need to prove what they claim we are to others so they get away with the lies. My case at least, can’t speak for others. It made sense why people think we are not genuine in dealing with people cause most people haven’t delt with our types. It’s sad really that the narcissist fool many and empaths are looked at as being manipulative. This is why I prefer to deal with kids and animals. Their love is real and their intentions are not to use and abuse you. They are pure at heart. Much wicked in the world now and I try to focus on God and his will for my life. Thank you for reaching out and giving me a better insight of things. Thought I was getting evil cause I’ve decided not to care about what this narcissistic team does and won’t give closures to evil doers. It made no sense to have to talk to them cause they know what they’ve done to me,intentionally destroying much.

Claire says October 13, 2020

It makes you wonder who originally perpetuated this myth, the narcissist,!! just to make us feel even worse and make us doubt Ourselves even more

    carol says January 25, 2021

    Claire brilliant . Try the narc we know. Said she wanted to join the Samaritans and why because she saw a post about her sister looking after her gran. Did she join or apply did she ever no never ever did I thing for any charity all talk to try and impress me or our son. i would say all talk never any action.

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