Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Abusive Empath

In the blog The Abused Empath we talked about Empaths who have a tendency to come from abusive situations, be it from a home life, a loved one, or even a stranger. We talked about the potential long term effects that abuse can have on people.

In the same vein, I think it is equally important to talk about the other side of this through the Abusive Empath. Now I know this kind of seems like an oxymoron, given what most people presume an Empath is. How can they be abusive? Aren't they more likely, as people who are hypersensitive people pleasers, to be abused instead?

But we come back to the most basic fact which is that Empaths are human beings who go through any number of life long human experiences which carry with them the potential to condition them into certain kinds of behaviors. So we are going to explore this uncomfortable topic in more detail, because it is an important one to understand.

Negative Potentials Of An Empath

An Empath is generally someone who is considered a people pleaser who excels in being a mediator and/or a counselor. They are the people who always have a shoulder to lean on. They are the people that listen when you have problems. They are the people who care.

But because they have this type of hypersensitivity toward other people's emotional states, there is also potential to abuse this trait. This is true because with this kind of emotional awareness comes the ability consciously manipulate it for personal gain.

Let's put this another way, as we introduce the Empath to you, often the person who has the capability and capacity to offer genuine empathy to others, can potentially hold the emotional well being or the emotional destruction of another person in the palm of their hands.

Now, I know that sounds like a gross overestimation of the influence an Empath can play on the emotional lives of those around them. But in truth, it is not to far from reality. When a person consciously wields awareness through emotional and interpersonal intelligence, they have as much potential to wreak havoc on those around them as they do to help them.


To elaborate a bit, Interpersonal Intelligence is a type of intelligence that focuses on communication. Those who exhibit strong interpersonal intelligence are good at understanding and interacting with other people. These individuals are skilled at assessing the emotions, motivations, desires and intentions of those around them.

And Emotional Intelligence is defined in terms of emotional empathy, attention to, and discrimination of, one's emotions, accurate recognition of one's own and others' moods, mood management or control over emotions, response with appropriate (adaptive) emotions and behaviors in various life situations, especially to stress and difficult situations, balancing of honest expression of emotions against courtesy, consideration, and respect (i.e., possession of good social skills and communication skills).

Given this description, Emotional Intelligence would seem to encompass and expand upon Interpersonal Intelligence. This is because it isn't just an awareness of others, as Interpersonal Intelligence is. It is a broader spectrum awareness that includes self and others. In other words, Emotional Intelligence also includes something called Intrapersonal Intelligence, which means being adept at looking inward and figuring out their own feelings, motivations and goals. People who exhibit this kind of intelligence are introspective and seek understanding. They are intuitive and typically introverted. And they learn best independently. So what we end up with is a multidimensional awareness called Emotional Intelligence, which is inclusive of both Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligence.

Now add to that a heightened awareness to the emotional states of others, where in one may share in those emotional states right along side the other person. And you have someone who may exhibit a deeper understanding of human psychology and behavior than most people generally do.

Now we must return to the very basic fact that the people we are speaking about are human beings. The reason for this is because we must now take into account other things which can have a deep abiding impact on the psyche of an Empath. That is to say, things that can have an impact on anyone, not just Empaths.

What are these things, you might be wondering? Well, here we come to things like environment and nurturing, from the formative years to adulthood. These things can have an impact on how an Empath reacts to certain situations that will occur throughout their lives as they navigate the world around them.

Let me say here, that this is not going to be an all inclusive blog to tell you about each and every factor that can play a part in the possibility of Empaths becoming abusive in the future. There are simply to many to cover. Instead we will look at a few examples that exemplify how these kinds of things can impact a person's social interactions later in life.


For instance, let us look at abuse. We talked about this some in the other blog, The Abused Empath, where we spoke about the long term effects of child abuse on people. But in that discussion we focused on the Empath becoming a life long victim. But there is another side to this.

There are statistics that say that upto 1/3 of abused children will potentially go on to victimize their own children. Mind you, this does not say that the only people who become abusers are those who have been abused themselves. Nor does it point a finger and say that if you have been abused, you will be one of that 1/3 to abuse other people. But this lends to a pattern of behavior that carries forward in a person's life, that they might have assumed were normal conditions to live with when they were suffering from abuse themselves.

Let me show you a statement I found interesting about Abuse:

Children are traumatized by witnessing violence in their family. The children in these homes are at high risk of being battered themselves by either the batterer or the victim. In addition, the long-term effects of witnessing such violence can create a cycle of violence that spans generations. We know that many men who are abusive witnessed their mothers being abused and many were victims of physical abuse themselves. We also know that women who come from a family in which they witnessed their mother being battered are more susceptible to developing what is called "battered women's syndrome." Such women may come to believe there is nothing they can do to get out of an abusive relationship. Both men and women who come from abusive homes may come to view the violence they have witnessed as normal, and carry it into their own relationships as adults.
Emotional Suppression

Moving on, we come to another set of issues that can play an equally large part on an Empath, or anyone for that matter, and that is psychological issues and mental illness. One of these, which is a type of psychological issue, is called Emotional Suppression.

One site says this about Emotional Suppression:
Essentially, Emotional Suppression is a type of emotion regulation strategy -– these are strategies that we use to try to make uncomfortable thoughts and feelings more manageable. Suppressing emotions, or just trying to push emotional thoughts and feelings out of your mind, is an emotion regulation strategy many people use. And, when used from time to time, it doesn't have dramatic negative consequences like drug or alcohol use. But, there is reason to believe that if you try to push emotions away all the time, emotional suppression could lead to problems.
Let's look at how this applies to what we are discussing in our broader topic. Emotional Suppression, which can also sometimes be referred to as Emotional Repression and/or Emotional Dissociation, is basically a strategy used to repress unwanted thoughts and emotions. There are numerous reasons one might utilize this tact from family discomfort toward emotions to societal viewpoints on emotional expression. But beyond the why, we come to the possible consequences of this strategy.

You see, Emotional Suppression forces the conscious mind to relegate certain emotions/thoughts to the unconscious mind and the physical body. And the unconscious mind/body can only hold so much repressed material before it has to get rid of something. When you give your emotional responsibilities to the body, it can eventually end up translating into pain and/or illness. When you give those emotions to the unconscious mind and tell it that negative emotions are unacceptable, you unconscious mind works extremely hard to make that happen for you. But eventually things begin to seep out and can lead to things from depressive thoughts and suicide attempts to explosive rage, bullying, and even violence.


Narcissism, as in excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance, can be defined by several different standards. In psychology it's meaning is an extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type. In psychoanalysis it is a self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.

Narcissism would essentially be an overdeveloped focus on one's self to the exclusion of all others. What this means is that the person we are talking about wouldn't just be focused on themselves or in love with themselves, though. They would also be self serving in how they interact with other people.

These are the types of people who need to be the center of attention. This could be done by playing the consummate victim, in order to keep everyone's focus on them with emotions like sympathy and pity. This can also be done through more manipulative and/or aggressive means, as well. Meaning that there can be different types of abuse involved in this process, in order to keep another person's focus on the Narcissist.

Often times, this kind of behavior is cover for such things as low self esteem. And it can be expressed through a need to give oneself a false sense of pride in oneself. This can mean causing the focus to be on themselves or through making themselves look better, smarter, or prettier than those around them.

The Abusive Empath

Now when you combine any number of these factors with the idea of being hypersensitive to the emotions and emotional states of others, which is the general definition of what an Empath is, what you find is someone with the potential to do a great deal of harm to other people. It doesn't have to be physical harm, either. Our main focus here is psychological and emotional harm.

These people often wear masks to cover up these traits, as well. So they are very hard to recognize. Anyone can fall prey to them, even the most developmentally aware Empaths.

So understanding that abuse is not limited to one type of personality is important. And recognizing, in stead of denying the truth, that Empaths carry the same types of issues that other types of people do, is of equal importance, as well.

Empaths come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of personalities, that are not limited to the types defined in the 16 Common Traits Of An Empath. And some types, based off their personal issues, can be more detrimental, through social discourse and interaction, than others.

To help you understand this better, I'm going to offer you some characteristics of an Emotional Manipulator, by gender, and then the different types of emotional manipulation. These are important because Empaths, in particular, can become very adept at these things.

Common Characteristics of an Emotional Abuser


1. He was verbally abused as a child, or witnessed it in his own family.

2. He has an explosive temper, triggered by minor frustrations and arguments.

3. Abusers are extremely possessive and jealous. They experience an intense desire to control their mates.

4. His sense of masculinity depends on the woman's dependency upon him. He feels like a man only if his partner is totally submissive and dependent on him.

5. Abusers often have superficial relationships with other people. Their primary, if not exclusive, relationship is with their wife/girlfriend.

6. He has low self-esteem.

7. He has rigid expectations of marriage (or partnership) and will not compromise. He expects her to behave according to his expectations of what a wife should be like; often the way his parents' marriage was, or its opposite. He demands that she change to accommodate his expectations.

8. He has a great capacity for self-deception. He projects the blame for his relationship difficulties onto his partner. He would not be drunk if she didn't nag him so much. He wouldn't get angry if only she would do what she's supposed to do. He denies the need for counseling because there's nothing wrong with him. Or he agrees to get counseling and then avoids it or makes excuses to not follow through. He might not want her to get counseling because, he reasons, she wouldn't have any problems if she only turned to him.

9. He may be described as having a dual personality -- he is either charming or exceptionally cruel. He is selfish or generous depending on his mood.

10. A major characteristic of abusers is their capacity to deceive others. He can be cool, calm, charming and convincing: a con man.

11. The mate is usually a symbol. The abuser doesn't relate to his partner as a person in her own right, but as a symbol of a significant other. This is especially true when he's angry. He assumes that she is thinking, feeling, or acting like that significant other -- often his mother.


1. She was verbally abused as a child, witnessed it in her own family, or was verbally abused by a previous partner.

2. She has low self-esteem.

3. She has an intense temper, triggered by minor frustrations and arguments.

4. Her sense of power or control depends on her partner's acquiescence and his performance per her demands. She feels "in control" only if her partner is totally passive and giving in to all of her preferences and decisions.

5. She has rigid expectations or fantasies of marriage, partnership, or men, and will not compromise. She expects him to behave according to her expectations of what her partner should be like; perhaps the way her parents' marriage was, or its opposite. She demands that he change to accommodate her expectations.

6. She projects the blame for all relationship difficulties onto her partner. She wouldn't get angry if only he would be who she wants him to be... She wouldn't drink if he didn't make her unhappy... She denies the need for counseling because there's "nothing wrong with her, only with him." She might not want him to get counseling because she's threatened by the threat of an outsider "taking sides" with him.

7. Abusers are extremely possessive and jealous. They experience an intense desire to control their mates.

8. Abusers often have superficial relationships with other people. Her primary, if not exclusive, relationship is with her husband/boyfriend.

9. She may be described as having a dual personality -- she is either sweet or exceptionally cruel and sharp. She is selfish or generous depending on her mood.

10. A major characteristic of abusers is their capacity to deceive others. She can be sweet, calm, charming and convincing.

11. The mate is usually a symbol. The abuser doesn't relate to her partner as a person in his own right, but as a symbol of a significant other. This is especially true when she's angry. She assumes that he is thinking, feeling, or acting like that significant other -- often her father (or other family member or authority figure).

Here are the different types of Emotional Manipulation that exist:

Forms of Emotional Manipulation

1. Dominance — Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his possession.

2. Humiliation — An abuser will do everything he can to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.

3. Isolation — In order to increase your dependence on him, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. Source: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, MN

4. Threats — Abusers commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.

5. Intimidation — Your abuser may use a variety of intimation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.

6. Denial and blame — Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He will commonly shift the responsibility onto you: Somehow, his violence and abuse is your fault.

So in the end, what is the point of all of this information? It breaks down to nothing more than awareness. Being aware that Empaths are human beings, before anything else, who have the same potential as anyone else to become manipulative and/or abusive. They are, perhaps, even more adept at it than most people are. So think about it and Be aware.

You can find more on this topic here:

The Abused Empath
The Repressed Emotion: Anger
Profile Of A Narcissist & Symptoms Of Narcissism
Unconscious Motivations: The Secret Life Of An Empath
Low Self Esteem And It's Possible Effects
When You Are Safest In The Middle Of The Road: A Look At Emotional Extremes
Toxic People: Recognizing And Dealing With Them
The Empathic/Emotional Manipulator
The Big No No: Empathic Manipulation

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