Human beings are complex creatures with a myriad of traits in various intensities, and Psychology has always tried to unravel its complexities so that we understand ourselves and each other better.
Previously in the academia of Psychology, It was implied that Narcissistic people and Psychopaths are so detached from other people’s emotions and don’t think twice about hurting others because they lack empathy. They were labeled as “empathy deficits” i.e people unable to identify with the emotions of others. However, in the realm of Psychological Studies, a new personality trait has been recently revealed where people with dark personality traits showed signs of above-average empathy, which was extremely unusual for such people, thus a new personality trait was established; The Dark Empaths.
At the first glance, the word doesn’t sit right with us. “Dark” is not a term we would use with the luminous trait of empathy. So let’s break down the two terms to see how they can connect.
Dark personality traits include the dark tetrad of sadism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. People with such traits are characterized by callousness, aggressiveness, cynicism, and manipulative nature. These people either can’t help or take joy in hurting others.
Empathy, on the other hand, is also a psychologically defined trait in which the empath is deeply sensitive to the emotions of other people. In simple terms, these are the people who can easily put themselves in the shoes of others and connect with both of their positive and negative emotions. Many empaths would do anything, sometimes even at their own expense, to avoid hurting others.
Thus it is Ironic for a person with dark traits to have empathy. It would be easier to understand such people if they had no empathy, it would explain many of their behaviors. The fact that these people hurt others despite having empathy shows a very dark side of humanity.
But it also important to note here that dark empaths have only cognitive empathy and not affective empathy, which means that they can identify the emotions of others but cannot feel them as their own.
Some psychologists have called “The Dark Empath” as the most dangerous personality type because their empathy allows them to know what exactly the other person feels. Therefore, they use it against them. They know where it hurts the most and can cause severe psychological trauma by using those insecurities. Recent studies are also revealing that dark empaths are not so rare, and 19% from a group of 900-1000 people are dark empaths. Thus it is best to recognize and avoid them if you ever come across one.
Here are 5 signs of a dark empath.
They Are Narcissistic
Remember that quote that went “I have this weird self-esteem issue where I hate myself but still think that I am better than everyone else”. Turns out that these are the dark empaths. They consider themselves superior to others and would not take kindly to being turned down or patronized. They would also never accept and apologize if they are wrong in an argument or situation.
They Are Observant
This might seem like a good trait, but they are only carefully absorbing everything you tell/show or don’t tell/show them because they want to use it against you later. They have a way of lowering your defenses and once you have opened up to them, they will misuse it in the worst possible way.
They Often Appear To Be Charming and Agreeable Extroverts
Dark empaths, unlike other dark triads, are not social recluses. They are very sociable and extroverted. They enjoy social contact and activities but often with ulterior motives. They like being the dominant center of attention but they also tend to be mistrusting of people and cannot form any true connection with others. Often they don’t even truly enjoy social company but are only faking the appropriate reactions since they are master deceivers. However, you can see right through their façade if you look hard and close enough. Their compliments seem insincere and their kindness lacks any genuineness.
They Enjoy Seeing Others Suffer (Gaslighting, Guilt-Tripping, And Malicious Humor)
Dark empaths tend to display passive-aggressive behaviors. Their weapon of choice is not physical but emotionally hurtful attacks such as gaslighting, bullying, guilt-tripping and gossiping. They also employ malicious humor to cause maximum damage. They use these hurtful devices to dominate others, as they always like to be in control.
They Are Neurotic/Self-Critical
Neuroticism is a personality type wherein the individual experiences severe negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and negative thinking. Studies have confirmed neurotic traits in dark empaths and believe that they often judge themselves critically and harshly. It is possible that the presence of empathy in their personality weighs on their conscience. They don’t try to overcome their dark side but they do recognize it as a dark side and thus constantly self-loathe.
“One of the things we found in the dark empath is that they were very low in self-compassion and very high in harsh self-judgment. It’s as if they are aware of the dark side, and perhaps, kicking themselves for it. -Dr. Alexandar Sumich (verywellmind)
Note: If you recognize all or even some of these traits in yourself, there is no shame in reaching out and seeking help from professionals so that you and others around you can live a healthy fulfilling life. And if it is someone you know, try your best to gently nudge them in the right direction. It is time to remove the stigma around dark personality traits.