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Empath and Gaslighting: Setting the Record Straight

Uploaded 1/6/2020, approx. 6 minute read

Now, you all know that my name is Sam Vaknin, and that I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

So why should I repeat it every video?

Let's get to the point.

Today we are going to discuss two misunderstood concepts.

One is empath, and the other is gaslighting.

Self-declared, self-styled and self-imputed empaths are actually narcissistic individuals. What do they do online? They trumpet their alleged hypersensitivity as a grandiose claim to uniqueness and to victimhood. They are unique. They are perpetual victims.

Empath, by the way, is a nonsense label, hyped online, but with zero clinical significance. It is not taught in any university and mentioned in very few scholarly articles, usually in a derisive way.

You see, the problem is that everyone is possessed of empathy. Even narcissists and psychopaths have empathy, well, a type of empathy, a form of empathy, which I dubbed cold empathy. Everyone has empathy, and in this sense, of course, everyone is an empath.

I think this is the source of the confusion. There are people who are highly sensitive. They even have a clinical label, highly sensitive persons, or HSPs. Their empathy is so extreme that it renders them skinless, like they don't have a skin. They cannot firewall other people's emotions, other people's pain. They get flooded. They drown in the sort of ambient noise of other people. They get dysregulated. Their moods and emotions are out of control. These are highly sensitive persons, HSPs, but highly sensitive persons are extremely few and far between. They are not a dime a dozen. Highly sensitive persons are not online. They are very unlikely to expose themselves in cyberspace. They tend to be inordinately shy, introverted, schizoid, and avoidant. They are recluses. They avoid the world because the world is painful. They want away from the maddying crowd. They're not likely to join giant online communities and expose themselves to ridicule and criticism, to other people's pains and other people's emotions. They're likely to shy away. Many of them don't have an online presence at all.

So if you see someone who claims to be an empath online, the likelihood is, the very high likelihood is, that this person is actually seeking attention. He is grandiose, and in this sense, technically, he is a narcissist. HSP, highly sensitive person, is not to be confused with a neurological condition known as sensory processing sensitivity. These are people who get flooded by sensa, sensory inputs, smells, sounds, sights. These overwhelm them, and they lose control.

And so the online forums were self-styled empaths congregate, the watering holes of online empaths, self-imputed empaths. These are cesspools. I've been visiting them for years. They are full of malice, disempathy, lack of empathy, one upmanship, spite, evil and delusional fantasies, competitive, professional victimhood.

Online forums of empaths far exceed online forums of narcissists in terms of the concentrated vibe of, for lack of a better word, malice.

Based on anecdotal observations only, most empaths strike me as collapsed or covert narcissists who had been out-narcissized, who have been manipulated and abused by overt narcissists.

These are two types of narcissists competing with each other. One group of narcissists style themselves victims and empaths and attack and fight against. The other group of narcissists, which are overtly and openly grandiose, their self-imputed sensitivity or hypersensitivity is merely a manifestation of narcissistic rage following a series of narcissistic injuries.

Hypersensitivity is not to be confused with hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is when the narcissist scans his human environment for alleged slights or stensible insults, challenges to his grandiosity, to his self-perception and self-image. It's perfect, brilliant, God-like, divine, omniscient and omnipotent.

Hypersensitivity is something completely different. It's when you can't cross the street without being overwhelmed and inundated with other people's agony, existential agony, angst and anxieties and fears and emotions. This happens to extremely few people. It's a pathological condition.

Same thing is happening with gaslighting. Gaslighting, at least the videos I've watched online, made it my business to watch most of them, they're nonsensical. Why are they nonsensical?

Because gaslighting is often confused and conflated with dissociation, with confabulation and with dissonances. I should have foreseen that this is going to happen when I borrowed the term gaslighting and introduced it into the wider discourse in the 1990s. I coined the term narcissistic abuse and was trying to kind of display or explore the varieties of narcissistic abuse, so I borrowed the term gaslighting.

And this is where it all ended. Gaslighting has only one meaning. It is deliberate. It's a deliberate strategy, premeditated strategy of impairing, adversely affecting the reality test of another person, the victim, rendering that person dependent on the gas lighter, on the abuser for critical cognitive functions.

So the victim's judgment is impaired, the victim's perception of reality, the victim's trust in herself, all these are repeatedly undermined, subverted, maliciously so. So the victim becomes dependent on the abuser and this is done usually in order to assert control and for personal gain of some kind.

Gaslighting is therefore a psychopathic tactic, not a narcissistic one.

Narcissists rarely engage in gaslighting. Psychopaths do. Narcissists are a series of other problems which closely mimic gaslighting but are not gaslighting.


The first one is dissociation. Narcissists are dissociated. They're discontinuous. Dissociation is a persistent amnesia, a series of persistent amnesia gaps in memory.

And when you have these repeated gaps in memory, this results in an incoherent and discontinuous sense of self and identity. It also generates inconsistent or contradictory thoughts, emotions and behaviors of the same individual, usually within a short period of time. It can be perceived as gaslighting, but it is not.

Contribulation is how the narcissist copes with dissociation.

The population is writing fiction, short stories. It's an ego-converant attempt to create plausible, though often untrue, narratives to bridge over dissociative, threatening memory gaps.

So the narcissist says, well, I don't remember what had happened, but knowing myself, annoying the environment, annoying the circumstances, this is what could have happened. It is so plausible that it had happened that actually, I believe, it did happen.

You see, narcissists believe in their contribulations. They are not lying when they confabulate. Again, it looks like gaslighting. There's nothing to do with gaslighting.

So narcissists' desperate attempt to restore continuity, to introduce some glue into the disjointed parts of your personality.

And finally, there's dissonance. Everyone has dissonances. A dissonance is when you hold two mutually exclusive and contradictory thoughts, emotions and beliefs at the same time.

So for example, you love someone and you hate him. It's called ambivalence. Emotional ambivalence, love, hate, relationships, very common.

You have two thoughts. They conflict. They can't sit well together. This creates dissonance, a sense of unease. If this continues, creates anxiety.

But people can and do display inconsistent behavior. People change course. People surprise you and surprise themselves. People do things they never thought they could do. It all depends on so many factors.

And dissonances are very common. They are the main source, the main engine of anxiety, but they have nothing to do with gaslighting.

Belatedly I'm trying to introduce some clarity into a field crowded with charlatans, wannabes, unstrapulous therapists and mental health practitioners who capitalize on ignorance and helplessness and fear. It's a swamp out there. We need a Donald Trump to clean it. Not me. I don't have orange hair here. Orange hair is the main qualification. Thank you for listening.

Talk to you next time.

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