Feeling Sympathy For Narcissists: The Arguments For And Against

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Should we sympathize with the narcissists among us?

That is the difficult question posed in this article.

On the surface of it, you might think it’s a ridiculous question to ask – why should we care for anybody who shows no care for others?

Look a little deeper, however, and there are some genuine arguments that suggest we should pity these poor souls rather than regard them as toxic.

It is most definitely a double-edged sword, though.

There are just as many reasons to feel nothing but resentment towards them, and we’ll try to look at both sides of the debate below.

Sympathy Vs. Feeling Sorry Or Bad

The title of this article could have easily used the words ‘sorry’ or ‘bad’ in place of sympathy, but these are definitely two things that you should not feel towards a narcissist.

Firstly, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for when it comes to narcissists.

You did not make them the way they are, you do not owe them anything, and distancing yourself from them is not a cruel act in any way.

Likewise, if you feel bad for a narcissist, then you are once again falling under their spell.

You do not need to express a negative emotion on their behalf; you should not let their plight bring you down in any way.

Sympathy, on the other hand, is not a negative emotion and it does not imply any blame on your part.

Sympathy is a feeling that has its roots in love, in caring, and in compassion.

Reasons We Should Sympathize With Narcissists

Let’s make one thing clear: feeling sympathy towards a narcissist does not mean that you have to condone their actions.

When you come to consider the condition more subjectively, however, you may decide that the best response to it is one of caring.

Narcissism can be considered a mental illness such that it is a disorder of the mind that severely impacts the lives of those who suffer from it.

The exact cause is unknown and it is likely that there are many varied paths that lead people towards narcissism.

Like your own personality, it will be a combination of genetics and life experience.

This is an important argument for feeling sympathy towards narcissists.

They have developed this way because of factors which have been largely beyond their control growing up.

They might not be any more responsible for their issues than someone who suffers severe anxiety or who is bipolar.

You have to ask whether any narcissist chooses to be that way through their own free will.

We might also sympathize with a narcissist when we discover just how unhappy many (but not all) are likely to be.

Many of their behaviors stem from a self-loathing that leaves them angry and frustrated.

They take this out on others as a coping mechanism, but it doesn’t mask the fact that deep down, they are experiencing great pain of their own.

Another part of the sad reality of many narcissists is that they struggle to build and maintain any real relationships.

They might feel little connection to their families, have few friends that they can count on, and hop from one disastrous relationship to another.

Now put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine how this feels (something that narcissists are typically incapable of).

Picture a life where you are unable to feel love, intimacy, compassion, and affection.

How lonely do you think such an existence might be?

Over time, they will drive a large number of those who care for them away and be left with nothing but the empty husks of resentment and hurt.

Finally, you might feel sympathy towards narcissists because they lack the capacity to grow – both personally and spiritually.

Most will never understand the world and their place in it, never feel a deep sense of connection to the rest of the universe, and never be able to improve themselves as people.

Put all of the above together and you might start to understand how someone might show some sympathy towards narcissists.

More essential narcissist reading (article continues below):

Reasons We Should Not Sympathize With Narcissists

Those who have been subjected to the company of a narcissist at any great length will no doubt tell you how incredibly taxing they can be.

Unsurprisingly, then, the main arguments against feeling sympathy for them are to do with their behavior and their treatment of other people.

And it is almost universally the case that narcissists are particularly destructive personalities to be around.

They are not beacons of peace and serenity in the slightest. They seem to rejoice in chaos and drama.

Perhaps it is because any form of stability gives their minds time to reflect on their own sense of unhappiness that they are forever looking for ways to stir trouble.

Furthermore, those who find themselves in a close relationship with a narcissist – both partners and family members alike – experience behavior that only gets worse over time.

Eventually, the way a narcissist treats these people amounts to very damaging abuse.

They are responsible for destroying lives and making others feel worthless.

They are capable of quite brutal assaults on the minds of those they are close to and they can leave their victims scarred for life.

What’s more is that society is generally very clear on what is and is not acceptable behavior, and so narcissists are well aware that their own actions are deemed objectionable by others.

It must be said, then, that they act with full knowledge of the wrong they are committing and of the lives they are impacting.

What is particularly hard to stomach for most is that narcissists often show little or no remorse for the way they behave, but attempt to pin the blame on everyone else.

They come across as cold and calculating, not at all impacted by the anguish they cause.

And saddest of all, perhaps, is that very few narcissists will ever make the sorts of changes necessary to curtail their negative influence.

Therapy may help some to soften their approach to others, but ‘curing’ a narcissistic personality disorder is almost unheard of.

So Should We Feel Any Sympathy Towards Narcissists?

This is a question that you will need to answer for yourself.

The arguments above are not exhaustive by any means and, indeed, there are entire books that discuss this disorder and its place in society.

How you feel about narcissists will, to a large degree, depend on your own personal experience of them.

In the end, nobody can make you sympathetic to the plight of a narcissist and even setting out the arguments for and against in a logical manner might not help.

The choice is yours alone to make.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.