Article (January-2021)


Beware of vampires in disguise : Dark empaths

Dr. Farah Naqvi

Designation : -   Associate Professor (OB & HR)

Organization : -  Gulf Centre for University Education (GCUE), Kuwait


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Empathy is one of the most desirable human traits. Listening to someone without judgment seeing things from their eyes is not only comforting to the speaker but enhances the worldview of the listener. Hogan defined empathy as 'the intellectual or imaginative apprehension of another's condition or state of mind' that builds trust, understanding and connection. But before confiding your life matters to an amiable person exuding warmth, be double sure he/she is not a dark empath or someone with empathy alongside 'dark triad'.

The dark empaths successfully deploy empathy with dark triad traits making them vicious. The term "Dark Triad" coined by researchers Delroy L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams in 2002 refers to a trio of negative personality traits, namely narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy.

Have you come across a person with a heightened sense of self-regard seeking self-admiration with a constant need for being in the spotlight? Probably you have encountered a narcissist who has an exaggerated sense of self-importance. To satisfy their constant need for attention when faced with a situation that makes them envious, or their position insecure, without guilt, they engage in desperate measures to elevate their position or put the other person down. The second dark triad machiavellianism based on the political philosophy of 16th-century writer Niccolo Machiavelli is characterized by manipulating others using deceit, flattery or lies to meet one's personal goals. The third dark triad psychopathy may appear to be seemingly normal and friendly, but they operate with an element of detachment, disturbing others affective states without any remorse.

Combine these dark triad traits with empathy and the outcome of this fusion can be the perilous dark empaths! What makes them far more dangerous is that you can't categorize them as a villain, unlike the dark, deceitful individual. Dark empaths impressing you with their warmth, charisma are those vampires that will feed on you while pretending to care about your feelings. They may first seek to understand others emotional state, relying more on cognitive empathy and then act in manipulative ways harming their target. Once they have a good understanding of the nature of their target, their fears, weakness, sensitive points and what triggers them; they use it to provoke, nurture or further the negative states in the other person while coming across as someone who is with you not against you. While empathy is characterized by an intrinsic desire to comfort the other person, dark empaths delight in playing with the emotions of others.

We can see dark empaths in action at the individual and group level. For instance, a hugely followed media house makes this statement; 'The untimely death of this celebrity has left us deeply shocked. We empathize with the pain of the family and will make sure that justice is served!' However, what it does is that in the garb of empathizing with the victim's family, they actively keep creating catchy content around the possible 'accused'. The unfortunate incident is advantageously used by them to distract the common man from the real economic and social challenges facing the country. While they efficiently capitalize on someone's pain for personal gain be it TRP or covering the fallacies of the ruling party; its sometimes quite late when the target realizes that their emotions were manipulated to keep them away from asking uncomfortable questions.

Dr. Farah Naqvi

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