- Narcissists sometimes recruit people to help them tear down their victim’s self esteem.
- These people are called “apaths” and they are completely indifferent to the victim’s suffering.
- Sometimes they genuinely don’t care, and other times they go along with the abuse because they don’t want to be the target themselves.
- It just shows that you can’t trust someone else’s social circle to help you work out what’s really going on.
Defining someone’s personality is complicated. There are so many nuances in the ways people behave, and why they behave the way they do, that it isn’t always appropriate to give someone a specific label — even mental health professionals and psychologists can struggle.
In a very broad sense, empathy can be a defining quality for personality type. On one end of the scale you have empaths, who are highly sensitive and very in tune to other people’s emotions. On the other end, you have people who are devoid of empathy, such as sociopaths and narcissists.
To further complicate things, there are people who are capable of feelings, but just don’t care enough to use them. These people are called “apaths.”
People with Dark Tetrad personality traits — sadism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism — play games with their partners to break down their self esteem. To succeed, they sometimes recruit helpers to help control and manipulate their partners. Apaths fit this role very well.
Shannon Thomas, author of “Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse,” told Business Insider an apath is someone who is apathetic to the harm in their social circle, particularly if someone is being manipulative, hurtful, or abusive. Their role, she said, is critical to the narcissist’s game.
“An apath is the wing-person to a narcissist and plays a key role in normalising the toxic individual and their harmful behaviors towards others,” she said. “A narcissist must have apaths in their life to keep the facade of social normalcy going. Apaths create the illusion that a narcissist has friends, is well-liked and can get along with everyone, except the target of abuse.”
Rather than standing up for the victim, or giving them support in the fact they are being mistreated, the apath will instead be completely indifferent to their suffering. When challenged, they come up with excuses and say things like “it’s not my battle,” or “well, they don’t treat me that way.”
By minding their own business, they are effectively being a pawn on the narcissist’s gameboard, making the victim believe they must be going crazy.
In some online forums, apaths are known as “flying monkeys,” like the Wicked Witch’s helpers in “The Wizard of Oz.” They do all the narcissist’s dirty work behind the scenes while the narcissist can sit back and watch.
“Many apaths are also hidden abusers themselves and they will cluster together in family and friend groups to keep each other’s secrets,” Thomas said. “Another type of apath believes it is better to join the abuser in their games than ever run the risk of becoming a future target of the narcissist.”
In other words, apaths recruit an avoidance strategy and a “rather you than me” mindset to stay in the narcissist’s good books. This makes them particularly dangerous, because there’s no way to tell where their limits are. Studies have shown how people can blindly follow orders and become agents in a terrible, destructive processes as as result.
If you feel something is wrong with how you’re being treated, trust your gut. You can’t always depend on someone’s social circle to stand up for you, as it could be full of apaths. Instead, familiarise yourself with the red flags someone is bad news, and look out for yourself.