Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

Sociopaths (and narcissists) and their apaths. And the empaths that can spot them.


This was such a massive ‘light bulb’ moment for me, that I knew immediately that this was important. Very important.

It explains so much about why people refuse to acknowledge the bad in narcissists and sociopaths.

It is fascinating and very revealing.



Let’s look at what we term the Socio-Empath-Apath Triad, or Seat. Unremitting abuse of other people is an activity of the sociopath that stands out. To win their games, sociopaths enlist the help of hangers-on: apaths.

The apath.

We call those who collude in the sport of the sociopath apathetic, or apaths. In this situation, it means a lack of concern or being indifferent to the targeted person.

We have highlighted the importance of seeing the problem for what it is via the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, which represents the collective denial and double standards which are often a feature of social life. The apath in this context is someone who is willing to be blind: ie, not to see that the emperor/empress is naked.

Apaths are an integral part of the sociopath’s arsenal and contribute to sociopathic abuse. Sociopaths have an uncanny knack of knowing who will assist them in bringing down the person they are targeting. It is not necessarily easy to identify an apath; in other circumstances, an apath can show ample empathy and concern for others – just not in this case. The one attribute an apath must have is a link to the target.

How apaths, who might otherwise be fair-minded people, become involved in such destructive business is not hard to understand, but it can be hard to accept. The main qualifying attribute is poor judgment resulting from lack of insight. They might be jealous of or angry at the target, and thus have something to gain from the evolving situation.

At other times, the apath might not want to see the ‘bad’ in someone, particularly if the sociopath is useful. Or they might choose not to see because they have enough on their plate and do not possess the wherewithal or moral courage to help the targeted person at that time. Usually, be it active or passive involvement, the apath’s conscience appears to fall asleep. It is this scenario that causes people blindly to follow leaders motivated only by self-interest.

Readers might know of Yale University professor Stanley Milgram’s experiments to test the human propensity to obey orders, as participants gave increasingly large electric shocks to subjects. Afterwards, he wrote an article, The Perils of Obedience: “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process”.

Apaths are often fearful people. They are the ones most likely to go with the flow, to agree that the emperor/empress is wearing new clothes. They might also fail to perceive the threat: a danger is of no importance if you deny its existence. An apath’s response to a sociopath’s call to arms can then result from a state of ‘learned helplessness’. Apaths behave defencelessly because they want to avoid unpleasant or harmful circumstances [including the sociopath turning on them]. Apathy is an avoidance strategy.

The empath.

Often, the person targeted by the sociopath is an empath. Empaths are ordinary people who are highly perceptive and insightful and belong to the 40% of human beings who sense when something’s not right, who respond to their gut instinct. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the empath is the boy who mentions the unmentionable: that there are no clothes.

In the 1990s, researchers suggested that there was a positive relationship between empathy and emotional intelligence. Since then, that term has been used interchangeably with emotional literacy. What this means in practice is that empaths have the ability to understand their own emotions, to listen to other people and empathise with their emotions, to express emotions productively and to handle their emotions in such a way as to improve their personal power.

People are often attracted to empaths because of their compassionate nature. A particular attribute is that they are sensitive to the emotional distress of others. Conversely, they have trouble comprehending a closed mind and lack of compassion in others.

Very highly empathic people can find themselves helping others at the expense of their own needs, which can lead them to withdraw from the world at times.

It is odd. Most of us enjoy watching films and reading books about heroes who refuse to go along with the crowd, which suggests there is something admirable about people who make a bold stand. But in real life, watching someone raise their head above the parapet often makes the rest of us feel queasy. Most – the 60% majority – prefer the easy life. It was interesting to discover, when doing the research for this book, how often people see empaths in problematical terms.

Empaths use their ability to emphasise and to boost theirs and others’ wellbeing and safety. Problems arise for empaths, however, when there are apaths in the vicinity. Empaths can be brought down, distressed and forced into the position of the lone fighter by the inaction of more apathetic types round them.


Empaths are targeted by sociopaths because they pose the greatest threat. The empath is usually the first to detect that something is not right and express what s/he senses. As a consequence, the empath is both the sociopath’s number one foe and a source of attraction; the empath’s responses and actions provide excellent entertainment for sociopaths, who use and abuse people for sport.

The world of the empath is not for the faint-hearted. In the context we are discussing, empaths often find themselves up against not only the sociopath but often a flock of apaths as well. Apaths are afforded pole position in the sociopath’s intrigues. But this prime spot comes at a price for, in what we call the “sociopathic transaction”, the apath makes an unspoken Faustian pact with the sociopath, then passively or otherwise participates in the cruel sport.


Author: Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

I am a survivor of complex and multiple trauma and abuse, who at the age of 40, began my healing journey. I am using my journey to recovery and healing, to help others, to help survivors feel less alone, validated, encouraged and to enable others to understand themselves more. Complex trauma, particularly from severe, prolonged childhood abuse, is profoundly life changing. Complex trauma produces complex adults. The journey to recovery is a painful, often lonely, emotional daily challenge and it is my aim to encourage others in their daily battle.

18 thoughts on “Sociopaths (and narcissists) and their apaths. And the empaths that can spot them.

  1. This article is so right-on. Thank you so much for posting it. Excellent information that challenges us all to walk past our own fears and do what we know, deep in our gut, is the right thing.

  2. I would like to consider myself an empath but more likely just an individual with a proper moral compass who encountered an equal in business that was planning some “white coller crime”. As I started raising questions and my lack of willingness to participate, my business partner and a number of apaths started a rumour mill of behaviour on my part that was simply not true. Employment Standards was called about my “abusive” behaviour and they were advised to quit , for their safety, and that was that. No interviews, no workplace assessment and I am out.

    I learned a lot from this about why these apaths participated when they were telling outright lies (he was the pay check, also could turn on them). Very interesting, but sad that some people are in a position that causes them to be weak.

    • I’m an empath. I was in a similar situation but had a “nervous breakdown” before the narcissist could act. While off with full pay, compiled all the notes I took of their harassment and email proof and submitted a formal complaint of harassment 3 inches thick. But noted I was willing to settle for 3 mos severance and got someone I respected still to secretly give me a job reference. Within 3 days of my final day employed I started in my new job making 10K more a year. Once others saw what I did, several others went after him for the same but unfortunately they got their hands dirty while working in fear so he had stuff on them…I never catered to it and that’s the only way I was able to fight back against it.

  3. I’m an empath.My parents were the apath and they were helping a sociopath relative of my mother.

    • It is sad how many personality disordered abusive people, are aided by apaths/minions.
      I’m so sorry if this sociopath & enablers, harmed you in any way. And anyone else harmed. ❤

      • Thank you I am still trying to heal and make sense of the chaos and absolute madness I just went through.I’ve been led to pray so many times to release this negativity from my system.But my parents also have NPD so they’ve been neglectful and dismissive of me for years.It just took this moment to really see them with a fresh set of eyeballs.That my life was a nightmare and I was the target.

      • I’m so sorry you have parents with NPD. It is a childhood, no child should ever endure. And no child deserves the neglect, chaos and many different types of abuse, that occurs with NPD parents.
        I needed to learn a lot about personality disorders and abusive parents, to understand it was nothing to do with me, and their huge issues, are theirs.
        But, also have the self compassion to know, the abuse did affect me and cause much pain, so it’s okay to validate that and grieve. ❤

  4. This is AMAZING! It might as well have names of people I have known written right in there with the text.

  5. Pingback: Sociopaths (and narcissists) and their apaths. And the empaths that can spot them. | ruthstruth2013

  6. Pingback: Sociopaths (and narcissists) and their apaths. And the empaths that can spot them. | bannon06

  7. This explains so much about my life. People who could have had my back but didn’t. My difficulty in setting boundaries when people ask for my help, even when it’s beyond my capabilities, and why I sometimes just have to put off responding for a little while just to psych myself up to be able to do what they need. And why I’m always trying to be understanding of people’s reasons for doing the things they do, and trying to see them in the best light, but get the sinking feeling that most people aren’t doing the same for me.

  8. This is the absolute most awakening article I have ever read. It has given me answers I have long sought.

  9. I read this at the right time. This blog has changed my life forever, in a very positive and happy way.

  10. I think that Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie” helps explain as well why apaths or even naive empaths fall into
    mobbing a selected target. No one wants to believe that there are those so morally compromised that they are
    willing and even eager to destroy someone’s livelihood and even life for mostly petty reasons. His book has a
    number of examples most of us here I’m afraid will recognize in one way or another.

    My former P husband decided to torpedo a colleague’s tenure process, a man who had been virtually guaranteed
    tenure due to the enormous grants he was pulling into the University. The reasoning behind his insidious scheming
    was that this man had made him uncomfortable when he went golfing as he was confident and talkative and my
    P husband was not. That was enough to mobilize him. In the end, he was successful and the man and his wife
    didn’t know what hit them. He went from working at a top 20 university to a nothing college without a graduate
    program. My P husband later said about this, “but he was a Republican”!! as if that justified destroying this man’s
    career. He also stated that “no one liked him in the department”, but at the time he was very well liked and quite
    popular. Later, after the fall so to speak, with he and his wife frantically attempting to find out what happened,
    doors closed in their face.

    I think too that people want to believe that they would be handling the situation differently or not gotten into
    the situation at all, which in some cases is true. But getting targeted by a P can happen to anyone, even other
    P’s, something I’ve seen as well–the bigger sharks eating the smaller sharks.

    Thank you for bringing up this topic, it explains what is in a way the worst part of P abuse–all the enablers. If I had
    been believed or given something more tangible than time worn tropes such as “just disengage” (really? how
    does one simply disengage from in your face verbal abuse of self or child??) I would have not have suffered
    so much damage. Therapists, teachers, neighbors, extended family, etc. all either bought into the phony
    persona or saw my unraveling as proof that I was doing something wrong, doing something to ask for it.
    One “friend” even went so far to write a short story about my situation casting me as a demented woman who
    becomes unravelled when my husband criticized my cooking. This came at the same time I was having things
    thrown at me, and listening to threats about killing our pets and being called every vile name in the book.

    Sorry to ramble on, this post struck a nerve Thank you again for writing about this very important and almost
    totally overlooked topic.

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