Can a narcissist feel remorse

Do Narcissists Feel Guilty About Abusing Loved Ones?

Source: Vera Arsic/pexels

The sad truth is that the people I know who qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder are highly unlikely to think about the moral implications of whatever they have done to other people. They only care about themselves. Even when they claim to be madly in love with you, their feelings are quite shallow and will quickly disappear if you stop meeting their needs.

Note: I use the terms narcissist, narcissistic, and NPD as shorthand for someone who qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder—not just narcissistic traits. I am using the terms adaptation and disorder interchangeably.

Narcissistic relationships are transactional.

By transactional, I mean that narcissists like you and want you around when you serve their needs. They lose interest in you when you do not. No matter how much they claim to love you, the reality is that it is not you, the individual, that they love. They love the functions you perform for them.

This makes their attachment to you much shallower than it appears. If you lose the attributes that they value, their loving feelings about you are likely to disappear. This means that if you get ill, lose your looks, your money, or your ability to have sex. Your narcissistic lover will not be sympathetic. Instead of feeling bad for you, they are likely to become impatient, complain, and eventually lose interest in being with you.

Example: When exhibitionist narcissist Bill and his girlfriend Sherry got married, everyone remarked on what a beautiful couple they made. They looked like a magazine advertisement for young love. Bill enjoyed posting pictures of the two of them on social media and took great pleasure in his friends’ envious compliments about his wife’s beauty.

When Sherry developed a serious health issue that required her to take steroids, her looks changed. Her face became puffy, and her figure became fuller. She no longer looked like the slender young woman with whom he had fallen in love.

Bill’s response was to tell Sherry that she needed to lose weight. When the doctors told them that she needed to stay on her medication and that the weight was an unfortunate and unavoidable side effect, Bill felt cheated. He bluntly told Sherry, “I didn’t sign up to have sex with a fat woman.”

Do narcissists regret hurting people whom they claim to love?

Narcissistic defenses are designed to keep the narcissist’s flaws and mistakes out of awareness. Narcissists do not focus on anything that contradicts their inflated view of themselves. Unless they have had a lot of successful psychotherapy for their NPD, they do not feel guilt, shame, or self-doubt so long as their narcissistic defenses hold. This means that they do not think there is anything for them to regret, no matter how hurt you feel. In their mind, if something goes wrong in the relationship, it is all your fault.

Do narcissists regret discarding or losing someone?

It is common for people with a narcissistic personality disorder to regret discarding or losing someone, but it does not mean what you might think. If they feel regret, it is not because they hurt you. It is for losing something that they value. You are a possession, not a real person. They do not care how you feel, even though they may pretend otherwise.

For example, the fact that they may want you back after discarding you has very little to do with who you are as a person. It does not mean that they care about you or feel guilty for treating you badly. And it certainly does not mean that, if they get you back, they will act differently than last time. Narcissists who miss their ex have not usually changed in any significant way.

What does the narcissistic person’s regret over discarding you actually mean?

Here are some of the usual meanings. Take your pick.

  • I feel needy, horny, lonely, and I want company right now.
  • If I hadn’t dumped you, I could use you to meet my needs.
  • I always miss anything I no longer have.
  • I thought I could do better than you, but I haven’t—so I might as well go back to you.
  • I know you have someone else now, and I still consider you mine to do with as I wish. How dare you have a happy life without me!
  • You look better from a distance.

Narcissistic defenses are designed to minimize negative feelings and support the narcissist's self-esteem.

The whole point of developing an NPD adaptation is that it is designed to keep negative feelings at bay—to not feel shame, guilt, self-doubt, and remorse and instead maintain the sense that the narcissist is special, perfect, and always right.

Narcissists lack emotional empathy.

In addition, people with NPD never developed emotional empathy. If they have any, it quickly disappears when they feel hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or angry with you.

Narcissists do not willingly decide to reflect on their bad behavior.

The only self-reflection that most untreated narcissists do is about what is in their self-interest. Here is an abbreviated example of what one of my clients with the exhibitionist subtype of NPD said to me in therapy about his girlfriend:

I actually find her somewhat disgusting. She is not all that physically appealing to me. I sometimes walk out of the room when she enters because I don’t want to really be with her. But she wants me so badly that she will literally do anything for me. She also puts up with whatever I want to do.

She loves me and wants to marry me. I might actually marry her or stay with her, despite how I feel about her. I know this is unfair to her, but I am unlikely to ever find anyone who loves me like that and is willing to let me have my way about everything. I can always get rid of her later.


When narcissists say, “I love you,” they really mean something closer to the following: “I will love you as long as you fulfill my needs and make me feel good.” As a result, untreated narcissists do not feel guilty about abusing you because they view whatever they do to you as justified.

Their narcissistic defenses are designed to protect them from seeing their flaws and to allow them to shift all the blame onto you. If everything is your fault, then they have no reason to feel guilty about hurting you.

Based on two Quora posts.

Can a Narcissist Be Remorseful, Empathetic, or Forgiving?

Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC on January 10, 2017

Try to point out a narcissists mistakes and the attack is likely to be returned with force. Expect a narcissist to show understanding during a difficult time and the conversation will quickly be turned back towards the narcissist. Ask a narcissist to forgive an error in judgment and a detailed accounting of all blunders will be recounted.

Within the definition of narcissism is a lack of remorse, empathy or forgiveness. Narcissists have a fantasy view of themselves where they are all powerful, knowing, beautiful, and influential. Even when the reality might prove otherwise, their distorted perception of self greatly contributes to egocentric behavior. So if everything is about them, then why does a person need to admit to wrongdoing, show compassion for others, or release the wrongs of others?

In the eyes of a narcissist, they dont. However, when it is to their advantage, a narcissist can demonstrate limited amounts of remorse, empathy or forgiveness. Here is what that looks like:

Remorse. For a narcissist to demonstrate regret, the benefit must outweigh the cost. For example, a narcissistic boss might value the financial contribution a client brings so much that they are willing to show sorrow for over a forgotten commitment. Or a narcissistic parent might want the approval of a favorite child that they are willing to acknowledge their mistakes with the other children. Or a narcissistic spouse might make a joke out of their indiscretion in front of another couple to head off any negative comments made by the spouse.

Basically, the show of remorse is part of a calculated formula where the expense of admitting to a mistake is small in comparison to the potential positive return. For the non-narcissist, this equation can be utilized as well. It is far easier to get a narcissist to admit to an error when the benefit is obviously pointed out in a discussion. However, real remorse is not likely since that would require awareness that the narcissist is not immune from error.

Empathy. Many narcissists are skilled at faking compassion for brief periods of time. They can learn from movies, videos, and empathetic people who demonstrate a caring response in times of trouble. But a show of understanding over a long time frame is nearly impossible. In order to demonstrate empathy, a person must see things from anothers point of view and be willing to allow that perspective to dominate. As hard as a narcissist might try, their distorted perception of reality wont allow them to see things differently. It is like asking a color blind person to see yellow or blue.

However, when the narcissist can look like the hero to a person who is less fortunate, they will take on the challenge. From an outsiders point of view, this could look empathetic, but it is not from the narcissists vantage point. For the narcissist, rescuing someone else is a further demonstration of their superiority.

Forgiveness. Granting pardons to those who make mistakes feeds the narcissistic ego. Again, it is another opportunity to show how much better they are than others. But there is a very high price to pay when asking for forgiveness from a narcissist. First, they might say they forgive but they wont forget even to the point of reminding the person of the mistake many years later. Second, there is some type of restitution that is likely to be requested in exchange for the clemency which usually far exceeds the crime. And last, narcissists reserve the right to withdraw the forgiveness without notice if it serves their interest.

It is commonly believed that forgiveness is for the mental well-being of the victim, not the offender. But when the wounded person is a narcissist, there are two things they do with the pain. One, it is added to the list of deep-rooted insecurities of which no person is privy and which is covered by bravado. Two, it is discarded as inconsequential to their self-worth and therefore not worthy of their attention. Either way, the offender will not know the difference.

It can be frustrating to see remorse, empathy or forgiveness from the narcissistic perspective. But it is even more damaging to expect them to act and think like everyone else when they dont.

How to Divorce a Narcissistic Husband: 4 Rules for Breaking Up - Be sure to remember Them


DivorceRelationship crisisMan and woman narcissistic personality disorder. This means that a person is confident in his exclusivity. Therefore, everyone who falls into his orbit, especially his wife and children, should treat him as an indisputable authority. nine0003

If the narcissist does not get the attention they want, they will try to punish you. Not all of them openly violate the criminal code and use physical violence. Most turn out to be emotional abusers, which is no less painful for the victims.

A person with a narcissistic disorder lacks compassion even for those closest to him. You most likely will not be able to part friends. Divorce requires a clear defense strategy.

Signs of a recidivist narcissist

In the book Disarming the Narcissist, psychologist Wendy Bihairi gives an example of the most dangerous representative of this type, the "psychological recidivist", devoid of any moral restraints and respect for other people's space. Distinctive features of such narcissists:

  1. He considers you his property and is beside himself with the fact that you are out of control. He will keep you as his victim at any cost and is ready to apologize for this. Don't be under any illusions - a narcissist never repents. And if you believe, he will find a way to punish for the humiliation to which you subjected him, forcing him to ask for forgiveness. nine0003

  2. Such a person's ambitions are not supported by talents and achievements, so he suffers from low self-esteem. If he sees that you or the children show interest in someone else, forgetting about his exceptional person, he will begin to suffer from jealousy and try to take revenge on you.

Wendy Bihairi believes that your safety, both psychologically and physically, should be a top priority when leaving a narcissistic husband. Especially if you are dealing with a “psychological recidivist” who, at the very beginning of the divorce, will begin to intimidate the consequences of your decision. nine0003

You should completely isolate yourself from communication with him. Enter into any negotiations only in writing or through intermediaries you trust.

Why did you choose him

You need to stop putting the interests of the former partner, which he presented as the interests of the family, above your own. “A sense of codependency often distinguishes those who are fascinated by and marry a narcissist,” says Ross Rosenberg, author of The Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love Those Who Hurt Us. - People who are prone to codependency easily fall into the emotional service of their spouse. nine0003

The narcissist, as an extremely selfish person, sees his potential victim well and knows the tricks of seduction well, trying to tie his partner as close as possible. He mistakenly takes this as signs of special closeness. And for a long time he denies that this relationship is one-sided: the narcissist only allows you to love yourself and take care of his interests.

Recognizing painful addiction is the first step towards inner liberation from a destructive union.

How to break up with a narcissist

1. Focus on what you can control

These are only your own emotions and actions. It is not worth wasting energy to predict his actions. Do not agree to what your ex-husband imposes on you, avoiding possible conflicts and maintaining the illusion of a truce. Imagine that during the divorce, he turns into a difficult business partner with whom you are forced to cooperate and achieve a beneficial result for yourself. From now on, your motto is: "Only the facts and nothing personal." nine0003

2. Set clear boundaries

Narcissist, as a person with a high degree of conflict, will try to provoke any, even negative, attention from you. Before the meeting, think over the plan of the conversation in advance and try not to deviate from it. If he starts to translate the topic, to convince you to return, say: “The relationship is over for me, we have different roads. You need to accept it." If he insists, leave.

3. Do not show sincere emotions

First of all, never apologize. The partner will immediately interpret this as a sign of weakness and try to turn it to their advantage by imposing decisions that are contrary to your interests.

Keep a close eye on the moment when you begin to show feelings and emotions (this may be a state of guilt, despair or panic), and tell yourself "Stop." Remember that your goal is a divorce on the most favorable terms for you and the children.

4. Seek support

You should be surrounded by people who fully share your position, who will not try to reconcile the parties in the name of preserving the family. Do not reject the professional help of a psychotherapist and a lawyer. Relatives will be needed not only in a psychologically difficult moment, when it is important that you are listened to. If a partner begins to threaten, negotiate with him only in the presence of a third party. nine0003

About the Author: Terry Gaspard is a psychotherapist and bestselling author of Daughters of Divorce.

Wendy Behari Disarm the Narcissist. How to survive and become happy next to an egocentric "

Disarm the Narcissist will help you interact with a narcissist without mutual insults, power battles and pointless arguments - using only empathy and ways to establish boundaries. Psychologist Wendy Behari has been using this approach for over 20 years, and her experience has shown it to be the most effective way to live happily with a narcissist. In the book, you will get to know the different types of narcissists and understand how to communicate with each of them. You will learn why you are drawn to such people (yes, it’s not just that!), and work out your own life patterns. nine0003


Text: Sabina Safarova Photo source: Shutterstock

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Can a narcissist change? Looking ahead, I will immediately say my opinion, borne over the years, that a narcissist is not able to change. No no and one more time no. nine0004 True, the reasons why this is impossible are markedly different from what psychologists and many victims report.

I, with all my great respect for official medicine, am patiently waiting for it to not only reach a dead end on this issue, but officially recognize that the issue of narcissism is a matter of ethics only, and not of medicine. I will say more - I am now sure that it is beneficial for narcissists themselves to spread false information about narcissistic injuries, about a difficult childhood and a slippery window sill, despite the fact that many of them did not have a bad childhood, and the real victims are children who grew up with their parents -narcissists - nevertheless, they do not allow themselves to sow evil around themselves, especially to break away on the weaker and defenseless. nine0003

Another theory, which, I am also sure, is spread by narcissists themselves in order to blur people's eyes - that they are supposedly born as narcissists. The question - why are they needed, when in life there is already enough to fight with, while it remains unanswered. Yes, I myself could in this situation draw by the ears some esoteric theory from the series "that's why the pike in the lake, so that the crucian does not doze off. " But I will not do this, because the topic is not the one to speculate on it.

I will never forget the day when I finally saw the light that there are daffodils and other evil spirits. I even remember the date - 11/13/2013. That is, I had doubts and suspicions of various kinds before, a couple of years before the final insight, they intensified as never before. From that day on, there was no longer a single doubt in my soul that they were not born like that, genes and upbringing had absolutely nothing to do with it. They become so consciously. And they also sow doubts in people quite consciously, and they understand themselves better than anyone else, although they try to present themselves as almost lost beings in this world. This has its own rationale. While the best minds, world medical luminaries are looking for reasons why and how a narcissistic personality is formed, these non-humans, demonically rubbing their paws, continue to commit their black deeds with impunity. nine0003

Also, I'm patiently waiting for the YouTube channels created by narcissists to tell people why narcissists are like this and what's inside them. In a good way, such channels should be banned without looking for massive misrepresentation. The lies spread by narcissists in such cases can be compared to the following. The former killer broadcasts on his channel - I used to kill people, but now I repented and don’t kill anymore, and so, I cut my muzzle quietly, and when I cut my wallets lightly. That's all their "truth". nine0003

It is gratifying to see that many viewers do not stay on these channels. It's not even a matter of distrust on the part of the victims, although in reality they will be more useful to the channel of a non-narcissistic psychologist or a victim who describes his own experience. Narcissists, especially older ones, have a terrible energy, and this is very repulsive. In helping professions, in general, the ability to win over a person is very important, and narcissists are only capable of this by deceit, but even here the devil's snout is visible through the mask, at some point it can no longer be hidden, plus verbal salad and gaslighting become so obvious, that trust in such a "specialist in daffodils" becomes absolutely zero. nine0003

And now, actually, the answer to the question - why the narcissist CANNOT change. The answer is because they don't want to. There is no other explanation. If they really were sick people or weren't guilty of their behavior - again childhood, a slippery window sill - wouldn't we forgive them? Haven't we done this over and over again in our time, until the cup of patience was completely overflowing?

Each narcissist has his own personal graveyard of victims. Someone managed to resurrect, someone did not and, alas, is not destined to. If we talk about remorse, about trying to change, then the narcissist would have to do things that do not fit into his picture of the world at all. For the first and most important thing that he would have to do if he decided to change - forever and completely unhook not only from the specific victims whom he had harmed in the past, but also from people in general. He must isolate society from himself, this is the only possible way to prove to others that he really repented and what he did in the past will not be repeated on his part. nine0003

To do this, it is not necessary to go to a monastery or leave for a desert island, just reset all contacts. And start the rest of your life not even from scratch, but from a minus, in the hope of someday reaching the zero level. And to seek contacts and communicate primarily with their own kind, who in reality are not as many as people, they try to put their minds in, direct them to the true path. But not a single narcissist in their right mind (and they all abide in it perfectly, because they know what they are doing) will not do this. Because they know better than anyone that not a single narcissist will do what is unprofitable for him, and repentance in itself implies the recognition of not only one's own guilt, but also the acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of the deed. So which of them will voluntarily go into the minus? nine0003

What do daffodils do? They do everything exactly the opposite. The first thing they do when they decide to "repent", or rather, in a situation when a roasted rooster flies up in the form of lack of money, age, sores - they climb to their relatives, who have already suffered from them in life to the most I can not. The relatives of the narcissist are a separate topic, there will be a separate post about this. Manipulating family ties, the narcissist tries to spread straws for himself in a difficult case. More often than not, they succeed, but when they don’t, then the narcissist is in for some really dark times. Because there are less and less fools around, and normal people literally start to shy away from age-related narcissists, not only because they seriously degrade with age, but it’s even physically unpleasant to be in the same room with them. By a certain age, they begin to literally stink, even if they carefully observe hygiene - this odor reaches for them from their personal cemetery. nine0003

In addition, instead of hiding in a black hole and not shining in order to pass for a modest one, they climb into where they are not needed for nothing - into helping professions. Like, look how I improved! Well, if you've really reformed, give advice to your fellows on life choices (don't forget - it was their choice to become like that). Where are they going to do it? They won’t because they won’t have any clients at all, or some injured poor fellow will wander in once every five years by mistake. Again they climb to people, again they are looking for victims in order to consume their resources! nine0003

I could tell narcissists a lot of things to their face because I know for sure that they read my blog and my social media posts on this topic, but I won't, much honor. I'm much more concerned about the sacrifices, and despite the need for my profession to disengage from such things, it is still difficult for me. Sometimes I feel almost physical pain when I hear another story about how the victim is floundering in the web woven for her and sees no way out.

But there is a way out, even if it seems that it does not exist, it must be sought. Search, read specialized blogs, watch YouTube channels. There are a lot of excellent psychologists on YouTube now, they explain the information in a very accessible way, with examples, without using too complicated terms. In no case do not fall for the tricks of narcissists, ignore their blogs and video channels, this is a scam, a trap. Take care of yourself, your psyche and your life! nine0003

I will definitely write a memo to relatives of narcissists, because they are at risk more than any other people. Blood relationship does not oblige you to endure bestiality and tyranny, and remember, genes and upbringing have nothing to do with it. This was their choice, and they made it at a fairly young age, when society distributes the greatest amount of advances to a person entering life. In fact, in order for the narcissist to change in the sense that the victims understand it, he would need to cancel this choice at the age of 14-18, 20 years is the ceiling. If he or she did not do this at that time, then they can no longer and do not want to change their life path, due to what I have already said above - they would have to not only reset the past, but also go into the red. Given the pride of the narcissist, which has grown to incredible proportions over the years of crimes against people, this is completely unrealistic from the word.

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