Does 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.

90,000 Psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists - what's the difference?

Narcissists and Psychopaths

First and foremost, every psychopath has narcissistic traits, but not every narcissist is a psychopath. Many have narcissistic traits, but those diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by a lack of empathy and a sense of their own grandiosity. And such people urgently need admiration from others.

Self-esteem of narcissists is lame: deep down they feel vulnerable, and therefore it is so important for them that the people around them were also insecure. Pulling the rest off the pedestal and rising against their background is their defensive tactic. When narcissists do something really bad, they wake up with faint echoes of shame and guilt, while the source of their shame is the opinion of others about them, the possibility of condemnation on their part. nine0005

And this is their serious difference from psychopaths - they do not happen to experience remorse. They don't care if anyone gets hurt, they don't care about the consequences of their own actions.

In addition, these people completely lack the ability to empathize, but they brilliantly manipulate others (and often seem very charming at the same time), use them to their advantage. Cunning is their middle name.

Psychopaths and sociopaths

Psychopaths and sociopaths have much in common - both are diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. The key difference is that psychopaths are born, but sociopaths are made. The latter are at risk of becoming children from dysfunctional families and those who grew up in a criminogenic environment. They may not be as comfortable breaking the law and going against the rules as psychopaths, but they have lived in such an environment for too long and have begun to take these rules of the game for granted. nine0005

A psychopath builds a relationship by using the other solely for his own purposes - financial, sexual or any other. A sociopath, on the other hand, can form quite close ties, however, even in such relationships, he will behave coldly and aloofly. Sociopaths are more impulsive, it is easier to provoke a lively reaction in them.

Psychopaths are more cold-blooded and prudent, their nervous system generally reacts to stimuli differently than ours: for example, when we are frightened, our heart begins to beat furiously, the pupils dilate, sweat flows in a stream; we are preparing for a fight-or-flight response. You won't even notice that a psychopath is scared. His brain functions differently, and it is still unknown what is more influenced here - genetics or environment. nine0005

Most of us tend to avoid things that make us nervous. Psychopaths don't get nervous at all and so they just keep doing what they want. By the way, it is likely that the desire to feel at least something, at least some echo of the arousal characteristic of other people, makes them try their hand at dangerous activities - including extreme sports and activities on the verge of the criminal code and common sense. meaning.

Why is it important for us to understand the difference between narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths? First of all, in order not to treat everyone with the same brush, not to stick the same labels on different people. But, perhaps, it is much more important to learn to notice the signs described above in the people around you - firstly, in order to gently push them to seek professional help, and secondly, in order to be vigilant yourself and not suffer. nine0005

self-dislike and total loneliness

Depression in narcissistic pathology is primarily associated with a lack of resources received by the narcissist from the external environment from those who offer admiration, show admiration for him and express gratitude. When these reserves are depleted, the narcissistic person plunges into an extremely severe painful state, dominated by a powerful critical and punitive Superego, which is the source of hatred, as well as aggression directed at oneself. The depressed narcissist is a master of self-flagellation, a personality that functions in much the same way as the perverted narcissist. Often in the literature, depressed narcissists are also called self-critical, which is quite justified. nine0005

The man was so depressed about the end of his marriage that he refused to go out or meet his friends who invited him to go with them. When they called him to spend time together, he plunged into soreness and darkness, lamented how dull and dreary his life was, that communication with friends would not bring him any joy, but would only increase his negative experiences and suffering.

Many psychoanalysts view this behavior as a form of self-directed aggression, as the depressed narcissist's admission that there is something so fundamentally wrong and broken in him that he is unable to deal with it. This fatalistic outlook on life only reinforces the depressive narcissistic dynamic. Israeli writer and narcissist researcher Sam Vaknin eloquently described the depressive narcissist, abstracting from the ideas and theoretical studies of narcissism, including the concepts of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Heinz Kohut and the school of object relations, as well as the psychology of the self. However, Vaknin, agreeing with the opinion of authoritative psychoanalysts, argues that the depressive narcissist has a tough punitive Superego that generates an unbearable feeling of guilt, leading to self-flagellation and self-punishment. Developing Vaknin's ideas, it can be assumed that the imminent threat of self-punishment practically deprives the depressed narcissist of the opportunity to enjoy life and build healthy relationships with those around him. nine0005

Many practicing analysts and psychotherapists describe depression as a diagnosis that presents certain difficulties in confirming it, because it appears in many other pathologies, including the entire spectrum of narcissistic personality disorder.

The narcissist reacts with depression when ignored or criticized, when confronted with limitations, finiteness of being, losses (eg popularity, youth, career) and life crises. In these situations, omnipotence as a psychological defense is no longer available to the depressed narcissist. nine0005

The same is true of feeling victimized (victimization), which is not recognized by most people and is a form of aggression that subtly manipulates others into feeling sorry for the depressed narcissist and doing things they would not normally do.

One might wonder how exactly the depressive narcissist exhibits "classic" narcissistic traits. Although the grandiose self seems to remain intact and functioning, self-love is lost. The depressed narcissist still retains a preoccupation with the self, but now it is being transformed into a lost or sickly self. The self of the depressed narcissist becomes dominated by persecutory anxiety (anxiety of persecution) that arises from his realization that he is very far from perfect, and also from his growing conviction that he can never justify his expectations, achieve goals, solve the most important life tasks. nine0005

As a rule, depressive narcissists are people with severely low self-esteem. If with grandiose narcissism we are talking about extremely high self-esteem, up to the fantasy of one's own grandiosity, then with depressive narcissism, the poles completely change. However, although to a lesser extent, the grandiosity of the depressed narcissist is also present, but has its own characteristics. The narcissism of such a person is hidden in a grandiose vision of what he could be, what he should become, what to achieve, what to possess. A man dreamed of being on top of the world, he wanted to live a bright, eventful and rich life that would satisfy his aspirations for self-realization, but he never achieved anything, and did not achieve anything for absolutely realistic reasons - the level of his claims was initially sky-high and unrealistic. Despite the fact that the reasons for the failures of a depressive narcissist are quite real and explainable, he displaces them from consciousness, and the result of this is self-abasement, a total devaluation of himself and all his achievements: his objective merits and merits become meaningless and meaningless for him. nine0005

The depressed narcissist lives with a feeling of deep disappointment from himself, he is constantly haunted by a heavy feeling of his own unfulfillment, he experiences the feeling that the world is cruel and unfair to him, he is constantly frustrated by a feeling of total dissatisfaction with what he has and what he has achieved. The existing huge gap between what he aspired to and what he achieved gives rise to an unbearable feeling of hopelessness and deep disappointment in him. In the end, all this leads to depression - there is no other way. nine0005

Depressed narcissists feel that they have the right to deprive not only themselves of their own needs, but also to devalue the needs and desires of others. They often express very little sympathy or empathy: “Sorry, I can't go to the wedding. We'll have to cancel our plans. I'm too depressed to do anything." Although this form of aggression is directed not at an external object but at oneself, depressive narcissists still tend to judge and criticize others as harshly as they do themselves. Since they are constantly absorbed in their shortcomings, they develop extremely complex, sometimes painful, object relationships, and the sphere of communication suffers greatly. nine0005

With depressive narcissism, a person, as a rule, withdraws into himself, because he is mentally exhausted from endless disappointment. He becomes lost, alienated, emotionally cold, loses interest in people, in current events, and in general in the outside world. There is a stuck on the disturbing thoughts constantly present in his head, on his problems and failures. These oppressive thoughts that do not let go are so powerful that in principle any hope is lost that it could be somehow different, that the situation could change for the better. But along with this feeling of indifference and lack of interest in people and in the world, depressed narcissists suffer extremely hard from loneliness and from feeling different from others, because the lack of close connections, warm relationships, inability to love endlessly and very painfully hurts them. They see how life, careers, love and friendships of others can develop successfully, and through envy, which is unbearable for a narcissist, they are even more aware of their inferiority, deprivation, some kind of malignant otherness and experience all this extremely hard. nine0005

About depression

Depression should not be confused with the depressive position described by Melanie Klein. The depressive position is the stage that is the normal developmental phase following the paranoid-schizoid position. In a depressive position, a person experiences sadness, loss and grief, however, ultimately this leads to acceptance and a desire to come to terms with guilt and make amends. From a communication point of view, when patients come to a session feeling sad or guilty, they should be praised and acknowledged for their emotional progress. They may begin to realize that feelings of sadness and remorse are becoming a substitute for manic defenses, and partly manic, objective reality. Sometimes in a session, you can hear from a patient: "I think I was confusing mania with arousal!" This can be regarded as a movement from shame, guilt and self-aggression towards integrity and mental integration. Under such conditions, it is possible for the patient to see in the other person a whole object with his needs and desires, as opposed to a partial object: "I see you only as a breast, as something that can provide for me, guarantee my life." The narcissist's perception of the object as a whole positively affects his understanding of others: "I see that you also have needs."

Unlike the malignant narcissist, who has little to no remorse or regret, the depressed narcissist may spend the rest of his life reflecting on all the wrongs and wrongs he has committed during his life, while destroying all capacity for joy, enjoyment, and enjoyment. things. The problems and preoccupations of depressed narcissists are mostly related to work, personal effectiveness, and responsibility. nine0005

Depressed narcissists are extremely difficult to communicate with because they are always moody, constantly complaining about something, openly demonstrate pessimism and dissatisfaction with life. One wealthy man who made good money during a period of rising real estate prices and stock prices continued to get upset and complain that he would become depressed, advising everyone to sell their real estate and securities at a time when markets were rising strongly.

Depressed narcissists are often the children of parents who demand perfection and perfection from them in everything; they are completely self-absorbed and punish themselves for even the slightest deviation from perfection. They are often perfectionistic, withdrawn and isolated from others, and even a slight deviation from their idealized and perfect image can send them into a downward spiral into a depressive episode or even lead to the development of a severe form of depression. nine0005

Women who choose to stay with a depressive narcissist

Depressed narcissists usually get into relationships with people who suffer from borderline, dependent, or histrionic (hysterical) personality disorders. A depressed narcissist might say of a hysterical or borderline wife who left him: “I can't live without her. It cannot be replaced by anyone, after it there is no life. No matter how crazy she was, she gave me the opportunity to live and receive joy. nine0030

It should be noted that not all women who remain in relationships with narcissists are mentally unbalanced or suffer from pathological personality disorders. Many of them deliberately stay in such relationships mainly for reasons such as the desire to have a home, to avoid the traumatic experience that divorce causes, to maintain marriage, social life and a full-fledged family. Many of them believe that divorce is more harmful than being in a relationship with a depressed narcissist. Such women are often those who have not been abused or had a traumatic childhood. They stay in a relationship with a narcissist for a more important reason - to avoid inflicting psychological trauma on their children, leading to the destruction of their later adult life. These women do not identify with violence or abuse and remain immune to the negativity and destructive emotions of their narcissistic partner. They are aware that they are being mistreated, but do not perceive this as an attack on themselves: “My husband claims that I am too demanding and too needy for support, but that is not my problem. I know that I have healthy and adequate needs.”

On the contrary, women with a lower level of mental functioning appear to be more disturbed, which is manifested in their acceptance of negative projections of a narcissistic partner, identification and personification with them: “He makes me feel terrible; whenever I ask him for something, he tells me that I am too picky and demanding. Apparently I'm really overly demanding and don't deserve to have my needs met." nine0030

These women are difficult to identify because their psyche is a web of a range of personality disorders, including narcissistic, borderline, addiction, hysteria, and avoidance. These are women who have lived through a violent childhood, accompanied by traumatic experiences, who tend to identify with the negative projections of the depressive narcissist. Growing up, many of these women feel they deserve the abuse, illness, and suffering that depression provides. In other cases, they have an unconscious need to remain attached to pain and suffering, constantly looking for them: "He's just like my father, always complaining and unhappy. But no matter how terrible the pain and suffering, at least they are familiar to me.

Other women were given caregiving roles during childhood to care for younger siblings or sick family members. Little "adult" children deprived of childhood who were forced to grow up too soon. “I am programmed this way; I was supposed to be a mother to younger siblings, and now to my depressed, narcissistic, sickly husband.” - says the patient.

Some features of therapeutic work with depressive narcissists

Dealing with a depressed narcissist in the course of therapeutic work requires a more confrontational approach than with other types of narcissists. While empathy is important, the depressed narcissist may misinterpret it as colluding with their apathy and victimization: "Now there are two of us who pity me." The therapist may say: “So you have a crystal ball and with it you can look at your future as if you had a road map or plan for your life. That's pretty omnipotent of you. I would prefer that we open our therapeutic space together, but if you clutter it with darkness and sickness, we will both fall into a black cold void and hopelessness. nine0030

In discussing the most effective way to communicate with a depressed narcissist, I would like to make two points. The first has to do with identity and its loss. Even though depressed narcissists cannot perform or function the way they once did, they still remain the same person. In addition, the theme of identity is applicable to all personality structures, but it is becoming an increasingly common theme in the context of depression. A clear understanding is needed of how important it is to stay in touch with your individuality and never lose your own identity. nine0005

The second point is related to the psychotic aspect of depression. Although depressed patients are not psychotic, depression shows how they can exhibit certain psychotic elements. The psychotic tends to confuse the mental state by becoming it instead of feeling it. There is a difference between feelings of longing and sadness, feeling lost, overwhelmed and slipping into depression. It's like agoraphobes: they're not afraid of going out, but that they become fear, and that paralyzes them. Depression is often seen in older people with narcissistic disorder who have lost both their identity and the narcissistic feed that used to satisfy and feed their emotional needs. nine0005

American psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden described psychosis as a dichotomy between the desire to maintain a certain psychological state in which meaning can be present, and the desire to attack and destroy all meaning. He pointed out that in a neurosis the patient maintains a connection with the world of objects and maintains their libidinal investment. Ogden also argued that the schizophrenic, renouncing all object relations, turns inward and fails to reconnect with these lost objects. In psychosis, object relations deteriorate, and thinking and reality testing are lost in a delusional inner world in which only a fragment of reality remains, with which they try to restore meaning from meaninglessness: "When I become sadness, at least my life has some meaning, as opposed to nonexistence."

Thought patterns of a depressed narcissist:

· Loss or abandonment: I feel depressed, so I become depressed.

· Emptiness: I feel like nothing, so I become nothing.

· Paralysis: I feel fear, so I become fear.

· Isolation: I feel alone, so I become alone.

· Food , alcohol and drugs: I feel empty, so I allow myself to consume them uncontrollably.

Andrey Karpov , psychotherapist, Ph.D. philosophy Sciences

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