If you have interacted with a narcissist in any capacity, then you have likely seen, or even been the recipient of, how mean they can be. They are brutal in their words and know exactly what to target to bring out your insecurities. They point out how wrong you are, how you can’t do anything right, how their wrongdoings are your fault, and name call. The narcissist can blame shift and make everything about you while attacking who you are as a person. The narcissist does this all with ease, and as if they have been waiting at the ready to attack you. After the narcissist attack, you are confused, hurt, and maybe even angry. Do narcissists feel remorse after they enact their narcissistic punishment tactics and narcissist rage?
Let’s discuss what remorse is before we talk about whether a narcissist can experience remorse. Remorse is a feeling of guilt that arises from being sorry about a wrong you committed. When someone behaves in a way that they don’t like, they feel remorse for their actions and as a way to remedy this feeling of remorse, they must admit their mistake and take responsibility for their actions. In order for someone to experience remorse, they must recognize they committed a wrong and then have guilt associated with that wrongdoing. If you purposefully hit someone because you are angry that they attacked your child, you likely wouldn’t feel guilt for your actions so you then wouldn’t feel remorse. You might regret what you did because you don’t want to get in trouble, but you wouldn’t feel guilty because you thought the person deserved it.
The narcissist lives in a world of always thinking people deserve the punishments they get. No matter how little the slight they experience may be, the narcissist must punish to protect against narcissistic injury. The narcissist is inward focused and always protecting against their own feelings of shame that can lead to narcissistic injury. They lack empathy and cannot look outward and understand how someone else might be feeling.
As a result, the narcissist can’t experience remorse. Remorse requires the ability to understand how your actions affected someone else and to then take responsibility for your actions. The narcissist blame shifts, and nothing is ever about them and what they could have done wrong. If someone says they are upset in response to the narcissist’s actions, they can masterfully make it about the other person and how the narcissist is hurt because the other person didn’t do what the narcissist had asked. If they would have been a better partner, child, or friend then they wouldn’t have been hurt. The narcissist can effectively remove themselves from the blame and attribute the other person’s negative emotions to how they didn’t live up to the narcissist’s ideal.
The narcissist lives in a fantasy world they have created. They have carefully crafted this false narrative to constantly be on the defensive to protect against narcissistic injury. If they are presented with information that goes against their narrative, they don’t try to integrate that information to assist both people involved. Instead, they work to ensure they are seen as the person wronged and not the person doing the wrong. This means the narcissist never even allows for the opportunity to experience remorse because they don’t have the basic building blocks to experience remorse, which is recognizing they could have done wrong, felt guilt for what they did, and believe they could have played a role in the experienced wrong doing.
The narcissist will never feel remorse and to expect them to just leads to further narcissistic rage within them and pushing them further away from a place of understanding and concern.