Discover more from Shrink4Men - Dr Tara Palmatier
How can you tell if a narcissist is really sorry?
Once upon a time . . .
How can you tell if a narcissist is really sorry?
Easy. They're not.
Narcissists, borderlines and histrionics feel sorry for themselves when they finally experience a consequence for their abusive, dishonest, exploitative or criminal behavior. They're rarely if ever sorry for hurting or deceiving you. Feeling sorry for oneself is profoundly different than being sorry for having hurt others.
Occasionally, the narcissist, histrionic or borderline will say something resembling remorse. For example, "We both did things that are wrong . . . " However, they won’t get into the specifics of precisely what they did that was wrong and why it was wrong.
Should you ask the NPD, BPD or HPD to name their hurtful actions and explain why they’re destructive, they typically become angry/angrier, impatient and/or indignant. And then they play victim.
"You really need to learn to be able to forgive and forget."
"Why can't you let anything go?"
"Stop forcing me to talk about this. You're making me angry again."
Also, including a vague misdeed that you allegedly committed in their non-apology nullifies any personal responsibility and remorse. It’s a form of what about-ism and and a self-abdication of accountability.
Human beings are imperfect. Most (non-personality disordered) people have done things for which we feel regret and remorse. I’m able to recall the times in my life I’ve done wrong and why my words and deeds were wrong. It’s called having a conscience.
Crazy can’t do this because they don’t believe hurting you is wrong. As far as they’re concerned, IF they hurt you, then you deserved it. And, ultimately, if lying, cheating and bullying others gets them what they want, the end justifies their means.
When someone’s truly sorry, they can discuss the issues in the immediate aftermath of the hurtful behavior. I'm not talking about people who can't let things go for months, years or decades later. There’s also a difference between destructive behavior that's repetitive and ongoing vs. having something you did once months, years or decades ago held over your head and recycled with each new conflict or outrage.
In other words, a narcissist, histrionic or borderline holds their grievances — real and imagined — against you indefinitely (i.e., forever). However, if you're still hurting and upset with the narcissist once they decide it's time for you to get over it (i.e., immediately) then you'd better let it go and never mention it again. Yes, this is supremely unfair and cartoonishly hypocritical.
Are you still unsure about the sincerity of the narcissist's vague non-apology apology?
Guidelines to evaluate the sincerity of a narcissist, borderline or histrionic’s “apology:”
The NPD, BPD or HPD can identify with specificity their hurtful behaviors without you telling them. For example, lying to you, cheating on you, ridiculing you, etc. In other words, they show some basic self-awareness of their actions.
They can articulate why their behaviors are hurtful, destructive, etc. Again, without you explaining it to them. Do that and they'll likely parrot back to you what you're telling them you want to hear. So many clients do this, and confuse the NPD regurgitating their words with Crazy taking responsibility for her- or himself. Any 4-year old can parrot back to mommy or daddy why what they did is wrong.
The narcissist takes responsibility and demonstrates understanding without making excuses, justifications or blame shifting. To quote Jon Snow quoting Ned Stark, "Everything before but is horseshit."
They express remorse for hurting you without seeking pity or comfort from you (i.e., playing victim). Many clients mistake the narcissist, histrionic or borderline feeling sorry for themselves because they're experiencing a consequence for remorse for having hurt. These are two entirely different things. It's important you understand this.
They make a conscious good faith effort not to hurt you in similar ways again, or behave in similarly destructive ways.
The narcissist, borderline or histrionic doesn't become angry and abusive when trust isn't magically and instantly restored.
Without accountability and consequences, the narcissist’s abusive and destructive behavior will continue and likely worsen. Enforcing your boundaries and implementing consequences will probably herald the end of the relationship. After which, the narcissist, borderline or histrionic will smear you far and wide regarding what an unforgiving, grudge holding meanie you are.
What the bleep ever.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
I help individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone, FaceTime, GoogleMeet or Skype. Since 2009, I’ve specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from trauma. I combine practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to schedule an initial consult, please email me directly at shrink4men@protonmail.