I don’t like how some writers portray narcissists as some type of insensitive “less of a human being” creatures incapable of feeling some emotions like guilt and remorse. The problem with that approach is that it brings confusion to some readers making it harder for them to deal with narcissists in their lives. One of the emotions that is misunderstood in narcissists is guilt. Narcissists are capable of feeling guilty like any other person but the way guilt functions for them may be very different from normal people.
In a certain study, narcissists were asked to rate how they felt guilty about the suffering they had caused to their ex whom they had just broke up with recently. As expected, most of them never felt guilty at al. But does this mean that narcissists cannot feel guilt or remorseful? Of course not.
What is Guilt Anyway?
Guilt (not to be confused with shame) like other emotions from our unconscious mind, is sent when we are going against our values. When you violate any of your core values, your mind sends you guilt to keep you on the right track. But people have different values hence different reasons for feeling guilty. If one of your core values is to never kill someone innocent, there are some hit-men out there who kill innocent people for a fee.
While you may feel extremely guilty if you killed someone in an accident, a hit-man would never feel guilty killing an innocent target intentionally, simply because you have different values. This also explains why some people would feel guilty upon cheating on their spouse while others would not.
Why are Narcissists Less Likely To Feel Guilty or Remorseful?
From the explanation above, you may have concluded that narcissists don’t feel guilt because they are evil or lack common values, but that’s not true. Most of them do have common values like normal people. What makes them insensitive and remorseless of their cruelty is how they view themselves.
As I said in some of my earlier articles, every narcissist is someone who has been through a lot of suffering for him to be the way he is. Narcissism is a defence mechanism to protect the person from future hurts.
When a narcissist is hurt or when he senses that his painful past is about to repeat itself, he enters into predatory mode to protect himself. Once they are in this mode, feelings like guilt, remorse and empty are completely blocked because they would be disadvantageous. The same way you feel less pain when you are in fight or flight mode.
You don’t have to something really cruel to trigger this predatory mode. A narcissist who suffered because he was abandoned as a child may turn into an “animal” as soon he senses that he is about to be abandoned by his partner.
Another thing that makes narcissists less likely to feel guilty is their vindictiveness. When a narcissist feels that he is wronged in any way, he usually seeks revenge with passion. Because the person they are revenging on is considered an enemy, they feel not guilt for crushing him/her.
What Makes a Narcissist Feel Guilty?
If a narcissist believes that he is responsible for someone else’s suffering, he can feel guilty like anybody else provided that his defence mechanism is not activated. The reason why they feel no guilty for making their ex suffer after a breakup, is because breakups are most likely to happen after some fights, putting the narcissist on the defence.
Narcissists can also feel remorse once they find that they need the person they harmed. For example, If they made their ex’s life miserable out of rage, they may start feeling remorseful once they start missing them. Of course this is because the rage would have shut off. When a narcissist starts behaving remorseful when trying to bring back their ex, some people usually think that it’s a manipulative tactic but that’s not true, simply because they would not want their ex back if they are still on the defensive. (See also: Why are narcissists so mean)