Does a Narcissist Ever Truly Regret Hurting People?

A recent study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review suggests that narcissists never really regret hurting people. The study’s authors say that in order for the narcissist to truly regret his actions and show genuine remorse, he would need to have what they call “emotional empathy.” This is the ability to understand and share the emotions of another person.

The narcissist’s lack of emotional empathy means that they are unable to feel remorse for the pain they cause others.

This is not because they do not know that they have hurt someone, but rather because they do not care who they trample on as long as they get whatever they want. In their eyes, the end justifies the means.

What is Emotional Empathy?

Emotional empathy, also known as affective empathy, is the ability to respond to another person’s emotional state by feeling the same emotions.

This type of empathy involves mirroring what the other person is feeling, or in other words, ‘feeling with’ them.

It’s not just understanding someone else’s emotions from a cognitive perspective, which is known as cognitive empathy, but actually sharing their emotional experience.

For example, if a friend is feeling sad, someone with a high degree of emotional empathy would also feel that sadness.

They might even cry along with them.

This can create a strong emotional bond between people, as it shows a deep level of understanding and shared experience.

narcissist cognitive empathy regret

What is Cognitive Empathy?

Cognitive empathy, also known as perspective-taking, is the ability to understand and appreciate another person’s feelings and emotions from their point of view.

It involves being able to consider someone else’s perspective, even if it’s different from yours, and to understand their feelings and reactions.

This type of empathy doesn’t necessarily involve sharing the emotions or feelings of the other person, but rather understanding them.

Cognitive empathy is important in maintaining effective communication and building strong relationships, as it helps us to better understand others

narcissists and empathy

Narcissists and Empathy

Narcissists often showcase an intriguing dynamic between emotional and cognitive empathy.

On one hand, they lack emotional empathy, which is the ability to feel what another person is feeling.

This deficit can lead to a lack of genuine emotional connection or understanding, often making narcissists seem cold, indifferent, or uncaring.

On the other hand, many narcissists exhibit a high degree of cognitive empathy.

Cognitive empathy, as mentioned above, is the ability to understand another person’s perspective or mental state.

This skill allows narcissists to be extremely adept at manipulation, using techniques such as mirroring, love bombing, and presenting themselves as someone’s ‘soulmate.

narcissist and regret

Mirroring Technique

Mirroring is a technique where narcissists reflect back what they believe the other person wants to see.

They can mimic the other person’s values, interests, and even speech patterns, creating an illusion of deep connection and understanding.

This is where their cognitive empathy comes into play, as it enables them to understand what the other person is looking for in a partner or friend.

narcissistic love bombing

Love Bombing

Love bombing is another tactic often used by narcissists.

It involves showering the target with affection, compliments, and grand gestures, usually early in the relationship.

This intense attention and admiration can make the target feel special and loved, but it’s often just a way for the narcissist to gain control and manipulate the relationship.

narcissists and the soulmate illusion

The ‘Soulmate’ Illusion

Lastly, narcissists are often skilled at presenting themselves as someone’s ‘soulmate.’

By using their cognitive empathy to understand a person’s deepest desires and needs, they can tailor their behavior and persona to fit that ideal image.

This can make the person feel like they’ve found their perfect match, further drawing them into the narcissist’s web of manipulation.

regretting your actions

The Link Between Emotional Empathy and Regret

Emotional empathy and regret or remorse are interrelated in the sense that they both revolve around a deep understanding and experiencing of emotions, often involving those of others.

Emotional empathy refers to the ability to share and understand the feelings of others.

Regret, or remorse, on the other hand, is a complex emotion that arises from the realization of a mistake or wrongdoing, often accompanied by a desire for rectification or atonement.

Individuals who are capable of stepping into others’ shoes and understanding the ramifications of their actions on others are more likely to experience guilt or remorse when they cause harm to another person.

This emotional empathy allows them to realize when they’ve erred, and the negative impact their behavior had on other people, fostering an understanding of why such actions should be avoided in the future.

narcissist and regret

Narcissists: Cognitive Empathy without Remorse

Narcissists display a unique relationship with empathy.

While they possess cognitive empathy, allowing them to decipher the feelings and needs of those around them, they lack the emotional connection that typically accompanies this understanding.

Narcissists can understand what you’re feeling, but they do not share or connect with those feelings on an emotional level.

This disconnect stems from their tendency to view others as tools for personal gain, rather than as individuals with their own feelings and needs.

As a result, a narcissist will act without considering the emotional consequences of their actions on others.

Consequently, despite their ability to understand the feelings of others, a narcissist will rarely experience genuine remorse or regret, as their focus remains primarily on their own needs and desires.

narcissist no remorse or regret

Narcissists: The Link Between Personal Responsibility and Regret

Not only do narcissists often lack emotional empathy, but they also frequently struggle with taking responsibility for their actions.

Narcissists tend to blame others for their failures and shortcomings, constantly shifting the blame away from themselves.

This refusal to accept personal blame hinders their ability to learn from past experiences and makes them resistant to constructive criticism.

As a result, personal growth and change can be significantly challenging for narcissists.

narcissistic projection

The Role of Projection

Projection is a defense mechanism where individuals attribute their own unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or motives to another person.

In the case of narcissists, they often project their ill will and motivations onto others.

This leads them to inhabit an alternate reality where they are the victims rather than the perpetrators.

This distorted perception makes it impossible for them from recognize when they have done wrong, reinforcing their refusal to accept responsibility for their actions.

Narcissists and Regret

Narcissists’ propensity for blame-shifting and projection severely hinders their ability to feel regret. They will justify their harmful behaviors as self-defense, placing the blame squarely on the victim.

In addition they will minimize the impact of their actions.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a narcissist’s actions, you’ll know that they can dismiss your feelings with comments like “You’re overreacting, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Such statements demonstrate their inability to acknowledge the harm they’ve caused, further reinforcing their self-centered perspective.

This pattern of thinking allows them to navigate life without experiencing true remorse or acknowledging the consequences of their actions. By ignoring the impact they have on others, a narcissist can maintain their sense of superiority and avoid feelings of regret, shame or guilt.

narcissists do not regret their actions

A Narcissist Is Constantly At War

Narcissists are notoriously sensitive to criticism, no matter how constructive or well-intentioned it may be. Their egos are fragile, and they perceive any form of contradiction or feedback as a personal attack.

This hypersensitivity stems from an inflated sense of self-worth and a deep inner fear of being seen as less than perfect. Therefore, they will go to great lengths, even causing harm to those around them, to prove that they are always right.

In the mind of a narcissist, life is often perceived as an ongoing battle, a war against anyone who doesn’t offer them the respect or adoration they believe they deserve.

They defend their image and constructed persona with everything they have, viewing any challenge as a direct assault.

In this war, all is fair. They use manipulation, deceit, and even aggression to maintain their image and protect their ego from perceived threats.


Can a Narcissist Feel Regret or Remorse?

Narcissists, like any other individuals, can indeed feel regret.

However, it’s essential to understand that their sense of regret tends to be markedly different from what most people typically experience.

For a narcissist, regret is not about genuine remorse for causing harm to another person. Instead, it’s about the negative consequences they face due to their actions.

Self-Centered Regret

The narcissistic form of regret is often centered around self-interest rather than empathetic concern for others.

A narcissist may regret getting caught or losing something they value as a result of their actions.

In essence, they don’t feel bad about what they did but are upset about what it cost them.

This reflects the self-centered nature of narcissistic regret, where the focus is on the impact on themselves rather than on others.

can a narcissist experience regret

Narcissistic Supply and Regret

Narcissists thrive on what is known as ‘narcissistic supply,’ which refers to the attention, admiration, and praise they receive from others.

When a source of this supply – be it a friend, family member, or lover – disappears from their life, the narcissist may feel regret.

However, this regret is not rooted in concern for the lost individual. Instead, the narcissist laments the loss of a mirror that reflected their inflated self-image back to them.

Superficial Regret

The regret experienced by a narcissist is thus superficial and lacks depth.

It lacks any real connection to empathy or understanding of the harm they’ve caused others.

This form of regret is more about the narcissist’s loss and discomfort than about acknowledging the pain inflicted on others.

It’s a regret motivated by self-preservation rather than genuine remorse.

In conclusion, while narcissists can feel regret, it is typically self-centered and shallow, focusing more on the narcissist’s losses and discomfort than on the pain or harm they’ve caused to others.

narcissist regrets

Narcissists – No Regrets Whatsoever

In conclusion, emotional empathy plays a crucial role in our ability to feel remorse or regret. By helping us understand the emotional impact of our actions on others, it promotes accountability and encourages better decision-making.

Unfortunately narcissists tend to have cognitive empathy and not emotional empathy.

So while they understand the feelings of the people around them, through cognitive empathy, their lack of emotional connection enables them to totally disregard the harm they cause, leading to a lack of genuine remorse.

In addition to lacking emotional empathy, narcissists also refuse to take responsibility for their actions, often projecting blame onto others, thus avoiding all accountability and totally bypassing regret.

As a result, is highly unlikely that a narcissist ever experiences genuine regret. They may feign remorse or guilt in order to manipulate the people around them, but the reality is that they do not feel true remorse.

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3 thoughts on “Does a Narcissist Ever Truly Regret Hurting People?”

  1. This was a great article, but suffered diminished value when you chose to use He or Him instead of They. This paints the narrative/stigma that narcissists are mostly men. While most Overt narcissists are men, most Covert are in fact women, and may also have traits of BPD and other Cluster B traits. Also, there are Very few trained therapists who can spot female narcissists (Or they manipulate the therapist) and therefore go undiagnosed. Add to that, men who are going through abuse rarely report it due to pride. And if they are diagnosed, they discontinue therapy and call the therapist crazy. Lastly, it’s a fact that Covert Narcissism isn’t in the DSM5 Manual, so properly diagnosing is incredibly difficult. If you factor all of this in, there are a plethora of female narcissists in the world.
    Have a nice day.


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