Thursday, October 05, 2006

Narcissists and the Denial of Remorse and Gratitude

Why the narcissist can't say "I'm sorry" or "thank you" in a way that feels real to you....

I found this article extremely helpful and insightful so I'm going to continue to comment on some of the content here.

There seems to be in all of us a disposition not to acknowledge how much we need others. Similarly, we all seem to have some fundamental discomfort admitting to mistakes and failures.....For the purpose of this essay, the aspects of the grandiose self that we wish to emphasize includes its being without need and without sin. A transaction will be considered as essentially narcissistic insofar as its main goal seems to be the shoring up of a sinless, needless self-concept. There follow some examples of everyday behavior suggesting the unconscious operation of a grandiose self-representation, followed by a discussion of everyday-life pathology around apologizing and thanking.
The premise of this essay is laid out above. I am very pleased that someone took the time and effort to analyze the effect in everyday life, as experienced by the victims, of the narcissistic need to preserve the illusion of perfection and sinlessness and how this renders the narcissist incapable of expressing true remorse or true gratitude. The various ways the narcissist denies these important transactions that lubricate social life are described well in the essay. I have experienced almost every aspect they describe. The same is probably true for you. I recommend you read the essay for yourself.

In a loving relationship perceived as temporarily damaged by one party's hunger or aggression, the (actual or fantasied) injuring party ordinarily seeks to restore the loving tone of the relationship. In adults, the usual vehicle is the apology.

What intrigues us about the reparation process when a narcissistic defense is operating is that what is repaired is not the damage to the relationship, but the subject's illusion of perfection.

How many times have you beat yourself up for not feeling like you can forgive the narcissist? Well, you can stop accusing yourself and realize that you've been denied true remorse and reparation from the narcissist which is why you feel so empty and distanced after receiving some version of an apology that was anything but an apology. What follows are some descriptions of various ways a narcissist appears to apologize while actually denying you an apology. It is sleight of hand. You've been duped to some extent. Your head tells you that you received an apology and therefore everything should be set right now, but your heart feels alienated and unmoved. Something was missing and somewhere you sense that. Hopefully, this article can explain why that is.

The first method of avoiding an apology is described as "undoing". Rather than come out and admit what they said or did was wrong, the narcissist will attempt to undo the wrong by doing something for you. Take you out to dinner, buy you something, sex, fill in the blank. If you are on the receiving end of the "undoing", you may still feel upset and hurt and may reject the advance. Or you may acquiesce by accepting the gift or action and conceal your feelings. You will still feel lonely and distanced because no true remorse was expressed. There is a cumulative effect of repeated "undoing" on a relationship that will ultimately result in alienation.

Never confuse "undoing" for a real apology. The act of "undoing" is how the narcissist avoids admitting to any imperfection on their part while they try to usher back in an atmosphere of reconciliation by getting you to drop your complaint. They are trying to buy you off. If you accept their "gift" in whatever form it takes, they will assume that all is well again. Meanwhile, you feel like crap.

Next post we'll look at the methods of "appealing to good intentions" and "explaining" as two more ways you can be denied a real apology.


Anonymous said...

Aaaah this one. Another thing making more sense. It always felt weird when I brought up some injustice my mother did to my like allowing my little brother to do this and not allowing me to do the same thing or some other little thing that she would call petty. It is on its own but I wanted her to feel a little bit sorry for her unfair treatment.

(She does it vice versa to, something for me but not my brother)

She has the child's idea of get even. Just give me the same thing now and I will be alright. Then I pointlessly try to explain to her that I just want her to try to avoid doing such things and all that I want is a sincere sorry. (I rarely say the wanting a sincere sorry part because that could result in an explosion)


Tundra Woman said...

Here's a couple other "undoing" examples any ACON could relate to:
You have been verbally thrashed/raged at reducing you to a terrified trembling being or perhaps a sobbing, snotting puddle. Often, you're not sure what your "offense" actually was...
Some time thereafter, the NP starts speaking to you normally, totally ignoring your normal, human response.
You've been on the receiving end of The Silent Treatment for who knows what-if you dare ask what's wrong, you get no response or a snarled, "NOTHING."
Suddenly, they start speaking to you normally, as if nothing happened.

In both instances, you're required to feel grateful that you are now back in their good graces. In both instances, they have just pulled what I call the "Clear Entry Move." Kind of like the ServPro Ad, "Like it Never Even Happened."
Except, it DID. (Again. Rinse and repeat.) No explanations, no apologies-ever. Because it "Never Even Happened."
Welcome to the world of growing up with an NP and their "doing" and "Undoing" of their kids.

Unknown said...

An abuse victim will flinch when the abuser waves their hands around, and the abuser will scream "What? You act as if I was going to HIT you! Don't do that!" What a bunch of a$$holes.

gettingouttathedark said...

I am chuckling and tickled pink as I read and read and read this website! I AM NOT ALONE! I have been through so much for so long IT IS A MIRACLE THAT I AM CHUCKLING! Thank you thank you thank you all so much for contributing your time to help me get clear. Don't stop looking for your own miracle before you get it!