Are narcissists aware of the emotional damage they cause?

It’s common for people who have been subjected to narcissistic abuse to wonder if the narcissist is aware of the damage they’ve caused.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the narcissist recognized the pain they’ve inflicted and showed remorse for their behavior? Desperate for some recognition from the narcissist, many victims ask if the narcissist knows what they’re doing.

The answer isn’t entirely straightforward, but taking a look at the key features of narcissism leads us to a better understanding. We’ll explore this more below. 

Traits of narcissism that make awareness unlikely 

Narcissists tend to possess traits that make it unlikely that they’re consciously aware of the damage they cause. 

They may know, on some level, that their behavior is harmful, but they have defense mechanisms that protect them from acknowledging this fact. 

Narcissistic personality traits also prevent narcissists from showing remorse for the emotional damage they’ve caused. So, if they are aware of it, they don’t particularly care. 

Lack of empathy for others

At the heart of narcissism is a lack of empathy for the experiences of others. Narcissists are concerned with their own needs, wants, and goals, but they don’t care about yours.

A narcissist certainly doesn’t have time for your feelings because they’re wrapped up in their own world.

 So, when they’re hurting you, they are not fully aware of the pain you’re experiencing. 

If they have some awareness that they’re causing harm, their lack of empathy prevents them from truly understanding how badly you’re hurting. 

Difficulty accepting accountability 

Underneath their charming exteriors, narcissists are quite unsure of themselves. They have fragile egos, and they rely upon external validation to maintain their self-esteem.

Because narcissists are actually quite insecure, they cannot accept responsibility for any of their flaws or shortcomings.

See also  How To Spot Narcissists on a First Date? Watch Out For These Red Flags

When they hurt you, narcissists cannot handle the shame and feelings of inferiority that come from knowing they’re in the wrong.

Instead of accepting responsibility and acknowledging the hurt they’ve caused, narcissists will do whatever they can to avoid accountability. This can prevent them from being fully aware of the emotional damage they’re causing. 

Tendency to blame-shift 

Because narcissists cannot take the blame for their own mistakes, they have to shift it elsewhere. They may recognize that they’re emotionally damaging you, but they’ll have an excuse, which usually involves blaming you or someone else. 

Rather than fully acknowledging the pain they’ve caused, they’ll say that they would never have had to hurt you, if you had only listened to them. Or, they’ll insist that they hurt you because you did something to deserve it.

Sometimes, they’ll blame other people, or outside situations. For instance, they’ll justify the pain they’ve caused by blaming a bad day at work. It’s not their fault you were the closest person around when they needed to take out some frustration! 

Gaslighting behavior 

Narcissists love to gaslight. This behavior occurs when they try to convince you that you remember things incorrectly or that your perception is wrong. 

When they’ve caused you pain, the narcissist may later deny that they ever did anything wrong.

Consider this scenario: the narcissist is feeling insecure about a perceived slight from a coworker, and they take their anger out on you. Perhaps they say nasty things, telling you that you’re incompetent and will never get anywhere in life. 

Later, when you mention to them that their behavior was hurtful, they’ll deny any wrongdoing. 

Perhaps they’re aware that they’re gaslighting, but it’s also possible that this manipulative tactic is so ingrained in the narcissist’s brain that they don’t even realize they’re doing it. 

See also  7 tips For Communicating With Narcissists

Arrogance and superiority 

Narcissists believe themselves to be superior to others. They believe they are more talented, attractive, worthy, and important than those around them.

When they hurt you, they might have some awareness that they’re being harmful, but they don’t particularly care.

This is because they see you as being beneath them. They don’t stop to assess the extent of the damage they’re causing.

All they know is that they are above you on the totem pole, so they don’t need to consider whether they’re hurting you. It’s not important. 

Victim mentality 

People with narcissistic traits tend to maintain a victim mentality. They view themselves as being innocent victims of the people around them. 

When narcissists hurt people, they see themselves as the victim. Even if they’re the ones victimizing others, they don’t perceive things that way.

Whatever they do to you, they feel justified in doing. They think they’re simply defending themselves. 

This can prevent them from truly recognizing the harm they’re causing you. They’re too caught up in their own woes. 

Focus on their own needs

Narcissists view relationships as being entirely transactional, and their only goal is to have their own needs met.

If they hurt people in the course of getting their needs met, they don’t really stop to consider the damage they’re causing.

Attuning to your needs and emotions isn’t really on the narcissist’s radar. They have one goal in mind: getting the attention, admiration, or narcissistic supply they need to survive.

The narcissist’s narrow focus on their own self-interests can prevent them from recognizing the damage they’re causing to others. 

See also  How to Make a Narcissist Fear You? 12 Greatest Fears of the Narcissist

Do they ever have an awareness of the damage they cause?

Some experts on narcissism argue that narcissists are aware of the damage they cause. After all, they tend to harm their victims behind closed doors, while maintaining a perfect public image.

This is true. Narcissists do need to maintain a charming facade in public. They must look competent, friendly, and accomplished in order to gain respect and admiration. 

However, it’s all a show. Narcissists are showing behaviors they think will earn them a positive reputation. Their charisma and kindness are not genuine; instead, narcissists are mimicking prosocial behaviors they’ve witnessed in others. 

So, they may be aware that the behaviors they show toward you aren’t exactly friendly, but they do not necessarily acknowledge the extent of the damage they’re causing.

If narcissists are ever aware that they’re hurting you, they probably don’t spend much time thinking about it. Doing so would cause their egos too much damage. 

The bottom line

Narcissists may have some level of awareness that their behaviors toward others are harmful. However, they also have some pretty fine-tuned defense mechanisms that protect them from facing the damage they’ve caused.

If narcissists were to take a good look at the harm they’ve caused others, it would cause them immense shame. It would also threaten the facade of perfection they’ve created to keep their underlying insecurities hidden.

Narcissists may recognize the damage they’ve caused you, but they’re likely to quickly employ a defense mechanism to protect themselves from facing reality.

Instead of acknowledging your pain and feeling remorseful, the narcissist will make excuses for themselves by blame-shifting, justifying their behavior, or minimizing the extent of the damage they’ve done. 

Related Articles