A Narcissistic Psychopath’s Non-Apology Apology

A man who cannot admit his guilt is never free.
Józef Tischner

Updated on 10/9/16.

This latest revelation, of Trump bragging about his repeated sexual assaults, has been dubbed “an October surprise,” although there is really nothing surprising about it (see below).

But given the uproar that followed, Trump was forced to issue a videotaped expression of regret (or what passes for it among people with his character defect; this is Trump’s second, “better,” attempt at apology over this fiasco — the first one was the classic “if anyone was offended, I apologize“):

My favorite part:

Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.

It’s gotta be a typo there, because anyone who knows Trump knows that these words reflect who and what he is to a T. Misogyny, and the abuse of women it leads to, is a feature of narcissistic psychopathy, although one we tend to ignore or misunderstand, like the character defect itself. Trump’s misogyny is as much a part of his identity as is his racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and other manifestations of his narcissistic consciencelessness.

But let’s remind ourselves why exactly conscience-deficient people like Trump are incapable of apologizing:

While a narcissist can mimic empathy and some semblance of concern over human ideals, he cannot mimic guilt, an emotion that is completely beyond his ability, even if only intellectual, to comprehend. It is partly a function of his grandiosity: he’s never guilty of or responsible for anything wrong because he has placed himself above humanity with its constraining social mores and silly emotional concerns. But it also stems, and predominantly so, from his empathy deficit that makes him unable to experience the pain of others. And, as he is always justified in everything he does in his own eyes, the sheer notion of responsibility, much less its affective and more unsettling component of guilt (when responsibility is broken), is alien to him.

We can see this inability to experience guilt in the narcissist’s ‘non-apology’ apologies in those unfortunate situations when he is forced to issue a statement of contrition for public consumption. He may do so through the use of the impersonal “mistakes were made,” or that classic maneuver of responsibility disavowal via “If anyone was hurt by my words or actions I have committed, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize,” or some version thereof.

He may sometimes express superficial remorse for something (“Yeah, I shouldn’t have done it”), but the sentiment is shallow, fleeting, and upon closer inspection related to his regret over causing harm to himself (his reputation, etc.) and not to the harm he inflicted on another person.

True to the narcissistically psychopathic fashion, there is nothing in Trump’s statement indicating that he understands what he did wrong and feels in any way responsible for it.

Not one thing.

Granted, he did not write these words to begin with (“grieving mothers”? please; he wouldn’t know a grieving mother if he tripped over one on his way to a limo), but he approved them and delivered them as his own.

And as this statement was prepared for him by someone else — presumably by someone who should know better (i.e., have a functioning conscience) — it goes to show that, again true to fashion, a leader (and not only) with his character defect surrounds himself with people who are equally defective and dangerously clueless (or worse). But we knew that already, didn’t we.

Incapable of guilt, a narcissistic psychopath is, however, acutely sensitive to shame:

Shame is so difficult for a narcissist to tolerate because it arises from an exposure of some flaw of his to others. He has many serious shortcomings; but in his own eyes he is perfect and surpasses everyone else, as he will let you know time and again, directly and not. He must retain this grandiose delusion of superiority and perfection at all costs because this is all he has. His bigger than life persona hides an empty inner core, devoid of meaningful values and attachments. A prick of shame exposing any flaws in the narcissist’s façade has a potential of deflating it and effectively destroying him since there is nothing of substance to fall back on within his inner world.

This oversensitivity to shame is what distinguishes a narcissistic psychopath from the “regular” kind. Although all psychopaths are grandiose and entitled, the regular, not-fully-narcissistic ones can and usually do shrug off shame the same way they shrug off any pro-social emotions and demands. Attempts at shaming a “regular” psychopath are met with indifference and/or ridicule of the shamers’ naivete.

Not so with a narcissist, in whom shame evokes narcissistic rage accompanied by an irrepressible urge to strike back in retaliation, which comes from a reflexive need to protect his fragile ego. It usually does not subside easily, if at all:

His reactions to shame are grossly disproportionate to the “offense;” he will hold grudges and seek revenge sometimes till death, his own or his “offender’s,” whichever comes first. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned.

Some observers of Trump do not see or understand this aspect of his character defect. There are those who, for example, try to explain his habit of sending nasty tweets when it obviously goes against his own interests, and invariably bring up his impulsiveness and lack of discipline as the explanation.

That’s not all there is to it, however. Gary “What’s Aleppo?” Johnson is also impulsive and lacks discipline, yet he, unlike Trump, does not strike any (or most) of us as sadistic and dangerous (if we do not look at his policy proposals, that is). Overdoing pot, maybe. Trump’s, and any narcissistic psychopath’s sadism — the ultimate expression of narcissistic rage — is what sets his compulsive behaviors, like those tweets, apart from the lack of discipline seen in impulsive individuals with a conscience.

It is the irrepressible desire for revenge that keeps him awake and drives his need to tweet at odd hours of the night. His nightly tweets are never benign, as we know: They are offensive and designed to hurt and humiliate their subject. And that subject is always someone who has injured his fragile ego, either directly or by proxy.

The relentless, compulsive quality of those fuming reactions is one sure sign, among oh-so-many, that this man is not only unqualified to be near the nukes’ button(s), but shouldn’t be in charge of anything that affects living beings in any way. It tells us how incapable he is of controlling his narcissistic rage, which is arguably the deadliest emotion known to humankind.

We can see shades of that rage in this non-apology video, above.

Trump does not look contrite or chastened — on the contrary, he is visibly angry and looks offended by this imposition.  As always when he is trying to mimic pro-social emotions, his facial expressions do not match his words, this time meant to express regret.  The body does not lie. He looks like a schoolyard bully forced to apologize to his victims, which he does with utmost reluctance, while gripping a baseball bat behind his back and already imagining how he’s going to use it.

He even says as much, promising, ominously, to get back at Hillary and Bill (!) for this humiliation in the upcoming days.

Hell hath no fury.


Many Republicans have responded with outsized outrage over this “revelation,” trying to distance themselves from Trump. I’m thinking, as if.

Here’s a comment that also expresses my own thoughts on the matter:

Hope LaVance

Naw don’t disown him now. When he was calling for violence at his rallies yall were all behind him. When he was talking about the wall yall were screaming his praises. When he suggested his supporters murder hillary yall ate it up. Now you want to distance yourselves. Nope stand by your man.

 UPDATE 10/9/16:

See this excellent blow-by-blow takedown of Trump’s non-apology by Leah McElrath: Trump’s Video Apology Is an Eerie Replica of Psychological Manipulation by Abusers.


6 thoughts on “A Narcissistic Psychopath’s Non-Apology Apology

  1. So he says he’s gonna change, but continues to abuse her?

    Words alone don’t mean much (read: anything). In what ways is he still abusive?

    This pull-and-push will continue as long as she engages in it. There are many reasons I could think of why he wouldn’t want to / couldn’t “find a replacement” — depends on their relationship, his characteristics and life situation, etc.

    But if he is indeed a malignant narcissist — and the serial rapes would strongly suggest as much — she needs to protect herself from his narcissistic rage which will erupt when she tries to leave for good.

    Sigh. Marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s