Narcissists Cannot Take Responsibility
It is 100% normal and healthy to want a narcissist to be held accountable for the things they've done wrong. More than that, it's fair.
However, it's not very realistic. This is a person who is never going to understand or care what they've done to you on any level. They simply do not care.
A fair question to victims is, when you talk about accountability, what exactly do you want? Validation of your pain? An apology? Acknowledgment of wrongdoing? Public shaming? Because unless the narcissist has done something criminal or illegal, we are talking personal accountability here, and there is no system or way to hold them accountable for that. They are certainly not going to offer it.
A person who spent years abusing people is not going to suddenly see the light and realize (or care) that what they did was wrong. Even if they did apologize, there would likely be no sincerity in it—and forcing them to apologize or admit wrongdoing would never be satisfying. So while the desire is understandable - not to mention justified, it isn't helpful. It's too much like waiting on closure. You're not going to get it, so you have to make it OK for yourself, without the narcissist's input. Otherwise, you will never be able to move on because the narcissist is still controlling your thoughts, your feelings and your life.
Accepting The Reality
It's hard for people who are normal, caring, decent human beings to understand the way the narcissist operates, and most of the pain associated with dealing with a narcissist is because of this fundamental misunderstanding. For instance, we know the narcissist hurts, upsets and provokes people on purpose. Most of us would think that if someone does something on purpose, they understand the consequences of that purposeful action and in most cases, this is true. But it is not the case with narcissists. Doing something on purpose does not mean they appreciate the impact of what they've done. They do not understand what they have done to you on any level except intellectually. Some of them don't even understand that—and none of them care.
In other words, intellectually they might know that other people think what they have done is wrong. They may know that society does not think it's OK. They themselves do not think what they've done is wrong. This is about a dysfunctional thought process and maladaptive emotionality. Other people do not exist for them in the same way that they do for people who aren't narcissists. Other people are tools to be used and that's all. They push a button and the tool works one way. They push a different button and the tool works a different way. That's as far as it goes.
To say that a person must realize they're hurting you if they're doing it on purpose makes sense when we are discussing "normal" people, but in this case it's a misunderstanding of how the minds of narcissist work. They are not like other human beings. They don't appreciate or understand the impact, only the reaction. And they do not care. People who want the narcissist to take responsibility or face accountability want to be vindicated and validated. They want the narcissist to admit what they've done, and to care about how much others were hurt. They want the narcissist to feel bad and appreciate the damage they've caused. This is completely normal, justified and fair. But it will never happen. Any attempts to reach out to the narcissist for these things will only result in you being hurt more.
This is really unfair, but you probably know by now that dealing with these people is never anything but unfair. Part of moving on is realizing that you cannot control or change the narcissist and that you cannot live your life with them still taking up space in your brain. You have to make it OK for yourself without their help. You can do it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.