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Draggles, my T says it's because for some people their inner world will collapse if they allow themselves to feel they have done wrong - it will feel annihilating for them, so they protect against it at any cost. :\ I guess it's a kind of black and white thinking - either I'm faultless or I don't deserve to live.

Are you talking about parents, siblings or peers? Or all three?

It would have meant so much to me at one time to hear my mother say the words "I'm sorry" but I know I will never hear them from her as she's also one of those who will never apologize. You may be onto something there thinking that it might be some type of narcissism or sociopathy. My mother wanted things the way she wanted things and no one else's feelings mattered then and they don't now.

My brother once said, "Why am I always the bad guy?" I didn't say it but thought, "because you are the one who does the bad things." Like Jones said, there has to be a certain amount of denial going on there. He doesn't feel good enough about himself to be able to acknowledge that he had been mean or evil or wrong. He may border on being sociopathic and not care at all what other people are feeling or it could just be the way all alcoholics are. Maybe that is another explanation, that there is an addiction going on and that's a whole other ball game.

As far as siblings or peers, I was also wondering if sometimes people don't apologize because they don't think they have done anything wrong or they themeselves feel hurt and think they are owed the apology. I know I've wanted apologies sometimes from people and never got them but realized afterwards that maybe they felt hurt as well. The interaction had been painful for me and likely painful for them. We were both lashing out but I was only able to see at the time that I was the only one hurt. I didn't see and couldn't acknowledge my own power. Maybe that's part of it too, that they feel very powerless and the abuse is a way for them to express their powerlessness. To them, it might feel like justifiable anger.
Hey Draggles -

It's tricky to understand for me too. I think the deal sometimes is that subconsciously they DO feel great shame and guilt, but it's really dangerous to them, feels unsurvivable, so they have learned a way of keeping it away. I suspect it feels unsurvivable sometimes because the shame and guilt underneath comes from abusive dynamics they have lived through so it's out of proportion, irrational, threatening and all sorts of bad stuff.

Mostly I'm good with apologising when I realise I've done wrong but for ages with my H neither of us could sincerely apologise for or see the ways we hurt each other, it was too complicated and far too painful. It felt like I'd be apologising for him hurting me, because I just could not see that I had also hurt him, intentionally or not. I think a calm and sincere apology with responsibility feels a bit different than a knee-jerk automatic guilt one, and it can be so hard to get to when you feel wounded yourself.

Now I've learned that when we're in a fight, no matter how sure I am that I'm right and he's wrong, there's always some part of the fight that I'm responsible for and can own and say sorry for (when I've calmed down a bit). That seems to unlock the path to peace pretty much every time.

Good question Smiler I'm not sure I have any answers though; but I can say is that unless you find yourself apologising to inanimate objects like I do; I shouldn't worry too much Big Grin

(((SB))) and (((Liese))) have it about right I think. My narcissistic mother would never admit to being wrong and I've never heard the words "I'm sorry" pass her lips. But to answer SB's question:-

They either fully believe they are never wrong - or they are so fragile they can't bear to acknowledge they are not perfect. I've never figured out which my mother is...

I think it's probably the latter. When my mother has been wrong, although she wouldn't admit to it, I have seen her colour up slightly and her voice is a little shaky afterwards - she can hide it but her body's response can't Wink So inside she knew she was wrong or made a mistake but was too afraid to spoil the perfect image of herself.


I am on board with the theory that people who can't apologize is because their sense of self is so fragile that they are incapable of seeing, letting alone apologizing, for something they did because to own it would destroy them. I also very much agree with Jones that owning your own stuff is path to peace. Which when you think of people who refuse to ever apologize, does the word "peaceful" ever spring to mind? Smiler

I have experienced this one (in certain areas, I've never been one to never apologize, but more on that later). I carry such a deep sense of shame and worthlessness, that to recognize I am guilty of certain acts, would entirely confirm just how worthless I am and I sink into despair and shame. So I protect against seeing my guilt because it is too threatening to my sense of self. I have been doing alot of work around this in the last year or so and have learned to accept my own humanity. That doing something wrong does not invalidate my worth. As it matter of fact, I have had to learn to tolerate knowing I have failed in certain areas to not continue to abandon my loved ones.

I know I deeply believe that my mother's failure to accept what happened to me (when faced with undenialable evidence of the abuse from a third source, she cut me off rather than face it) and her inability to apologize is about her own pain and it being too threatening to recognize that she failed me so profoundly (because I suspect she herself was abused, so how nightmarish would that be?) I do have compassion for her for the kind of pain she must be in that defending against it requires her to cut off one of her own children, while also being very angry (OK, rageful) about her failure to step up and deal with her own pain in order to be present for me. But it is what it is.

I think the other thing that is difficult about apologizing is just how vulnerable it makes you. You are in effect, giving the other person power over you (if you wronged them, they could chose to punish you and not forgive you). It is also humbling to admit your wrong. Someone can meet an apology with grace, by accepting it or they can scorn it and turn you away (having that happen on a public forum is especially humiliating. I once apologized to someone online and was ignored because they told me later they didn't think it was sincere. It was, and cost me to say it). Enduring that kind of vulnerability can just be too hard is you have a lot of unprocessed emotions about being hurt when vulnerable.

I have also learned for me that I do two different kinds of apologizing. The first is the reflex "I'm sorry" if I think I've done anything wrong or asked for too much or breathed too much oxygen. Smiler I read somewhere recently, sorry I can't remember where, that this is reflexive apology that really means "I'm sorry, please don't hurt me." which is really about me and my safety, not a feeling of resonsbility for wronging another person. It was ouchy when I read it, but I think it fits what I do. BTW, I do think its possible to be both sincerely apologizing out of concern for the other person but still have this operating.

A sincere apology to me is all about responsibility. I recognize that I have done something wrong and wounded another person. The right thing to do, and the kind of person I want to be, is to own that responsibility and ask for forgiveness, knowing that the other person can chose to forgive or not forgive, restore or not restore. The outcome doesn't matter (not that I wouldn't have strong feelings about it) but me being a person who takes responsibility is. May I add that I am very much a work in progress and I think can still really struggle sometimes with seeing that I have done wrong because it is threatening. But being aware I can do this helps.

Last but not least, is learning to be non-defensive about someone's feelings but not apologizing if you feel you haven't done anything wrong. My T has been an excellent model. For example. I say "You left on vacation and I felt abandoned." His response to that is "I understand how that could evoke feelings of abandonment and how terrible it must feel." He reflects how the situation feels for me and is empathetic but does not apologize, because he did nothing wrong in taking a vacation. On the other hand when I said "T I asked you to read my blog and you told me you were going to and its four months later and you still haven't and I am hurt and angry." what I got back was "I'm sorry, I have been meaning to get to it, but haven't done so yet and of course you're feeling upset. I will make it more of a priority." In that case, he felt he had done something wrong by not following through on something he had told me he would do, so his response was to apologize. But in both cases I feel heard.

The non-defensive hearing of the other person is tough because it requires you to be comfortable with your own boundaries and actions. If you KNOW you did nothing wrong, it feels much less urgent to defend what you did, and therefore, listen to the other person. Really really tough skill but invaluable.

And I will confess that I am a stickler in that because I feel so strongly about apologizing no matter the circumstances when I am wrong, I also feel as strongly that I will not apologize if I fail to see myself as doing something wrong. I can be quite stubborn about this, I don't apologize if I don't think its mine to own. Just because I get hurt and angry about my T going on a vacation doesn't mean I have a right to demand an apology from him. My feelings are mine and legitimate but it doesn't necessarily follow that my hurt is the result of another's wrong doing. When it comes down to it, apologies are a boundary issue.

Really good question Draggers, sorry I wrote a novel in response but I have been doing a LOT of thinking about this lately. Thanks for opening the topic. Hug two

I have thought about this question a lot lately also. I apologize constantly and I think a part of it is feeling I'm kind of worthless. I'm alive so I better apologize for it.

The most disappointing thing I ever heard my father say was "I don't apologize to anybody." My mouth dropped open and instantly I felt so much less of him. I felt awful for what my mother had to endure in her marriage, if that was his belief. I think back on it and some of the hurtful things he said about my appearance and you know what, he never did apologize. I just never thought about it until he said he just won't apologize. He has no idea how that has affected me and if he did, well no apology from him, I guess.

I have no thoughts to why a person is like this. It's a great question to ponder though.
When someone apologizes to me I instantly feel guilty... I think it's because I feel ok or something then react when I feel that way. I'm learning.

I don't know what makes people apologize or not... I don't think it is always a personality flaw... It sucks to be wrong.

I think the hardest part, which Jones and others said above is taking responsibility. Working so long in the corporate world I cannot tell you the number of people who have no ability to own a mistake without excuses. It's everywhere and even harder when the heart is involved Frowner

Good question Draggers,,, sorry I don't have much more to add

The non-defensive hearing of the other person is tough because it requires you to be comfortable with your own boundaries and actions. If you KNOW you did nothing wrong, it feels much less urgent to defend what you did, and therefore, listen to the other person.

Spot-on. Something for me to really think about.

Recently I've struggled with trying to apologize to T over certain things, and feeling like I hear crickets on the other end of the conversation. This can be just as unsatisfying and infuriating as not getting an apology when you feel you're owed one!

I never got to read your original questions, but I wanted to respond with something.

The quality of the apology counts. Sometimes it's possible to receive an apology from the person who hurt you and it be totally inadequate.

Case in point: my father has apologized to me on about three different occasions for abusing me. However, his apology was on par with "I'm sorry I hurt you." Missing was any acknowledgement of my pain. And these apologies came only when my father was confronted by someone about his actions. They were never self-initiated.

After a while, it was difficult to see his apologies as sincere. Despite hurting me and the rest of the family in horrible ways, he resisted getting treatment. My T informed me that part of the 12-step process is making restitution to all parties harmed by the addict. Well, my dad apparently skipped that step. While in his 12-step program, he never contacted me to offer a sincere apology. And any time someone tried to confront him about his behavior, he turned into a martyr: "Everybody hates me, God hates me, I'm worthless, etc."

Well, I'm done with that manipulation. He can either apologize to me like a real man, or he can stay out of my life forever. If that's the extent of his remorse, he can keep it to himself.

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