So you’ve made the choice to end your relationship with a narcissist. Or maybe the choice was made for you. I want to tell you to feel amazing about that right now. But first, let me tell you this – I know it hurts. And that’s okay; it’s going to get better. I promise you.
However the relationship ended, you’re working on recovery from the narcissistic abuse you’ve been suffering. Whatever your story, this is a time of intense healing, and that’s a good thing. I wrote this guide for you to remind you of some things that have helped me – and I want you to know that you’re never alone.
Of course, you’re hurting, and it will likely be a while before you feel 100 percent better. But I’m asking you to hold out hope – and to know – that better will arrive. You’ll feel happy and at peace again. It will take time and hard work, but it’s worth it and you deserve all the love and happiness life has to offer.
What should you expect in narcissistic abuse recovery?
Trying to recover from narcissistic abuse can seem a never-ending journey which can also be very difficult to navigate. You may have lost all self-esteem and confidence you once had, which will make it even harder to take the first steps towards recovery.
From gaslighting to playing the victim to flying monkeys and beyond, narcissists know only one thing: they want what they want when they want it, and nothing else will do. Research proves that narcissists, regardless of their classification and level of extremity, all share four basic traits – they lack empathy, they are self-centered, have a serious disregard for other people, and are selfish, to put it mildly.
I polled several of my narcissistic abuse recovery support groups and they agree that this seems consistent with their experiences. How about you?
Is recovery from narcissistic abuse possible?
As someone who has personally managed to recover from narcissistic abuse and who has helped thousands of others do the same, I can tell you that recovery from narcissistic abuse is absolutely possible! Still, recovery requires you to recognize what you’ve been dealing with and then to take intentional steps toward healing. It will be difficult, but it is most definitely worth the effort. If you have children with the narcissist or are unable to go full no contact for another reason, you’ll need to modify the process, but even then, with certain personal policies and behavior modification techniques put in place, you can heal and take back your life. I created the DUO method to make this process more understandable and easier to navigate.
Where do you begin your healing process?
The first thing I want to tell you, whether you’re already gone or you’re planning your escape, is congratulations.
I know that might seem inappropriate at this moment, but try looking at it a new way. Imagine the level of freedom you can now enjoy. Imagine how you’ll be allowed to make your own decisions, to be the person that you truly want to be. To start this process you need to learn how to open your mind and heart further as healing requires rebuilding your whole sense of self. The first step toward recovery is knowing that you deserve better and that narcissists are not capable of true, genuine love.
Your recovery should begin with getting to the point where you just want to feel better. Given that we all hate pain and naturally want happiness, this really should be the starting point. I find many people buy into this notion of ‘healing’ but instead of wanting to feel better, they want someone to fix them, or make them happy.
In other words, many of us don’t realize exactly what we need in order to arrive at that place of happiness and contentment. Once we really figure out what we need deep down inside then we can take steps toward healing and recovery.
The Big Secret: Deep Down, You Really Are Who You Want to Be
See, the truth is that the person you want to be is secretly who you really are – so the best way to begin to find yourself and figure out your life after narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship is to indulge in the things you love, the things that make your soul feel alive. That’s going to help to discover yourself and bring that “true you” up to the surface.
But what if I love to do something I’m no good at? What will that serve?
First of all, you’ll never know until you try. Plus, you don’t have to be “good at it” to enjoy it; but about now, I’d love it if you could stop feeling like you’re not good enough.
You being “not good enough” is simply a lie you’ve come to believe thanks to the mind-numbing experience of being involved with a narcissist.
Can a narcissist change?
Is there any chance the narcissist will change? Is narcissism curable or do they remain forever broken? Research suggests that narcissism exists on a continuum from mild to severe with most people falling somewhere in the middle.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a pathological distortion of a person’s traits and interpersonal relations, is established by specific diagnostic criteria. The disorder is commonly known as NPD.
While less severe narcissism may be viewed as a personality quirk – albeit one that can occasionally cause friction with others – narcissistic personality disorder is an entirely different story. In general, while it’s theoretically possible, narcissists won’t change – this video offers additional information to explain.
How does narcissistic abuse affect you?
It’s a narcissist’s nature to tear down the people who are closest to him or her. The narcissist must feel in control, and they must obtain what he considers the appropriate amount of admiration and attention from their various sources of narcissistic supply.
When they get it, he feels validated and he might be the best guy you’ve ever met – or she might be the coolest girl.
Note: Narcissists come in all shapes, sizes, colors and sexes. I’m going to use the “he” pronouns from here on out simply because statistically, narcissists are slightly more likely to be male (and for ease of reading).
But when the narcissist finds himself spending too much time alone or with a lack of attention and admiration, or he’s directly defied, he becomes a whole other person.
When Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury Set In
Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury will set in and the person in the line of fire is most likely to get the brunt of the narcissist’s rage. In fact, narcissists know very well how to manipulate you; often they’ll play the victim in order to get you on their side (narcissistic injury). When you fall for it, they might just inadvertently recruit you to become one of their toxic flying monkeys. Or, if you don’t, you can probably expect the injury to become narcissistic rage. And then if you don’t finally comply with serving his needs, the narcissist will likely send a flying monkey your way to do his manipulative bidding.
When you feel weak: How do you stay strong in the face of a love bomber?
You know, that’s when he places you on a pedestal and makes you feel like you’re perfect and amazing and like no one can compare? And where he suddenly seems humble and sweet and you start thinking maybe he really can change, after all? And then before you know it, he’s back in and you’re back to trying to figure out how to deal with his gaslighting?
Yep. And remember how crazy-making it can all be? Remember that life?
Good. Now You Remember Why You Left.
When you feel weak, you have to remember why you left. Or why you’re planning to leave.
The gnawing feeling in your stomach when you hear the names you’re called or the horrible way he seems to see you as a person, maybe.
How your entire being, your character, and your integrity were called into question for every little “infraction” of the ridiculous (and often unspoken) rules and double standards he required of you?
That’s why you left. Or maybe it’s why you’re leaving – or maybe, it’s just one reason you can stop crying about the narcissist who left you.
Because now, you are the one who decides what happens. Now it’s all about what you want, what you choose, what you say is best.
ABOVE ALL: Don’t scare yourself into staying
Remember: the narcissist tries to make you into exactly what they are. They are trying to project their bad qualities onto you. They will go out of their way to play head games with you and why they will tell you that if anyone hurts them, it will be your fault. The narcissist wants your sympathy so that you will do all of the work so that they can get attention and love without having to do anything in return.
The narcissist is going to try to make you afraid and insecure. They want you to think you can’t live without them and that you can’t do better. Don’t let that scare you – I know that being in full control of your life might be a little freaky after having been under someone else’s thumb for a while, but you will very quickly find yourself feeling light and happy in a way that you can’t remember feeling before.
You can do better.
I don’t care if you’re overweight or you’re frumpy or you’re very, very shy – no one deserves the mental and emotional abuse of a narcissist. It’s pure torture and you can do better. You DESERVE better,
Know that. And remind yourself when you feel weak. You can do this. You can be who you want, and you can take care of yourself. KNOW IT!
Change is hard but you will come out so much happier and more fulfilled.
While your initial reaction to any sort of change is going to be difficult sometimes, this is especially true when it involves separation from someone you’ve spent many years or even months with.
That’s because a lot of times, you literally sort of forget who you are – you’ve become so enmeshed and codependent with your narcissist that you literally don’t know who you’d be without him.
REMEMBER: Your situation and what you’re dealing with now doesn’t make you wrong, less than anyone else, or stupid; it makes you human.
People who have not experienced the hell of narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship have absolutely no idea how incredibly it takes over everything in your life.
Before you know it, you are literally putting every single word you say and choice you make through the “narcissist filter,” which is your understanding of what will and will not upset the narcissist.
How Do You Remove the “Narcissist Filter” From Your Self-Identity?
So now that you’ve made the choice to leave, it’s time to begin to shed the narcissist’s version of you and start to create your own perfect version – what you consider the be the best possible version of yourself.
If that means you need to spend a bit of time getting over your relationship first, fine – but set a time limit and stick to it. And then, you can get on about the business of deciding who you are after you end a relationship with a narcissist.
How long does it take to fully recover from narcissistic abuse?
Everyone has their own journey and while there are so many similarities among narcissists and the way they treat their closest relationships, there are several factors that might determine how long it will take to fully recover from narcissistic abuse. Depending on how long you were involved with the narcissist and the nature of your relationship, it could take a few weeks, a few months, or more than a year. The good news is that when you intentionally focus on and work toward healing, it can certainly expedite the process.
Are you ready to get started on your narcissistic abuse recovery?
Let’s discuss it. I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and questions on this stuff.
- Have you been in and escaped from a narcissistic relationship?
- Are you still in one?
- What advice would you give someone who is doing what you did (or plan to do)?
Share your thoughts and experiences in one of our narcissistic abuse recovery support groups.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
- The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
- Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups – We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
- One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
- Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
Helpful Videos for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
- Why Narcissists Have To Hurt You
- Narcissist’s False Self (How does the narcissist’s false self develop?)
- Narcissists in Old Age (What No One Tells You About Aging Narcissists)
- When You See the Narcissist After No Contact
- How to Catch a Narcissist in a Lie Every Time (No-Fail Method!)
- 20 Things Narcissists Hate & Don’t Want You to Know They Worry About
- Narcissists Use False Empathy to Fool You (When Narcissists Use False Empathy)
- Can A Narcissist Change For The Better?
- Letting Go of a Narcissist
- 7 Comments That Instantly Trigger a Narcissist’s Anger
Related articles that can help in your recovery from narcissistic abuse
- Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know
- The Narcissist’s Soulmate Scam: Identifying a Love Bomber
- Secrets and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist
- Do Narcissists Really Know Right From Wrong?
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Find the Light at the End of the Tunnel and Be Brave
- Narcissistic abuse support for children of toxic parents
- Why Narcissists Disappear (Hint: It’s not just the Silent Treatment!)
- Re-Write Your Story After Narcissistic Abuse: Here’s Where You Begin and Pain Ends
- Toxic Relationships: Why Going No Contact is So Hard
- Why Even Very Smart People Can Be Gaslighted
- Resources for Victims and Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse
- It’s Not Supposed to Hurt: Overcoming Toxic Love and Narcissism in Relationships
- Your Love is My Drug: How to Shut Down a Narcissist, Detoxify Your Relationships & Live the Awesome Life You Really Deserve, Starting Right Now
- Take Back Your Life: 103 Highly-Effective Strategies to Snuff Out a Narcissist’s Gaslighting and Enjoy the Happy Life You Really Deserve (Detoxifying Your Life)
- Gaslighting, Love Bombing, and Flying Monkeys: The Ultimate Toxic Relationship Survival Guide for Victims and Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse