The Letter Exercise by Angie Atkinson

The Letter Exercise by Angie Atkinson

Are you trapped in limbo land between two difficult things: ending your toxic relationship with a high-conflict, abusive narcissist and moving on with your life? If you could just get rid of those feelings about the narcissist, you’d be done. But you find yourself stuck. Why?

You’re reading this because you want to get over your past relationship, right? But not only that, you want to move on in a way that feels right for you. Because the truth is, how you move on is as individual as who you are. It’s about honoring your own needs, desires, and goals (even if they change) during this process. 

Do you feel stuck?

Are you feeling stuck in a mental loop of negative self-doubt and criticisms? Maybe you can’t stop crying about the narcissist, or you can’t accept that you’ve split? Or, you can’t stop wishing you’d have just kept your mouth shut, or that you had any freaking idea what, if anything, would have stopped the narcissist from leaving you, or for doing whatever they did that made you leave them. In any case, you can’t seem to get past it.

Are you ruminating or overthinking? 

Could rumination and/or overthinking be the cause of your angst? Rumination is when the thoughts keep repeating themselves, over and over again – haunting your every waking moment with their incessant whispers. You find yourself orbiting around the same planet of repeated self-talk (I’m no good, I’m boring, I don’t matter). This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’ve been trying to break free from your narcissistic abuser for a while.

Are toxic people in your life making you feel this way? 

Narcissists and other toxic people have a way of really making it hard to let go of them. They do this consciously or otherwise with a process called intermittent reinforcement. Over the course of your toxic relationship, you will have become nearly addicted to the narcissist due to this intermittent reinforcement. Closure can be a powerful emotional healing tool that helps to restore our mind and body after being involved with narcissists.

In my work, I use a powerful tool I sort of accidentally created more than 25 years ago to get past these painful feelings. The letter is very specific and crafted to bring any needed closure. One powerful way you can get closure is to write the narcissist a special kind of letter. 

The Letter Exercise: A Powerful Way to Create Your Own Closure

This exercise actually came to me personally in a very strange way. At the age of 20, I found myself ruminating about a painful experience I’d had with a person with whom I’d been involved. While I was, in so many ways, finding peace and happiness after ending that relationship, I could NOT stop thinking about this person and feeling angry about what he had done to me.

One morning, while I was having my coffee and again feeling all this anger, I threw my hands up and screamed at the ceiling, “What do I need to do to get this person out of my head?”

I realized at that moment that I had continued to allow him to control me, even though I was no longer in contact with him. And it was right about then that I thought I was going crazy – because, though I was alone in my apartment, I literally heard someone whisper in my ear. And I mean LITERALLY – audibly.

I was FURIOUS at this mysterious voice and knew for sure it didn’t come out of my own head because it said something absolutely ridiculous – it said, “you have to forgive him!”

Well, after calming myself down and getting my head together, I sat down with a pen and a notebook, and I started writing a letter that would not only help me to create my own closure, but one that would change my life forever in some surprising ways – and I inadvertently created an exercise I have used with my clients over the years.

Step-by-Step Guide to Use the Letter Exercise to Help You Get Un-Stuck After Narcissistic Abuse

If you’ll take a look at this video, I’ll walk you through the process myself.

How to Do the Letter Exercise

Create Your Own Closure After Narcissistic Abuse

Here’s how you can let go of your anger and disconnect yourself from the narcissist’s emotional hold on you. Try writing the narcissist a “special” kind of letter. An important step in overcoming this type of pain is to “give voice” to the hurt you feel. In this particular case, you need to give voice to your anger about how the narcissist treated you by literally writing him or her a letter, using the format below.

What You’ll Need

What You Do

Be sure to have your pen, pencil, or markers and some paper or stationary on hand before you begin. Tip: If you struggle with writing by hand due to some physical issue, then you can type it out on your computer or phone – but if at all possible, I suggest you write with a pen or pencil as it seems to have some additional therapeutic value here.

You’re going to write a letter to the narcissist who abused you. In the letter, you’re going to write down every single thought, worry, and doubt that keeps you feeling miserable and stuck.

  • Make sure to take your time so you can say ALL the things you wish you had said to them but never did. 
  • Add in the things you needed the narcissist to hear, whether you tried to tell them and they wouldn’t listen.
  • Be sure to take your time, and if you need to, write a little bit at a time, put it up, and then come back to it when you’re ready or when you have time.
  • Put all of your anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and any other feelings you have about the narcissist and the way they treated you in the relationship in the letter.
  • You can say all the curse words you want or need to say, and you can scribble all over the paper if you want to – just put all of your feelings into the letter. No thought or feeling is too small to include – think “brain dump” or “soul-cleansing” – so make sure you include any and everything that comes to mind, no matter how petty or unimportant it seems in the moment.

Pause, Steep, Edit

When you’re finished writing, let it sit overnight or for a couple of days. Then, pick up the letter again, and read through it. Add anything you’d like to add, and if you want to, you can rewrite and edit the letter.

The Final Paragraph

This is when you’ll add the final paragraph in the letter, and you’ll want to make it something like this:

And now, though you do not deserve it, I am forgiving you (or releasing you, if forgiveness feels too painful right now), not because you deserve it, but because I no longer want your toxic, negative energy in my space. I trust that you’ll get exactly what you deserve from here on out and I release the need to know what happens for you next. Goodbye, forever. 

Your Final Steps to Emotional Freedom

At this point, you have two choices. You can mail the letter, or not. Personally, I did not need to mail the letter and would not necessarily recommend that you do – because, in reality, the letter is for you, not the narcissist. It’s all about getting the negativity out of your head and out of your life, and it’s an ideal way to start to create your own closure.

I suggest you burn or shred the letter and get it out of your life – and as you do, you imagine the negative energy and anger and all of the other emotions burning away – or being shredded up. Some people like to float their letter down the river or to clip it to a balloon and let it fly away.

Do whatever feels best to you. Heck, you could even just throw it in the trash. But whatever you do, once the letter is written, get it out of your life.

Takeaway

This simple exercise provided me with SO much relief, and many of my clients report the same thing. Have you tried this? Will you give it a shot now? Let me know in the comments section, below this video.

There is additional information on why you feel stuck and how to overcome it in this video.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Did you know? Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

When You Can’t Stop Obsessing Over the Narcissistic Abuse You Endured

When You Can’t Stop Obsessing Over the Narcissistic Abuse You Endured

“Why do you still think about the abuser after you have been removed/no contact with the abuser for months? Not longing to be with them, but thinking about the abuse and what happened,” a YouTube follower asked me. Here’s what I told her. 

Going through a relationship with a narcissist is absolutely soul-crushing. It sounds like you’re dealing with rumination and most likely trauma bonding. Depending on how long you spent with them, and depending on how you were raised (and by whom), you might struggle with rumination for a long time. But there are things you can do to overcome it, and there are ways you can move forward. Let’s talk about it.

What is Rumination?

Rumination is what we call it when, during narcissistic abuse recovery, when you can’t stop the repeating thoughts in your head. These thoughts tend to be sad or dark, or replaying your abuse over and over in your head. This habit can be dangerous to your mental, physical and spiritual health because it prolongs and can intensify the struggles most of us have during recovery. You might find yourself feeling increasingly depressed and you might be having a difficult time thinking straight. This will make processing your emotions feel next to impossible.

Why Do Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Struggle with Rumination? 

Rumination keeps you feeling stuck, and it is sadly common for survivors of narcissistic abuse, especially after the relationship ends – but even when they’re still in it. In my opinion, there are a number of reasons for this.

After a relationship with a narcissist, a lot of us have become “overthinkers,” even if we weren’t before. See, the narcissist’s selfish, manipulative behavior has led us to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to “fix” our broken relationships (and often, ourselves) while we were still in these relationships. And even if we recognized that something was just kind of “off” about it, or that we were dealing with a toxic relationship during the relationship, we might have either second-guessed ourselves, doubted ourselves, or blamed ourselves – or some combination of all three, thanks to the ongoing invalidation and manipulation we suffered at the hands of the narcissist.

We find ourselves trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, and we try to understand why. We want to know how much of it really was our fault, and we try to wrap our heads around what we’ve gone through. We wonder if the narcissist ever loved us, and we wonder what the heck is so wrong with us that we would put so much of ourselves into this toxic, abusive person. We doubt that we can move forward alone (sometimes as a result of being told that we’ll never be loved again, or that we aren’t capable of doing so). We think we are worthless and we doubt we deserve to be happy, anyway.

All of this leads us to struggle with cognitive dissonance, which is a form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. In other words, because we see one thing and are told (or shown) it’s something else by the narcissist during the relationship, and because we try to (or actually) start to believe it, it messes with our heads in some big ways.

Closure is Essential to Your Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

So, how do you begin to overcome overthinking and ruminating about the narcissist and what they did to you? Let’s start here: you need closure. And as it turns out, that isn’t something most of us get from narcissists.

The Narcissist Didn’t Give You Closure

Most narcissists do not offer their victims any sense of closure. Either they leave without a word or they aggressively discard you and refuse to acknowledge any fault at all – or, in some cases, their victims find the strength to leave them and they play the victim. In nearly all cases where a narcissist is involved in a relationship that ends, they leave you with no closure, feeling confused and spinning. They either do this intentionally or instinctually, depending on their intelligence, their “level” of narcissism, or their place on the Cluster B spectrum. The higher their intelligence and level of narcissism, the more likely they do this intentionally.

A Powerful Way to Create Your Own Closure

One powerful way you can get closure is to write the narcissist a special kind of letter. This exercise actually came to me personally in a very strange way. At the age of 20, I found myself ruminating about a painful experience I’d had with a person I’d been involved with. While I was, in so many ways, finding peace and happiness after ending that relationship, I could NOT stop thinking about this person and feeling angry about what he had done to me.

One morning, while I was having my coffee and again feeling all this anger, I threw my hands up and screamed at the ceiling, “What do I need to do to get this person out of my head?”

I realized in that moment that I had continued to allow him to control me, even though I was no longer in contact with him. And it was right about then that I thought I was going crazy – because, though I was alone in my apartment, I literally heard someone whisper in my ear. I was FURIOUS at this mysterious voice and knew for sure it didn’t come out of my own head, because it said something absolutely ridiculous – it said, “you have to forgive him!”

Well, after calming myself down and getting my head together, I sat down with a pen and a notebook, and I started writing a letter that would not only help me to create my own closure, but one that would change my life forever in some surprising ways – and I inadvertently created an exercise I have used with my clients over the years.

How to Do the Letter Exercise

Create Your Own Closure After Narcissistic Abuse

Here’s how you can do the same thing.

  • Get yourself a pen and a notebook. If you struggle with writing by hand due to some physical issue, then you can type it out on your computer or phone – but if at all possible, I suggest you write with a pen or pencil as it seems to have some additional therapeutic value here.
  • You’re going to write a letter to the narcissist. In the letter, say ALL the things you wish you had said to them but never did, or the things you needed the narcissist to hear and they refused.
  • Be sure to take your time, and if you need to, write a little bit at a time, put it up, and then come back to it when you’re ready or when you have time.
  • Put all of your anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and any other feelings you have about the narcissist and the way they treated you in the relationship in the letter.
  • You can say all the curse words you want or need to say, and you can scribble all over the paper if you want to – just put all of your feelings into the letter. No thought or feeling is too small to include – think “brain dump” or “soul-cleansing” – so make sure you include any and everything that comes to mind, no matter how petty or unimportant it seems in the moment.
  • When you’re finished writing, let it sit overnight or for a couple of days. Then, pick up the letter again, and read through it.
  • Add anything you’d like to add, and if you want to, you can rewrite and edit the letter.

This is when you’ll add the final paragraph in the letter, and you’ll want to make it something like this:

And now, though you do not deserve it, I am forgiving you (or releasing you, if forgiveness feels too painful right now), not because you deserve it, but because I no longer want your toxic, negative energy in my space. I trust that you’ll get exactly what you deserve from here on out and I release the need to know what happens for you next. Goodbye, forever. 

At this point, you have two choices. You can mail the letter, or not. Personally, I did not need to mail the letter and would not necessarily recommend that you do – because, in reality, the letter is for you, not the narcissist. It’s all about getting the negativity out of your head and out of your life, and it’s an ideal way to start to create your own closure. I suggest you burn or shred the letter and get it out of your life – and as you do, you imagine the negative energy and anger and all of the other emotions burning away – or being shredded up. Some people like to float their letter down the river or to clip it to a balloon and let it fly away. Do whatever feels best to you. Heck, you could even just throw it in the trash. But whatever you do, once the letter is written, get it out of your life.

This simple exercise provided me with SO much relief, and many of my clients report the same thing. Have you tried this? Will you give it a shot now? Let me know in the comments section, below.

There is additional information on why you feel stuck and how to overcome it in this video.

Question of the day: The question of the day is: have you struggled to stop overthinking what happened to you in your toxic relationship? If so, were you able to get past it, or are you still struggling with it now? Have you tried the letter exercise, and did it work for you? If not, what did work? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experience in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it. 

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources

Helpful Videos for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

How and Why Narcissists Hoover

How and Why Narcissists Hoover

Have you been Hoovered?

What is a Hoover and why do the narcissists do this? Will they ever stop and what can you do about it to keep yourself away from the narcissist and heal trauma bonds? The Hoover is basically the narcissists attempt to suck you back in, to make you believe they have changed or to simply provoke you in order to gain supply. The majority of narcissistic abuse survivors have experienced a Hoover in some form or another. Some attempts at sucking you back in may be subtle and covert while others may be negative attempts to get your attention focused back onto the narcissist. Some narcissists claim they have changed and tell you they will make things better or even seek therapy for their issues. Understanding the truth about narcissism can help you make decisions based on knowledge rather than the illusions the narcissist is trying to create to entice you back.  The narcissist does not like to let go of what they feel is theirs, mainly the supply they take from you. In the following video I talk about types of Hoovers, what the Hoovers may really mean and ways to protect yourself.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery by QueenBeeing.com offers free video coaching each week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays along with videos and help on recovery from toxic relationships. Featuring certified life coach Lise Colucci and supported by QueenBeeing founder and certified life coach Angie Atkinson.

Lise Colucci is a certified life coach, as well as a certified narcissistic abuse recovery coach. She is a long-time admin and mentor for the SPAN Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Group, actively helping survivors of narcissistic abuse in the expansive community to learn and heal.  Lise is passionate about providing coaching services that help her clients feel heard and validated as she guides them along their healing journey. For information on coaching, group coaching or to contact Lise check out the links below.

Join our private coaching group https://lifemakeoveracademy.teachable…

Get one-on-one coaching with Lise Colucci at https://queenbeeing.com/lise-colucci-…

Get notified free for free video coaching sessions by texting LISELIVE to 33222. Find Lise on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lise.colucci… Email Lise at [email protected]

Social Anxiety Disorder and Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Social Anxiety Disorder and Toxic Relationships: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might have found yourself avoiding social situations and feeling a lot of anxiety when you’re forced to go out into the world. And if you consider yourself an empath, this could be magnified by your ability to sort of “feel” everyone around you. I know that’s been the case for me in the past. Whether you could be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or you just struggle with social situations, it could be a result of your toxic relationship.

This can be an ongoing issue for many people, even after narcissistic abuse recovery. For example, while I have recovered from my own narcissistic abuse, I sometimes still struggle with a little social anxiety. But there are things you can do to deal with it, and I’ll be covering some of those here at QueenBeeing over the next few weeks.

What is social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have an extreme, unrelenting fear of being watched and especially judged by people, including not only strangers but also people you know. This crippling fear can affect your ability to function in the world – whether at work, school, or any of your other daily activities. Many sufferers of SAD report that it is difficult for them to make and keep friends.

What does SAD have to do with narcissistic abuse recovery?

Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships can cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated on their own, but they also cause what psychologists call a “toxic internal environment” that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other physical health problems. Social anxiety can be a side-effect of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well – and many survivors of narcissistic abuse suffer from C-PTSD.

Don’t underestimate the effect of a toxic relationship on your health.

Consider this: a 12.2-year study that launched in 1985 and followed more than 10,000 people found that people who reported being in unhealthy or negative relationships were far more likely to develop heart problems, including a fatal heart attack or cardiac event, than study participants who had healthier, less negative relationships.

And on a more practical level, since narcissists are so likely to isolate and control us in these relationships, we become hypervigilant of their moods and behaviors and this can leave us not only exhausted emotionally but also unwilling or unable to deal with other people during the relationship. This could be because we are too overwhelmed by the narcissist’s need for attention and supply or because we grow tired of trying to behave “correctly” in public (so that the narcissist doesn’t further abuse us when we get home). It could also be for a number of other reasons (or a combination of reasons).

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

According to NIMH, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people

What does social anxiety disorder (SAD) feel like?

One of the worst aspects of suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is the feeling that you are entirely isolated and alone in the world – even (and sometimes especially) if you’re in a room full of people. It can feel as if you are cut off from the world and your inner self. Worse, it feels like you have no control over the bad feelings and that you’re trapped forever in feeling anxious and alone.

It may be helpful to hear that even if you’re feeling alone, there are some symptoms that therapists have noted are the hallmarks of SAD and just about everyone suffers from them.

  1. The feeling that no one understands you.

When you’re in the grip of social anxiety, it feels like you are cut off from everyone and that no one can understand what it feels like inside your head, not even your therapist or your best friend.

  1. You’re trapped forever in anxiety

SAD transcends time and space. It feels as though you’re stuck in a cycle of perpetual anxiety, even though part of you knows that SAD doesn’t define you and that no matter how severe your current flare-up is, it will pass. Anxiety tells you that you are stuck and can’t move out of the trap you’re in, even if your rational mind understands it’s not like that.

  1. You feel like a fish out of water.

Chronic anxiety feeds on negative messages that tell you over and over that you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, that there’s something wrong with you. The deeper you get into this negative mindset, the more isolated and alienated you feel, and you withdraw from friends and family. A vicious cycle sets in to keep you apart and deepen the feeling of alienation.

  1. A negative mindset takes over

When you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to look at the world through very gray-colored glasses. Your brain’s default setting becomes irrational and negative. You can misinterpret things people say or do, even kindly-meant advice from your therapist or counselor.

That can spill over into feeling like a failure.  You can fall into a spiral of self-criticism and self-loathing, raking over perceived mistakes and failures from the past.

  1. Overwhelming self-consciousness

Social anxiety can make you feel as though you have a layer of psychological skin missing. You feel self-conscious like everyone is looking at you and judging you. You worry over every little detail of your behavior, your clothes, what you say and what you do.

The self-loathing and stress that comes with chronic social anxiety can make it virtually impossible to live in the moment and get on with enjoying life.

Note: Because this issue is so prevalent for narcissistic abuse survivors, I’m working on a new course on the subject over at Life Makeover Academy. I’m currently searching for people to beta-test the course. While it’s normally a $99 course, I’m offering it to people who are willing to beta-test it for half-price. If you are interested in testing the course and sharing your thoughts with me, you can click here to get lifetime access to the course (and all future updates/additional material) for just $49. Please note: the beta testing period will close at the end of July, when the course will be ready to roll out at full price, so get in there now if you are interested. 

You might also enjoy this video I made on the topic.

DIY Divorce: Parenting classes and the Children in between.

DIY Divorce: Parenting classes and the Children in between.

Family, Divorce, Separation, BeforeAfter my husband was served, but before he went into default, we both received an Order to Attend a Parenting Class. The order said that we were to both attend the parenting class in person. My difficulty was that I have such severe anxiety that I couldn’t go to stores by myself – much less a room full of others in my same position (but who could probably envision this actually working in their own situation).

And why do I have to take a class when he isn’t even doing his part?

I took my chances and looked up an approved online parenting class on the list given to me by the courthouse.

While I was taking the class, I was trying to imagine what it would be like in those situations with my covert narcissist. After watching the videos and taking the tests, I realized that while I knew the answers, I did not foresee any of that working out in my life.

After the test was taken, I had my first case management hearing where I was informed that I needed the judge’s permission before I could file it. So I went downstairs and filed a Motion to Have Online Parenting Class Accepted. I chose to ask for forgiveness instead of permission and it worked out for me.

Looking on the clerk’s website and seeing that the judge approved it took a huge weight off my chest. I was well on my way to a DIY divorce. Finally!

Need more support in divorcing your narcissist? Visit our sister site, Divorce Your Narcissist.

DIY Divorce: Narcissists will never make it easy – Subpoena Part 1

DIY Divorce: Narcissists will never make it easy – Subpoena Part 1

Here it is on Sunday night, and I’m a little resentful because there was a way to prevent this much work in a divorce. Let’s not forget that while I am playing my own attorney, I am also raising my kids, volunteering at their school, writing my blog, and I have a third shift job.

I am supporting my children (who I had with my narcissist) fully on my own. Plus, I am also helping my daughter, granddaughter, and grandson – who is only a week old.

If he had even an ounce of empathy, he would do his part. He would provide what I have asked for without such a fight and knowing how he destroyed my life over the 13 years I’ve known him with his constant drug use – well, you would think he would want to do the right thing. He just thinks I deserve it. I gave him plenty of time to act like a human.

Okay, lesson learned.

A step I did not do while filing for divorce is the discovery phase.* Since he was not involved and did not give his information I did not think to subpoena his information and the general magistrate did not say I should. I even have an attorney that I have worked with through all of this and she never said I should do one. I suggest filing a subpoena for production of documents from a non-party whether you think your spouse will cooperate or not. This is not in your divorce packet.

*Editor’s Note: Discovery, in the law of common law jurisdictions, is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party or parties by means of discovery devices such as a request for answers to interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions and depositions. Discovery can be obtained from non-parties using subpoenas. When a discovery request is objected to, the requesting party may seek the assistance of the court by filing a motion to compel discovery.

I really counted on him to do the right thing. I asked him to send me his check stubs every payday. Had he done that, I would have been able to show the judge and my divorce would be over because I would not have worried so much about the past marital debt in my name. I would have had the child support set and the judge would have determined spousal support and I would be well on my way to healing. We would have no more dealings and no reason to talk. We still have no reason to talk but it is keeping him in my head.

The lesson here? The discovery phase should be done after filing. Do not count on your narcissist to do the right thing.

Tomorrow, I will be going to the courthouse and filing my first subpoena. Luckily our courthouse has an area that you can print the forms for a small fee. I will be at the courthouse when they open at 8:30 am and then have to print, fill them out, and file them by 9:10 am to get home and take the kids to school. With legal proceedings, there is a time limit and it is important to get everything done on time.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the subpoena.

Enjoying this series? If so, you might also like our sister site, Divorce Your Narcissist.

Pin It on Pinterest