Stop Putting Your Life on Hold! Narcissistic Abuse Recovery is a Beginning, Not an End

Stop Putting Your Life on Hold! Narcissistic Abuse Recovery is a Beginning, Not an End

If you’re going through narcissistic abuse recovery, you might feel like you need to put your life on hold while you work on your healing. Maybe you tell yourself you’ll start living when you’ve fully healed, or you think that you’re waiting for the perfect time to do all those things you didn’t do (because the narcissist in your life held you back).

Maybe you’re worried about money, so you think you need to get yourself to a better career position before you can have fun. Perhaps, due to your decidedly empathic nature, you’re concerned that taking time to focus on just yourself when there are so many things that your family needs might be selfish. Or maybe, like a lot of survivors of narcissistic abuse, you’re worried that you couldn’t even imagine focusing on such things when you’re struggling so much with actually surviving this whole narcissistic abuse recovery thing.

You want me to start living when I’m trying to heal from narcissistic abuse?

I know what you’re thinking. How can you possibly even begin to think about having an actual life when you’re in the midst of just trying to make it through and heal along the way? That is not only time-consuming but energy-draining, at least at first.

How can I live again when I’m angry at myself for putting up with the abuse?

Being angry at yourself is absolutely normal for narcissistic abuse survivors. It is just part of the process – once you realize what you’ve been through and you recognize the events, physical ad emotional symptoms, and depth of abuse you’ve been dealing with, you get angry. First, usually, the anger is rightfully directed at your abuser, and often, toward others who may have been aware of your situation but did nothing to help.

But eventually, you might end up angry at yourself, because in hindsight, it seems so clear and obvious – or because you continued to tolerate it even after having recognized the situation. This is very common for intelligent people who find themselves in toxic relationships, partially due to a high threshold for abuse often gained in early childhood. In this video, I go into depth about how to forgive yourself (and why you’ll need to).

What if I’m too damaged to start living again due to narcissistic abuse?

Well, once again, you’re not alone if you feel like you can’t even function like a normal person. In this video, I fill you in on exactly what happens to you when you’ve been abused by a narcissist. It’s not pretty.

And, listen – I get it – believe me. As you learned in the video, I went through very similar experiences and feelings during my own recovery. But I’m here to tell you that – in any case, and regardless of your reasons, putting your life on hold and waiting for someday to do the things you aspire to is rarely a good idea. Narcissistic abuse recovery is no exception.

Why? Because starting to live again IS one of the most important parts of your whole narcissistic abuse recovery process. It’s part of why you will survive and eventually thrive! I promise you.

Just think about that old saying about having kids, for example. They say you’re never really ready, so you might as well do it when you can. That sounds a little silly, especially if you’re a parent and you understand the amount of work (and money) that goes into raising a kid – but there’s a lot of truth to it! After all, as you’re well aware, we’re never guaranteed a tomorrow. Holding out for the “right time” usually just ends up costing happiness and fulfillment.

That’s why I suggest that you take a deep breath, decide what it is you want out of your life, and take action steps to get it right now. Not tomorrow. Not someday.

Like, literally, right now. So how can you do that?

How do you start living again during narcissistic abuse recovery?

Well, let’s start here. Take a look at the following suggestions to get started living your best life now. You can start small – just dream about it. Take some time to figure out what it is that you really want. Then you can dig in and get really clear on it, plan and begin doing what you need to do to make it happen. FIguring out your timelines and taking even the tiniest baby step today can change everything for you! Let me break it down a little further for you.

Take Time to Dream

Many of us say we’ll wait until a better time to go after what we want, but we may not even know what it is that we’d like to see in our lives. Therefore, your first step is to take some time to dream. Think about the things you desire. Make lists. Let yourself dream big. Jot down short-term and long-term goals.

Clarify Your Vision

Once you have some ideas, start to narrow things down. Clarify the goals you most want to meet and that seem within reach to at least begin working on now. Write them down and commit to working toward them.

Create a Map

Now you’re ready to create a framework or draw a map for how you’ll reach your destination. Decide how you’re going to obtain the things you want. Write down the steps you plan to take. Try to come up with a reasonable time frame in which to arrive at each step. Decide on milestones to mark your progress. Doing so will help keep you on track.

Take Action

It’s time to start bringing your plan to life. Decide on which actions you need to take right now to begin making progress toward the goals you’ve set. Grab your calendar and write down guideposts for these steps so that you know what you should be working on at each stage of the journey.

Have Fun

Finally, be sure you’re striving to enjoy these steps along the way. This isn’t another to-do list that has to be a chore. This is your life plan, and it’s meant to be a joy. Doublecheck your action plan to make sure there are fun activities included, and always take time to celebrate those milestones.

Keeping these steps in mind as a model for moving forward will help to ensure you’re no longer putting your life on hold. You now have a plan. As you start to work it, you’ll notice your outlook improving and your satisfaction levels rising.

You might also be interested in my book, How to Rewrite Your Story After Narcissistic Abuse.

 Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

  • Best Books on Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
  • Comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Glossary: This is a comprehensive guide to words and phrases (related to narcissism, NPD and related conditions, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery) that are commonly used in articles, videos, and narcissistic abuse recovery support groups. Defined here as specifically how they relate to narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery, these terms have been developed by psychologists, coaches, therapists, and survivors of narcissistic abuse who need a way to understand and overcome the abuse.
  • FAQ Help: Whenever you need help with something related to this site or you want to know how to find something, join a group or otherwise deal with an issue you’re having, visit our new FAQ Help page.
  • Self-Care for Survivors: This is a page that covers everything you need to know about self-care, from how to build your own self-care kit to how to sign up for self-care support, and more.
  • New Resources Page: This is a one-stop overview of narcissism, NPD, and narcissistic abuse recovery, offering a long list of resources that will be helpful for you.
  • Stalking Resources Center: If your narcissist is a stalker, the information and resources on this page will help you get and stay safe.

Helpful Videos for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only.  It’s very important to always check with your doctor before taking any action that could affect your physical or mental health.  

Narcissistic Abuse in a Toxic Relationship: This is What Happens to You

Narcissistic Abuse in a Toxic Relationship: This is What Happens to You

What’s it like to be in a relationship with a narcissist? 

Do you know how it feels to be in a toxic relationship with a narcissist? Have you experienced narcissistic abuse? And can you recall the first time you really started to realize that something wasn’t right? It’s this ache in your gut, that one stray tear you can’t control and as it rolls down your face, it almost burns. It’s like your body gets it before you do, somehow.
It’s this feeling that something is missing or isn’t right. So, you try to figure it out. So, you start thinking and you go through all of the obvious possibilities.
Am I hormonal?
Am I being unreasonable?
Are my expectations just too high?
Could I be overthinking this whole thing?
As much as you rack your brain, you aren’t clear. You just know that  it is something else.  Something you can’t quite put your finger on….like a piece of you feels like it’s missing or gone somehow.
But how do you lose a whole part of yourself? You might kind of laugh at yourself, but the thought makes you feel almost nostalgic … but in an unidentifiable, achy way that can’t be logically explained. Maybe you have this sense that it might be some kind of other life calling to you. You think maybe it’s on the soul level.
Not sure you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship? Take this narcissistic abuse self-assessment and find out now. 

Narcissistic Abuse Causes You to Lose Yourself

You start to feel like you’re living inside your own head. You’re so internal that you might even start to hate everyone and everything. You start to see through it all, and everyone seems artificial. Their lives seem small and petty. Their problems seem unreal somehow – they are so far away. They are blind to your struggles and you can’t even begin to verbalize them, because they sound so petty when you say them out loud.

But you do your best to keep looking perfect on the outside and you pretend like nothing is wrong. You keep smiling and pretending that all is well.

Perfect on the Outside, Broken on the Inside

You maintain a perfect social media presence,  photos of your beautiful home and successful kids. You feel like a huge fraud as you try to project the image you want to see in your life, rather than what it really looks like behind closed doors.
It’s like social media gives you a certain amount of validation that you can’t get elsewhere. It makes you feel better somehow, like it’s okay that you’re dealing with all of this internal conflict, because you project that perfect life image.
Meanwhile, the narcissist in your life is always threatening to leave you. Threatening to stop loving you if you don’t conform to their will. They threaten to stop caring about anything if you don’t shape up.
We will just live our separate lives, they tell you. See how you like that, they say.

Apathy, Brain Fog and Cognitive Dissonance in Narcissistic Abuse

It’s like you’re living in some kind of bubble and nothing feels real. You’re not even sure YOU are real.  You’re exhausted and pretty much numb at this point. But every now and then, something reminds you of who you used to be, the fun and silly and passionately driven person that the narcissist seems to have beaten of you (emotionally anyway).
And when that happens, that person who you used to be…that person gets sad. Then you feel angry and like you’re finally ready to go. But inevitably the scary thought that is change takes you down this stupid road that imagines that things can be better.
The one part of you that is afraid to jump without a net shows up again and tells me that you’re overreacting and that it’s not really as bad as you think. That’s the problem with the narcissist’s intermittent-reinforcement-style of love because right about the time you think maybe it really is going to be different …bam! Smacked in the face with more manipulation and mind games again.
You remember that the definition of insanity is to continually repeat the same cycles and behaviors while expecting different results. And yet, here you are. You’re tired of being in this relationship and tired of feeling consumed with trying to make it okay when you are clearly less important than literally anyone or anything else in the narcissist’s life.
Your cognitive dissonance is strong now. You always thought this relationship was supposed to be us against the world. Me and you, you and me. Ride or die. Unconditional acceptance of one another. You keep offering it up, but you inevitably get the opposite in return.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

Narcissistic Love is One-Sided and Conditional

Your relationship with an abusive narcissist will always be conditional and one-sided. You’re tired of never being enough. You’ve had enough of not being enough by now. You always say you’d rather be alone than unhappy … but the idea of losing everything you’ve worked so hard to build scares you more than the idea of shutting your mouth and pretending so that your kids can have a good life.
But you keep asking yourself this crazy question: am I really willing to give up the next umpteen years of my life being miserable? Isn’t it possible that I can have it both ways?
And yet, as you sit in the cold, numb aftermath of yet another attack on your personal character, your thoughts are dulled and foggy. You can’t seem to form a complete thought as the narcissist’s sharp, cutting insults replay over and over again in your head.
This torturous soundtrack is accompanied by a small voice in the back of your head, the part of you that remains indignant about the abuse, the slowly-dying part of that still knows it’s not normal and remembers that you deserve better. That part of you quietly counters the insults, reminds you that they’re all a part of the manipulation tactics the narcissist uses to gain control.
That’s the same part of you that truly knows that you’re not in a “healthy” relationship and that there’s little chance you’ll successfully change this person. That part of your mind races, struggling to form a plan to fix things, to make your escape, or to at least find “normal” again.
And it’s that part that will ultimately help you to not just exist and survive, but also to really thrive and become the fully realized person you deserve to be. The longer you remain in a toxic relationship, the more you deny your truths in order to avoid the wrath of this narcissist, the quieter this voice becomes.

Denying Your Feelings as a Result of Narcissistic Abuse

When you deny your feelings when you allow yourself to be told that you’re not a real person and that you don’t matter – you begin to act as if that is true. You start to breathe and believe it – you emanate a vibrational sense of “I’m not good enough.” And you become inferior because you believe that you’re inferior.
It’s hard to be happy when someone is always criticizing everything you say and do. It feels like you’re always walking on eggshells. And when you start to actually enjoy a conversation, whether it’s with them or with someone else, they cut you off because they aren’t interested in anything you have to say or they interrupt because whoever you’re talking to is not paying attention to them…well…it’s emotionally crippling, to say the least.
Only a person with extremely high self-esteem could even survive it, you think, let alone remain capable of thinking they have value in the world. You need someone to talk to, but you don’t know who will get it. You’re living in a constant state of invalidation. But why?

Because, at some point, during our toxic relationships and often beginning in childhood, people like you and me? We learn that love must be earned. We learn that our value and worth are conditional at best – and that’s if we think we have any at all. People hurt us and our souls are crushed. Our selves are lost.

Narcissistic Abuse Makes You Feel Unlovable and Worthless

We forget who we are, or maybe we never knew. We learn that people don’t love unconditionally, or that if they do, no one has found us worthy of such love. So what do we do? How do we deal?

We tiptoe around and we accept the crumbs – that intermittent reinforcement thing again- the crumbs of kindness and affection that have been our sustenance for our whole lives. We take those crumbs and we are grateful for them because we don’t even think we deserve this much, and we can’t imagine what it must feel like to be one of those people who has people who actually love them.

We pretend to be happy, Our faces smile, but not our eyes.

Most people don’t notice, and those who do make us feel attacked.  They say they’re concerned about us, they note that we’re different than we were before. And often, their concern is genuine. But whether we aren’t ready to hear it yet or we’re concerned that they’ll upset the abuser in our lives, we push them away and we hope they will just leave us alone. Because one more conflict with the narcissist will kill us, we think. And this person, as much as we love them, just doesn’t really get what we’re dealing with when it comes to our relationship with the narcissist.

Why Narcissistic Abuse Makes You Walk on Eggshells and What That Means for You

We learn to walk on eggshells, and we may or may not cognitively realize that underneath it all, we’re such nice people because we are secretly afraid that the narcissist will leave us, like everyone else does and has, in one way or another.

We get scared that everyone will leave us or otherwise abandon us. So we start being too nice to everyone around us. We stop talking about ourselves because people don’t seem interested and because our emotions seem to be a burden for anyone with whom we’ve shared them. We allow people to abuse us and we beg them to stay.

We accept it because we secretly fear that they have been right all along and that we truly are in fact unlovable.

Why You Have to Keep Starting Over in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Every now and then, we think we’re going to change ourselves. And we want to change our lives. We promise to ourselves that we’re finally going to start taking care of ourselves for once. We swear that we’re going to finally come into our own power and we’re going to start enforcing our boundaries – maybe for the first time ever in our lives.

We think it’s time to follow our passion and to actually start truly LIVING our lives. And sometimes, we succeed – we actually make things happen. Sometimes, we even manage to leave! Changes begin to become more and more apparent, and we think, “This is it! I’ve figured it all out!”

We are finally happy. We’re on top of the world! Other times, we fail. We forget to try, or we feel too exhausted at the end of the day. Or, we just…can’t.

But let me tell you something. Sometimes, it takes more than one shot. Sometimes, you have to keep starting again, and again. Sometimes, we have to learn new ways to think – and we have to do it again and again. We have to relearn all of it each time we forget. We have to remember who we are and what we’re doing here. The narcissist always does their best to make us forget, to shape and mold us into the extension of themselves they both want and simultaneously hate and resent. And yet, that little voice inside of ourselves keeps telling us that something isn’t right. That we need and in fact deserve better.

And you know what? That little voice, your intuition, is right. And it reminds you that the truth is that we only really fail when we stop starting. No matter where you are n your journey, and no matter how good it really gets, you still might, on occasion, have to start again. And that’s okay. You’re totally normal. Just keep starting. Don’t give up on yourself, and keep tuning in to that little voice, your gut – whatever you call it, tune into it and listen carefully. It is the part of you that knows the truth, and it’s the part of you that’s going to get you out of this whole thing and help you to take your life where you need it to go. You with me?

Question of the Day

Can you relate to dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it 

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support & Resources

If you feel you need additional help and support in your narcissistic abuse recovery, look for a trauma-informed professional who is trained in helping people who are dealing with overcoming narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. Depending on your particular situation, you might benefit from Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching, or you might do better with a therapist. You have to decide what to do from here – if you’re not sure, start with my free Narcissistic Abuse Recovery quiz. With your results will come recommended resources for your situation. It’s totally free.

More Free, Helpful Information & Resources to Help 

Related Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

 

 

Can You Go Back To Being The Person You Were Before Narcissistic Abuse?

Can You Go Back To Being The Person You Were Before Narcissistic Abuse?


(See video on YouTube)

When you’ve dealt with narcissistic abuse for a long time and you finally get out, you’ll spend a lot of time first grieving and then healing. The narcissistic abuse recovery process can be long and complicated but at some point, you’re going to want to start “being your old self again.” You know, the self you used to be – before you met the narcissist.

And listen – I absolutely get it. I felt that way too. Who doesn’t want to get their old self back after going through a whole self-altering toxic relationship? After all, you’ve been walking around feeling like a ghost or a shell of yourself. The narcissist caused you to put all of your own interests on the back burner, or maybe they shamed you out of actually even thinking about the things you once enjoyed.  It makes total sense that you’d want to feel like yourself again.

Can you become the person you were before narcissistic abuse? 

So, I’ve got good news for you, and I’ve got bad news. First, the bad news: here’s the thing. You’re never going to be able to become your old self again.

But don’t stress too much because, with that being said, here’s the good news: you can most certainly become an even more amazing version of yourself. Even better? When you create your new self with intention, you can almost literally become exactly the person you want to become.

Desperately Seeking Self

There might be a part of you that feels angry and overwhelmed by the idea that you can’t get your old self back. So before I tell you why you can’t be exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse, I want to remind you of something really important here.

You’ve got to first be compassionate with yourself and realize that you have been through an abusive relationship with a narcissist who did everything possible to tear you apart.

Most likely, you did not realize how profound the damage was until the relationship ended – because often, narcissists keep us in a sort of “spinning” state, where we are so busy trying to get through the days without upsetting or angering them that we don’t have time to slow down and recognize the extent of the effects of the trauma.

And now, here you are, maybe riddled with depression and anxiety, and if you’re anything like most other survivors, you might also be suffering from C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) and/or other related issues.

You can absolutely heal and you can totally take your life to the next level. But your old self is gone. And that might feel really scary.

Why You Can’t Be Your Old Self Again After Narcissistic Abuse

Is it really true that your old self is gone after enduring narcissistic abuse? In so many ways, yes. But is there a way that you can go back to being the person you were before the abuse? Not exactly – but at the very least, you can heal and move forward and live a satisfying life.

Still, there are a couple of pretty simple reasons that you won’t be able to become exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse.

Time Changes Everything

First, let’s look at the practical side of things – there’s the fact that time has passed. Maybe you’ve had kids. You’ve had more experiences. And you’re older now. You might have been in this relationship for 20 years – or maybe your whole life, if the narcissist you’ve dealt with was a parent or family member. Even without the trauma, you’d be a different person today than you were when you began the relationship. Time changes everything, and you are no exception.

Trauma Changes YOU

And then, there’s the science of trauma. See, the ongoing trauma of narcissistic abuse changes you. It changes who you become. It changes what might have been a happy, confident, secure person into someone who doubts their worth and their value every day. It takes away your ability to have a healthy, full life and causes you to hyper-focus on it as you try in vain to resolve it, repeatedly, over and over again. All of this ongoing abuse and trauma leads to literal brain damage.

That’s right. Narcissistic abuse causes brain damage and brain damage of any type changes you.

Here is just a quick overview of how that happens. There are three significant parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and cortex.

The amygdala is the area of the brain that is known as the ‘fear center’. Each time you become scared or anxious, that area is activated. It also keeps the memories of the abuse in it and each time anyone talks about it, that activates the amygdala. the abuse you had endured is what caused the fear center to keep activating. And the constant activation of the fear center will cause it to increase. This can lead to mood disorders and anxiety disorders.

Then there is the hippocampus which is the area of the brain that stores short-term memories (which it then converts into long-term memories). The hippocampus dictates how and when you can learn anything new. However, uncontrolled stress will shrink the hippocampus. So, as you might imagine, the constant stress you’re dealing with when you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist will it to shrink. This leads you to struggle more with learning new things in addition to being extra forgetful.

And finally, there is the cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is located right behind the eyes. This is the area that is in charge of planning, making decisions, attention, and memory. The cortex also shrinks the same way the hippocampus does when you are under too much uncontrolled stress. This causes decision-making tp become a challenge. Your attention span gets shorter. You’re far more likely to deal with depression. You might be dealing with apathy, meaning you just don’t feel like you can do anything at all – that feeling of being just stuck. And you stop caring about yourself. You might even stop showering or brushing your teeth. Self-care becomes a thing of the past.

But the good news is that the brain can be retrained, and you don’t have to feel stuck in this trauma loop forever. And there are things you can do on your own at home to actually start to sort of “rewire your brain.” That is thanks to neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity offers hope for survivors of narcissistic abuse like nothing else. See, this is how our brain can “rewire itself” by forming new neural connections throughout life. This means that the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can compensate for injury and disease and to adjust themselves in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Even better, we can intentionally control this process if we choose to do so. I’ll link to a video with additional information about this in the description below.

How to Become the Best Possible Version of Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse

So, thanks to both time and the effects of the ongoing trauma you experienced in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist, you cannot technically be exactly the same person you were before enduring narcissistic abuse. I mean, if we’re being honest, any profound experience changes you.  But again, you can heal and move forward. Let’s talk about how you can do that.

Feel Your Feelings

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you learn really quickly how to ignore your own emotions. You learn that your feelings don’t matter, at least not as much as the narcissist’s feelings. And so, when you get out of the relationship, you might keep going in that direction. For me personally, that was one of the worst things that I dealt with – forgetting how to feel my feelings. And honestly, I didn’t even WANT to feel them!

The truth is that one of the most significant mistakes I made in my own recovery was shoving my feelings down and trying to move on without feeling them. I really believed that this was the right thing to do at the time – I didn’t like how it felt to deal with those emotions and I didn’t fully know how to process them. It wasn’t until several years later – when I still hadn’t managed to heal – that I really got my head around this concept. That’s why, when I work with my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and counseling clients, I make a point of teaching them how to feel their feelings and how to move forward from there. You can work on this at home by taking some time to sort of grieve the relationship. Cry, scream, throw things, break things – whatever you need to do to get through those emotions. It sucks, but you’ve got to do it if you want to take the next step toward healing.

Time Soothes Trauma

In addition to allowing your feelings to flow, you’ve got to give yourself the time you need to heal. Let’s face it – there’s a chance that you may not be 100 percent healed because triggers and reminders of the abuse will come up. Even if you get to the point of handling it well, you can still be affected one way or another. This is the time to get to know yourself again. Depending on your circumstances and the specifics of your situation, you might need to find a therapist, counselor, or coach who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery to help you find yourself again. It also helps to find a narcissistic abuse recovery support group so you can find support from others who have been where you are. Most importantly, remember that is no standard time limit for healing – each of us is a little different and will have different needs. You need to do what feels right for you, and to take as much time as you need to heal.

Firm Up Your Boundaries

During the relationship with the narcissist, your boundaries were repeatedly crossed, and no matter how firmly you’d had them set before, you might have almost forgotten how to set and stand behind them. When you are healing from narcissistic abuse, you’ve got an opportunity to learn or relearn how to set firm boundaries and how to ensure that they stick. And honestly, setting boundaries is not only necessary for your healing and continued wellbeing, but it is literally one of the best forms of self-care around. Whether it happened before or during your relationship, you might have been a people-pleaser – and while you don’t have to be rude or disrespectful to someone to enforce your boundaries, it might feel a little unnatural to you at first.

This video offers details on why you need to learn to set boundaries after narcissistic abuse (and exactly hw you can do it). 

Forgive Yourself for What You Didn’t Know

Maya Angelou once said, “Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know before you learned it.” I love this quote because it so perfectly expresses one of the most important things about narcissistic abuse recovery. Most survivors are relatively intelligent people who can easily read most other people. That’s why we are so likely to blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for taking the abuse as long as we did. And listen – I totally get it.

It is easy to blame yourself for not realizing what was happening and for accepting the abuse, and if you’re anything like me, you might be beating yourself up about it. You wonder how you fell for it – why you allowed it to happen in the first place, or why you didn’t leave sooner.

Some small part of you might even secretly think you deserved it all along. But my friend – it is not your fault. You did not sign up for this relationship with the full knowledge of what would happen. You certainly didn’t know that you’d be forced to endure narcissistic abuse. And for the record, you definitely did not deserve it. No one deserves this.

So take the time to acknowledge that you have encountered a traumatic and devastating situation, and recognize that, regardless of how you feel today, at one time, your ability to accurately perceive the situation may have been sort of clouded by your feelings for the abuser.  Once you’re out, your perception will start to get clearer – and while it might take a little time, you’ll get to the point where you can see the truth.

Rewrite Your Story

Years ago, I wrote a course called Rewrite Your Story for narcissistic abuse survivors. (And then there’s this book on the same topic!) That’s because, so often, we sort of “misidentify” ourselves or see ourselves in a skewed way, thanks to the lies and gaslighting thrust our way by the narcissistic abuser in our lives. Basically, the way the abuser saw you is how you see yourself, at least on some level.

Now, you probably recognize that you’ve been gaslighted, and you realize that the abuser had every intention to ruin your self-esteem. You probably understand that this was all about control and keeping you “in your place” so that you could continue to provide narcissistic supply, while not realizing that you were really too good for the narcissist. The narcissist has known this all along, and that’s why they play these mind games – they don’t want you to recognize it and leave them.

Now, you struggle with low self-esteem because you see yourself through the narcissist’s eyes. When you begin to see your worth, you can really start to rewrite your story and realize that what the abuser said about you and you were a rubbish pile. If you’re struggling with this, you can work with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach, a therapist, or even do it on your own by taking my Rewrite Your Story course.

Remember That Knowledge Is Power

Before you got into an abusive relationship, you might not have known what kinds of warning signs or red flags you should watch for to keep yourself safe. Narcissistic abuse is so subtle and pervasive that you can literally be right in the middle of it and not see it.  Or, maybe, like probably 90 percent of narcissistic abuse survivors, you were raised in an abusive family or had some other kind of trauma in childhood. This would lead you to have both a higher threshold for abuse as well as trouble setting boundaries. Your expectations for a relationship may have been lowered as well,  and because toxic might have felt sort of “normal” for you, you might have tolerated or overlooked the early signs.

But now, you’ve recognized what you’ve had to deal with, and you may have even had a full-on epiphany that led you to this point.  And, now that you know more about what a toxic relationship looks like and what kinds of behaviors are not acceptable to you, you are empowered to make better choices in the future. Knowledge really is power when it comes to healing from and growing forward after narcissistic abuse.

The bottom line is that while you may never be the person you were before the narcissistic abuse, you can absolutely heal and become the person you want and deserve to be afterward. You with me?

Question of the Day

What has changed about you since your experience with narcissistic abuse and what is the best piece of advice you’ve learned along the way that has been helpful for you? Share your thoughts, share your ideas and share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support

 

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

Signs of Codependency

Signs of Codependency

Are you wondering if you might have codependent tendencies? Are you constantly doing for others and have no time or energy for yourself? Are you the only one that makes sacrifices in your relationships? 

 One thing to remember is C-PTSD and narcissistic abuse syndrome can look like what people call codependency.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is enabling behavior of one person towards another person’s addiction, abusive/poor mental health, lack of accountability and immaturity. The traits of codependency show extreme reliance on other people for approval and sense of self-worth. Codependent people rely on others for emotional needs in excess as well. Usually the person with codependent tendencies spends so much of their life doing for others and trying to meet the needs of others they can not see that they are not meeting their own emotional needs for themselves. 

Some signs of codependency:

  • Low self-esteem. This seems to be the main trait that both creates codependent traits as well as solidifies the need for those traits within a relationship.  Having a lack of trust in yourself can also be a part of low self-esteem.
  • Poor or no boundaries. The invisible line between yourself and others. This can be physical, financial, emotional, spiritual or any other way in which you interact with others. Even taking the emotional responsibility for others as can happen in a relationship with a narcissist is lacking boundaries. 
  • People-pleasing as well as feeling used and under-appreciated. Likely if you are constantly people pleasing it is true that you are not being appreciated for all you are doing. This can look like ‘keeping the peace” or making sure no one is upset in a situation. It usually creates a feeling of fear of others not liking you or being displeased if you do not do the people-pleasing behaviors. 
  • Caretaking, feeling compelled to caretake others. This can look like anything from physically caretaking to time managing others’ lives or offering unasked for advice to situations often.
  • Dependency and the need for others to like you in order to feel okay about yourself. Feeling like you can’t function on your own and fearing abandonment and rejection because of that fear.
  • Denial. Denying the abuses of others or downplaying abuse can be one form of denial. Another codependent denial is the denial of any of the traits listed being an issue. Because the focus of codependent people is on the needs of others they can deny their own needs as well as deny the problem of not knowing their own needs, 
  • Difficulty saying no. This is a form of lack of boundaries but difficulty saying “no” deserves its own mention. With the difficulty, there is also a feeling of fear of rejection. Fearing the reaction of others if “no ” is said fills codependent people with anxiety. 
  • Fixating on mistakes (perfectionism). Feeling like if you make a mistake you are bad, wrong, unlovable. 
  • Trouble honestly communicating needs. Difficulty identifying feelings and needs and fear of rejection or devaluing if any needs are expressed. 
  • Feeling the need to be liked by everyone/fear of displeasing others
  • The constant need for being in a  relationship. It can feel very uncomfortable for people with codependent traits to be alone. Because of the lack of knowing their own needs and lack of self-care skills anxiety can become overwhelming when not in a relationship. This is one reason most people suggest waiting a year after narcissistic abuse, take the time to get to know your needs as well as how to meet and nurture them.
  • Intimacy issues. Feeling judged, rejected, abandoned, as well as difficulty knowing one’s own needs can leave it difficult for people with codependent traits to struggle with vulnerability and emotional intimacy. 
  • Fear of abandonment. The thought of being left creates extreme anxiety. 
  • Emotional reactivity, taking things personally. Because of the constant caregiving and need meeting through people-pleasing of others, codependent thinking can make you hyper-reactive to everyone else’s thoughts or feelings and how they are expressed. 
  • Need to control, expecting others to do what you suggest or say. Control feels safe. It is the main way a person with codependent traits feels like safety in a relationship.  Even things like people-pleasing and caregiving can be forms of control. 

Get personal support in your narcissistic abuse recovery.

 

Healing the Inner Child After Narcissistic Abuse

Healing the Inner Child After Narcissistic Abuse

I’m not enough.

I don’t fit in.

I can’t seem to be heard, no one listens.

No one really knows me or wants to.

Nothing I do is right.

No one will love me, I’m unlovable.  

Who taught you these were truths? Why can’t you think differently even if you know they are not true? Why do you believe these limiting statements? How can you move past these beliefs? I’m sure you can see how gaining perspective and changing these beliefs could improve your life. Let’s talk about a few ways to understand and begin making that change. 

Your inner child is crying out to be loved and heard

Many survivors of emotional abuse experienced things in childhood that set belief patterns for their adult life that sound similar to the ones above. Your inner child, a part of your personality that still reacts and feels like the child you were, may be calling out to be validated and loved and when you do this for yourself you can begin to heal. If you were taught you are unlovable by people who can not love, logically you can see it is their shortcoming but a part of you still holds the feelings of being unlovable as your own truth. If you were taught you can only get acceptance for being perfect, even though now you know that’s impossible for anyone to do, you may still feel the “flaws” you have as reasons you don’t deserve love. These feelings may be locked into a part of yourself that relates to your inner child. Getting what you needed and still need is now a journey of self-care

How to find your inner child

There are a lot of ways to seek and experience your inner child. Many tips are unrelated to narcissistic abuse survival so I’ll give you one example of what survivors have told me over and over which helped them find their inner child. Tracing back the beliefs you have about yourself to childhood “programming” by adults in your life and then seeing how the child you were must have experienced that. Being raised by toxic parents, in particular, can lead to many beliefs about yourself that are limiting and even toxic to your healing. The child you were experiencing those beliefs as a reality. 

Ways to heal your inner child

Once you are able to identify what your inner child is, what can you do to help? Most survivors of toxic upbringings have something in common, they never felt validated or heard. Your inner child may really need to be heard and held. We often explain away to old hurts and never really take the time to quietly listen to the needs we had as a child.

Questions to Ask Your Inner Child

Asking yourself questions can give you ideas for how to help yourself.

  • What does this child need?
  • What is this child feeling?
  • What would the child like to have happen right now?
  • What is a source of comfort and safety for this child?

Once an answer to any of these questions arises, simply start giving your inner child what they need. Visualize yourself as a child and listen to all that child needs to tell you. Spend some time asking and giving to yourself in this way then affirm to the child within that you are there, always have been and always will be. Offer a safe adult to turn to when things hurt or get scary. Be that for yourself with intention and love. 

Write to Your Inner Child

Writing a letter or journaling to your inner child is another technique suggested and used by many people. This can give you a safe way to not only express what you need to say but to also receive words of kindness and nurturing directly from the person that knows what you need best – you. In being there for yourself in this way include words and phrases that you would tell a child who is experiencing the things you experienced. 

Treat your inner child with THIS kind of love

Consider what you would tell your own child or a child you know personally. What would you tell your own son or daughter who was in the kind of pain you once experienced? Tell that to yourself. Every time you hear negative self talk use the words you would give to your own child towards yourself. 

Check in with your inner child

Check-ins with your inner child when situations in life cause you pain or grief may also help you to honor and nurture your inner child. You may also find benefit by checking in with your inner child when you have successes as well. Talking to, writing to, or just thinking about the child within during times in your life where you feel a lot of emotion can help by adding validation both to your current situation as well as your past. 

Get therapy or coaching to heal your inner child

Seeking the help of a therapist can be another approach to doing inner child work. Having the therapist there to guide and help you with the issues that come up for many people is invaluable to their healing. Coaching with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach can offer ways to begin to question the beliefs set up in your childhood and to shift perspective on those beliefs. Some people combine both to really begin a self-discovery journey while healing from abuse. Finding a trauma-focused and knowledgeable person to help is highly recommended.

Get more information on inner child healing in this playlist.

Get personal support in your narcissistic abuse recovery.

 

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