If you know what it’s like to experience narcissistic abuse, then you might understand the level of damage that narcissists can do. It is profound and life-altering – and not in a good way. Narcissists destroy you, but if you want to put yourself together again, you can absolutely do it – starting with focusing on understanding what happened to you. Your next (and most important step) is then moving forward into intentionally healing and embracing your true self. Let’s talk about it.
How do narcissists destroy you?
Narcissists are masters of manipulation and control, but the effects of being in a toxic relationship with someone affected by narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are life-changing. The narcissist’s form of psychological and emotional abuse is so harmful that most survivors find it impossible to go back to the way things used to be after recovering from narcissistic abuse. Their trademark lack of empathy and compassion spills into every interaction with you.
“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
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.
The New Year is around the corner. As we wind up for the holidays, I’ve noticed some old feelings creeping back – and that’s why I’d like to remind you to keep an eye on your priority list this holiday season!
Your Own Priority List and Why You Need to Be On It
Awhile back, I noticed I felt a bit out of sorts. I had struggled to get back “on track” with my regular writing schedule, and had been skipping workouts left and right. It was not working well for me.
Essentially, the holiday madness caused me to slip off of my journey toward personal fulfillment. I found myself floating through my days mindlessly, feeling busy and harried instead of centered and peaceful.
I’d been aware of this situation for awhile and had been working on getting my mind in the right place again, seeking solutions to my malaise.
Allow me to preface the next paragraph by telling you, in case you weren’t aware, that I think Oprah Winfrey is an absolute goddess. If you disagree with me, that’s okay, but don’t let it deter you from the message I’m trying to get across here.
See, I happened to catch most of an old episode of Oprah in which she very openly and honestly shared her personal struggles with “falling off the wagon.” And while she did discuss her struggles with weight (as the symptom), her main confession was that she’d been failing to take care of herself.
She was so busy working and taking care of everyone around her, that she forgot to make time to nurture herself. In true Oprah style, she had a plan.
One thing that she said several times when discussing her new plan really stood out for me.
Who of us isn’t guilty at one time or another of forgetting to add ourselves to our ever-growing lists of responsibilities? I know that I have been on more than one occasion. Sometimes, we let life “get in the way” of taking care of ourselves.
This may seem like the right thing to do at times–especially when our jobs or loved ones require extra attention. But its then that we must make a specific effort to build a little time into our days to nurture ourselves, our souls, our individuality.
Take a moment to think about it. When was the last time you did something just for you? When was the last time you scheduled time in your life for yourself?
I’m not asking you to take an entire weekend away, or even an entire day. We all know that sometimes that isn’t possible. Instead, I’m asking you to take ten minutes, an hour, whatever you can afford in your day.
Maybe you need to get up an hour earlier, or stay up an hour later. Perhaps you can sneak it in during your lunch break or baby’s nap time.
And, you may be asking, what should you be doing to take care of yourself anyway? This completely depends on you. What makes you happy? Could you use a nap? Simple downtime? Perhaps you’ve been meaning to work out or read a good book. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice hot bath?
The point? It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, so long as it’s something only for you. As Oprah said on her show today, it’s really a love issue. We must love ourselves in order to love others–we must love ourselves in order to maintain any level of happiness and personal fulfillment in our lives.
Today, my challenge to you is to be brutally honest with yourself. Open up like Oprah did on her show that day, and figure out what you can do to make yourself happy. You deserve to be happy, and you deserve to feel joy. What can you do to make that happen?
Tell me what you’re looking to change about your life in 2016, and I’ll be sure to create free content that teaches you exactly how to do it. PLEASE, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Where do you go when you don’t feel like you’re going anywhere in your trip to being a healthier, smaller version of yourself? What happens to you at that moment in time where you’ve tried (what seems like) everything and nothing is working? Where does your mind and body take you when you’re stuck?
This is always a risky area for me. I would say for a solid eighty percent of my time I am on autopilot. To quote my pal Carolyn, “It’s just what we do now”, meaning going to the gym, eating properly, not binging, not freaking out about every little inconsistency or speed bump in the path, is our new “norm”. It’s just what we do. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The other twenty percent of my time is split between the extremes.
Fifteen percent of that time is spent ‘dorphined up, feeling like I’m taking on the world and conquering it bit by bit. Nothing bothers me. Nothing could stand in my way. I have a great attitude and hold my head up high.
In steps that pesky last five percent of my time, which is where I’ve been feeling for the past week. That last five percent is the part that says “you cannot win this game no matter what you do”. I’m living on “screw it” street in my little village and it’s such a dodgy area. There’s bums on the corners… big bums who haven’t seen a Stairmaster in years. There are seedy people in the shadows just lurking about waiting for you to trip up so they can dart out and rummage through your bag, stealing your hidden snack. The street pharmacists are on the corners handing out your drug of choice, be it cheesecake, chips or chocolate. Or worse yet, a cocktail of all three.
So where do you go? What do you do? Who do you turn to?
My first line of defense, and I didn’t even realize it until I started writing today, is my husband, Marco. Today, these words actually left my face and entered his ears.
“I’ve been doing horrible with my food. I just feel like saying screw it all”.
Those words were actually audible. To another human besides myself. I really said that to him. That’s when I realized he’s always my first stop on the self-destruction train. I like to run my ideas of giving up past him first.
It’s actually laughable as I write it because of course I’m never going to stop but maybe I just need a break. A break from what?
I’d like to call my second line of defense to the stand – Carolyn. You’ll remember her from this post.
She’s who I turn to next. She’s going to read this, as I run most of my posts past her before publishing and she’ll have some brilliant encouraging words to say. Or a punch in the arm, you know, whatever she feels will work at the time. Never fail though, she’s walking the walk and talking the talk with me.
Keeping in mind that this is still only a mere five percent of my time, sometimes I realize my funk is a bit funkier than I like it to be and I pull out the big guns.
When I left Novarum, the center where I got help for my food issues, they had me write a list of things that just worked for me, mentally and physically. It seemed so silly at the time to write it all down, they were so fresh in my mind, but I did it. I tucked it away in a book and just keep it there.
That’s my “big guns”, a piece of paper with words of wisdom that I wrote myself.
“Following this routine makes me more calm about food choices.”
“I no longer hide my eating or have that shame that was associated with hiding and eating.”
“If one of my goals ends up backfiring, that’s okay. This is all just a huge experiment to find that best fit for my life, which will change and evolve as I do.”
That’s just a few of the items on that yellowing piece of paper that I use, third line of defense, to keep me centered.
It is so much more than words on paper though. It takes me back to the basics. Back to where I started winning this thing. Back to the really simple ideas of changing the way I thought about food, myself, myself with food, food with myself and all things related, which in the end, was everything.
I get back to the beginning of this chapter in my life and re-read it like a favorite book.
Then I keep on keeping on because that five percent, that little flash of time, has had its moment of glory and I know how to move on.
“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~Mark Twain
Everyone has something (or someone) in their past that they’d just rather forget–but as everyone knows, sometimes that’s a little easier said than done.
Yet, as we focus on obtaining our ultimate personal fulfillment, we know that focusing on those negative things or people from our past is doing nothing but keeping us from obtaining our true divine desires.
When we focus on the things we don’t want in our own lives, we draw more of those things toward us–and then we may not remember to focus on the things we DO want. This leaves us unhappy and unfulfilled, living with a general sense of dissatisfaction and we’re left wondering what we’re doing wrong.
The law of attraction doesn’t discriminate–it’s very simple. What you think about, you bring about. So, if you think about how exceptionally awesome your life is–then you’ll draw more reasons for exceptional awesomeness into your life.
On the other hand, if you think about how much your life sucks–then you’ll soon find many more reasons for the suck factor.
I know, this is all very basic and may seem far too simple, especially when you throw whole “we’re all human” thing into the mix. After all, we don’t always control the external factors, the little reminders in our everyday lives that trigger thoughts of the negative things or people in our pasts.
First things first, it’s important to be aware of the problem. So, if you are always thinking about, say, that job you got fired from, you need to begin to be conscious of your internal dialogue–keep an “ear” on your thoughts. And the next time you think about that job, mentally “cancel” that thought and replace it with an affirmation of what you REALLY want.
So, for example, if what you really want is a new, high-paying and secure job that you enjoy, then you might tell yourself something like, “I work for ____. My job is secure and fun, and I make $_____ per ______.”
Take the Good, Leave the Bad
“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.” ~Hubert Humphrey
In almost every situation, there can be a positive. Using the example of the lost job, you could probably come up with at least one good thing that happened as a result of working there. Maybe you made a new friend, learned a good lesson or made enough money to send your kid to college.
If your negative thoughts revolve more around a past personal relationship, take the love, lessons and happy parts of that relationship and forget about the rest. That doesn’t mean that you have to get involved with that person in the present, but it means that you can move forward without the negative baggage “the rest” brings with it.
Keep the “good stuff” from your past and let the rest of it go. Again, this can be achieved through “thought replacement.” So, if you’re thinking about that ex who dumped you for no good reason, remind yourself of the things that you liked about the relationship with that person. Smile, give yourself a minute to reminisce, and then replace thoughts of that person with an affirmation of what you want today. Maybe something like “I am so very grateful for the healthy and fulfilling relationships in my life.” It takes some practice, but it works.
Don’t Worry–It Won’t Help
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscaglia
You get where I’m going with this, right? The bottom line here is that focusing on negative things–worrying and upsetting yourself–will do you no good. In fact, these negative thoughts can actually cause harm by drawing more negativity into your life.
Worrying never solved anything, so why should you sit around feeling bad? Choose to feel good instead, choose to think and feel positive things–and watch as you begin to manifest the life you’ve always wanted.
When I was in college, I rented a basement from a friend and her boyfriend.
Things went great until their relationship began to deteriorate, at which time my friend moved out.
We all agreed that I would continue to rent the basement, at least until they decided what to do with the house.
In the few weeks I lived there after my friend moved out, her boyfriend began to go into my things while I was gone, taking things and doing who knows what else.
He made it no secret either–on several occasions he confronted me about various items or information he found among my private belongings.
And then, one day, I woke up and found that he’d climbed into my bed while I slept. That was the last straw. He had violated my privacy and now he was violating my personal right to choose who was allowed in my bed.
Since I couldn’t wait until I found an apartment to move out, I crashed on a friend’s couch for a few days while I located a new place.
When I finally did, I was very happy–except for the overwhelming anger that kept looming in my subconscious. Every time I turned around, something reminded me that he had hurt me, violated me, upset me. And that he wasn’t the only one who, by the time I was 19 years old, had done so–some in even more harsh ways.
Negativity begot negativity, and I started seeing more and more of it in my life. I struggled with it for months, falling into depression after depression. I felt like I was completely worthless, drowning in my own thoughts.
One day, as I sat wracking my brain about how to get over this anger, I thought I heard something. I was alone in my apartment, with the exception of my cat.
And I know this is going to sound crazy, but I would swear to you that I heard someone whisper, “You have to forgive him,” in my ear.
And, more strangely, I knew immediately what the “whisper” meant.
Even though I’d stuffed it all down and tried not to focus on my anger for all of these months, it still stayed there, like a parasite, nibbling away at anything positive that came into my life.
So I picked up my notebook and started writing him a letter. I told him why I was so angry at him and what he did that hurt me so much. I told him why I thought he was wrong. I called him every name in the book and said cuss words that I invented for the occasion.
And at the end of the letter, I told him that I forgave him–not for him, but for myself. Because I deserved to live in peace, without the negativity of my past with him (or anyone else, for that matter) corroding my beautiful world.
When I finished the letter, I felt an amazing sense of peace come over me, almost immediately. And, while I’d fully intended to mail the letter (or at least an edited and polished version of it) to that man, I never did. It turned out that I didn’t need to.
Once I’d written down my feelings, owned them, and moved on–the healing began. Such a simple act allowed me to release months of pent up feelings that were holding me back. I was finally able to begin to feel GOOD again, and suddenly my life was back on the right track.
How about you?
Are you holding a grudge? Do you have some old anger lingering in your heart? If so, it’s time to begin to heal. We all know logically that we cannot change the past, so why live there?
Here’s my challenge for you today. If you are plagued by anger or holding a grudge that you just can’t shake, try writing a letter today to the source of your frustration. Say what you mean, and don’t censor yourself. Let it all out.
And then, offer your forgiveness.
Then, if you like, write a more “reader friendly” version of your letter and mail it to the person or people who have hurt you. But more likely, you might find that the simple act of getting it all out is enough, like I did.
The bottom line here is that if you are holding on to toxic anger, it’s only hurting YOU. The person or people you’re angry at are probably not aware of it–and if they are, it’s not affecting them nearly as significantly as it is you.
The best revenge, they say, is living well–so if you don’t want to let go of your anger just for your own sake, then let it go to be the bigger person.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from Catherine Ponder.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
What do you think? Do you have someone to forgive? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below!