Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Get Out of the Fog with Mindfulness

Written by Angela Atkinson

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~ James BarazOvercoming the Fog of Narcissistic Abuse with Mindfulness

If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you may have experienced various symptoms of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of suffering from narcissistic emotional and mental abuse. One of the most common symptoms is something a lot of survivors call brain fog.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness that is very often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse. It can also be a symptom of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which is commonly seen in people who have experienced traumatic, abusive relationships with narcissists and other toxic people. If you have dealt with brain fog, you will have struggled with feeling lost, like you’re not really there, or like you’re watching your life through a screen or a bubble. But why do you feel like you’re living in a fog after narcissistic abuse?

Many of my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching clients tell me they struggle with feeling like they’re “not really here,” as though they’re on a sort of numb autopilot as they float through life, surrounded by some kind of barrier between themselves and the world. Everything feels sort of foggy and surreal. This is also called dissociation, and while it may have originally started as a way to survive the gaslighting attacks, name-calling, and manipulation, it can very quickly become a way of life.

Do you recognize your “automatic” behaviors and habits? 

When you do something over and over, it can reach the point where it becomes a mindless task. You can do a task and finish it, then realize your body worked to complete the project while your mind was actively engaged in something else.

Mindfulness can help you learn to be present, to refocus your thoughts so that you’re actively experiencing your life rather than walking through it on autopilot. Sometimes, people assume that mindfulness is a time-consuming practice where you have to sit quietly somewhere for a lengthy amount of time.

While you can enjoy sitting quietly, it doesn’t have to take a long time. In fact, if you don’t want to or don’t have time to just be still and practice mindfulness, then you don’t have to – putting yourself under pressure will do no good,

Do you feel out of control? There’s no denying that having chaos in your life is going to happen, and that’s especially true when you’re going through or have recently remove yourself from a toxic abuse situation with a malignant narcissist in a relationship.

If you’ve already left, it might not be a constant, but it will happen. When chaos does occur, it puts a lot of narcissistic abuse survivors in a state of anxiety or panic.

You know the feeling I’m talking about, right? It’s when you get that knot in your stomach that seems to rise up into your throat and make you feel sick.

It’s when you simply don’t know what to do and how to calm the chaos – when you can barely even focus on ANYTHING as a result.

What causes you to feel so out of control?

Regardless of what type of chaos you’ve experienced with your narcissist or are going through as you recover, focused, intentional mindfulness can help. It lets you be in charge and not your emotions or your thoughts.

What happens when chaos hits is that the outward or inward situation isn’t taking place in the present. The chaos is because of what might have happened or what’s going to happen as a result of this chaos.

When you experience turmoil, your stress levels will skyrocket. When that happens, it can be difficult to keep calm. Your mind will start to race and the negative emotions will spring up, multiplying one after another.

Chaos causes you to become distanced from peace. It hijacks your thoughts and pummels your emotions. But when you practice mindfulness, it doesn’t give in to the chaos.

Mindfulness as a Tool for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

One of the fastest ways to begin to reduce brain fog is through mindfulness, which is a very simple practice can be done by anyone at any time.

What is mindfulness?

In narcissistic abuse recovery, mindfulness is an intentional focus that you use in the psychological process of bringing your attention to what is happening right now, in this moment. This can be developed by anyone through the practice of meditation and through other types of training, such as the Intentional Vibration Management technique I developed.

How can mindfulness help reduce brain fog?

Mindfulness allows you to have peace and focus despite the physical or emotional storm you might be caught up in. It keeps you focused on the present and anchors your thoughts and emotions.

This helps you feel at rest even when you’re not. It bolsters your sense of purpose and ability to make decisions. Mindfulness calms the anxiety and lets you be in charge of what you need to take care of.

During the turmoil, your mind gets an influx of negative toxic thoughts and when you don’t practice mindfulness, those thoughts then cause the emotions to become more intense.

How does mindfulness work?

Mindfulness doesn’t stop the negative emotions from coming, but it helps you to be in charge of what’s going on in your mind and with your emotions because it lets you corral the thoughts that are trying to stampede.

It brings the wayward emotions back to the present and floods your mind with peace and purpose.

Mindfulness brings a feeling of peace to the negative emotions and thoughts so that you’ll be aware of them, but they won’t control you.

When chaos happens, most people end up being controlled by their emotions, by the anxiety and turmoil they feel. But mindfulness will allow you to take a pause, view the situation, and be able to make decisions that are based on reality rather than hyped-up feelings.

Mindfulness will allow you to keep order in your thoughts and emotions even when everything around you is in crisis. Being mindful will help to give you space to be able to keep yourself at peace.

How do you become mindful? 

There are many simple ways that you can be mindful throughout your day without ever having to take a break from whatever it is that you’re going. Knowing this has helped many extremely busy people to be able to get into the habit of practicing mindful activities. One of the best ways I’ve found to use mindfulness in narcissistic abuse recovery is to use pattern interrupts to stop yourself from having extended triggers and falling into the spiral of depression and anxiety that can be so dangerous for a survivor.

What is a pattern interrupt?

Used in various forms of therapy and personal development, pattern interrupt is a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) technique. When you use a pattern interrupt, you’re essentially breaking your typical routine or habits around any sort of negative behavior or repeating experience in your life. This can be especially helpful when combined with other coping and healing tactics in narcissistic abuse recovery.

What are some examples of pattern interrupts?

That might feel pretty confusing, so let me give you a few examples of pattern interrupts that have worked for me over the years.

Brush Your Teeth

One simple way to practice mindfulness is by brushing your teeth. You do this so often that you probably do it without even thinking about it. Instead of brushing your teeth on autopilot, take the time to focus on the steps involved in this routine.

Feel the bristles of the brush as they cross your teeth and tongue. Pay attention to the thickness of the toothpaste of the flavor of it. While you’re brushing your teeth, pay attention to the process and don’t let your mind think about worries or negative thoughts.

Mindful Listen

Another way that you can practice mindfulness as you go about your day is through mindful listening. So many times, there are sounds around you and yet you don’t even hear them because you’re not listening with a focus.

Wherever you are, you can take a few seconds to listen to the sounds. You might be able to hear a bird singing, the wind blowing or the distant roll of thunder. You can practice mindful listening with popular music or with instrumentals.

Hear each sound and focus on it for a few seconds while tuning out anything but the sound.

Breathe Mindfully

Mindfulness can be practiced by focusing on breathing. It doesn’t take long and can be done any time of day and in any place.

As you breathe, focus on the breath that you’re drawing in. Then focus on the breath that you’re exhaling. Keep your mind centered on the movement of your body as you breathe in the air and release it.

Feel the air move within you and tune in to the sensation as you’re going through the exercise. You can practice mindfulness through many other activities including walking, eating, while cooking or cleaning, and even while taking a shower.

Other Ways You Can Pattern Interrupt Your Stressful Moments in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

In this video, you’ll find several additional pattern interrupt ideas that are helpful for survivors of narcissistic abuse.

What do you think? Do you struggle with mindfulness? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below this video. 

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  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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What is NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming)?

What is NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming)?

If you're struggling to recover from narcissistic abuse, you might be interested in learning about Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP.  It's a surprisingly simple yet highly effective treatment for symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD)...

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