Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I know how hard it can be to believe you could have been abused by someone you thought loved you.

It’s not just that they were charming, seductive, and desirable.

It’s also that they seemed to care about you. You may have even felt loved – at least on some level.

Did you know that your brain betrays you in narcissistic relationships?

It’s true! Your brain and body seem to be conspiring against your conscious self when it comes to narcissistic abuse.

See, you know that what you’re dealing with is abuse, on a logical level. You know it doesn’t feel good to be with a narcissist.

And yet, some part of you secretly hates both the narcissist and yourself because you haven’t left or are missing them.

You start to think that, despite all of the evidence to the contrary in your personal experiences, not to mention your reading and research, the narcissist MIGHT really change for the next source of narcissistic supply. 

And obviously, some part of you is well-aware that this abuse is wrong and that you should end the relationship, or at least be happy it ended. 

But for some reason, you can’t stop thinking about the narcissist. You’re second-guessing yourself, feeling remorse and regret combined with self-doubt that ending is or was the right thing to do.

The more you miss them, the worse you want to see them – and the more you’re sure that you were overreacting and that you weren’t really abused at all. 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and you develop abuse amnesia – forgetting what the narcissist has done to you and beginning to believe that things really can get better this time. 

What are the long-term effects of narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship? 

It’s hard to imagine that everything you thought was true about your relationship might have been a lie, and yet this is the very reality you might be dealing with if you’ve just recognized the narcissistic abuse in your life.

This is just one of many ways that narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship can lead you to find yourself dealing with serious cognitive dissonance.

And don’t worry – you’re not alone here – in fact, you’re in good company. The effects of narcissistic abuse are all-encompassing – and something like this happens to nearly every narcissistic abuse survivor somewhere along the way.

If you’re one of us, you might also be living with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly affects your everyday reality.

One of the most painful things that we deal with as survivors of narcissistic abuse is the complete destruction of our self-esteem and our ability to trust ourselves, thanks to the control, gaslighting, and manipulation that narcissists inflict on the people closest to them.

Perhaps most distressing is the fact that narcissistic abuse can cause neurological issues – also known as brain damage.

On the plus side, the neurological changes caused by this long-term trauma can be reversed, thanks to our brain’s neuroplasticity.\

What is neuroplasticity?

How do you reprogram your brain after narcissistic abuse?

As you probably know, our minds, more specifically our subconscious minds, control our lives.

In other words, we are what we think or believe.

Research has shown that there is a mind-body connection and that the mind can help us overcome health problems.

As I mentioned, one of the most important things to remember is that your brain is neuroplastic – this is what makes it possible for us to actually help to reverse and heal ourselves. 

This video gives you an idea of how neuroplasticity works and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (disagreeing cognitions) we experience when we encounter information that contradicts our existing set of beliefs or knowledge.

In other words, when we experience cognitive dissonance, we feel anxious because part of us wants to reject new information because it is threatening to our established beliefs – but another part of us knows that the new information may be true and is demanding that we accept it as such.

This internal tension can cause stress and anxiety – especially if we are unaware of its source. This video offers a comprehensive look at cognitive dissonance in narcissistic abuse recovery. 

 

How can you deal with triggers and feeling dissociated during narcissistic abuse recovery?

Understanding trauma bonding is vital to understanding why it’s often so difficult to leave a narcissist, as well as why you can be triggered by seemingly innocuous things if you were previously involved with one. And the good news is that knowing more about it can help you better cope with your experience. Take the information below and use it to better understand your trauma bond and how to get past it.

Try This Reality Anchoring Technique

Reality anchoring is one of the most powerful NLP Anchoring Techniques you can use during your day-to-day life – anywhere and at any time. 

Many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of reality anchoring using different methods to evaluate it, and all of them have come up with similar results in terms of the effectiveness of the reality anchoring technique to reduce negative emotions, increase positive ones and enhance perceived well-being. 

This video offers a helpful reality anchoring technique for when you feel cognitive dissonance coming on. 

How does reality anchoring work?

A reality anchor is a mechanism that allows you to connect your current situation with an unrelated but positive place in the past.

In other words, you may want to consider looking toward the future while making an emotional connection to some positive experiences from the past.

Doing so can increase your sense of well-being and happiness. It can also decrease any amount of sadness and increase your ability to cope.

This can be achieved by creating a trigger that links one part of your body with a pleasant memory.

For example, you may believe that smelling fresh flowers will reassure you that you were happy on a particular day in the past.

The reality anchor technique is used to encourage a person to be able to adjust their current emotions by finding the source of those emotions in an event in the past or future.

 

Why should you care if you’re trauma-bonded with the narcissist?

Understanding trauma bonding is vital to understanding why it’s often so difficult to leave a narcissist, as well as why you can be triggered by seemingly innocuous things if you were previously involved with one.

And the good news is that knowing more about it can help you better cope with your experience.

Take the information below and use it to better understand your trauma bond and how to get past it.

 

How does trauma bonding from narcissistic abuse actively affect your brain and state of mind?

The chemicals oxytocin, which encourages bonding, endogenous opioids – responsible for pleasure, pain, withdrawal, and dependence; a corticotropin-releasing factor which involves withdrawal, and stress; and dopamine which is connected to the craving, seeking, wanting the narcissist back, even when they’ve caused you extreme emotional stress and pain.

Toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse lead your neurochemistry to fall into dysregulated states, which makes it really hard to leave a narcissist and even harder to finally get over a toxic relationship.

Take Dr. Daniel Amen’s free Brain Health Assessment to discover your Brain Type and your Brain Fit Score!

How can you re-wire your brain after narcissistic abuse?

Your brain is neuroplastic, meaning it can change and heal in some pretty amazing ways. When you’re dealing with the type of brain damage that is caused by narcissistic abuse, you can sort of re-wire your brain yourself.

(Of course, you should always check with your medical professional to ensure there’s not some other underlying reason for brain fog or being forgetful.)

Speaking of brain fog, let’s define it. 

What is brain fog? 

Brain Fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse.

It’s a very common symptom of narcissistic abuse-induced C-PTSD.

Most survivors report feeling lost like they’re not really there, or like they’re sort of watching life happen through a screen or a bubble.

Use Mindfulness to Beat Brain Fog!

Mindfulness is a powerful way to beat brain fog. Learn to live mindfully by practicing the following.

  1. There is no wrong way to do this – just do it and know that everyone has wandering thoughts.
  2. Begin your mindfulness practice by focusing on your breath, it will help ground you for the session.
  3. Some people find it useful to use a mantra to focus on – that is a word or phrase that you say aloud and/or chant. It can be ‘Om’, something like ‘Peace’ ‘Love’ ‘Calm’ or anything you want.
  4. You can use an audio or video of guided meditation if that helps you stay focused.
  5. When you find your mind wandering, and you will, simply return to observing your breath for a minute or so to get back into your practice. You might say aloud ‘thinking’ to label what occurred (your mind wandering to other things) without judging it as bad or good.
  6. Observe – your thoughts, feelings, and sensations – this is the objective of mindfulness (though Buddhists would say there is no goal).
  7. Release – any thoughts, feelings, or sensations without judgment – this is critical to get the benefits of mindfulness.
  8. Label – your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, even the errant ones that occur when the mind wanders; this can be helpful in the ‘observing and letting go’ process.
  9. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
  10. There are active forms of mindfulness for those who can benefit from something more involved, ie. mindful movement and mindful walking.

Begin by setting aside 5 minutes to practice mindfulness the first week, then increase it to 10 minutes and continue to increase your time every week or so until you are practicing 20 minutes. If you can’t manage 20 minutes, do what works for you. Even 5 minutes each day (or twice a day) will help you.

Supplements That May Help With Your Healing

Did you know that there are certain supplements designed to help with healing your brain?

Did you also know they can be taken while your brain is still in recovery from trauma bonding in narcissistic abuse?

Are you wondering what supplements actually do this and if the claims are true?

I’ve compiled a list of supplements that have helped me and others I have coached in recovery.

It is based on personal experience, what I have read, and what other people have told me.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my aim is to help you find some useful information about healing your brain in recovery.

*Please note, I am not a medical professional and nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice. Do not take any supplements without first discussing with your doctor and getting their approval.

  • Calm My Brain: Quell your worried mind with this highly effective formula for the relief of anxiousness, featuring the ultimate calming mineral magnesium, the powerful stress-busting herb KSM-66® ashwagandha, and the fast-acting amino acid L-theanine.*
  • Attention Support: Trouble concentrating? Can’t sit still? Attention Support contains natural ingredients selected for their clinically proven benefits to help you relax, stay calm, and increase your attention span.
  • Betaine TMG: Provides the nutrient betaine (trimethylglycine, TMG), which enhances SAMe for healthy mood; provides crucial methyl for DNA, brain neurotransmitters, melatonin, and myelin production; and helps cells regulate their water content.
  • Brain & Body Power: The easiest way to get your daily mind and body essentials – parceled into convenient packets including a brain optimizing multi-vitamin-mineral, and pure omega-3 fish oil capsules.
  • Brain & Body Power Max: The most advanced memory-directed formula – perfectly portioned into convenient daily packets including a multi-vitamin-mineral, maximum memory-boosting nutrients, and omega-3 fish oil for complete daily nutrition.
  • Brain & Memory Power Boost: Our most advanced, best-selling memory formula with a lineup of powerful nutrients clinically proven to help protect circulation in your brain, boost mental connectivity, sharpness, and sustained focus.
  • Brain Boost On-The-Go: Fight brain fatigue and tackle your day with the zero-calorie, caffeine-free, and sugar-free, effervescent berry blend that’s perfect anytime, anywhere. Quick natural energy and hydration to help promote mental clarity. Simply add to water and enjoy.
  • Craving Control: Anyone who has ever tried to make better choices knows all too well how cravings can sabotage the best intentions. Craving Control contains all-natural ingredients that help to calm the craving centers in our brain, balance blood sugar and promotes a positive mood.
  • NeuroLink: Feeling irritable or sad for no reason? NeuroLink helps to balance our emotional ups and downs by delivering an exclusive blend of key nutrients to neurotransmitters in our brain helping us to feel tranquil and clear.
  • BrainMD’s GABA Calming Support: Calm your mind naturally with GABA Calming Support, an exclusive formula that contains clinically studied nutrients that help to calm your brain waves and help act as the biochemical “brakes” your brain needs to slow down your anxious or fretful thoughts.
  • Serotonin Mood Support: Does your mind race with negative thoughts? Try our customer favorite Serotonin Mood Support, which contains a patented form of saffron along with other key nutrients that help to promote calmness, positive mood, serotonin balance, and even healthy weight management.
  • SAMe Mood and Movement 400: SAMe Mood & Movement 400 provides SAMe (S-AdenosylMethionine), a nutrient with very high energy that helps power numerous enzymes important for the brain, joints, liver, muscles, and other organs. SAMe is fundamental to the body’s renewal, repair, and overall well-being.

Going Forward in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser causes survivors to experience a form of trauma and shock. For this reason, trauma therapy is helpful because it acknowledges that healing is a process and that there is more than one way to move forward.

Trauma therapy is often focused on the past but will also guide you toward future goals and dreams while teaching you how to deal with various triggers.

Awareness of cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding & emotional flashbacks can be instrumental in understanding what your inner experience of the relationship was so you can work through it & begin letting go. Find a therapist here. 

You might also want to try narcissistic abuse recovery coaching, or if you’re looking for more of a small group setting with a lower price point, try our small group coaching plan – there are significant benefits to this and the price is significantly less than one-on-one coaching. 

Takeaway

You are not to blame for your traumatic relationship with a narcissist. By understanding what happened to you and having the right support on your healing journey, you can go on to live a happy and meaningful life.

After overcoming narcissistic abuse, you may find yourself feeling like a whole new person. If you have found yourself in that stage, take comfort knowing you’re not alone.

It is a journey that is as exhilarating as it is exhausting, but the end result is well worth all the effort.

You can recover. You just have to take your time, and you have to trust the process.

Give yourself permission to rebuild your life from the ground up. It’s going to be a long and difficult road, but it will be worth it in the end.

Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery – Here’s the link for your free tools.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: How to Tell if You’re Dealing with Mind Control

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: How to Tell if You’re Dealing with Mind Control


Let’s talk about narcissists and mind control, shall we? Narcissists love to manipulate you and control you. Often, this looks like gaslighting and brainwashing – and it can be so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s happening!

What is mind control?

It involves the manipulative tactics narcissists use to subtly control and manipulate you. It could involve gaslighting, projection, lying, hiding and more – and narcissists are especially happy to use it to sort of “manage you” so that you will do, say and be exactly what they want in any given moment.

The worst part is that it could happen to literally anyone. Even the most intelligent people can be subjected to mind control, and that’s partially because of its subtle but highly-targeted nature.

So how can you tell if you’re dealing with a narcissist who is using these pervasive techniques on you? How do you know if you’re under mind control?

The fact is that you just don’t know, right?

Does the Narcissist Have a Secret Plan?

Let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment here. What if I told you that everything you are doing could be a response that fits perfectly into another person’s secret plan?

If you take that as a real possibility, then you could simply just give up and decide that NOTHING is truly within your control.

But wait a minute – you don’t have to do that. You are a thinking person, right? Then you can imagine that you can have control over much more than you might realize at this moment.

What are the Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist’s Mind Control?

How can you know for sure?

Start with a simple question: “Am I acting or am I reacting?”

If you are reacting, then you are almost automatically responding to something you see as outside of your control. You’re doing this in an attempt (consciously or otherwise) to gain some control back. And this is a potential sign of some form of mind control.

No one likes to feel powerless and out of control. And when we’re dealing with toxic people in our lives, we often find ourselves feeling just like that. We stop trusting ourselves, and we give into letting the narcissist run our lives, on some level or another.

How do you stop a narcissist from using mind control on you?

So what’s the solution? How do we stop letting toxic people control our lives, and stop them from telling us what we like, what to think, and who we are?

The answer is that we need to do something intentional and positive that is NOT a response to the external environment.

Let me emphasize the word “positive” here because an intentional negative/destructive act has to act on or destroy something pre-existing. It would be then something to which you are reacting.

Do you see what I mean? Let’s dig in a bit.

Choosing an intentional, positive action can be much harder than it might seem because it requires four qualities that most survivors of narcissistic abuse can find hard to implement. They are:

1) Intentionally Thinking

I like to joke that I “think too much,” and it’s true! This might be because of my toxic relationships in the past. Honestly, while some people just don’t want to have to think about stuff, us survivors are different – we often think TOO much.

We can sometimes live in our own heads, and this will leave us feeling a little out of touch, to say the least. In the throes of abuse, we can find ourselves completely checking out – dissociation comes calling. Thankfully, though, our unconscious (reactive) mind will do most of our actions for us.

Admittedly, we sometimes rely on it entirely too much or in the wrong way and allow it to dictate our every move by letting our emotions guide us.

Manipulative narcissists often know this and will use it to control you through fear, anger, threats, and frustration. If we’re going to make any significant change, we have to look outside of this and intentionally direct our thoughts to choose, intentionally, our emotional responses. This will give us more control of ourselves and our own lives.

2 ) Being Creative

Creativity can be difficult because it requires taking action that is not linked to some external stimulus. This, of course,e requires thought, but we have the ability to sort of train ourselves and our unconscious minds to be very creative. Consider Salvador Dali and what he was able to do. Nothing he did in the field of art could easily be compared to anything prior to him. The same was true with his life.

Dali was absolutely fascinated by the images he would see right as he was falling asleep or starting to wake up. For him, these seemed to be extremely vivid, colorful, and interestingly bizarre. In order to produce his amazing art, Dali ran various experiments where he would figure out the best way to sort of make these images happen and then capture them before they’d disappear out of his head. This would eventually lead to some of his best-known artwork.

Reportedly, the way he found that worked best was to put a tin plate on the floor and then sit by a chair beside it. He’d hold a spoon over the plate as he worked to relax his body – often, leading him to begin to fall asleep. At the very moment he’d doze off, the spoon would slip from his fingers, hitting the plate with a crash. This would wake him at the perfect moment and he could paint the surreal images before he forgot them.

3) Taking Inspired Action.

Action takes effort and motivation, and as survivors, we struggle with this sometimes. Maybe we don’t trust ourselves, or maybe we are so used to being told what to do (or how to act) that we just sort of let things happen. Or maybe we just sort of react to things and this makes us exhausted. So we think we need to conserve our energy.

But we have to remember that by taking creative action, we can actually create energy. Going back to Salvidor Dali as an example, his life was FULL of energy that he created intentionally. When his peers tried to control him, he would turn his response into a new form of performance art. This would totally bewilder the people trying to influence him – and absolutely entertain everyone else who was watching.

4) Having Courage.

I know, it’s cliche. But it’s a real thing – and a little bit will change your life. You have to have the courage to deal with feeling uncomfortable sometimes – it’s the only way we can push lives to the next level. To create change requires a little bit of discomfort – we have to find the space OUTSIDE of our comfort zones and we have to almost live there.

But why else is this important when we’re talking about mind control? Because when the narcissist sees that they cannot control you through fear and anger, they will sometimes escalate their attempts through threats, intimidation and worse, in many cases.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

 

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