You might call a narcissist who has found rock bottom a collapsed narcissist. In general, narcissists hit rock bottom when they are able to no longer manipulate, exploit and abuse others.
In other words, narcissist rock bottom is what happens when the narcissist finally realizes that their abusive behavior will not be tolerated any longer, that what they have done has gotten out of control, or that they’re about to lose everything.
Unfortunately, it is typically later rather than sooner. It can take many years of ongoing manipulation and abuse before they hit rock bottom. Often, it happens when their closest sources of narcissistic supply go away, whether by their own choice or otherwise.
Why do narcissists hit rock bottom?
Narcissists crave power and control like an alcoholic craves their favorite drink. Narcissists NEED to have the people around them feeling weak and unempowered – this way, they’re malleable so that they’re easily controlled.
But when these people walk away and stop doing what the narcissist wants before they’re ready for it, the narcissist’s biggest fears are realized.
A narcissist’s lack of capacity for empathy and emotional depth, paired with a desperate need to feel validated and congratulated by others, will often result in their demise.
They will do just about anything to feel significant and special – so much so that they may lie, cheat and manipulate to get their own way.
So ironically it is their desperation for significance and validation which ultimately serves as the catalyst for their narcissist rock bottom.
What scares a narcissist?
As often as a narcissist threatens, directly or indirectly, to abandon you, you’d think they were perfectly secure in their ability to remain surrounded by sources of narcissistic supply – as in, people who love, admire, and serve them as needed.
But the truth is that while abandonment is probably the most human fear one can have, narcissists aren’t immune.
In fact, if we’re being honest, they’re probably pretty normal this way.
With that being said, the difference between a narcissist’s fear of abandonment and that of the average person is that a narcissist will actively abuse and manipulate the people around them in order to control them and keep them in their place.
How do the narcissist’s fears coming true lead them to hit rock bottom?
Fear of abandonment comes to fruition when you walk away from the narcissist. Now, don’t expect them to recognize this right away – but it’ll relieve some of the tension for them initially – even just the idea that they’ll be able to openly meet new people can be a huge thrill.
At first, they will feel free and some version of happy – but then one day (maybe even the same day the relationship ends), they’ll remember something that you used to do for them, and they’ll want that back.
If your resist (and I hope you do – read this about how to avoid the hoover maneuver), the narcissist attempts to navigate their remaining relationships – often not even personal ones, they grow frustrated and angry.
What does the narcissist experience at rock bottom?
You might think that when a narcissist hits rock bottom, they will finally see the light and realize how awful they truly have been – and you’d hope they’d be SO SORRY for this abusive behavior they’ve been serving up all these years.
As amazing as that would be, it’s rarely the case. Instead:
They will probably feel like their world has been turned upside down and they have no idea how to fix it.
They may become depressed and experience symptoms of anxiety-like panic attacks or insomnia.
They may also lash out at others for no reason at all.
Whatever happens, you can expect them to be acting extremely erratic and unpredictable as they expertly play the victim.
The Narcissist’s Backup Plan
Before the narcissist knows it, you’re off living in a totally cute place that’s a little too far to just drop in. And, you’ll have the nerve to want your privacy, which won’t be tolerated if they are still part of your life.
Eventually, they begin to guilt and shame the few people who remain close to them, seemingly doing their very best to push your emotions aside. This, combined with a lack of narcissistic supply, culminates in the narcissist’s idea of actual hell.
So, the moment any source of narcissistic supply refuses to comply with their wishes or orders, the narcissist has lost control of that person and therefore has no influence over them anymore.
And that’s one of the narcissist’s OTHER biggest fears: that they’re so insignificant that no one cares what they say, do, think, or feel.
This right here is exactly what causes them to tend to need a backup ‘source of supply’ (since they can’t be alone), so they very often attempt preemptively replace a source of supply.
Unfortunately, it can be one of the most dangerous times for you. Because a narcissist who has hit rock bottom may feel as though they have nothing left to lose. They don’t even have the narcissistic supply they need to function – so their desperation can lead them to lash out.
The narcissist eventually hits rock bottom and they feel unbearable sadness, grief, or remorse because they can’t continue the way they are going anymore. In order to keep this grief or pain at bay, they will stoop to any level.
The Narcissist’s Rock Bottom Patterns
When the narcissist finally hits rock bottom, there is a predictable pattern that emerges. This pattern is so predictable that it can be used as a roadmap for how to deal with the situation.
The narcissist’s life will begin to crumble under the weight of their own lies and deceit.
This collapse may occur because of something external like losing their job or a major financial setback or some other traumatic event in their life.
It could also happen because they have become so absorbed in their own self-image that they cannot see reality any longer – they live in a world of illusion created by their own ego which is beyond their control.
As they begin to realize that they are no longer able to maintain this illusion, they become increasingly agitated, depressed, and angry until they reach a point where there is nothing left but rage at themselves for being so stupid as to believe such obvious lies about themselves as well as rage at those who duped them into believing these lies were true.
Should you support a narcissist who is at or near rock bottom?
Believe me, I get it – as an empath, you naturally want to support someone in pain, especially when it’s someone you love or loved so deeply.
But listen to me, don’t do it. Not this time. Hear me out.
As much as helping them would serve some codependent part of yourself, the narcissist is likely to cruelly reject your offers for help. This will make you feel rejected – again- and that’s going to do a real number on not only your self-esteem but also your psyche – triggering would be putting it mildly.
Personally, I don’t think you owe them any of your time or support, but if you must give it to them, try giving them space and let them know when you’re available if they want to talk about anything (without pressure!).
How Do You Overcome Shame in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?
If you have just come out of a relationship with a narcissist, you may find yourself feeling ashamed of many things – up to and including feeling shame about who you are as a person. This can cause significant bumps in your narcissistic abuse recovery and in your life, to put it mildly.
So how do you overcome shame during or after a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist? It can feel impossible, and it might even seem hopeless – but there are ways you can work through and overcome this.
What is Shame?
Shame is a defense mechanism that protects us from the painful realities of our past. When it comes to having been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, shame feels like a deep, dark feeling that can be hard to shake if you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist.
Some things you might experience as a result of dealing with shame in a toxic relationship with a narcissist include the following.
Narcissists will create situations that make you feel as though you did something wrong or inappropriate – even when you didn’t.
Shame can be an extremely difficult emotion to overcome because it makes you feel helpless.
Shame keeps you doubting yourself.
Shame fuels the lie that “you could have done more.”
Shame convinces you that you have no right to be proud of your accomplishments or to celebrate your successes.
What is the difference between shame and guilt?
Shame is an emotion that we feel when we feel unlovable. It is a feeling of worthlessness and it goes hand in hand with guilt.
Guilt is the feeling of having done something wrong. Shame is the feeling of being something wrong.
While guilt is feeling bad about our actions, shame is feeling bad about who we are, intrinsically.
Why do we feel so much shame in narcissistic abuse?
We experience shame whenever someone makes us feel like we don’t belong, or when they make us feel like we are not good enough. It’s a common emotion to feel after leaving a relationship with a narcissist because they are always trying to make us feel that way.
When we have been in a relationship with a narcissist who has been gaslighting us, projecting their own faults and flaws onto us, and making us believe that we were crazy, stupid, or otherwise inferior in some way all along, it can be difficult to avoid feelings of shame if this person was also someone who you loved very much.
It’s important to remember that the only reason you stayed in this relationship for as long as you did was that you truly believed that there was something wrong with you and that it was your fault; otherwise, you would have left sooner!
What is the connection between trauma and shame?
Nearly everyone who goes through a toxic relationship that involves narcissistic abuse will find themselves left with serious trauma issues. And when we experience something traumatic, it is common to feel a sense of shame. We may feel ashamed of ourselves and our circumstances. We may even feel ashamed that we allowed the abuse to occur and continue for so long. We may feel like a fool for not seeing the warning signs or for not having the courage to leave sooner.
This shame can be one of the hardest parts of recovery from narcissistic abuse. It is a shame that often manifests as anger, anxiety, depression, and guilt. These feelings are very isolating because they make us feel like we are alone in our experiences and that there is no way out of our pain.
What are the signs you’re being shamed by a narcissist?
You Have Intrusive Toxic Thoughts
Once you allow shame into your life, it becomes very easy to accept other toxic thoughts as truths as well such as:
“No one really cares about me.”
“People won’t listen to me.”
“I don’t deserve better than this.”
“I’m not good enough.”
You Accept Responsibility for Everything – Including the Shame
You might feel like the shame is yours, but it’s not. The narcissist is shaming you. He or she is projecting their own feelings of shame onto you. By making you feel ashamed of yourself and your actions, the narcissist can control you.
You Feel ‘Dead Inside’
Narcissists have a way of making people wish for the worst. If you’ve dealt with a narcissist who has shamed you and you’ve ever thought or said you were ‘dead inside’ – that’s a big sign that you’re dealing with shame. Please remember that you deserve better.
Dissociation (or feeling disconnected, like you’re not really here, like you’re in a fog, watching your life on a movie screen, or anything similar) is another common experience shared by survivors who deal with shame.
The Narcissist’s Behaviors
The good news is that you don’t have to live in this hell forever. The first step to overcoming shame is recognizing the signs of being shamed by a narcissist:
They tell you that if only you did what they want, things would be better
They call you names and put down your appearance or abilities
They criticize everything you do, say, think, or feel.
How do you overcome shame?
Survivors of narcissistic abuse often struggle to move past feelings of shame because they believe they should be able to do so more quickly.
When we’re in a narcissistic relationship we are bombarded with shame at every turn—shame for things we haven’t done or shouldn’t feel guilty about, shame for things we wouldn’t normally be ashamed of (such as loving someone), and shame for things we would have felt prideful about prior to entering into the relationship (such as analyzing or understanding the narcissist).
Step One: Understand Why You Feel Shame
The shame you feel can be overcome by understanding why you feel it. Realize that the shame is not yours but rather the narcissist’s and that he or she projected the feelings onto you. Don’t take it on, and watch as the shame disappears.
Remember: You are not your shame.
Once you can see that this is what’s going on, even if they try to deny it, there are steps you can take to overcome the shame:
First, remember that in overcoming shame following a relationship with a narcissist, you are:
These are all accomplishments – they take time, effort, and energy. Pat yourself on the back and recognize how significant that is – and then go on to step two.
Step Two: Choose Your Boundaries
So, if you’re going to set boundaries, you have to know what behaviors are acceptable for you, and which ones aren’t. Be aware that the narcissist will not love the fact that you begin to change and tolerate less and less of their disrespect and manipulation. But keep going. It’s worth it – I promise.
Obviously, this causes problems in relationships with other people, most certainly those who are their primary sources of narcissistic supply. They overstep your boundaries to manipulate situations to get their own way. They will flit between abusive cycles of blame and manipulation to try and control you.
Your average person might not ever overstep your boundaries, or if they do, will correct their behavior if you note it. Not so with narcissists. That’s why it’s so important to maintain your boundaries in toxic relationships.
This affiliation is part of an effort to provide more effective and useful solutions for healing from narcissistic abuse.
Who is Dr. Judy Rosenberg?
Dr. Judy Rosenberg is the founder of the Psychological Healing Center and the Be The Cause® Mind Map System to help “Heal Human Disconnect,” the cause of most psychopathology. By helping people identify their problem and dismantle it, Dr. Judy helps her patients to paradigm shift from the problem into the solution. She completed her undergraduate work in psychology at UCLA and her graduate work at CGI (California Graduate Institute).
Dr. Judy is currently in private practice in Sherman Oaks and Beverly Hills, CA, and continues to help people with various psychological issues. You may also know her from YouTube as Dr. Judy WTF?!, as she has a weekly call-in radio show titled Dr. Judy WTF (What The Freud?!). Her focus there is on healing the “hole in the soul” that results from Human Disconnect.
She is a consultant to the media and has appeared on several television shows and is often interviewed by high-profile publications. Her recent appearances include Huffington Post, MTV, E Entertainment, KCAL News, CBS News, CNN, and Animal Planet. She has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist since 1996.
What is QueenBeeing?
QueenBeeing is an online, comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support System created by certified life coach Angie Atkinson and continuously supported by our team of fellow survivors, certified life coaches, and mental health professionals. QueenBeeing also features a strong, vibrant, supportive community for survivors of Narcissistic Abuse that offers support in the form of support groups, counseling, coaching, and a number of courses and tools available for low or no cost.
In addition to the mission of empowering survivors of narcissistic abuse to become thrivers and to create the lives they want, QueenBeeing.com has launched a movement to spread awareness and to help survivors create change in their own families and social circles to prevent enabling and creating toxic people in this world.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
When you are in the grip of narcissistic abuse, it can be hard to think about your own needs. You may be so preoccupied with what is happening to you that you feel numb, or so angry that you feel like an emotional volcano about to explode. Either way, it can be hard to take care of yourself.
Is Self-Care Selfish?
No matter what the toxic people in your life would have you believe, self-care is not selfish. It is essential in order to maintain your physical and emotional health. And this is even more important for people who have survived narcissistic abuse because, for many of us, our whole lives have been about making other people happy. It’s time to focus on yourself, possibly for the first time in your life.
Have you survived narcissistic abuse?
If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how frustrating and exhausting it is to repeatedly deal with their crazy-making and mind games. When they aren’t treating you like your feelings don’t matter, they are making you feel crazy for having feelings in the first place! It can be that hard to be in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but you probably already know that it is possible to leave such relationships when you learn how to recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and how to set boundaries.
What you might not realize though is that self-care is a vital part of healing from narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. If a partner or ex-partner has been abusive toward you, you might have experienced a lot of trauma. It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning, and even to take care of yourself and your needs when you’re in the depths of recovery.
Why is self-care important in narcissistic abuse recovery?
Everyone heals on their own time frame, but by practicing some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors you can improve your quality of life and begin the process of healing from narcissistic abuse. But without proper guidance, healing from narcissistic abuse can be long and arduous.
It’s very common for adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs) to suffer from Complex PTSD. Worse, many ACONs also end up getting into romantic relationships with narcissists and other toxic people – it feels normal to them. That’s why, without proper support, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns.
Did you lose yourself to narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a particularly vicious form of psychological abuse. It is important to recognize that narcissistic abuse takes a toll on your mind and body. After experiencing an abusive relationship, it is normal to feel like you have lost yourself. You may also feel like you don’t know how to take care of yourself anymore. These feelings are often due to the way you were treated in your past relationships and can develop into a very unhealthy pattern if not addressed. After abuse, your whole sense of self needs to be rebuilt and nurtured.
Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
Self-care is important for all of us, but especially for those in the healing process following narcissistic abuse. You can use these self-care tips as tools to help you heal and recover from the effects of narcissistic abuse and re-establish a sense of inner peace within yourself. Even if you have not left your abuser yet, self-care can help protect your mental health while you decide to leave or work on other aspects of your life that are related to the abuse.
Here are some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors:
1. Remember You Are a Whole Person.
It may sound silly, but if you are still reeling from the abuse of a narcissist, it can be difficult to remember that you’re still a whole, multifaceted person. Narcissistic abuse survivors often find themselves existing in a fog of confusion and pain, and being told repeatedly that they are “crazy” or “imagining things.” It can be hard to muster the motivation or energy for self-care when you feel so beaten down. If you’ve been abused by a narcissist, it’s important to know that what you’re experiencing isn’t your fault. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting their victims into believing that they have no right to their own feelings or opinions. You have every right to grieve the loss of these relationships and experiences, and to take time to work through your feelings. You also have a right to care for yourself in whatever way is best for you. This video explains exactly what happens to you during narcissistic abuse and why you stop feeling like a whole person – this is exactly why it’s so important to take care of yourself now.
2. Assess Your Needs and Make a Self-Care Plan.
Maybe the most important step in self-care after narcissistic abuse is knowing what you need in order to feel cared for and nurtured. You’ve been through the hell of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist. You might just need to start by taking a bit of time for yourself. You can practice setting boundaries. Take a week or a weekend and just turn off the phones, close the door, and relax. If possible, use this time to disengage from the narcissist. Breathe deeply. Meditate. Stretch out any kinks or tension in your body. Do something creative or spiritual. Then sit down and write down your self-care plan. Note: Make sure you pencil in time to get enough sleep and relaxation. You can’t think straight or make good decisions when you’re stressed and exhausted. Watch this if you need to remember how important self-care is for survivors of narcissistic abuse!
3. Don’t Discount the Value of Positive Affirmations.
You’ve spent way too much time worrying about everyone else in your life – and the narcissist has facilitated this by requiring you to make them the center of your world. This means you’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, and unspoken words flying around inside you, likely adding to your pain. My suggestion here is to go out and buy a journal or a diary. Or just use a plain notebook if you prefer. Either way, use this to write in every day about how you are feeling, your thoughts, what you have been doing, and any other information that is important to you. The idea is that whatever you put into this journal is just for you. You can tear pages out if they are painful to read later on, or you can keep the book forever as a reminder of how far you have come. Personally, I prefer bullet journaling these days – here’s how I do it.
6. Pay Attention To Your Breathing.
Did you know that if you breathe through your mouth, you are going to feel more anxious? It’s true! And that will only cause you to think more about the pain you had endured. The best way to stay relaxed is by breathing through your nostrils. In fact, this is something that patients that suffer from insomnia are told to do before they attempt to fall asleep. Breathing through your nostrils will help lower anxiety levels and the more you do it, the more you will rewire your brain into a calmer state. Try the exercises I share here for help.
7. Tap Into Your Creativity
I always say that narcissistic abuse recovery is a great time to start a new project. Maybe you want to redecorate a room in your home, or learn to paint. Perhaps you’d like to write a book or a story. Maybe you’re a songwriter? When you listen to songs like Stronger Than Ever by Christina Aguilera, you know she was inspired by her own healing from abuse. And this is a positive way to deal with pain and trauma. Channeling your pain into creativity is highly therapeutic. Or, if you’re struggling with finding a project because you’re drowning in your own clutter (a common issue for survivors), you might try a decluttering project, as described here.
8. Ask For Help
Possibly the most important step to practicing healthy self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors is surrounding yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through. I think it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have experienced the pain that comes with being in an abusive relationship, so don’t feel like your situation is unique or uncommon. If you are struggling, be sure to look into finding a therapist and/or a narcissistic abuse recovery coach who understands what you’re going through. They can give you some helpful tips and since they may have been there themselves, they can empathize in ways no one else can. There’s also the option to join a small Zoom coaching group. If therapy or coaching aren’t within your budget, you can also join a free support narcissistic abuse recovery support group. The more support you have, the better! It MATTERS.
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery right now.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. It 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 and 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.