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. It’s hard to imagine that everything you thought was true about your relationship might have been a lie. This is one way you can deal with serious cognitive dissonance. And don’t worry – you’re not alone here. This happens to nearly every narcissistic abuse survivor somewhere along the way. You might also be living with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly affects your everyday reality.

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. 

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

It’s true! The chemicals oxytocin, which encourages bonding, endogenous opioids – responsible for pleasure, pain, withdrawal, 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.

Self-Help Options for Healing Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse

Most memory training techniques involve exercises to improve linking objects to certain items or using numbering systems to stay on top of being forgetful. However, oftentimes the only thing that is needed to keep your mind on track is to get organized and to stay that way! Below are a few good tips that will help you:

Use a filing system effectively

Take the time to think through your filing system. Figure out what organization will work best for you – client files versus project files, color coding, and so on. Once you’ve worked out your system, make sure to use it. File all pertinent information in the appropriate file (not a desk pile). It’s also helpful to attach blank sheets of paper to the inside right back flap of file folders. Then, you can take notes on relevant conversations, memos, and meetings right where you need them. And make sure you put your files away in an organized fashion.

Use a task list for projects

Overwhelmed by a complex project? Think through the project concretely, step by step. Then, make a list of all these steps, or tasks, to help you get them done. Here’s another suggestion: Keep your task list stapled to the inside front cover of your project file. That way you can refer to the task list whenever you work on that project. Personally, I LOVE Bullet Journaling for this kind of stuff.

Avoid paper piles

Are you surrounded by a sea of papers at work? Is your dining-room table so covered with mail that you’re not even sure it’s still there? There are generally two things that happen to information buried in a paper pile – either it is forgotten or it can’t be found when you need it. Paper piles are like the plague – they should be avoided at all costs. When you get a piece of paper, you should do one of three things: file it, write the information down elsewhere (such as in your scheduler) and toss it, or simply toss it.

Un-sticky your life

Avoid constantly putting information on sticky notes and other small pieces of paper: If you need to write something down, put it on your Master Plan or on your to-do list. While it’s okay to use a reminder such as a sticky note every once in a while, using such notes all the time will make them less noticeable and—as a result—less useful.

Don’t overdo it

Organize your day according to your energy level: Most of us are at our best in the morning. Therefore, set aside time in the morning to work on projects that require your full focus and ability. Schedule less important meetings and other tasks for later in the day.

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.

5 Examples Of Narcissistic Behavior

5 Examples Of Narcissistic Behavior

You may think that someone who is constantly sharing selfies is a narcissist. In fact, you may think that is the only sign that someone could be a narcissist if they are always putting up the flawless filtered selfies all over their social media channels only to get plenty of likes.

In some cases, that could be a sign. But not always – taking selfies does not make one a TOXIC narcissist. In any case, that is not the only sign, and that is not the most concerning sign that someone is a narcissist. Let’s look at 5 examples of narcissistic behavior.

1. Being Extremely Charming…Sometimes

People want to make a nice impression that they are kind and often put on an act when they hook up with a new date for the first while. That is normal. And over time, you will see how their true personalities are. But putting on an act of being nice and kind is not the same as someone who is so charming to the point that you know they must be hiding something. They most definitely are hiding something with that charm but it shows up once the charm wears off. And behind closed doors? They are a completely different person. Unless they want something from you. This video fills you in on that “intermittent reinforcement” stuff.

2. Having A Sense Of Importance Which Is Extremely Inflated

Those who show narcissistic behaviors think that they are the only ones whose needs and wants count. They will think it is just fine, for instance, to cut in front of lines because they are more deserving of getting something than anyone else. Others will be mad when they see the narcissist cutting in line but the narcissist will not care.

Another example of this behavior is when the narcissist has been put on hold while being on the phone with customer service. As soon as the narcissist is served, he or she will scream at the customer service rep for making him or her wait on the phone for so long because their needs are more important than anyone else’s. This video will give you a better understanding of narcissists and their outrageous sense of entitlement.

3. No Empathy Whatsoever

A narcissist is not empathetic. They do not care if someone is suffering, and they do not want to hear about it. In fact if someone is having a hard time and they try talking to the narcissist, then the narcissistic will not just ignore them but will tell them to be quiet and get over it. At worst, he or she may even laugh. According to one study, narcissists can be taught empathy, but there’s a catch. This video will explain exactly what I mean.

4. A Strong Need To Be Admired Excessively

A narcissist will brag about their accomplishments because they have this strong need to be admired and they need the attention. They will also make it known if they were ‘heroic’ somehow to someone, such as opening the door for an elderly couple at the mall. Not that the narcissistic cares about that elderly couple as it was already covered that they are not empathetic. They just did it so that they have something to brag about, as they did a ‘good deed’. And this is exactly why narcissists tend to have their very own little “harem” – which is described in this video.

5. Having One Troubled Relationship After Another (Because It Is Always The Ex’s Fault)

If someone who displays these traits and talks about so many exes that they had, and who blames them for ruining their relationships – then that is a red flag right there. Of course, it is never the narcissist’s fault for having so many failed relationships. That also brings it to how the narcissist blames others for everything as they will never take responsibility for what they do. Not only that, but they have a toxic relationship cycle that goes on in each relationship (and repeats throughout their relationships in their lifetime). This video will give you the 411 on the narcissist’s toxic relationship cycles. 

Any of this sound familiar to you? Think you’re in a toxic relationship? Take our toxic relationship test today and find out if your relationship is making you sick.

How to Use the Grey Rock Method to Deal with a Narcissist (Narcissistic Abuse Recovery)

How to Use the Grey Rock Method to Deal with a Narcissist (Narcissistic Abuse Recovery)

We all know narcissists can be obnoxious. Their over-inflated egos, excessive need for attention (aka drama), and arrogant attitude make it difficult to deal with them sometimes. It’s enough to drive any normal person crazy.

To put it mildly, communicating with a narcissist can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it matters that they comprehend what you’re saying. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt exasperated when trying to have simple conversations with narcissists who have become agitated and who are actively gaslighting.

Gray Rock method explained

Using the Grey Rock Method Safely

So a while back, I wrote this post about the only way to effectively communicate with a narcissist, and in my experience, it’s the truth. In the post, I mentioned the Grey Rock Method, so I thought I’d offer a bit of background and explanation on where it came from. The Grey Rock Method is an ideal way to respond to a narcissist who is actively gaslighting you.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a pervasive and highly effective manipulation tactic used by most narcissists, a form of psychological abuse meant to manipulate you by psychological means into questioning your own sanity. It is pure brainwashing. In addition to toxic narcissists, many abusers and cult leaders use this tactic, not to mention dictators. They do it slowly and subtly – so it kind of sneaks up on you before you realize it’s happening.

This is where your abuser causes you to doubt your own memory, perception, and sanity. The term comes from the 1938 stage play Gaslight and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she is insane by making small adjustments to their home and then convincing her that she is imagining the changes.

How do you recognize when a narcissist is gaslighting?

So, how do you know when to use the grey rock method? It’s going to be most effective when the narcissist is gaslighting you. They will be thicker than concrete walls, intentionally trying to misunderstand you and assume the worst of you, in every single word. You find yourself feeling hopeless like you’re unable to make your point – and if you’re like me, it’s especially frustrating because you probably have no problem communicating with literally everyone else in your life.

I mean – honestly, this has happened to me more times than I  can count during conversations with narcissists – and I am a writer who communicates for a living.

Gaslighting behaviors include: 

  • Withholding: refusing or failing to acknowledge actions or events
  • Blocking: refusing or failing to listen to, acknowledge, or validate ideas, feelings, or opinions
  • Trivializing: dismissing concerns as inconsequential or overly sensitive
  • Forgetting: claiming not to remember what actually happened
  • Countering: claiming that others’ perceptions are wrong
  • Projecting: blaming others for their actions
  • See more signs of gaslighting here. 

Gaslighting is abusive because it is used to subvert honest communication. The abuser doesn’t want to talk about whatever problem there is; they want to persuade you that you are mistaken about what’s happening. They want you to doubt your own perceptions, your own memory; they want you to feel confused and off-balance, so that the only reasonable response is to do whatever they say.

What is the “Grey Rock” Method?

The grey rock method is a form of emotional self-defense used to cope with people who attack your emotions. It is a powerful strategy to shut down any kind of narcissistic abuse, behavior, or attack by anyone, without violating your boundaries. It allows you to disengage from the narcissist and refrain from making him or her wrong. It’s all about appearing to be somewhat indifferent to narcissists’ behavior.

How do you use the “Grey Rock” Method?

When someone is acting out of emotion, trying to manipulate you, they are not being rational. So your goal is not to think of a clever response – it’s to avoid being pulled into responding emotionally yourself. To do that, it helps to remember that most of our communication happens non-verbally. So respond non-verbally.

In other words, do your best to avoid feeling sorry for them if they’re feeling sorry for themselves, don’t get mad at them if they’re mad at you, don’t take it personally if they’re taking it personally.

The best way to deal with an emotionally manipulative person is not to react emotionally yourself at all — which is what the grey rock method aims to make easy for you. Think of it as practice in learning not to care about things that don’t matter.

When you’re using the grey rock method, you’re supposed to act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. Essentially, you don’t give them any of your energy or emotion; you literally act like you’re as boring as a grey rock. This helps you to become less attractive to manipulative people such as narcissists.

While the grey rock method will not fix the situation in the long term,  it can help you regain some control and keep things calm when you do need to deal with a narcissist. The grey rock method is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience.

Who invented the “Grey Rock” Method?

As far as I can tell in my research, the “Grey Rock” method was so named by a person named Skylar in this post, written in 2012.

In part, Skylar says the grey rock method is, “primarily a way of encouraging a narcissist, psychopath, stalker or another emotionally unbalanced person, to lose interest in you.”

How does the Grey Rock Method differ from the No-Contact rule?

Skylar says that the difference is “you don’t blatantly try to avoid contact with the disordered individual.”

Instead, she advises, “you allow contact but only give boring, monotonous responses so that the mentally unwell person must go elsewhere to get their need for drama gratified.”

Skylar adds: “One might say that Grey Rock is a way of breaking up with a psychopath by using the old, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ excuse, except that you act it out instead of saying it and the psychopath comes to that conclusion on his own.”

Why does the Grey Rock Method work?

According to Skylar: “There are gray rocks and pebbles everywhere you go, but you never notice them. None of them attract your attention. You don’t remember any specific rock you saw today because they blend with the scenery. That is the type of boring that you want to channel when you are dealing with a psychopath. Your boring persona will camouflage you and the psychopath won’t even notice you were there.  This method strikes at the heart of the psychopath’s motivation:  to avoid boredom.”

What are the most important components of successfully using the Grey Rock Method?

  • Rule number one when it comes to practicing the Grey Rock Method is to never tell the narcissist you’re doing so. If you do, he’ll definitely figure out a way to use it against you.
  • Never ask questions of the narcissist and don’t offer any “committal” responses – just say things like “hmm” or “mhmm” – keep it casual.
  • If possible, discuss only “safe” topics, such as the news, social media – fashion, cooking, etc. Nothing that would be personal – even if the narcissist begs you for it. Drama-free is the way to be!
  • Try to be distracted during the conversation so that you don’t have to directly look the narcissist in the eye the whole time. Make it something simple like doodling in a notebook or checking your text messages, or something more complicated such as knitting a scarf or working on a document for work. If you focus a bit more on your activity, you won’t be as directly affected by the narcissist’s attempts to manipulate you during the conversation.
  • Most importantly during this practice, keep your head in the game and don’t allow the narcissist to get inside your head. Narcissists are expert “guilt-trippers” and have no qualms about making you “feel bad” so that you’ll try to justify or defend your intentions – don’t fall into the trap.

What else should I consider before I try the Grey Rock Method?

One important thing to know about the Grey Rock  Method is that there is a level at which it can become unsafe for you psychologically – and that’s when you begin to experience symptoms of dissociation.

A lot of people don’t realize that these two are connected, but here’s what happens.

When you learn to use this method and you find out how effective it can be when it comes to dealing with your narcissist, you may find that it is a great way to deal with EVERYTHING that is an issue in your life.

The problem with this is that you begin to truly stop caring – and your ability to feel your own emotions diminishes. This is a major issue because you don’t just stop feeling pain and anxiety – you stop feeling the good stuff too.

If you think you’re dissociating, it’s time to take further action to deal with your narcissist – you can start here, with this resource page.

This video playlist offers additional insight into the grey rock method, how to use it safely, and what to do if it fails. 

Do you think you’re being gaslighted?

Take this gaslighting self-assessment and find out right now.

Now it’s your turn – have you ever used the Grey Rock Method? How did it work for you, and what tips would you offer for someone who’s trying it for the first time? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

how to control a narcissist

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Did you know? Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

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