Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Get Out of the Fog with Mindfulness

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Get Out of the Fog with Mindfulness

“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. 

Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

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Do Weight Gain and Narcissistic Abuse Have a Connection?

Do Weight Gain and Narcissistic Abuse Have a Connection?

After I went no-contact with my narcissist, a funny thing happened. I kind of got my life together (eventually) and I dropped more than 100 pounds

When my PhD friend heard about this, she reached out to me and mentioned that she, too, found herself uncomfortably overweight after her narcissistic abuse experience. And, she said, that “without any effort at all (no dieting),” she had managed to drop 40 or more pounds once she’d escaped from her toxic relationship – all of which she has kept off without effort since.

Like me, she said she just didn’t “see it” in the mirror – and that though she can look back and see it in old photos today, she really didn’t realize how heavy she’d become. She also noted that she sees a very sad and depressed look about her when she looks at those photos. If you ask me, she was wearing her pain, just like I had been doing.

Everyone Can See It But You

Everyone copes with the emotional pain and trauma in their own way. For people who are addicted to gambling, it shows in their bank accounts. For those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, the damage shows first in their relationships, and then on their faces and in their health. For those of us who have a tendency to comfort ourselves with food, it shows on the outside sooner and in more obvious (and less socially acceptable) ways – PLUS it can often directly affect our physical and mental health profoundly.

“During the marriage, there were many discards, and I did seem to lose significant amounts of weight during these phases, only to put the pounds back on when he would decide to re-cycle me,” she told me in an email, adding that she wondered if this was a pattern I observed in narcissistic relationships. “It would be interesting to see if there is a pattern of weight gain over the years of time spent with a narcissist.” So, what’s the answer?

Do Weight Gain and Narcissistic Abuse Have a Connection?

In this video, I discuss the connection between narcissistic abuse and weight gain with Functional Medicine Coach and Holistic Healer/Nutritionist Sharon Chud, as well as weight loss after narcissistic abuse.

Could your toxic relationship be making you fat?

It’s complicated, right? Yes, absolutely. But there are some real, scientifically explainable reasons that the ongoing trauma of a toxic, abusive relationship can cause you to gain weight. Don’t take it from me – research proves it. I go into detail on why and how narcissistic abuse and weight gain are connected in this video.

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How Adult Children of Narcissists Can Begin to Heal

How Adult Children of Narcissists Can Begin to Heal

“The typical adult from a narcissistic family is filled with unacknowledged anger, feels like a hollow person, feels inadequate and defective, suffers from periodic anxiety and depression, and has no clue about how he or she got that way.” ~Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family

Find Yourself as an Adult Child of a Narcissist

Are you the adult child of a narcissistic mother or father?

As you may already know, living with a narcissist can be difficult for anyone, but growing up in the care of one can affect your life in very significant ways. In other words, being the child of a narcissist is life-altering – and not usually in good ways.

For example, most narcissists use a horribly painful sort of manipulation called gaslighting – it’s the worst kind because it messes with your mind in ways you’d never expect. This is especially true for the children of narcissists, who can’t get away from it and have no concept of what “normal” actually looks like from the inside.

Many children of narcissists spend their whole lives thinking “I wasn’t good enough,” and wondering if their mothers/fathers/other caregivers could and would always be better than they.

The faces of parental narcissism

Narcissists have two faces — the one they wear in public, and the one they wear at home,” according to LightHouse.org.  “Only those close to the narcissist have any idea there is more than one face. And the narcissist’s children know best of all because children – those who have the least power – are the ones the narcissist allows him or herself to be the least guarded around.”

So, kids of narcissistic parents are forced to pretend in public that all is well–all the while knowing that when they get home, things will be different. In some cases, they dread going home because the difference is so significant.

“Narcissistic parents lack the ability to emotionally tune in to their kids,” writes Karyl McBride, Ph.D. “They cannot feel and show empathy or unconditional love. They are typically critical and judgmental.”

Many kids of narcissists express the same kind of frustration: everyone thinks their narcissistic parent is a saint–the best person ever, McBride says, noting that “while at home their children suffer in silence with their parent’s tantrums, disinterest and put-downs — this is clearly NOT the most wonderful person if you truly know them — not even close.”

Narcissistic Parents Make You Feel the Need to Prove Yourself

“Because of its insidious nature, gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse that is hard to recognize and even more challenging to break free from. Part of that is because the narcissist exploits one of our greatest fears – the fear of being alone.” ~ From my book on overcoming gaslighting and narcissism, Take Back Your Life

When you’re raised by a narcissist, you might spend your life trying to prove something–maybe that you have value. Whether you choose to become “perfect” or you go to the other extreme, your narcissist will likely actively discredit everything you do, say or feel. You might start to think you don’t matter–and that you’re not even all that “real.”

I remember believing that nothing I felt or wanted was as real as whatever my narcissist felt or wanted. Even during a recent interaction, I expected a third party to instantly assume I was wrong because that’s what I was brought up to believe. Your thoughts, feelings, and opinions are rarely if ever, validated by a narcissistic parent–and when they are, it’s only when you happen to feel the same way your narcissist does. This continues into adulthood for most children of narcissists.

Once you realize that, you might even start to tell yourself that your opinion is, in fact, always consistent with the narcissist’s opinion. It causes so much less trouble, and you’re treated to the illusion of approval if you comply. But the fact we must remember is that narcissists can’t feel empathy–so they aren’t really capable of changing their opinions. They believe they can’t be wrong.

You get to write your own story

“…all narcissistic parents fail to treat their children as authentic individuals who have their own unique characteristics and needs,” says LightHouse.org. “Narcissists treat their children as mere blank screens for projecting their own internal ‘movies’ onto.”

You see, by always acting like my thoughts, feelings and opinions had no value (like she was “better” than me), my narcissist inadvertently made me feel worthless, not good enough, not important. While I’ve since gone no contact with her, back then I was often made to feel that anything I would say to my parent that was contrary to her opinion would be met with an eye-roll and a wave of dismissal. But this is nothing new, and in some ways, it’s not this person’s fault.  Growing up, every idea I had was, according to what I saw and heard, eye-roll-worthy, and very little of what I said or did was treated as valuable. Still, today, she doesn’t respect me or my opinions, but now, I understand that she doesn’t need to–I don’t need to have her approval to be good enough. This is a fairly textbook kind of narcissistic manipulation, according to my research over the years.

“Adult children of narcissists typically describe their parents as mean, phony, self-absorbed, judgmental, dishonest, immature, and manipulative,” reports LightHouse.org.

The Healing Process for an Adult Child of a Narcissist

The healing process for an adult child of a narcissistic parent is a long and sometimes difficult one – but it’s worth the effort. Whether you walk away completely or you choose to limit your relationship to only necessary interactions, you would be wise to give yourself space you’ll need to evolve and grow into the individual you’re meant to be.

As the adult child of a narcissist, you’re bound to have picked up a few (or more) thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that aren’t really your own. So, once you get your space, start there: figure out exactly what you believe, and what you don’t. You might be surprised to find out which beliefs or thoughts you’ve been carrying around for all these years for no reason.

The next step is to begin to embrace the fact that you’re an individual who has value. Your thoughts, feelings, and experiences are legitimate and worth hearing about–and you are just as good as anyone else.

Read more: 10 Things You Need to Know If You’re In a Toxic Relationship

Help with Healing for Adult Children of Narcissists

Sometimes, our wounds are too deep to heal on our own. While some of us might kill ourselves trying to live up to that impossible standard our narcissistic parents set and others choose to go the opposite direction, all of us can benefit from learning to do better for ourselves.

Related: Take Back Your Life – How to Snuff Out Gaslighting and Live the Life You Really Deserve

McBride points out that effective therapy for adult children of narcissists has three primary steps.

  1. Understand the background, history, and diagnosis
  2. Deal with the feelings related to the history
  3. Begin to re-frame and view life through a different lens.

“The Wild West philosophy of ‘get over it already’ does not work with this recovery program, nor do simple affirmations or initial cognitive-behavioral work,” McBride says. “This specialized recovery involves cleaning up trauma first and accepting that your parent is not going to change. The change will be within you.”

Free Adult Children of Narcissists Support Group

Join SPANily Support for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents (ACON) Now and Get the Support You Need! If you’re in need of emotional support as the adult child of a narcissistic parent, you might want to check out our free narcissistic abuse recovery support group for adult children of narcissists. Growing up with a narcissistic mother or father shapes your entire life, and this requires a special kind of support. This group is facilitated by fellow adult children of narcissistic parents. Each facilitator is also a survivor and thriver. This group is led by certified life coaches Angie Atkinson and Colleen Brosnan, along with our experienced admin team.

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Click to read my book on narcissism on Kindle right nowYour Love is My Drug: How to Shut Down a Narcissist, Detoxify Your Relationships & Live the Awesome Life You Really Deserve, Starting Right Now [Kindle Edition]

Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery, right now.

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Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: How to Make Your Own Choices (Video)

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When you’ve been abused by a toxic narcissist, you might find yourself forgetting how to make your own choices in life. Since narcissists are so controlling and hyper-sensitive, we fall into the trap and habit of getting their thoughts/approval/acceptance before we choose literally ANYTHING.

This can leave us feeling stagnant and not getting ahead in our lives – but it’s time to change all that. In this video, I’ll explain to you exactly what you need to know to begin making your own choices again. 

Basic Decision-Making Process Tips

  • Gather information on the decision to be made, determine the best alternative and put that decision into action.
  • Look back only to learn from your past decisions but don’t dwell on them. Move ahead and focus on your future.
  • Decision making requires a plan. If you don’t know where you’re going then one decision is as good as the other.
  • It’s a good feeling to make a conscious decision about yourself and your life and each time you do this the process becomes easier and your confidence builds.
  • Make a commitment, make a difference and take control of your life.

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