Immediately, I picked up the phone and called her to confront her. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have given her the satisfaction – but I didn’t fully understand what I had been dealing with at the time. Anyway, when I told my mother that I knew what she had done, she began to scream and yell and rage. I pretty quickly told her never to call me again, and I hung up the phone.
At the time, I didn’t understand the concept of “going no contact with a narcissist,” but I would later learn that I had somehow instinctively made the right decision in that moment.
Over the next couple of weeks, I learned through the grapevine that the extended family was talking about me in some pretty interesting ways. It seemed that they believed I’d be back – and that at the very least, they’d see me for the holidays. They reportedly said I was just being dramatic and begging for attention.
In reality, I was done. And I still am. But at the time, they were apparently in denial, or so I thought. Later, I’d learn that my mother was playing the victim. She acted like she had absolutely no idea why I’d stopped talking to her, and she told people she was afraid I’d come and physically hurt her, despite the fact that I’d never even raised a hand to her or even been verbally aggressive. She of course omitted the fact that she had been very physically aggressive to me until I was 18.
A few weeks passed by and I learned that my mother had planned to send my brother to my home without notice, as a sort of “sneak attack,” to apparently “straighten me out” or confront me for having gone no contact. When I learned this, I sent a quick email explaining that he wasn’t welcome and that the police would be called if he showed up.
A couple of months after that, someone told me that my mother had been using my name in a newsletter that was sent out to around 300 people by mail – saying that I had “mental health issues” and that people should pray for me. That was taken care of with another quick email and a brief reminder that I happened to have had a much bigger audience than she did, some of which included her people. It turned out that the threat of exposure was enough to stop the smearing in this case.
So, why did this narcissist behave this way? What was she thinking and what was the one thing that she just couldn’t accept? It seemed that I had somehow managed to do the number one thing that narcissists just can’t accept. What was it? What exactly was the thing I did that made her act like that?
If you have been profoundly impacted by one or more narcissists in your life, whether it was a parent, an ex, or a friend, or even a co-worker, you might already know what to expect from them. And you are well aware that there are many things that a narcissist will not and cannot accept. You know they will not accept being confronted or criticized, they will not accept you living your own life on your terms, and you know that they won’t tolerate you speaking up for yourself.
They most definitely cannot stand being humiliated or embarrassed. And they can’t imagine what would happen if they were to be exposed for what they truly are – the idea of it is so painful for them that they literally lie to themselves about who and what they are.
But none of those things are as big of an issue for a narcissist as the one we’re discussing today.
So, what is the number one thing that narcissists can’t accept?
It’s simple: a narcissist will never accept rejection. They just can’t. That’s right. Rejection is the one thing that narcissists cannot accept.
What does rejection mean to a narcissist?
Fearing and disliking the feeling of being rejected isn’t just a narcissistic thing – nearly everyone has this fear. But for narcissists, feeling rejected can happen in any number of situations. Obviously, if they are turned down when they ask you to be with them, they’ll feel rejected. Or if a friend or family member refuses to speak to or see them due to a decision to go no contact, they will feel rejected. If they don’t get the job they wanted, they’ll feel rejected. And I think all of those things are fairly normal. We can all relate to that.
However, a narcissist might also feel rejected if they simply don’t get what they want, or if a situation doesn’t go their way. They’ll feel rejected if they call you and you don’t have time to talk, or if they want to see you and you’re at work and can’t leave. They’ll feel rejected if you’re spending time with your kid and you make that a priority over them. They might feel rejected if they see you in public but you don’t see them. Or if you decide to go out with your friends one night and ask them to stay home and take care of the kids.
They might feel rejected if you win an award, because they didn’t win one too. Even if the award is for something they’re not involved with – like your job or a particular talent you have that they don’t. They’ll even feel rejected if they don’t know the answer to a question and someone else does. Or if they misspell a word and are called out on it. Or if they fail at literally anything at all.
Of course, the biggest rejection for a narcissist is the moment you decide you’re done with their abuse and you go no contact. You refuse to see or speak to them. You block them on social media. You actively avoid them. This makes them feel like they’ve absolutely lost control of you – and they have. But you’ve also taken away their source of narcissistic supply, maybe for good.
What Happens If You Reject A Narcissist?
The first thing you need to know here is that rejecting a narcissist, if you ask the narcissist, is practically the kiss of death. It just isn’t acceptable in their world, because their ego cannot handle the emotions associated with it. Plus, if you ask them, they’re the ones who get to do the rejecting – NOT you or anyone else.
If you reject a narcissist, you’re essentially cutting off a source of narcissistic supply. And my friend, you can expect to deal with a very unpleasant reaction from the narcissist. For all the bravado and grandiosity, you would think that narcissists are practically indestructible. But the truth is that a narcissist will feel like their word is ending at even the tiniest “slight” that an average person would just let roll right off their back.
Let’s discuss the primary reactions you can expect from the narcissist after you make it clear that you want nothing to do with them again.
1. Narcissistic Injury
No matter what actually happened that caused you to reject them, the narcissist will quickly change the narrative of the situation to cast themselves as the victim. They will also talk about you mercilessly during this time, focusing on spreading lies to everyone they know about how you victimized them in some way. This is what we call a smear campaign, and it’s how the narcissist sort of “advertises” their “victim status” – and at the same time, how they try to get their narcissistic supply needs met. This is very difficult to imagine for your average person – we don’t see things the same way as a narcissist. Maybe this will help you see it a little more clearly. Think about how you feel if you unexpectedly stub your toe in the dark. It throbs with pain! You might find yourself cursing and screaming about it. Well, the narcissist will react the same way to being rejected – it almost feels like a literal injury to them.
2. Narcissistic Rage
If the narcissistic injury doesn’t work, the narcissist will inevitably become enraged. They are feeling a mixture of anxiety, shame, and depression as they turn the rejection inward. And when that happens, they will direct their narcissistic rage towards you or anyone who rejects them. They will scream, yell, hurl insults, and more. They’ll call you names. They’ll tear you down as a person. They’ll dig at you on every single sensitive topic they can think of – whether it’s how you are in bed, what kind of parent you are, how you keep the house or how bad (or good) you are with money. Or, if they’re more covert, they’ll go passive-aggressive on you. They may behave vindictively by sabotaging you in ways that can really mess up your life. For example, let’s say you have an interview for your dream job. The narcissist might send screenshots of the photos your friend posted on Facebook that one time you got drunk 5 years ago, hurting your chances of getting the job.
3. Hoover and Reject
This one might be the most painful way a narcissist could react to being rejected, but it’s not uncommon. See, in this case, the narcissist will hoover you – as in, do anything they can to get you back on board with the relationship, whether it’s a romantic one, a family connection, or a friendship. In the story I told at the beginning, it didn’t work. But I’ve experienced it in other relationships and have heard it from many clients. Essentially, in order to get you back, the narcissist will say all the things you’ve always wanted them to say. And they’ll bend over backward to convince you that THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT! This time, they’re REALLY serious and they’re TOTALLY going to follow through with all of the promises they’ve made you. You’ll doubt them at first, but eventually, you might give in – either out of exhaustion or hope. In either case, hold on to your hat, because once they’re sure you’re 100 percent committed to them again, they’ll do something you won’t be expecting: they’ll reject YOU. And then you’ll be back to square one, wondering what is wrong with you and posting in your narcissistic abuse recovery support groups about how you can’t believe you fell for it yet again. You’ll doubt your own intelligence and you’ll feel humiliated and embarrassed. They, however, will – at least temporarily – feel vindicated because they “got you back” for rejecting them in the first place.
“We all come from dysfunctional families. The issue is not whether our family was dysfunctional but whether we can put meaning to the experience of our lives.” ~ Stephen Porges, author of the Polyvagal Theory
I had a narcissistic abuse recovery counseling client who was really struggling with deep childhood trauma combined with a psychopathic ex who had horribly abused her since she was a teen. Now that she was free, she was feeling anything BUT. In fact, she felt frozen in fear, nearly all the time.
Are you living in a constant state of fear?
Can you relate to living in a constant state of fight or flight, or worse, freeze? That was this woman’s reality. She had tried traditional therapy and spent thousands of dollars on various doctors, practitioners, and even alternative medicine. Yet, she was still at a complete standstill in her recovery and she still felt fearful and miserable every day. I deeply felt for her, and I really wanted to help. So, I started digging to help her find a solution to overcome her C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms so she could heal.
That is what led me to Dr. Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory. My client found significant relief, and I learned new ways to help people in narcissistic abuse recovery.
What is Polyvagal Theory?
According to Porges, “The polyvagal theory describes an autonomic nervous system that is influenced by the central nervous system, sensitive to afferent influences, characterized by an adaptive reactivity dependent on the phylogeny of the neural circuits, and interactive with source nuclei in the brainstem regulating the striated muscles of the face and head.” Read more about Polyvagal Theory in Porges’ 2009 paper, here.
In this brief video, Dr. Stephen Porges explains offers an explanation of his Polyvagal Theory and how it works.
How can we use Polyvagal Theory and vagus nerve stimulation to help us heal from narcissistic abuse and trauma?
Going through a toxic relationship often leaves victims feeling fearful to a debilitating level. For most of us, it affects our nervous system in profound ways. In some cases, survivors find themselves living in a constant state of anxiety based on the feeling that they need to be constantly on guard – hypervigilance. This makes it almost impossible for them to relax or even to feel “normal.” They feel FROZEN or STUCK.
Through the use of vagus nerve stimulation as described by Dr. Porges in Polyvagal Theory, many survivors find relief of their C-PTSD symptoms. Even better, these exercises can be done by almost anyone from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere they happen to be.
Self-Help Exercises for CPTSD Symptoms Based on Polyvagal Theory
In THIS VIDEO, I talk about a theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that could change the way we heal trauma, and once I’ve given you a brief overview of the theory, I’m going to share some self-help exercises that you can do at home to help you get through the hard times.
As I mentioned, one of my clients found herself stuck, afraid and feeling frozen, and she had tried everything but struggled to find relief. After discovering what I’m going to show you today, she began to find some relief. As I learned more about the theory, I shared some of its ideas with other clients in similar situations.
In the majority of these cases, they were able to find some relief all on their own by doing surprisingly simple at-home exercises. Several reported that they felt these simple exercises made a significant difference in their ability to feel safe enough to recover.
The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Porges proposes in his polyvagal theory that the vagus nerve has more function than previously thought and that the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems are only part of the equation in how people react to the environment and trauma. Because the theory is very complicated, I’m only providing a very high-level overview and focus on the parts that will specifically help us as survivors. The Polyvagal Theory says that the parasympathetic nervous system is not only associated with relaxation but also symptoms of PTSD.
Porges developed the theory to help us understand this dual function of the parasympathetic nervous system. It points to a human survival mechanism in which the parasympathetic nervous system leads us to FREEZE or “faint” in the face of a life-threatening event. Most importantly, the polyvagal theory teaches you to engage your social nervous system to consciously slow down your defensive system.
This allows you to finally find freedom from CPTSD symptoms and to feel safe. In other words, Porges’s theory makes us look beyond the effects of fight or flight and put social relationships in the forefront so we can understand our symptoms better.
Additional Resources for Learning About Polyvagal Theory
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. 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, as well as 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.
“Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. The only cure is to let them go.” ~Dennisse Lisseth
Healing from a toxic relationshipseems like an impossible goal for many survivors of narcissistic abuse, and this is true for a number of reasons. This healing guide offers not only solutions but also resourcesto help you learn not only how to heal from a toxic relationship, but why you were there in the first place. Plus, you’ll learn how you can level up your life after a toxic relationship and begin to evolve into the person you’ve always wanted to be.
A Comprehensive Guide to Healing After Narcissistic Abuse in a Toxic Relationship
Now that I’ve left the toxic relationship, I cannot seem to function like a normal person. How do I get through this?
One breath at a time. This is one of the hardest parts of this process. Healing seems so far away right now that you can barely even imagine what that might look like. This is a really tender and emotional time, so the first thing a lot of survivors do is to self-isolate. Take some time to mourn the relationship, if you need it. Remember that this is a process and that healing won’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and if you need to take a little time for yourself, go ahead and do it. If you need time with friends, arrange that too. You might be dealing with depression – visit this page to get help with depression. Get free support from one of our online narcissistic abuse recovery support groups.
I feel like I want to die. How do I deal with feeling suicidal after a toxic relationship?
Self-isolation and mourningthe relationship can be okay for a short time unless you’re in such a state that you might be a danger to yourself. Please note: I am not a doctor and I do not personally know your story. I cannot offer any medical or health advice, so if you have any doubt at all that you will be safe, you MUST contact your doctor or go immediately to the nearest emergency room. Even if you aren’t sure, please go see your doctor or other medical professional and get checked out, just to be safe. Be honest with your healthcare provider and let them know that you’re worried you might be a danger to yourself. See this page for suicide prevention resources and ways you can get help right now.
How do I stop hurting and start healing after a toxic relationship?
I know your heart hurts. And you feel lost, confused, angry and even rejected (and this is true even when YOU are the one to end the relationship). First, you need to put things in perspective. Start by reading this article that offers 10 ways to start healing faster. If you were the one who was discarded, read this.
My ex has already moved on to a new relationship. It’s killing me! How do I deal with this?
Being single feels weird to me, but I am not ready for a new relationship yet. What should I do?
I say you start here by learning to embrace the single life. There are SO many good reasons to love being single. Whatever you do, avoid jumping into a new relationship too quickly. That will set you up for a painful failure and increases the risk of getting into another toxic relationship. Take your time and heal first – there is no reason to get yourself stuck with another narcissist. And honestly, you are less likely to be an ideal partner if you get into a new relationship too soon – you may end up sabotaging it without even realizing it.
I feel like I’m walking around in some kind of fog. What is this and how can I deal with it?
Do you ever feel like you’re just not good enough? If you do, you aren’t alone. When you’re involved in physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive relationships with narcissists, you will begin to lose your self-worth very quickly, if you had any to begin with. And while you try to maintain a good front, and though you might be you’re keeping up the facade of a really healthy relationship to most people in your life – you secretly feel like there’s something not right about you. Or at least something that isn’t quite good enough.
Do you ever ask yourself questions like, “Am I unlovable?” If you’re feeling like you’re unlovable after you’ve been gaslighted, discarded, and devalued by a toxic, abusive narcissist. Or, if you feel that you’re not good enough, please take a minute and watch this video. I made it for you.
It is so confusing for their friends and extended family who can sometimes see that something is wrong in the relationship. They don’t understand why you stay when, as far as they see it, you clearly deserve better. But for some reason, you aren’t on the same page. You aren’t sure you deserve better at all.
For the record, I want you to know that I am absolutely positive that you do not deserve to be abused. I am positive that you deserve to be respected just like every other human on the planet does. The abuser in your life wants you to think otherwise because it keeps you more firmly in their control. It keeps you feeling stuck – and it keeps you from leaving them. Even if friends and family beg you to leave, you stay because at least some part of you truly believes that you really don’t deserve better at all.
And, if you’re being honest, even if you can SAY that you don’t deserve to be treated that way, and even if you recognize it logically, you continue to tolerate it because you genuinely don’t think you’re worth more, or maybe you are worried because you think you’ve done something – or that you ARE something – that somehow justifies the abuser’s behavior. The truth is more likely that you are actually not the problem in your relationship at all. Normal people don’t behave the way that narcissists do with the people they claim to love.
There is No Legitimate Justification (and Absolutely NO Excuse) for Abuse.
I want you to read this next part really, really carefully. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for physical, psychological, emotional, financial, or relationship abuse of any kind. No amount of personal flaws could possibly offer any justification for disrespect, rudeness, yelling, screaming, belittling, projection, gaslighting.
You must accept absolutely no form of abuse for any reason. Because of this, before anything else, you need to start planning your way out of this toxic and abusive relationship. Now if you have kids or other issues that will make leaving more complicated, you might be tempted to wait until the kids are gone or the credit cards are paid off, or whatever it is that’s holding you back.
You Do Not Have to Accept Narcissistic Abuse.
Now listen, my friend. I want you to take a deep breath, and as long as physical abuse isn’t part of the equation, I want you to recognize that you don’t have to be out tomorrow or next week or even next month. It might even take a year or two. It doesn’t feel like an option at all, maybe. But don’t stress yourself out – know this: some action toward getting free can be almost as good as actually getting free.
Knowing you are planning to leave can make you feel more powerful day-to-day, and it can be a good thing to think about during the times you might otherwise dissociate or space out. What I mean is: knowing you have a plan to leave can help you feel less overpowered when you are tolerating narcissistic abuse in order to keep the peace.
Above all, remember that it’s important to be kind and compassionate to yourself now. If you’ve just discovered that you’ve been dealing with narcissistic abuse, you might get angry at yourself for not seeing it sooner. Don’t do that. Give yourself a break – none of us realized we were dealing with this until we realized it!
I don’t want you to feel pressured and rushed. I just want you to recognize that, if you really want to be able to be happy or at least to live a peaceful and even fulfilling life that doesn’t suck, you’re going to have to find a way out of this relationship eventually. And in my experience, that can begin with taking just one small step toward the life you want and deserve. Maybe that just means you start thinking about the possibility of it today.
So, now you know you don’t want a toxic relationship, right? This means that, as you’re moving forward in your narcissistic abuse recovery, you have to start figuring out what you actually do want in your life. This is the key. When you feel like you’re not good enough for the things you want and need in your life, you project that to the universe – and that’s what you get back – more feelings of being (and reasons to feel) “not good enough.”
First, Change your Mind: Realize You’re Already Good Enough.
As like attracts like, when we KNOW that we ARE good enough, that we’re “worth it,” we attract the things and situations we desire. Contrary to the teachings of many societal groups, suffering is not necessary in this life. You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to enjoy your life.
Whatever your reason for feeling that you’re not good enough – your past mistakes, negativity from others in your life – whatever it is – I’m here to tell you that you can change your mind. The power is within you. It’s not up to your mom, your boss, your spouse – it’s up to you. You are the sole individual who has the right to decide who you are, and who has the right to decide whether you’re good enough.
The first step to recognizing that you’re good enough is to identify and release negative self-perceptions. So, in short, stop believing what everyone else says about who you are.
The next part is the fun part.
Next, Decide What (and Who) Comes Next for You.
You get to decide who you want to be. Take the parts of you that you like, and focus on them. Then, think about who you want to be – and become that person.
As you take inspired action to fully express your new self to the world, you must believe that you are already your ideal version of yourself. As Robert Anthony once said, “You can have anything you want if you will give up the belief that you can’t have it.”
Toxic Relationships Make You Think You’re Not Good Enough
Do you feel bad about yourself? Do you feel like you’re not loveable or like you’re just not good enough? Watch How to Stop Feeling Like You’re Not Good Enough – Do This One Thing and Never Doubt Yourself Again: Codependency Recovery on YouTube.
Narcissists Exploit You in the Worst Possible Ways
You have more than one particular quality that narcissists use against you in toxic relationships – and you might be surprised when you learn exactly what it is (and how they use it against you!). Knowledge is power – and learning what the number one mind game narcissists play with you actually is can help you learn to outsmart the narcissist for good! This video will help you to understand the #1 way that narcissists will exploit you.
Be Aware of This Possible Complication in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
If you’ve asked yourself why you’re still obsessed with the narcissist, and what you can do to STOP that, here are the answers you need. You might find that you get a little obsessed with researching and figuring out what you’ve been through when you finally discover that you’ve been dealing with narcissistic abuse. You’ll want to know everything you can about narcissists and narcissism. You’ll be digging into your own psychological issues and trying to figure yourself out too. All of that is normal and healthy. But at some point, you might get stuck and feel almost addicted to checking on the narcissist, what they’re doing, who they’re with, what they’re posting on social media.
That’s normal too, but only for a while. You’re going to want to let go of this a quickly as you can if you want to be able to heal and to move forward.
Here’s what you need to know about healing and letting go after a toxic relationship with a narcissist.
Why You’re Obsessed With the Truth About the Narcissist (And How to LET GO and Move Forward)