Not only can it completely change your personality, cause you to sort of “drop out” of your own life, and generally make you miserable, even for years after the fact, but the stress of it all can cause you some pretty serious physical effects as well. So maybe you are looking for a new way to help yourself deal with the stress, depression, and anxiety that can come with narcissistic abuse and follow you into recovery and beyond.
Narcissistic Abuse Can Affect Every Aspect of Your Life – Including Body & Brain Health
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you can be plagued by additional physical and psychological effects during the toxic relationship and even long after you’ve left. Since you’ve spent so long living in fear and duress, your brain has sort of evolved differently than it might have otherwise. That’s why two self-help techniques called NLP and EFT are offering such breakthroughs for many survivors of narcissistic abuse as they navigate the choppy waters of recovery.
Before I explain how you use them in your personal recovery after narcissistic abuse, let me explain what they are.
What is NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)?
“Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a communicative approach that employs a positive view of anxiety and how it can help shape life changes, and that is the topic of this article. This research method uses a Systematic Literature Review, investigating Garuda, Pubmed, ScienceDirect, and Proquest, using boolean for keyword neurolinguistics programming (NLP) and anxiety. The inclusion criteria used were Indonesian and English language articles written within the last 5 years (from 2015 until 2020),” According to a 2021 report by Indonesian researchers Rifki S. Nompo, Andria Pragholapati, and Angela L. Thome.
And, the researchers say that NLP is effective, noting that “The studies indicate that good communication using NLP can help reduce anxiety and can promote changes in a person’s behavior patterns. There are several NLP techniques, including sensory acuity, reframing, anchoring, rapport, and pacing, and leading. NLP can improve knowledge, skills and attitudes, communication skills, self-management, mental health, reduce work stress, and self-efficacy.”
NLP, as defined in layman’s terms
Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a big part of how we create the human experience. Three main components create the human experience: neurology, language, and programming. Our neurological system regulates our basic bodily functions, while our language determines how we interact with the people around us. And then our programming is what helps us to perceive the world – it determines literally what we experience in our lives. So, NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, basically means using the fundamental dynamics between your mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how the combination of those two things affects our body and behavior (programming).
In other words, using NLP for personal change is to intentionally choose to change your thought patterns and processes to achieve the life you really want – and not more of what you don’t. I have personally used NLP to facilitate literally every positive change I’ve ever made in my life, no joke.
What is EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique?
EFT is also known as the “Emotional Freedom Technique,” – and it’s the “tapping” thing you hear about. This one, I’ve not tried – but according to Mercola.com, it is “the psychological acupressure technique (routinely used) and most highly recommended to optimize your emotional health.” Mercola has a great video library that shows all kinds of EFT techniques you can try.
“Many people believe in this technique wholeheartedly, and it is still used today to treat stress, anxiety, and illness,” according to a 2018 report published by Ohio University. “It has been implemented in classrooms to calm students down and reduce bullying, it has been used by athletes to calm their nerves, and it has been used by war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Although tapping has not been approved by the American Psychological Association, several psychologists have used this technique, and many EFT/tapping practitioners exist and are actively sought out.”
Learn more about this in the interview I did with EFT expert Brad Yates to discuss tapping and EFT (emotional freedom technique).
For survivors of narcissistic abuse and people struggling with C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), the purpose and benefit of EFT are really all about getting through those emotional roadblocks that stop us from healing ourselves after the pain of narcissistic abuse. So, how do you use these two things to assist you in recovering from the toxic abuse you experienced in your relationship with a narcissist? Let’s start here.
Where did NLP come from?
John Grinder and Richard Bandler founded Neuro-linguistic programming in the 1970s at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Judith DeLozier and Leslie Cameron-Bandler also contributed significantly to the field, as did David Gordon and Robert Dilts, according to GoodTherapy.org.
How Can NLP Help in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?
NLP can help you in so many different ways. It can help to sharpen your knowledge, skills and attitudes, communication skills, self-management, mental health, reduce work stress and self-efficacy.
What are the benefits of NLP in narcissistic abuse recovery?
Learning and implementing NLP offers so many positive outcomes that can be significant to your health and your quality of life, including the following helpful benefits.
- You can learn how to communicate better with yourself
- You can learn how to stop living in debilitating fear
- You can learn how to control negative emotions
- You can learn to reduce anxiety and stress.
How Can You Let Go of Your Stress with NLP and EFT
We’ve all got our own unique stress patterns. No two people will react the same way in a situation that’s stressful, right? So what do you do when something unexpected or upsetting happens in your life? Do you look for the bright side, or are you more likely to chalk it up to Murphy’s Luck?
If you tend to react to a stressful situation by over generalizing, spouting out little gems like “this always happens” or “I can’t ever get anything right,” then that’s your stress pattern.
Here’s the bad news.
The bad news is that stress is a given in life – and this will be the case whether or not you’re still involved with the narcissistic abuser in your life.
I’m not trying to wish bad things on you, but it’s just part of life – and the fact is that if you haven’t had any stress within the last few days, just wait. It’s on the way. Even if you do your utmost to avoid stress, there will always be someone else that intersects with your life that will bring you stress.
But hey, there’s also GOOD news!
The good news is that you can change how you approach stress – specifically by taking your current outlook about stress and giving it a totally new perspective. In other words, change your mind to change your life.
The stress and anxiety you deal with as someone who has experienced mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist puts you under a dangerous amount of pressure that can harm you mentally and even physically.
When any kind of stress hits, many different things start to go on inside of your body. You can’t see it, but you can feel it – and if you’re dealing with a narcissist, you feel it even if you’re in the same room with them, let alone if you have to communicate.
How does stress affect your body and mind?
“Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that irritating headache, your frequent insomnia, or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the cause,” Mayo Clinic reports. “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”
In other words, stress can be lethal. The effects are both significant and life-threatening. First, you get an automatic rise in blood pressure from the heightened emotional state. Second, your heart rate goes up. Long term, these two combined can affect your heart health.
When stress is pounding at you, you start to get tense all over. You’ll feel that tension in your muscles. It can give you a headache – hence the term “tension headache.”
The changes within your body cause your immune system to weaken. As a result, you’ll get sick easier. Stress can weigh so heavily on your mind that anxiety builds. You get knots in your stomach, and you start to lose sleep because you just can’t rest when the pressure of stress has you in its grip.
How do you get rid of stress and anxiety as you work on your abuse recovery?
Read this next part slowly: Stress only has as much power and as much control over your life as you allow it to have. The same goes for anxiety.
Unfortunately, many people allow stress and anxiety to have free reign. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a narcissist – the stress becomes a sort of norm in your life – you can even become addicted to it.
When Should You Talk to Your Doctor About Stress Management?
In addition to using NLP and EFT in your recovery from narcissistic abuse, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor when you’re feeling stressed out. But when is it vital to ask your doctor for help with stress management? According to Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD (MedicineNet):
“If your stress is interfering with your capacity to be happy and lead an emotionally rewarding life, then it may be time to seek professional help. This is especially true if it is persistent. You may also want to talk to your doctor or a counselor if your stress is causing you to experience physical symptoms or worsening of a chronic medical condition. Finally, seek professional help if you find yourself ‘treating’ your stress by misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or by engaging in other unhealthy behaviors.”
Reaching out to your healthcare team will offer potential help with the actual management of stress-related issues and ensure that you’re not dealing with some other ailment that can be resolved. For example, your doctor might suggest stress management strategies, such as the following. Or, they might offer other medical suggestions and solutions.
What are some simple stress management strategies?
- Relaxation techniques, i.e., deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or massage
- Finding more reasons to laugh
- Connecting with people in your life on a more regular basis
- Making time for self-care
- Finding and engaging in hobbies
Residual Stress Patterns in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Your recovery from narcissistic abuse can be affected by residual stress patterns. You can manage and heal more quickly with NLP and EFT.
What is a residual stress pattern?
According to AlleyDog Psychology Glossary, “Residual Stress Pattern is a psychological pattern or syndrome in which responses linked to post-traumatic stress continue over a lengthy period of time. These can be symptoms like insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks, depression, etc.”
What’s your residual stress pattern?
Okay, then how do you know what your particular brand of stress pattern is? Consider this example, in which two people experience the same stressful situation. One person very calmly deals with whatever the stress is. However, the other person overgeneralizes and often begins to believe that more stress is on the way. This is because the stress seems like a big deal than it does with the other person.
But what it means is that one person has learned how to take away the power that the narcissist’s abuse still wields over them, while the other still needs to work on evolving a bit. So, when you figure out exactly what you automatically think, say, and feel when you’re going through narcissistic abuse and recovery, you can recognize where you can sort of tweak your behavior and perception and then change the pattern by interrupting then intentionally redefining it.
How does my perception affect my stress levels in narcissistic abuse recovery?
Don’t be your own worst enemy. So many times, when stress hits, your biggest enemy is your own perception – how you see what’s happening in your life. You can think yourself into a much worse state of mind about whatever it is that’s going on – and conversely, you can think yourself into a much better way of living if you want to do so.
Stress and anxiety, along with various other PTSD-related symptoms, can become bigger and feel more insurmountable the more that you allow them to overwhelm you.
And, despite what anyone would have you believe, you’re not doing it for pity or on purpose – no, this isn’t something that anyone does because they want to feel bad or because they like the negativity associated with stress.
It’s simply a learned stress pattern. But make no mistake about it – anxiety and stress, combined with narcissistic abuse, do carry quite a punch. Moreover, it has enormous power that can seemingly grow.
How Does Stress Play Into Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?
You might be shocked to learn that stress actually isn’t a “thing,” rather, it’s how you react or respond to whatever it is that upsets you. Your response is what gives stress power. To make it go away, you have to neutralize it. So how do you do that?
Well, I guess if you read enough magazine articles and enough books that talk about stress, you’ll see a lot of advice. For example, you might read suggestions about going for a walk when the stress hits or removing yourself from the person or the problem causing you the stress.
NLP and EFT can offer real help for stress in narcissistic abuse recovery.
While that’s a good idea, in theory, it’s only a temporary fix. Sort of like putting a bandage on a hole in the wall of the Hoover Dam after it sprung a leak. You can bet that bandage isn’t going to withstand the force of the water because the force is stronger.
That’s the same way it is with stress. It’s stronger than simply walking away from it. It will just wait to pounce again. But you don’t have to live in a state of stress. You can end the way that anxiety grips your life. It’s all done through a process called reframing.
What Does It Mean to Reframe Stress?
Reframing stress is taking the way that you normally view the stressful situation and looking at it differently. You stop seeing only the negativity or the difficulty that the stress brought into your life. Instead, you start to see the stressful situation as something that can actually benefit you. Stress can cause you to grow emotionally and give you wisdom as you reflect on what happened.
In other words, reframing stress means looking at it from a different point of view – changing your perception. You don’t look at it as something terrible that happened or something that you wish that you could never have encountered.
By reframing whatever happened, you can find the good in the situation (or, at the very least, the lesson). In addition, this allows you to put negative things into perspective – especially if you have had many negative events going on in your life.
So reframing is something you can use now to deal with stress as well as a way that you can find peace about past stressful things.
How does reframing stress help in narcissistic abuse recovery?
When you reframe how you interpret something stressful, you effectively take away the power of stress. By doing this, you don’t carry around that pressure any longer. Plus, you’ll feel peace even if your situation isn’t peaceful at all. In other words, stress can rage all around you, and you can still be in the thick of it, but you’ll not only be calm, but you’ll also feel calm inside too.
Because stress causes reactions within the body, you want to learn how to deal with it and prevent that from being an ongoing thing your body has to deal with. Once you learn how to reframe, you’ll be able to stop your body from feeling the effects of stress.
Understanding Automatic Responses Vs. Intentional Thought
Everyone has an automatic stress response, and you can’t shut that automatic response off. This is a gift – a safety measure that people are born with to help keep them alive. Whenever you think a situation threatens you – even if you only feel that way – your body will kick in with its response. This is your flight or fight mechanism going to bat to keep you safe.
It’s preparing you to either get ready to defend yourself or to run away from whatever the stress is. Stress, even if it’s not big stress, can cause this reaction inside of your body. You’ll get that same response from your body if someone cuts you off in traffic as you will if your car were to catch fire. That’s because your body doesn’t divide stress into levels of stress.
It’s all the same to your body’s response system. Since keeping this system hyped up isn’t good for you, you have to learn how to handle the little stresses and the ones that make you feel as if the bottom dropped out of your world. You must take certain steps to put the stress in your life and any future stress in the right perspective. But, first, you have to learn how you’re feeding the stress.
You may not even be aware of all of the ways that you contribute to this. Stress can be a tiny seed, but if your thinking patterns are wrong, you can grow that tiny seed into something that will tower over you.
In the end, the stress can turn out to be a much bigger deal than it actually was in the beginning. This is what happens because of your filter. You filter all of the stressful situations through your stress pattern sifter.
You can have a stress pattern of seeing only bad things that happen – and the good things go unheeded or receive only a passing thought, if that. For example, you may experience a dozen good, positive things in your life in the space of a day. But instead of stopping to think about those, you only think about the stressor that really made you angry or upset you. So you must first acknowledge the way that you think about stress.
You have to learn how you process stress with your stress patterns, and some tools can help you learn this. For example, one of the things that can feed anxiety is negativity.
Don’t Forget! You Bring About What You Think About!
Positive thinking makes anxiety shrivel. So what you want to do is to pay attention to what your mind is dwelling on. Then, when a stressful event occurs, tune in to how your mind deals with the stress associated with the event.
If you start to notice that you think negative or cynical thoughts about the situation, you have to control those thoughts to stop the stress from building.
Silver Lining Thinking
For example, if you didn’t get the promotion that you wanted at work, you might experience negative thoughts. Thinking, “I really wanted that promotion. I deserved it,” isn’t unhealthy and it’s a natural reaction.
However, thinking, “I knew it. I always have bad luck in my life” isn’t a healthy reaction to anxiety. Not only that, but what it does is build the stress. One negative reaction can give strength to the next stressful event until it builds and your stress pattern is a knee-jerk negative response.
It’s not enough to take control of the negative thoughts. You have to evict these thoughts and allow positive thoughts to move in. This doesn’t mean that the stressful events in your life are going to be good.
It only means that you can, once you learn how, see them for the good that they can bring. For example, the person who didn’t get that promotion he wanted may use that as a stepping stone to leave a job where his talents aren’t appreciated and move on to one where they are.
So what was a negative became a positive. It’s all in the way that you reframe what occurred. Some people call this the “silver lining” – it’s the one good thing that comes from a bad situation.
How You Can Use NLP to Help You Manage Stress
NLP is a useful but simple technique that can help you change your perception. When it comes to dealing with stress in narcissistic abuse recovery, NLP can help you learn how to change your previously learned stress perception – as in, it can help you learn how to change your mind by changing your patterns – and that can change your life.
How does NLP work?
Your mind processes what you see and hear, think, and feel. Let me explain.
If you see a snake and hear the hiss of one, your brain’s response will simply be “a snake.” Likewise, if you think that all snakes are venomous and that you’re surely going to get struck by one and be in excruciating pain, your brain will process that, too.
If you feel a lot of fear toward snakes, your brain adds that in. Are you in any immediate danger from the snake if it’s six feet away from you? No, but your stress pattern about snakes says you are, and it contributes to how you feel.
This, in turn, caused a more forceful response from your brain, and the fight or flight response kicked in. It didn’t matter that the snake was too far from you to harm you or even that it could have been a garden snake.
What matters is that the stress came on strong because you perceived that it was a stressful situation. Therefore, your reaction is tied to your perception. This is the way that it is with all stress.
How can NLP help you to recover from narcissistic abuse?
You have to change the perception if you want to change the reaction. By learning how NLP works, you will learn how to implement the changes you need to deal with stress.
It teaches users how to break free from old stress patterns and create healthy ones. For example, one of the ways that NLP helps you deal with stress is by looking at someone else who has been there and done that.
It’s a great study of how others have successfully managed in various areas of life, including handling stress. It shows you various events that cause stress and what the response can be by looking at how others have handled that situation.
This helps because you learn that you’re not alone in the stress – but it also helps because you get to see how there’s not just your stress pattern to use. You learn techniques to change stress perceptions that set you free from old stress patterns. How you approach stress can be successfully altered by neuro-linguistic programming. There are dozens of great programs that walk you through the concept.
How EFT Can Help You in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
EFT (or Emotional Freedom Technique) can help you find peace and experience calm – and if a narcissist has abused you over the course of months or years, you’re going to need all the peace and calm you can get. Plus, EFT is proactive, noninvasive, and fast-acting with long-lasting results. What more could a survivor ask for?
EFT is DIY
You can do it yourself from anywhere once you get to know how to do it. Since you can’t just forget about what you’re going through or have gone through, thanks to narcissistic abuse, you have to learn a way to deal with your issues without having to live in a state of chronic stress.
How does chronic stress affect you in narcissistic abuse and recovery?
Studies have shown that some physical ailments are linked to the negative emotions associated with stress. So you get sick from stress, and then you get stressed about that. Stress destroys your peace and calm when it comes to any area of your life that causes you to have anxiety. So you have to break the stress cycle to achieve the harmony you want to find.
How can learning EFT help with chronic stress?
By learning EFT, you can stop the emotional and mental link that disrupts your peace and calm. This energy psychology works similarly to the way that acupuncture works. Except with EFT, you won’t be using needles or any other invasive method. Instead, you simply use tapping to release your body’s natural healing energy. Then, when you do learn the steps, you can begin to restore your inner peace.
How do you do EFT?
The method is based on a technique that teaches you how to use the tips of the fingers to tap on certain points on the body. For example, the face has six tapping points. It has the top of the head, the eyebrows, sides of the eyes, under the eyes, under the nose, and the chin. By tapping these and other points, the user releases the healing ability.
Unlike some practices, which tell people not to think about whatever is disrupting their peace and calm, EFT has people deliberately look at whatever is causing them emotional or psychological trouble.
The tapping releases the kinetic energy and can often heal buried stressors, causing you to lose your inner peace and calm.
Quick Primer on How to Use EFT for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- To get started, you first have to identify whatever it is that’s troubling you and you’ll rank it on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the highest.
- After you identify what’s got you all upset, you’ll use an affirmation that’s linked with that problem. For example, you might say, “Even though I’m stressed and angry because my coworker took credit for my work, I totally accept that I am worthy. I love who I am and accept who I am.”
- You would then work through each of the energy points on your body while saying your affirmative phrase. By the time that you’re finished, the rating for your problem will have dropped significantly.
Why is it so important to manage stress in narcissistic abuse recovery?
We already know that stress causes physical symptoms – and it wreaks havoc on your mind non-stop. And we know that, whether you’re currently in a toxic relationship or you’ve left one, you’re carrying around far more of a burden than probably anyone in your life knows, so if you’re going to get through this and find yourself happy again, you’ve got to start giving yourself a chance to strengthen yourself against harmful thoughts and reactions – and these techniques offer two places to start.
Need more help? Check out my Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Center – packed with free resources to help you take back your life and become the person you truly want to be. You might also enjoy my books, found at BooksAngieWrote.com.
Your turn – what do you think? Have you used NLP or EFT before? Would you use it now? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Let’s discuss it.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
- 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.
- Get private, one-on-one narcissistic abuse recovery coaching or counseling.
- Get a therapist who will work with you online. Don’t forget your health care professional can also point you in the right direction to get help for PTSD. Check out our guide to finding a therapist or psychologist who understands narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Join one of our private small coaching groups!
Additional NLP & EFT Resources
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery NLP Coaching
- Reprogram Your Mind in 3 Easy Steps
- NLP and Other Ways to Crush Stress and Anxiety in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- NLP Calm-Down Ritual
- Free NLP Resources
- NLP Training Index of Resources
- NLP Techniques
- Find an EFT Practioner
- Guide to EFT
- EFT Resources Center
- The Big Book of NLP
- NLP: Learn The Secret Techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming for Influencing, Analysing, and Persuading People
- NLP Guide for Empaths
- Emotional Intelligence Through CBT and NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Additional Helpful Reading for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Find the Light at the End of the Tunnel and Be Brave
- The Narcissist’s Soulmate Scam: Identifying a Love Bomber
- Toxic Love: 44 warning signs that you’re being emotionally abused
- Get Unstuck After Narcissistic Abuse: Your Personal Passion Plan
- Secrets and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist
- Are you married to a narcissist? 12 easy ways to spot
- Are you part of a narcissist’s harem? You might be shocked.
- Survey: Tell Me About Your Narcissistic Relationship
- Toxic Relationship Recovery: 10 Things You Must Hear Today If You’re Involved with a Narcissist