So, you went no contact with a narcissist, either because you left them or they left you. In any case, you decided that you’ve had just about enough of a toxic relationship and you finally decided to make the commitment to yourself: you have gone no contact, once and for all.
No Contact is a coping technique that is practically required to heal after narcissistic abuse. It involves removing yourself from the narcissist’s life. You stop seeing, speaking to, and interacting with the narcissist. This allows you to clear your life of the negative energy they bring into every room so that you have the space you need to heal without dealing with the toxic influence of your former personal tormentor.
Now, for the record, you might have gone no contact with a partner or former partner, or maybe it was a family member or a friend. In any case, initially, you might find yourself on the “pink cloud” that many people report they experience during narcissistic abuse recovery.
Pink Clouding in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
“Pink clouding” it is a term that is used to describe the feeling of elation that many addicts and alcoholics feel shortly after detoxing and moving into sobriety. I first heard it used in our community by Kim Saeed.
When you’re on the pink cloud, you will feel excited and hopeful in ways you didn’t before, and things in your life might seem to be moving in the right direction for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, there’s one big problem with the “pink cloud” syndrome – and that is quite simply that it can make us dangerously overconfident in one way: we might think we’re fully recovered when we’re actually just beginning.
The worst part is that this overconfidence can sadly lead to what I call a sort of “relapse” where we fall back in with the narcissist. For example, when you first leave a narcissist, you can start to see the possibilities of a life without constant control and codependency.
The pink cloud is very common for survivors of narcissistic abuse who have just gone no contact. We are often so relieved that we aren’t dealing with the everyday stress of dealing with a narcissist’s drama and mind games that we don’t even consider the possibility that we’ve still got some work to do before we can say we’re truly healed and ready to move forward.
Unresolved Trauma in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
When you do go no contact, you might find yourself feeling totally liberated and free. This is an amazing feeling! But being in a relationship with a narcissist will leave you with a whole bunch of unresolved trauma that you’re going to need to work through if you’re going to create the life you really want and deserve for yourself.
The trauma you experienced manifests itself in trauma bonding, which is a condition that causes you to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist while you’re in the relationship with them. It is sort of a survival strategy that many survivors develop during these toxic relationships, but it also makes recovering much more difficult afterward as you’re literally addicted to the narcissist and the toxic relationship in the same way as an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol or a drug addict is addicted to their drug of choice.
That means that even if you logically know you aren’t interested in having the narcissist in your life anymore, there is some part of you that will have a hard time saying no if the narcissist is able to contact you once the relationship ends. This is exactly WHY we recommend that you go no contact if possible when you end a relationship with a narcissist. (Of course, if you have kids together, you might need to just go low-contact, where you use the gray rock method to avoid drama, and where you only communicate about the business of raising your child, without emotion – and only as absolutely necessary).
The trauma bonding factor means that you’re going to need to be careful to avoid the narcissist as often as you can so you can avoid the dreaded “relapse.” But what if you happen to run into the narcissist in public after you go no contact? What happens if you see the narcissist?
Because unless you move to a different city, that’s a really serious possibility. And sadly, more common than you’d expect.
How Does the Narcissist Perceive You After No Contact?
You will wonder how they could potentially perceive you – and that all depends on how long it has been since you went no contact, and how much you have healed since that time. Let’s talk about it.
What Happens If You Have Not Yet Healed After Going No Contact And You See The Narcissist?
I’m going to tell you something that I would never tell you in any other case. If you haven’t healed and you happen to see the narcissist after going no contact, I want you to take a page from the narcissist’s book and put on a sort of mask. Why? Because if the narcissist sees that you have not healed after the damage they caused you in this toxic, unhealthy relationship, they will absolutely RELISH the idea that they’ve somehow won the relationship. They will definitely think of you as weak and they will even attempt to reinforce the idea they probably spent a lot of years putting into your head – that you’re worthless or at least somehow inferior to them.
So, rather than giving them the narcissistic supply they’d inevitably get from seeing you feeling miserable and alone without them, I want you to totally fake it. PRETEND you’re doing great, no matter how you feel in the moment. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they’ve hurt you. In general, if the narcissist thinks they’ve sort of “won” the relationship, they might pretend to ignore you or just look at you with contempt – acting as if you are clearly beneath them.
So, what can you do to appear healed even when you’re not? Well, consider what telltale signs you might be showing if you’re feeling miserable. Chances are that the narcissist would recognize that you’re hurting by the way you carry yourself, the way you dress, and by your body language if you don’t speak to them. So, for now, just tidy yourself up and keep yourself looking as fresh as you can when you go out in public. Maybe put some good music in your ears as you get ready and in the car or on the walk to wherever you’re going – that’ll help to at least temporarily boost your spirits.
What Happens If You Are Healing When The Narcissist Who You Went No Contact With Sees You?
If the narcissist sees you after you go no contact with them and you seem confident, you are dressed well, and you appear to be healthy, then they may begin to idolize you again. This will be especially true if you have moved on with another partner, and even if they are with another partner – or source of supply. They might indicate the desire to connect with you on some level – and there might be a tiny part of you that secretly hopes that will happen. That’s your trauma bonding coming back to bite you in the proverbial butt.
But always remember that the narcissist’s idea of a relationship is ugly, to put it mildly – and they really don’t want to have a real relationship with you. They will, as always, just hurt you over and over again. You know you’re better off without them.
If the narcissist sees you after years of you going no contact with them and they have seen that you have healed on some level, they could try to trap you again. They may think you would have forgotten about what they did to you and would try to reel you in. They may even tell you they have changed, but their intentions would not be any different.
On the flip side, if you have healed yourself and you seem to be quite well to the narcissist, they may actually ignore and avoid you due to their sense of pride. They actually could see you as superior to them which would dig into their insecurities. That is the level of healing you want to attain.
Just remember your reasons: You had enough of the narcissistic abuse and once and for all you went no contact with the narcissist who made your life a living hell.
What else should you do if you see the narcissist after no contact?
Not that you’re out for revenge or anything, but if you were it would serve you well to remember that the best revenge is served cold.
Remember what narcissists need more than anything? Attention. Narcissistic supply. In other words, narcissists hate to be ignored. So one way to deal with them is to give them exactly what they deserve – NOTHING. None of your attention and none of your energy. You can just walk away.
Now, you have to know that the narcissist will need to pretend that there’s something wrong with you when you do this. They will never be able to admit to themselves (or to anyone else) that they mistreated or abused you in any way. In fact, they’ve probably already told everyone how crazy or terrible YOU are and most likely portrayed themselves as the victim.
But what if ignoring them isn’t an option? Then what are you supposed to do? Well, you can just nod or smile in acknowledgment and keep on walking. It’s really all about keeping your composure and maintaining your dignity.
This next part is really important. Despite the fact that you would probably rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than see this person, you’re going to have to put your feelings on the back burner for a minute. Why? Because under no circumstances should you allow the narcissist or anyone nearby to see that you’re in any way bothered by the narcissist’s presence.
Pay attention to the little details here – be very aware of your facial expression and avoid showing any signs of disgust. (If you’re anything like me, your face has a way of telling all your secrets – so you might want to practice your poker face in the mirror ahead of time to be safe.)
And if you want to avoid giving the narcissist that little zing of satisfaction they will inevitably feel if they think you look or seem anything less than amazing, you want to appear indifferent. Act like they’re any acquaintance you’ve ever met – like they’re just somebody you don’t really know very well almost.
Even if it absolutely tortures you to see them, never let them see you sweat – even if you need to go cry in your car afterward.
Regardless of how much or how little you’ve healed if or when you happen to see the narcissist after going no contact, just be sure you don’t react to them at all – or if you do, keep it brief, polite, and business-like. Remember that the narcissist will be watching closely, looking for any reaction at all. They will get a little “hit” of narcissistic supply if they think you miss them or you’re having a hard time without them. So just be sure to avoid giving them even a slight hint that you are affected by not having them in your life – unless the effects you display are positive.
What if the narcissist approaches you and attempts to hoover you?
Play it cool, like ice. Just don’t give them the chance to trap you again. Remember that no matter how hard they swear they’ve changed, or they will change, they absolutely will not. As always, they’d continue to be the person they’ve always been. You went no contact for a reason, so don’t give up on yourself.
Question of the Day: Have you found yourself running into a narcissist after going no contact, and if so, how’d that work out for you? In hindsight, what tips would you offer for your fellow survivors? If not, are you concerned you might? Share your thoughts, share your experiences, share your ideas in the comments section below this video and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.