When You Can’t Stop Obsessing Over the Narcissistic Abuse You Endured

Written by Angela Atkinson

“Why do you still think about the abuser after you have been removed/no contact with the abuser for months? Not longing to be with them, but thinking about the abuse and what happened,” a YouTube follower asked me. Here’s what I told her. 

Going through a relationship with a narcissist is absolutely soul-crushing. It sounds like you’re dealing with rumination and most likely trauma bonding. Depending on how long you spent with them, and depending on how you were raised (and by whom), you might struggle with rumination for a long time. But there are things you can do to overcome it, and there are ways you can move forward. Let’s talk about it.

What is Rumination?

Rumination is what we call it when, during narcissistic abuse recovery, when you can’t stop the repeating thoughts in your head. These thoughts tend to be sad or dark, or replaying your abuse over and over in your head. This habit can be dangerous to your mental, physical and spiritual health because it prolongs and can intensify the struggles most of us have during recovery. You might find yourself feeling increasingly depressed and you might be having a difficult time thinking straight. This will make processing your emotions feel next to impossible.

Why Do Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Struggle with Rumination? 

Rumination keeps you feeling stuck, and it is sadly common for survivors of narcissistic abuse, especially after the relationship ends – but even when they’re still in it. In my opinion, there are a number of reasons for this.

After a relationship with a narcissist, a lot of us have become “overthinkers,” even if we weren’t before. See, the narcissist’s selfish, manipulative behavior has led us to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to “fix” our broken relationships (and often, ourselves) while we were still in these relationships. And even if we recognized that something was just kind of “off” about it, or that we were dealing with a toxic relationship during the relationship, we might have either second-guessed ourselves, doubted ourselves, or blamed ourselves – or some combination of all three, thanks to the ongoing invalidation and manipulation we suffered at the hands of the narcissist.

We find ourselves trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, and we try to understand why. We want to know how much of it really was our fault, and we try to wrap our heads around what we’ve gone through. We wonder if the narcissist ever loved us, and we wonder what the heck is so wrong with us that we would put so much of ourselves into this toxic, abusive person. We doubt that we can move forward alone (sometimes as a result of being told that we’ll never be loved again, or that we aren’t capable of doing so). We think we are worthless and we doubt we deserve to be happy, anyway.

All of this leads us to struggle with cognitive dissonance, which is a form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. In other words, because we see one thing and are told (or shown) it’s something else by the narcissist during the relationship, and because we try to (or actually) start to believe it, it messes with our heads in some big ways.

Closure is Essential to Your Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

So, how do you begin to overcome overthinking and ruminating about the narcissist and what they did to you? Let’s start here: you need closure. And as it turns out, that isn’t something most of us get from narcissists.

The Narcissist Didn’t Give You Closure

Most narcissists do not offer their victims any sense of closure. Either they leave without a word or they aggressively discard you and refuse to acknowledge any fault at all – or, in some cases, their victims find the strength to leave them and they play the victim. In nearly all cases where a narcissist is involved in a relationship that ends, they leave you with no closure, feeling confused and spinning. They either do this intentionally or instinctually, depending on their intelligence, their “level” of narcissism, or their place on the Cluster B spectrum. The higher their intelligence and level of narcissism, the more likely they do this intentionally.

A Powerful Way to Create Your Own Closure

One powerful way you can get closure is to write the narcissist a special kind of letter. This exercise actually came to me personally in a very strange way. At the age of 20, I found myself ruminating about a painful experience I’d had with a person I’d been involved with. While I was, in so many ways, finding peace and happiness after ending that relationship, I could NOT stop thinking about this person and feeling angry about what he had done to me.

One morning, while I was having my coffee and again feeling all this anger, I threw my hands up and screamed at the ceiling, “What do I need to do to get this person out of my head?”

I realized in that moment that I had continued to allow him to control me, even though I was no longer in contact with him. And it was right about then that I thought I was going crazy – because, though I was alone in my apartment, I literally heard someone whisper in my ear. I was FURIOUS at this mysterious voice and knew for sure it didn’t come out of my own head, because it said something absolutely ridiculous – it said, “you have to forgive him!”

Well, after calming myself down and getting my head together, I sat down with a pen and a notebook, and I started writing a letter that would not only help me to create my own closure, but one that would change my life forever in some surprising ways – and I inadvertently created an exercise I have used with my clients over the years.

How to Do the Letter Exercise

Create Your Own Closure After Narcissistic Abuse

Here’s how you can do the same thing.

  • Get yourself a pen and a notebook. If you struggle with writing by hand due to some physical issue, then you can type it out on your computer or phone – but if at all possible, I suggest you write with a pen or pencil as it seems to have some additional therapeutic value here.
  • You’re going to write a letter to the narcissist. In the letter, say ALL the things you wish you had said to them but never did, or the things you needed the narcissist to hear and they refused.
  • Be sure to take your time, and if you need to, write a little bit at a time, put it up, and then come back to it when you’re ready or when you have time.
  • Put all of your anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and any other feelings you have about the narcissist and the way they treated you in the relationship in the letter.
  • You can say all the curse words you want or need to say, and you can scribble all over the paper if you want to – just put all of your feelings into the letter. No thought or feeling is too small to include – think “brain dump” or “soul-cleansing” – so make sure you include any and everything that comes to mind, no matter how petty or unimportant it seems in the moment.
  • When you’re finished writing, let it sit overnight or for a couple of days. Then, pick up the letter again, and read through it.
  • Add anything you’d like to add, and if you want to, you can rewrite and edit the letter.

This is when you’ll add the final paragraph in the letter, and you’ll want to make it something like this:

And now, though you do not deserve it, I am forgiving you (or releasing you, if forgiveness feels too painful right now), not because you deserve it, but because I no longer want your toxic, negative energy in my space. I trust that you’ll get exactly what you deserve from here on out and I release the need to know what happens for you next. Goodbye, forever. 

At this point, you have two choices. You can mail the letter, or not. Personally, I did not need to mail the letter and would not necessarily recommend that you do – because, in reality, the letter is for you, not the narcissist. It’s all about getting the negativity out of your head and out of your life, and it’s an ideal way to start to create your own closure. I suggest you burn or shred the letter and get it out of your life – and as you do, you imagine the negative energy and anger and all of the other emotions burning away – or being shredded up. Some people like to float their letter down the river or to clip it to a balloon and let it fly away. Do whatever feels best to you. Heck, you could even just throw it in the trash. But whatever you do, once the letter is written, get it out of your life.

This simple exercise provided me with SO much relief, and many of my clients report the same thing. Have you tried this? Will you give it a shot now? Let me know in the comments section, below.

There is additional information on why you feel stuck and how to overcome it in this video.

Question of the day: The question of the day is: have you struggled to stop overthinking what happened to you in your toxic relationship? If so, were you able to get past it, or are you still struggling with it now? Have you tried the letter exercise, and did it work for you? If not, what did work? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experience in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it. 

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