If you are recovering from narcissistic abuse, it can take a huge toll on you. Narcissistic abuse undermines your mental well-being. It even destroys your very sense of self, of who you are. It can be damaging to your core, but recovery is possible.
A narcissist will throw others under the bus with no guilt or remorse if it means getting what they want. They are constantly looking for praise. Narcissists use manipulation tactics like gaslighting, blame shifting and erratic behavior.
They are good at seeking out warm-hearted, sensitive people who are giving and empathetic. Then, they proceed to manipulate and control you, making you doubt your own reality and perceptions.
Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse
Being a victim of narcissistic abuse makes you feel like you are to blame. The narcissist is constantly making you doubt your reality and experience. This leads to so much confusion and self doubt, making you question the validity of the abuse you suffered. This confusion is typical of the healing process and can impede recovery.
Self Doubt And Denial
Go easy on yourself. It takes time to come out of self doubt and denial. Give yourself credit for the positive steps you take each week. This is often a slow process, that’s normal! The positive memories can make you miss them, and start questioning yourself. Just remember, you also endured a lot of suffering.
Denial keeps you safe from the full impact of the abuse. You’ve been through a lot. As you slowly realize the full impact of what you’ve been through, be kind to yourself. Coming out of denial slowly can be protective for your psyche. So, take it at your own pace.
You will start feeling grief, depression and anger. These are important feelings to explore on you path to recovery. Therapy can provide a safe place to express yourself.
There is no point in confronting a narcissist about what they’ve done. A narcissist is not listening and they don’t care. If you try to discuss their behavior, you will open yourself up to further abuse. Radical acceptance that they cannot change is the goal.
You will come to terms with the fact that they did not truly love you. Nor can they truly love anyone. Instead, they were using you to satisfy their narcissistic needs. You were giving them the narcissistic supply that they needed, rather than getting you own needs for love met.
As you recover, make sure you give yourself credit for even the smallest steps forward towards healing. It is often a slow process, so be patient with yourself. Memories of the positive experiences can lead to missing them, and then to questioning yourself. Denial like this shields you from the full impact of the abuse.
Just remember there was also way to much suffering! No one should have to be treated badly in a relationship.
Steps To Take When Healing From Narcissistic Abuse
It’s better to put your energy into understanding how this all happened. Start learning about narcissistic abuse. Start understanding the patterns you’ve been stuck in. But don’t try to talk to the narcissist about this. Disengage from them, stay surface level and don’t try to go deep. Do not share anything vulnerable with them. Go No Contact, if you can.
Develop other sources of support. That way, you can vent in a safe place where you will be heard and validated. Or, do something that makes you happy, such as get involved in something creative, exercise, or take a class. Put your energy into developing yourself and your interests.
You can’t erase the past, or get rid of all your feelings about it. But, you can move on with your life, despite the impact of the narcissistic abuse. Setting realistic goals is important. Over time, you will experience fewer intense emotions. You will also feel less numb and detached. This will allow you to pursue other goals and interests.
Healing Your Mind And Body From Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissistic abuse affects your ability to think, concentration and memory. As you get distance from the narcissist, you will start to think more clearly. Your fight-flight-freeze-fawn response will calm down. As a result, your thinking brain can come back online and return to normal. Then you can start enjoying life again!
When something traumatic happens, our instinctual trauma response is to either try to escape and run away, flight, or to fight back, fight. When you can’t do either one of these, you are in a hopeless situation where you might freeze up, numb out and shut down in order to cope. Or, you will fawn, known also as people please. You bend over backward to please someone, being overly-nice. This stems from learning that it’s the only way to survive an ordeal.
You learn to try to constantly appease your narcissistic partner in order to avoid a fight and being treated badly. This kind of pattern might even have been normalized in your family growing up. That makes them even more difficult to identify.
What Happens To The Brain During Narcissistic Abuse
Over time, narcissistic abuse shrinks the part of your brain that controls memory and learning, called the hippocampus. It also enlarges the area of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight-flight-freeze-fawn reactions, fear, grief, guilt, envy and shame.
The longer you stay with a narcissistic partner, the more the hippocampus will shut down and the amygdala will get stronger. No wonder you feel so much confusion, denial and betrayal blindness. A narcissist will keep you in a constant state of anxiety and fear.
When the hippocampus gets smaller, this has serious effects on your ability to learn and grow. We can’t take in new information. During extreme stress, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol attacks the hippocampus while stimulating the amygdala. This takes a toll on your body.
As you can imagine, you also experience these trauma responses physically. Bracing from the abuse causes your body to feel a lot of stress. This includes things like your heart racing, difficulty breathing, body pains, stiffness and stomach problems.
As you heal, your hippocampus will come back online and get stronger. Your amygdala will go back to normal. You will sleep better, eat more normally and have more energy. As you start to get your power back, you will gain confidence in your own ability to make decisions and life choices. You can start to trust yourself again.
Trusting Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse
As you go through recovery, trusting yourself will get easier. Instead of feeling like it was all your fault that your partner behaved so badly towards you, you will start to realize that is was not your fault that the narcissist was abusive. The narcissist is abusive, no matter what you do or don’t do. Nothing gives the narcissist the right to act abusively.
You might still think that you could have done something that would have made the situation work. Instead, tell yourself that there was nothing you could have done that would have changed the outcome. There is no changing the narcissist.
If you feel that he is treating his next love better than you because the new person is better than you, remind yourself that the narcissist is on his best behavior in the beginning. Love bombing only happens in the beginning of the relationship when the narcissist is trying to pull you into his web. He will eventually abuse this new person, too.
During recovery, sometimes you might be afraid that you will never find anyone again that will make you feel as good and as special. Tell yourself that there are lots of people who will find you special in a more normal way. In a way that doesn’t turn into its opposite, which is narcissistic abuse.
Go No Contact, If You Can
It’s important to stay No Contact. Breaking No Contact is the main reason people stay caught up in narcissistic abuse for much longer than they need to. As you start to rebuild your identity, you might start to forget how bad the abuse was. That’s why it’s important to have a few people around you to talk to, like a therapist, friend, and trusted family member. This will help you when you feel drawn back into the narcissistic abuse, thinking they may have changed. Narcissists don’t change, but you can!
Remember, reaching back out to the narcissist will only set you back again. If you find yourself slipping back into the narcissist’s control, and losing yourself, remember that the narcissist is manipulating you. If you lose your identity, it’s much easier for the narcissist to control someone who has no opinions, feelings or thoughts of their own.
There are two types of therapies that can really speed your healing. They are neurofeedback and EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. These methods really help calm down the nervous system and heal the trauma of narcissistic abuse.
If you think I can help you, please reach out to me by phone 310-314-6933 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.