The Serenity Prayer Helps Survivors Separate Ourselves From the Narcissistic Abuser


There have been many times in my life that the serenity prayer has helped me with emotions that I found difficult to process; times of grief and loss where I felt helpless and hurting. It wasn’t until the abusive relationship with a narcissist that I fully understood what the serenity prayer meant and how applicable it is to coping with and overcoming the abusive, narcissistic relationship. By clearly defining what the dividing lines are between what we can control and what we can’t, we know better what to focus on as we empower ourselves and move forward in life. 

Whether your beliefs are in the God I believe in, there is still the element of humility, in releasing our attempt to control a situation to someone who is greater than ourselves. I believe that in the act of reaching out to our higher power or source, we are humbly recognizing that we aren’t the largest being in our own lives and universe, we don’t have all the answers, and sometimes, we need help from others to get where we need to be.

The beginning of the serenity prayer states, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”....

Think about this for a moment; really ask yourself that question.

What is it that YOU, cannot change?

No matter how bad you want to, how much you’ve kidded yourself in the past that you could, no matter the act of your sheer will or utter desire will make what you’re longing for come true (the easy way).

As it pertains to the narcissistic relationship, asking for serenity to accept things we cant change, means:


The disorder

The lack of love, empathy, compassion, understanding, desire to fix the relationship

The cheating
The name calling
The silent treatment

The mind games

The gas lighting

The abuse

The way they treat the kids

The way they turn family members against you or cause drama in general

The smear campaign

All the lies they feed everyone to make you look crazy

I can go on and on and on with the various abuses they dole out, but the point here is…

WE CANNOT DO ONE THING IN OUR POWER TO CHANGE THEM or the things they do and say.

It was present LONG before we came into the picture, and despite what they say….NO. You are NOT the first one that’s brought this behavior out of them. If you don’t believe that, just ask the previous victim. Or the one before that. Or so on and so forth.

We had NOTHING to do with their developing psyches or their stunted growth. Their insecurity, envy, spite and rage may get triggered by things that other people say or do, but ultimately the narcissist is the only person responsible for how they feel and how they choose to act on those feelings. 

Wouldn’t we already have changed a narcissist, if it WERE within our power?

How much have we honestly tried to do, to settle things down? How much did we give the narcissist a feeling of safety with us? Let them know, they could really count on us and trust us, because we REALLY loved them? 

It DOES take a serene frame of mind to accept this truth. It’s when we finally calm down and realize that we did try everything and NOTHING worked to make things better. Acceptance of this fact, is a release. With this release comes peace and allowing ourselves to take a breather from doing the impossible: fixing a narcissist.

This first part of the prayer discusses the personal boundaries that exist around others and the responsibilities that arise as a result of two individuals having separate and distinct identities with demarcation lines around each of us, letting us know who’s stuff belongs to whom and who can fix what.

Each person has a separation line around themselves – a way to tell what is “me” and what is “you”. This other person, who we are asking God to accept as someone we cannot change – is the only person who can feel what they feel, think what they think, behave how they behave and say what they say.  No one or anything outside of those boundaries, cause this person to feel a certain way or act or say certain things. It is always a personal choice of the person at the center of the boundary.

If you think the boundaries only deal with those that exist around the OTHER person (the narcissist); not so fast…..The next part of the Serenity Prayer focuses on ourselves.

 “The courage to change the things we can” is drawing the attention back to ourselves.

The serenity prayer is a balanced equation of equanimity of  two key elements: What we can’t control and what we can. While we cannot control a narcissist, we can muster up the courage to take control of ourselves.  

Boy it does take courage to look at ourselves, doesn’t it? Looking honestly at our own deficiencies isn’t easy for most of us, but I can tell you, with practice, it really does get easier. No pretense, no mask is an easy way to live – and when we’re not in the presence of a narcissistic person who makes us pay emotionally for our imperfections (because they don’t have this boundary the serenity prayer calls for at all, they THINK our imperfections are a reflection of them and they think their imperfections belong to us).

We can only change ourselves. That’s the ONLY only thing in this universe that we have power over. Us. Our corporation. Our entity. Our body. Ourselves.  Our circus, our monkies. Like the narcissist, who we can’t change and don’t have any power over, we are responsible for 4 things:  Our feelings, our thoughts, our actions and our words.

I’d always heard the serenity prayer when I was younger and never understood it in terms of how its really teaching the concept of boundaries and responsibility. Then I heard a story that made sense to me:

A woman was about to embark on a very romantic vacation with her husband. She’d been planning it for months, imagined the amazing time they’d have together laughing and falling in love again.  When they got to their beach destination, all her husband did was complain. He bitched about the weather, the sun, the heat, the critters on the beach.  In the wife’s mind, this was NOTHING like she’d imagined and went on to have a “horrible” time, feeling neglected, angry, not relaxed and ready for divorce.

The wife had a horrible time, because of her thoughts. It wasn’t that the husband was horribly abusive, it was that he just didn’t enjoy the beach as a romantic getaway. He had his own work troubles on his mind and felt stressed out because he couldn’t be at home solving them.

Had the wife realized the second part of the serenity prayer during that week’s vacation, she could have had the courage to change the thing she could: HER ATTITUDE. She could have gotten up every morning, went for a nice, long walk on the beach, then spent the rest of the day lounging in the sun, splashing in the pool, getting some R&R and reading a book she hadn’t been able to read at home. Had she allowed herself the well deserved break, she’d have accumulated her own good feelings and self respect & possibly may have handled her complaining husband with a more playful, flirtacious manner or invited him to romance, but whether he agreed or declined, still would have had a great time on vacation. Same vacation; different feelings.

The courage to change the things we can requires that we put our big girl /boy panties on and assume responsibility for how we feel, how our life is going is up to us. Admitting we’ve placed all our eggs in the narcissist’s basket and hoping that their being better would make us happier is a failing prospect.

We DONT need the narcissist to change for us to be happy. WE need to change the way we think and feel about things, ourselves included, and then to decide how we’re going to live a happy life away from the narcissist. 

Let me clarify that this does NOT mean we need to stay & learn how to live with an abusive, narcissistic person. My thought on this is unequivocally, that the abusive relationship has to be terminated. Abusive relationships (those that contain a narcissist) are out of the realm of normalcy. There is too much toxicity and crossing of boundaries (abuse) that there’s no possible way for one person to be healthy and committed in one, while the narcissist is incapable of doing so. 

So we’ve covered the yin and the yang of the serenity prayer; the narcissist, who we’ve left,  and ourselves and we wind up with the last piece:


This one sentence puts it all in perspective. It’s about knowing the difference between ourselves. Where the lines are drawn in the sand. Who’s stuff belongs to who (even if the other person doesn’t want to ‘take’ their stuff) They don’t have to. This natural law of responsibility does it for them.

When we learn about this disorder, we start to learn that alot of things we were accused of were in actuality, behaviors or thoughts or feelings that belonged to the narcissist. The cheating wasn’t ours, the lying, the planned attack, the mental health problem, the paranoia, the envy, the triangulation, or selfishness – that was NOT our stuff to take responsibility for. The narcissist crossed those boundaries many times by accusing us of them, but in hindsight, we know that was just another thing that was messed about them. They can’t handle the serenity prayer because they think there is no second part and everything belongs to everyone else.

As we take good looks at ourselves, our vulnerabilities, issues and flaws, we can say, ok this one belongs to me, or I did ignore red flags I saw in the beginning. By acknowledging the things we did that we know we need to work on, we’re giving ourselves some possible tasks and achievable goals. It’s stuff we do need to fix. And! It’s stuff we CAN fix.

One of the biggest sadnesses I see in newly free, no contact targets, is this horrific self blame and feeling that we’re worthless. The narcissist is off pretending to be happily hooked up with someone new so soon, while the target remains grief stricken and hurting. So much of the targets self worth is boundary blended with the narcissist (even though distanced from the narcissist in physical proximity). Targets thoughts have long been been trampled over and brainwashed to constantly play the negative message that we are NO GOOD because we couldn’t make the narcissist happy.

The target has not yet had the chance to clear out all those old, untrue messages of the person that planted them there. And YES. Narcissists plant those seeds. Day in and day out, being told that you are worthless, selfish and an awful human being definitely begins to make you think those things about yourself and will resultantly cause you to feel bad about yourself; lowering your self esteem. We are still responsible for what we think, however, the constant aggression conditions a target to acquiesce to these negative thoughts in an act of survival. 

With taking in alot of new messages and understanding how the narcissist methodically administers abuse to us, we begin to push negative, critical put downs and behaviors, past our boundary and out of us because it isn’t ours.

We firmly draw a boundary around our own identity, thoughts and issues and we plant our feet firmly in trusting ourselves that we are clear and healthy enough in our thinking to know the difference between these two very different identities; a narcissist and ourselves. 

This wisdom also allows us to draw certain clear lines in the sand as it relates to domestic abuse by a narcissist. At NO TIME, is the target of a narcissist’s abuse RESPONSIBLE for the choices that narcissist makes to cheat on, demean, lie to, smear campaign, financially abuse, alienate children from, cause harm to and otherwise destroy. This is solely the choice of the abuser. This boundary is NOT up for debate about what the target did to deserve this. That argument only illustrates that the person holding that opinion does not clearly understand the concept of boundaries and personal responsibility. 

Posted on August 14, 2014, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. The logical side knows i cant fix this evil person yet the emotional side cant figure out why some could be so vindictive and evil. why did i fall for such a loser.


  2. my logic side knows i cant fix someone who is inapplicable of true loving, but my emotional side that got sucked in , doesn’t understand how anybody can be so nasty and hurtful..


  3. Loved this article. Already i feel so much better about my situation. I have a child with the N I was involved with. A firm decision was made recently to go complete no contact. I was feeling guilty not keeping him informed about our daughters life but now i know its his responsibility on how he chooses or more likely not to choose to stay in her life.


  4. have been staying with a N abuser for 21 years. Married when i was 18 and the N treated me bad, accusing me falsely. Threats he cheats he has other children out of wedlock. My life is horrible but moving out. No more turning back.


  5. Insightful and helpful, thank you. But there’s one thing I don’t agree with – your example of the woman on vacation and how she could have approached things differently by effectively overriding her spouse’s negativity. I was in the same position many times with my N ex. But her bad attitude and negativity prevented me from enjoying vacations in the way you describe above – her negativity prevented this happening. Instead I felt a constant sense of frustration and disappointment. This was all after the ‘honeymoon’ phase was over, of course. I stuck it out for three years before walking out. Enough was enough


  6. You basically recited the Serenity Prayer for CoDA (codependents anonymous):

    “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
    the courage to change the person I can,
    and the wisdom to know that person is me.”

    fyi, if you’re in recovery from narcissistic abuse, CoDA groups are the perfect place to heal and find support. They’re anonymous, free, and some are specifically women (or men) only. Check online for the group nearest you.


  7. Stefan Niemcewicz

    Bull Shit. You corner the narcissist in my case my mother and your scare the living shit out of them. You spit in their face you choke them you tell them to forget you permanently or they will die a a slow painful miserable death at your hands which you have been maliciously planning since the first red flag. You do this ALONE! NO WITNESSES. ALL narcissists are cowards. It will be over. Then you move the fuck on. You delete all these blogs, never mention any of it it again to any one and STOP STOP STOP being a victim! We empty the bucket so it can be filled with new treasures.If you go back then you can never blame the narcissist again.You have to be willing to die in this battle to win this war and to kill (permanently dispose of) this enemy. But you will not die. You will be set free! You will discover your God and his angels in a new and victorious way. We are real and you will thrive free. You MUST believe it see it!


    • Well said and direct. I do not have that opportunity. This narcissist slithers and pops here and there as snakes do. When I am gone he slithers in breaks things, steals things, traumatizes my pet, whatever, it all belongs to him, naturally. He slithers all over the place and snake eyes my every move and watches what I do or who I talk with. I am a person of some routine, and the next time I go to a similar place or greet the familiar friendly person, he has snaked the whole thing out. Things are broken and no longer function or the former friendly person now has some humiliating disgusting information all about me to scoff at and belittle me with, not so wonderful anymore. I have never met a pervert like the one I met in disguise so long ago. They just seem to last and last, unable to give up that precious jewel of a human being they are crunching on. This one was the most addicted and rabid of any that has grabbed and held on tight with a death grip. This pervert/narcissist has tons more poison than the combination of the sum total of all that ever magically deluded their snap pop and crackle head into my and, of course, on top of me where it is better for them to stay near and get their feet up. My employment has been taken, the difficult course work to be accepted into a professional college program has been taken, my automobile was torn apart that I could not repair, it belongs to him now, the rental car to just bring necessities such a great distance, he smashed into so I could devote as many dollars as was needed to repair his crash fun. He broke into my storage and stole all my personal letters, writings, journals, bank statements, and every legal record I have. I can not go anywhere where there is not some of his venom and snake poop just so that I know that he is and will continue to dominate, control and destroy everything until I notice that I must get down and beg and cry for a coward piece of evil to be good to me or to help me, to offer my soul and sell any truth, all of it, then maybe he will consider his kingly duties. I have stood on my own feet and with my backbone and with my truth and courage and tried to go forward, to live. The poisonous thing always has enough coiling and shimmies from baskets to charm any and all. My food has been poisoned a number of times causing me severe illness and delirium, he has actually shot a gun at me several times which was almost the moment again and again for my heart to stop. I have been his absolute prisoner of his cowardice and evil which of course is ordained and blessed by the lies, for the lies and of the lies. I do not think that all of us to get to survive. I have had to accept for sometime that he is putting me to death, starving me to death, and there is not a thing I can do to get help or to help myself. I have never met nor coped with such a vicious persistent malignant coward who at the gates of hell as the whole communities of ignorance to pounce on me. What skyscraper lies like spires of his prowess that others are awed by. Evil is master of evil and slithers by to snap its jaws about the very one who will become its thing, and slither away as a haunch thing of filth that will rub off its stench of inhumanity and get its shape back to its normal fake. I have prayed, and whatever blessing is given – surely the snake has those glared eyes fixated on and destroys rabidly. Police, professors, all kinds of snake smoke surround and abound to blow back that scare stink. The piece of filth has ripped my life to shreds, there is only but sorrow and appointments with death – everything was destroyed as some sort of natural phenomena fraud. This child went thru it alone way back, there was no one who could speak a word to care or even the reality of truth, the shameful things done. Beautiful blessings and miracles I have known and one time the very miracle of someone actually in authority telling some coward piece of dumb wack to get off of me, and that was the finality of it. I had love taken away so many times that I stood stunned to be left in sorrow for one long endless knowing loneliness for many tomorrows. Beautiful spirits along the way touched me and an angel held the opening between this hell and I was able to go with her to a real life of loving and knowing human being, It was so hard to sit and wait in these prisons of starvation as he gloated his evil deceitfully glories. I have been terrified of torture rooms in preparation of those I loved would do to me now that he got them to understand his point. He is either the anti-christ that was spoken of or he is the relative of Caligula. I saw the apparition of the demon in my room staring down at me while I was in my bed. I thought the demon was not real. I also through all their violence felt the hands of a loving being, Christ, some beautiful merciful being that had compassion for my suffering as there was nothing I could do but sit and be quiet through this smashing me apart party. I felt the loving spirit hold my hands, the sensation was felt and I opened my eyes but the sensation stopped and I saw no one. I felt it twice. The violence goes on. There were beautiful moments of love, but a hell which drives me into death out of love and life demands it and enforces it. I would escape its claws but I do not know how, only love could know and it keeps everyone away from me. You made it easy for some, but there is this me and the method you describe has no effect for ridding myself of this fiend. It hurts to be put to death, to have every meaningful part of the self destroyed before all who wish to look upon it. I was able to see the movie “The stoning of Sariah”. It was a really ugly thing that was done to her, unimaginably so. She was innocent and very brave to handle their vicious destruction before all the filth and cowardice of nothing of any man. It is sad that human being is caught in a serpent filth of orgy death. I did survive far longer than I could ever have hoped to, I do wish as I am sure any human being would, to have their life sparred. It is not easy to be brave. May I thank God for the blessing of being loved in this world and being able to love also for a little while and to know that happiness. I am also thankful for what compassion I could cultivate and in the small ways I was able to give care and respect, or helpfulness to another, I felt a goodness in me for that human being to allow me to do some good or kind thing for their blessed being. In great thanks for moments of a true prince who treated me with full regard and kindness and I too paid him honor with my truth. A blessed thank you to a very lovely lady for she knew my desire to be beautiful, to feel that beauty while I was filled with the filling of ugliness. She met me near a quiet and serene lake and entered within my being for moments for me to sense her beauty filling this me up to feel no more ugliness but joyous beauty. She was so very kind and loving and I could only imagine that it is not very safe for her here. Perhaps she visits only in this world, that her world is beyond this one and is as lovely as she is. She was as one very beautiful fairy God Mother. It was not impossible to be beautiful, she made it very possible. I truly do not understand though in moments I think that I do before I realize again that I do not. I would like very much to not cross into or return to any world that harvests so much poverty of love and such abundance of sorrow. They both grew accordingly and that was harvested for what there was; an unkindness cultivated that betrayed the beauty of the earth and her generosity and abundance that all her children are loved and cared and fed and looked after. She has much work for so many to care for and her lovely brilliant magnificence shines up and out in every direction into the universe. The earth is the center of the universe, she is Miss Universe. she has always been the most beautiful woman in all the universe and the all of everything understands the truth of her divine creation of lovely heavenly beauty. I hope she will survive because I do not know, but I hope she will survive and be healed. I do not know why the laws failed – but she did not. Thank you for your kindness to allow me to have time and space to say what I would like to express. As Tammy always said “Sometimes its hard to be a woman” I agree, divinely beautiful, but sometimes very hard.


  8. Well put,,,,hit the nail on the head.


  9. Amazing! This is a tremendous explanation and guide for understanding.. The victims of Narcissists can gain hugely from this article in so many ways. As a victim, myself this has opened a door for me in learning about me and about the Narcissist . I walk through that door alone and free. Thank yo for this.


  10. This is such a good, clear explanation of boundaries inside our own hearts. I would like to re blog this on my own blog when I get to my computer.
    Such an important article.


  11. Thank u for this important info


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