Why Is No Contact So Difficult?
One of the hardest things about narcissistic abuse and going no contact, is getting to that point in time where we cross the line from WANTING the narcissist to love us & being devastated by the feelings that they don’t, along with everything that means to us and ACCEPTING that they are entirely and forever incapable of it.
Whether or not we loved ourselves before we met a narcissist, is irrelevant. The fact is, we were sold on the idea that a narcissist did love us in a grandiose narc fashion, then they went about the business of abusing us. In that abuse, they also relentlessly verbally berated us, insidiously blamed us over and over again, sending us the message that somehow the abuse was our fault and that we were not worthy of anything more.
By the time we wise up and decide to put them behind us, the habit, obsession and addiction takes over and drives us to think, feel and behave in ways that don’t rationally make any sense to us.
Time and time again, I’ve heard survivors say that they “know” they should be happy the narcissist is out of their lives and not have any feelings of missing their abuser, but to their dismay, they DO miss them and have feelings of longing they don’t understand. It’s difficult when your brain gets it, but your heart (and self worth) aren’t on the same page.
Let’s explore what makes NO CONTACT, the thing that’s going to free us, save us and get us clear is so difficult:
YES. IT’S REAL. The narcissist is a very insidious abuser. It took me 3 years to call my situation abusive and I had to be led to that label by 3 mental health professionals and a superior court judge. Their disorder is one that cannot accept ANY accountability – so imagine each 24 hours that you spend in a narcissist’s presence will be full of ways, reasons, and “evidence” of how things are YOUR fault. Targets are responsible, empathic people to begin with. If, day in and out, we are told that happiness would be ours if we could just DO WHAT THE NARC SAYS, or STOP what they tell us to stop. We begin to be so exhausted, we’ll buckle to the blame and try to fix it.
There are many false confessions on record, by innocent people who were so pressured by being told they were responsible and feared their accusers that they acquiesced just to get the pressure to stop. Same principle.
When we get free, we’ve got a brain that needs to decompress and get clear. That’s just not going to happen overnight, even if our brains tell us we “should”.
We need to be patient with ourselves, know that our brainwashed state did not happen overnight and will also not go away that quickly.
2) Our Focus is a Habit that is Dominated by the Narcissist
From Day 1, You are being taught to focus on the narcissist to the exclusion of yourself. You’re robbed of your time, your own thoughts and feelings, spirit, soul and existence in order to cater to a stingy, selfish, entitled, mentally disordered control freak. If you do what is expected of you, you will be rewarded (kind of). If you buck the control system of the narcissist, you will be punished. It’s very easy to see how your attention is conditioned and reinforced to favor the narcissist.
When you’ve decided to go your own way, you are NOT USE to putting yourself first, thinking for yourself, and not having the obsessive focus on the narcissist. Even though the monster is gone, everything else remains. All the free time on our hands is like a vacuum of loneliness and learned helplessness. It’s a well known fact that any behavior you try to quit, is best conquered by REPLACING it with a more positive habit.
A panacea for all this time on our hands is to turn the attention to ourselves. One trick that I used to use was everytime that the abuser came into my thoughts, I’d say “STOP!” inside my head. Then I’d repeat the words “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME” until my focus came back to myself. Once I was aware that I was self focused, I asked myself questions, “What do you need? What do you feel?” Then I’d go about meeting my own needs. Whatever it was, even if I answered “I need a hug”, then I’d put my arms around myself, stroke my back and say “I love you”. While this sounds completely hokey, when you’re clinging to any bit of hope in the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, this doesn’t appear so hokey. Try it. 🙂
3) We Doubt Our Own Worth
Whether we loved ourselves before we met the narcissist or not, we certainly do NOT feel self loving when it is over, so let’s just focus on that. If the narcissist has discarded us, despite all the loving, giving, and sacrificing for them, this is such a blow to our egos that it’s very hard to accept. We feel rejected, dejected and completely unworthy. Yes, rationally, we KNOW that we shouldn’t give others the power to hurt us this badly, but the fact is, those boundaries were busted the moment we let a narcissist into our hearts. There’s no room for ourselves in our own hearts when a narcissist is in the picture. Now they’ve left us? Without any warning? AND replaced us so quickly!!??
What a blow! In hindsight we can look back and understand why the discard happened knowing full well it says nothing about our worth, but in the moment? This is a devastating blow. These strong emotions of rejection and unworthiness can lead us to do odd things: apologize for things we didn’t do, bargain and promise to change, or run the new supply down in an effort to feel better by comparison.
This is one of those bitter pill realities of narcissistic abuse that we need to swallow yet again. It hurts. It sucks. It ISN’T FAIR. It looks like the narc has moved on (and they have, but they did LONG before they found someone else – they were NEVER invested in you in the first place) and here we are: STRUGGLING.
To make matters worse, we remember who we were when we were accosted by a narcissist, remembering a happy, confident, independent, wise person. The realization of how much damage we’ve suffered and then being tasked with the SOLE ROLE of fixing ourselves alone, is a tough, sad, prospect.
Feel these feelings. The sadness, the injustice, the fear, the anger, the grief. All of those feelings, get them out for as long as you need to, because this cycle of grief is the first wave of grieving.
Work on building your self worth. Read up on the topic and “how to” rebuild your self worth and then use your boundaries to protect your worth from human predators.
Stay away from indulging in self-flagellating and criticizing statements. You are NOT to blame. You are NOT unlovable. and you did NOT deserve this. Instead, take these statements as REMINDERS to tell yourself the truth. You are WORTHY. You are LOVABLE. You have RIGHTS. You are NOT crazy, and you are NOT narcissistic.
4) Our boundaries have been trampled
When you’ve been so trangressed, you don’t know who’s who anymore. The things you were are now being worn like they belong to the narcissist, and you are bearing the burden of all the shameful behaviors a narcissist espouses: Cheating, lying, using and abusing. They skate off looking like a good person, while you are left behind (even if you left them) being the person they smear campaigned and brainwashed into believing are the worthless, horrible, unlovable person they’ve said you are.
When you finally get free, sorting back out all this boundary stuff is a HUGE TASK!
Using the serenity prayer or any form of separating yourself from the narcissist is a good strategic tool at this point to rebuild your boundaries. Imagine two buckets before you. All the things the narc accused you of, (projected onto you) can be tossed in the NARC bucket. The traits or identity that YOU decide really DO belong to you, can be placed in YOUR bucket. If you repeat this exercise over and over again, especially as you learn about the disorder and the defense mechanisms and schemas the narcissist uses, you begin to get clearer and clearer about what belongs to whom. It’s the reason we post so much about what narcissists do on the page; it’s not that we’re just hate bashing, but rather that the more you learn about the disorder, the more able you are to separate yourself from it and understand why all the boundary transgressions were happening and who was responsible for busting them.
5) We feel the need to be validated and it is not forthcoming from the narcissist
With all the confusion, crossed boundaries and self doubt, a target is so beaten down, having looked to the narcissist for such a long period of time, we haven’t yet learned that narcissists purposefully withhold closure, and of course will never validate our feelings because to do so would involve taking responsibility and being accountable.
We’re full of emotion, want answers and don’t yet understand that a narcissist’s lack of empathy is the driving force behind their lack of validation. It’s on full display when we’re hurting and they’re refusing to validate our pain, our suspicions, and our feelings. It’s an awful place to be in, because we don’t yet realize that the only validation we really need is our own. Each time we seek validation from the narcissist, we only validate THEM; that they’re special and desired, while we kick ourselves for wanting something from them that we once again didn’t get. This is a horrible cycle of defeat but it can be broken with the help of other survivors.
It is an enormous help to receive the validation of other survivors, therapists, friends and family so that we can begin to rely on and validate ourselves once again. We get to the point where we accept the validation and apologies we’ll never get. We realize how self defeating it is to want something from someone who we come to understand, isn’t capable of giving it, so we let go of our desire to have it and in doing so, free ourselves from the vicious web of wanting validation from a narcissist.
6) We Romanticize the relationship
And why wouldn’t we? In the first 90 days after leaving, we haven’t yet learned that narcissists faked the whole relationship. We remember the beginning, the idealization period, the proclamations of soul mate love, the promises, the declarations of being the only, the first, the best, the most, the narcissist perfectly mirroring our ideal love, our soul’s mate. We try to reconcile that with all the abuse. We don’t yet know this is the abuse cycle of idealization and devaluation, so we assume it was a love that we can’t quite comprehend why it went horribly wrong. The only answers we can come up with is that we were so bad that we couldn’t do anything right to hold it together.
While we’re busy hating ourselves for being so flawed and losing this great partner, we have a hard time remembering all the soul wrenching pain they put us through and without names and labels for their disordered behavior, we keep assigning ourselves the blame and the narcissist gets all the benefit of our doubt.
If we catch wind or get a glimpse of the narcissist in the valuation stage of a new target, we’ll convince ourselves even more that the prince charming we lost, is so capable of sweeping declarations of love for the new target and “looks” so happy and free in their new life with the new person that the only answer could be that We suck and they don’t.
This is NOTHING but a product of smoke and mirrors, brainwashing, poor boundaries, low self worth and witnessing the disorder for the first time from the OUTSIDE.
Whenever you start to romanticize the relationship as anything other than the abuse that happened to you, it’s a sign to STOP and remember the abuse that really did take place. The arguments that were never resolved, all the discounting of your emotions, the name calling, the cheating, the hitting, the threats, the stalking, the harassment, the lies, the smear campaign, the blame, the toxicity, the hurt, the tears and the lack of empathy. NOTHING the narcissist could EVER do or say will be greater than the fact that they have an incurable, permanent personality DISORDER and the only thing that can come from them is ABUSE.
By the time you cycle through this first wave of grief, you’ll have alleviated the brainwashing, you’ll have begun focusing on yourself again, you’ll be building your self worth, redeveloping and asserting your boundaries, validating yourself and will have accepted the realities of this abusive relationship. Then you’ll be ready when the second wave of grief comes and you have to mourn a relationship that was never real in the first place.
For the most part, NO Contact is only a struggle for the first 90 days. Looking at it from this vantage point, you can see that these are formidable tasks and it’s no wonder the amount of time it takes. We don’t use this word often, but let’s face it: we were victims of domestic abuse. We aren’t going to just walk away unscathed, like we do from other non abusive relationships.
Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the emotions and luxury of time to be your WHOLE self again. Accept rather than judge your emotions. Let them have their day. We don’t want to hold these things in because the outcome is not good for us when we do, as this results in depression and disease. Get your feelings OUT where they won’t hurt you anymore. Give yourself the gift of No Contact.