Enmeshment – Separating Ourselves from the Narcissist

What Was Meant for Evil, God Uses for Good.

This post isn’t to glorify or laud the narcissist that intended to harm us with praise for helping us change. Not at all, in fact, this post is a testament to the power of the human spirit lit on fire, determined to heal itself and move past a traumatic encounter with a person who’s sinister character FORCED us to change.

Enmeshment is different than two people being very close. Close relationships are a wonderful part of life and often allow for appropriate independence within the relationship. Enmeshment, however, becomes a problem because the individual involved loses their own identity.  Narcissists prevent the autonomy we need in order to grow emotionally and individually.

These days, I am very much separated from the narcissist that abused me. I’ve gone on to forgive them and separated their character and actions from my life and core values; which freed me to do the recovery work necessary to regain my identity.

It was not without struggle, dismay, desperation, darkness, loss, and a complete overhaul of my worldviews not to mention a great deal of time and hard work. It’s not EASY to dig into your own defense mechanisms, weaknesses, and distorted thinking to identify the parts we play not only in allowing a narcissist to take hold of our spirits; sometimes long after the relationship has ended, but to pick up the pieces and work through all the damage they visited on us.

One of the most fundamental issues to work through upon gaining our freedom from narcissistic abuse is separating the boundary enmeshment with a personality disordered person. The insidious projection of their flaws and manipulating our core values to take on the responsibility a narcissist can’t own causes us major identity confusion and boundary problems.

“The person with a personality disorder who has at their core, identity confusion, causes those they abuse to have identity confusion as well.”

I’d always heard the term, “Narcissistic fleas” used and didn’t fully understand what others meant when they said, “If you lay down with a narcissist, you catch their fleas”. Now that I understand enmeshment, projection and boundary confusion, it’s so clear to see how those closest to the narcissist, who’ve been controlled, manipulated and projected upon begin to question, doubt and see in themselves, the traits that belong to the narcissist.

The task required after leaving the abusive relationship is to SEPARATE OURSELVES ENTIRELY. Not only do we cease communication through no contact and physically keep ourselves distant from an NPD, we must mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually separate as well.  Boundaries become the separation vehicle by which we distance ourselves.

Let’s take a closer look at the areas that require separation after narcissistic abuse:

  1. Your Emotions:

Remember how we weren’t allowed to feel with a narcissist? Remember how we were either told explicitly or the narcissist implied that it was not okay to share your genuine feelings with them? Remember how you were punished with judgment, shaming, the silent treatment, a smear campaign, false prosecution, gaslighting or other forms of  abuse for simply being genuine about how you felt? These abuses are what causes us to have trouble with our own emotions.

We have to re-learn that it’s ok to feel, to identify the emotions we have, to sit with them and allow them to pass through us without fear that we’ll not be able to handle them or that we’ll get in trouble for feeling and expressing them.  Our feelings  are NOT dangerous or harmful to others and do not make us the “crazy people” the narcissist said we were.

Feelings are indicators and guides to our inner selves. Feelings show us what’s important to us, what makes us human, vulnerable and imperfect. Separating from and owning our feelings after narc abuse reconnects us to what makes us human and who we are. Our authenticity is expressed through our feelings and we have the God given right to experience them.

2. Your Thoughts:

We need to get that narcissist OUT of our heads.  Narcissists are very forceful and controlling when it comes to their opinions of things, always having to “be right” and shoving their versions of reality down others’ throats.  You just aren’t allowed to have an independent thought with these folks; it’s too much of a threat. Their shanty house of cards can easily come tumbling down when someone challenges their view of things so they’re heavily invested in getting those around them to acquiesce. (Brainwashing)

Guess what? After you leave them, YOU get to decide what’s true and right. You get to think for yourself again. One of the first healthy things we do for ourselves is to regain our own sense of reality and independence through getting in the drivers seats of our thinking again. Its incredibly empowering to tell the story of our abuse, with all the truth and details that we were not able to express when our oppressor was in the picture. The more we tell our stories, (and WE KNOW they’re true) the less we care who else the narcissist has convinced to see their version of reality.

Seeing others buy into the narcissists fabrications and twisting of reality only illustrates for us the control, manipulation and abuse they perpetrate from an outside perspective and gives us a sense of gratification and empowerment that we are no longer being brainwashed by them, while clearly others are.

Regaining the skill of thinking and deciding for ourselves grows each time we exercise our right to think for ourselves. Each time we define our reality and experience and set boundaries around what we will and will not accept in our lives, we get stronger in our thinking and further from the predator who stole this right from us.

3. Your Self Concept / Identity

Oh the joy and freedom that comes from no longer letting ourselves be defined by someone outside ourselves, especially someone whose perspective of us is NOT based in reality, but instead results from their own defense mechanism to avoid shame.

We were called crazy, insecure, stalkers, weak, can’t let go, selfish, users, cheaters, liars, sluts, control freaks, etc. Every disordered facet of the narcissists character was used to identify us so frequently that we actually begin to doubt who we really are and begin to believe the narcissist is conveying a “fact” about us.

It’s insidious, crazymaking, confusing, blaming, shaming and downright abusive. Whether the narcissist knows they’re using this to cast off their shame is not the point here, it’s that we succumb to the weight of blame and projection by trying to show our love, please, and fix the problems the narcissist is telling us is within our ability to do so.

There is no way to stay in close proximity to a narcissist and not be impacted by these severe and frequent boundary violations. We acquiesce to survive.

Learning who we are again without hearing the narcissist’s voice inside our heads telling us how we’re “not this or that, or we are unlovable, insecure, etc.” is one of the long lasting and most difficult to overcome, effects of this abuse.

We must RE LEARN every aspect of who we are and independently decide if it’s 1) true about us  and 2) effective or ineffective in our lives. Narcissists target very good qualities about us: our ability to love, our authenticity, our natural confidence and ability to connect with others. Targets are responsible, sensitive, well liked people in most every aspect of our lives. It’s not an act, it came naturally and we’ve enjoyed the relationships  that have developed as a result. What once was attractive about us to our predators, becomes the thing they will envy and seek to destroy. They will systematically replace all our goodness with their cast off badness and will shield themselves against truth by believing we are who they say we are. This is their problem, not ours.

By defining and sitting in realistic appraisal of ourselves we form and own our self concept. We take back responsibility for being who we are; not who others say or believe us to be.

Really give yourself the time in this area to develop a firm grasp of who you are. Take quizzes, journalize, talk to old friends who you trust, who’ve known you a long time, pray, and live by trial and error, the joys, passions and driving force behind who you are. Rediscover what makes you come alive; what makes you smile, laugh and feel like yourself again. You WILL bounce back. Your identity will re emerge, only this time, you will have the knowledge and desire to care for and protect the valuable person you discover.

4. Your Actions, Character and Integrity

Once you separate your identity from the character assassination the narc puts you through, you really have a good basis to evaluate what you did or did not do during the relationship.

This boundary separation isn’t to beat up on ourselves further, but to OWN the ways we’ve behaved during and after the relationship that is ours to own. The greatest freedom comes when we can fully take responsibility for the things we’ve done because it enables us to change. Why doesn’t the narcissist ever defeat their character issues? Because they can’t when they can’t take responsibility and own their problems.

Boy did I act out and do some ridiculous things while I was involved with that narcissist. I got involved with him in the first place when he and I were no match for each other in the slightest, I fought with him to hear my feelings, when my core values have always rendered me non-confrontational, I expressed my mistrust of him in ways that gave him the opportunity to tell me I was insecure and damaged, I exposed him without considering the consequences that exposing his greatest fear would enrage him and bring on my slaughter, I allowed myself to become isolated, I eschewed other relationships that were healthier and I stuck around while my  pure heart, love, innocence and identity were demolished. We look at these things out of ownership and self actualization. What we don’t acknowledge, we can’t change.

It is a sign of our character that we have the ability to be honest about who we are; right, wrong or otherwise and have the empathy to notice that our behavior impacts others sometimes negatively and it is our job to fix those things. Being honest when it is not comfortable to do so, re-establishes our character strength. We as targets, live by integrity, principles and morals that are greater than ourselves. We owe things to other people and we owe things to ourselves; to behave in a civilized manner and when we haven’t, we man up and admit our wrongs.

This ability to be responsible for ourselves is the saving grace that will get us back on our feet again after narc abuse. We know that no one is coming along to save us. The narcissist isn’t going to give us closure, an apology or take action to rectify where they screwed us over; not in the least.

We must separate every aspect of our lives from that of our abusers, we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get on with the business of living our lives, feeling our feelings, thinking our thoughts and acting with the integrity and character that we’ve possessed our entire lives.












Posted on February 25, 2016, in Narcissism, Narcissistic Abuse, Recovery. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Thank you for all your help and guidance. I have come to depend on, in a healthy way, these posts. It’s truly been the greatest help, encouraging, loving, and educational tool I’ve been led to to help me understand what was happening. I’ve learned with all certainty that I am not alone, nor am I crazy, sick or any other term he used other than my name to describe and label me. I have such a love and respect for your position in my life, and the lives of many targets, I’m sad to only have these words to convey to you my gratitude for I feel they aren’t enough. May God go with you always! And please never give up, this is helping myself and people like me to heal and return to life. Thank you could never be enough….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keeping the family free of the knowledge of such abuse, and frequent inferences of extra marital relationships, learning to overcome loss of home, and having worked tirelessly to help the building, now in retirement years, remaining in catastrophic fear of all that is intimated in that expressed – if only someone will listen to me, and not to constant lies, deceit, etc.


  3. This.is an incredible article. It pinpoints right where i am in my recovery process! The hardest part is knowing my “truth” and advocating for myself with my teenage children who are now my ex N’S “FLYING MONKEYS”!! IT really hurts me to hear the lines he used (you’re crazy, paranoid, imagining things,etc), come out of their mouths. I realize thru the years he has “groomed” them, brainwashed them. To preserve my own sanity, i sometimes want to really distance myself from my youngest daughter. She mocks me and can be so cruel!! But if i did ‘divorce’ my family that would surely be turned around on me too by the N saying i had abandoned my children. I feel guilty for not being “emotionally all there” in the years after my divorce. And now i am paying the price! When will he get his due???


  4. I would like to know how the author or any of the commentors was able to find a lawyer knowledgeable about this? When I tried to find a GOOD one so I could leave – I wasnt able to find one that I felt understood the nightmare of divorcing someone like this. There was one that I thought “got it” but they’re reviews were terrible and I couldn’t go forward without trustworthy representation. So I am somewhat stuck because after all that i have learned being married to the nicest and successful narrcissist you’d ever meet. I know I wont even come close to a fair settlement without an excellent lawyer. Any ideas? Actually I have found a couple but they are not close by and do not practice in my county.


    • I went to domestic violence and abuse office.my counselor helped me thru the entire process, “order of protection” and divorce. Plus I have a mental health counselor still. I wouldn’t have made it through without their help


  5. Wow. This has got to be one of the best pieces I’ve read regarding narcissistic abuse. I left my husband of 15 years almost 6 months ago and had hit a stalling point in dealing with the aftermath. I have discovered my direction after sitting idle for what was, for me, getting to be an uncomfortable amount of time. I am so very grateful for every word written here. Thank you!


  6. Brilliantly written! And sadly all true points 😦 But!! In my current situation I feel empowered reading this, I will be free of him, I WILL 🙂 Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good to no I’m not going mad


  8. Are there online support groups for this?


  9. I love this post it describes so well all that I went through and all that I am going through to find my own voice. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is awesome … And makes me feel so normal. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for the encouragment to heal from the inside out and the reminder to forgive myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great article. I am finally ready to embrace the lessons that my BPD/ NPD wife, of 12 years, has been teaching me. Your words spoke directly to where I am in my life. I have way too much life left to live to be unhappy. For years I’ve deluded myself into thinking that in time things would improve and ultimately change in my marriage. This is the furthest thing from reality. I have learned to honor myself and my intuition. I determine my value and not another individual. I am worthy of love, success and happiness. Thank you for a great article.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for sharing this post. I found it to be very validating as separating myself, in every aspect, is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last few years. The longer I’m separated, the more I learn and the more I learn, the more I don’t ever want to go back to the way it used to be.


  14. Yes, It takes two. I was manipulated and emotionally abused for years. I found a close friend, moved in with her, left a note that I was leaving and seeking a divorce which shocked everyone. It was a planned exit so I would not get hurt. I agree it was not the most honest way to leave. The reaction was worst then I expected. I had to deal with threats and continual phone calls. My ex called my whole family with crying one sided stories and getting them on is side. He wanted them to do his dirty work. He called all my fiends I needing a restraining order, police recommending a domestics violence shelter and provided therapy. I tried to give him years to pay me for half the martial home, he tried to cheat me out of it. I played half the children’s college expenses, he cried about how I was putting them in the streets. He twisted and slandered the best he could. Everything that a person can do to hurt another was done as I lucky was able to move from the area. I just wanted out. As punishment he tried to destroy me. Me,the person who never stood up for herself changed. That was unacceptable.These are the worst divorces. The judge actually said I should have left years earlier.


  15. I left 16 years ago. Everyday I realize more and more how abusive this was. It is like coming out of a fog.


  16. It is IMPOSSIBLE to seperate on self from a narssisist when you have young children with them after a divorce . This is s nightmare continuation without end .


  17. Reblogged this on Emerging From The Dark Night and commented:
    Excellent blog on reclaiming ourselves after a narcissistic relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:
    Sometimes I think maybe there’s a reason they were in our lives. If adversity doesn’t kill you, it could make you an exceptionally strong person.


  19. Very good article as they have all been good and insightful and so helpful! I appreciate each and every one of them. I left an abusive marriage of ten years at a later age in my life and it has been very traumatic and frightening to walk through it all and disconnect the real me from the false person I was made to believe in! Still working on it but it gets easier each day as I give myself permission to be who I am that day! I just moved into my own place and after 14 mos of living with family and thinking I had made progress….no, just pushed it aside to deal with the here and now for the time being. Now the real work of living begins! God’s blessings to all of us on this journey!


  20. I left 16 years ago. Everyday I see more clearly how abusive my old family was. They are just angry that I got away now and did everything they could to try to punish me. No contact is best.


  21. It amazes me and stuns me that we spend time learning about how narcissists behave, think and treat others…or the different forms of abuse. Yet some people talk or mention ” God” as if that is supposed to be a good thing ? The God of the bible has narcissistic qualities, and is verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive himself ! If a narcissist told someone they were no good without him, that everything they did good was like filthy rags, that you couldn’t do anything without him etc…we would call that abuse ! It seems very hypocritical to even mention God ” an abuser ” to a victim of abuse ! Maybe more learning about the forms of abuse might be a good idea…as it seems when it come to the abuses of the biblical God it seems to go right over everyone’s head !

    Liked by 1 person

  22. These are all very good points. Once we realize there is no hope for these type of beings. We can take our first step toward a new hope, that we can have control of. Leaving the baggage of hurt feelings, their garbage of fear & pain behind. In due time even the harmful regrets. As we learn to love ourselves, & our lives of a new found freedom, more than we ever thought possible.
    Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, & support.

    Liked by 1 person

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