The Road to Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse
We don’t remain in the web of the narcissist’s abuse forever. Although the length of time it takes to eradicate all the damage is prolonged, eventually we realize that we’ve regained control of our lives & identites once again and find ourselves on the path of healing.
Once the smoke clears, from the fire the narcissist used to set our world ablaze, we begin to see what’s left for us to focus on. In the past, I’ve used the serenity prayer to describe our approach to narcissistic abuse recovery: God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change (the narcissist’s disorder) the courage to change the things we can (ourselves) and the wisdom to know the difference (understanding the boundaries between ourselves and our former abuser).
WE MUST OVERCOME THE FEAR THAT WE ARE UNWORTHY OR THAT WE COULD BE THE ONE WHO IS NARCISSISTIC
Our first major feat is to unravel the mysterious fusion of our identities from the narcissist through much education. Knowledge about narcissistic personality disorder gives us the ability to draw lines in the sand. All targets after having been abused and blamed for our abuse by the narcissist, have the leftover feelings of being ashamed and worthless. We wonder if we are the true narcissist as they told us so many times we were. We fear being selfish and careless, so we tip toe around taking good care of ourselves for fear that we are the ones that have NPD and hurt others.
To counter these unrealistic fears, we must focus on knowing and loving ourselves authentically. Loving ourselves is not lip service love. It’s action oriented, it’s compassionate and it puts ourselves first sometimes because we deserve it. We become so afraid of saying we’re worth it, because we saw this statement on steroids in the narcissist’s disorder. We saw someone who was entitled and grandiose hurting others and we don’t want to be that person. We do not have to fear becoming the narcissist simply because we show genuine self love, care and put our wants and needs ahead of others.
We deserve more. We deserve better. We may have been treated as if we didn’t matter and we may have treated ourselves as if we came last, but it’s NEVER too late to change those toxic internalized thoughts.
To know yourself authentically is to tell the truth about who you are. What are your passions? Your strengths? What makes you tick? What ticks you off? What are your weaknesses? Your vulnerabilities? What causes you fear and hurt? What toxic things did you learn about love that no longer serve you?
Exploring these questions about yourself with compassion allows you to begin seeing the truth about who you are instead of through the eyes of your enemy.
By embracing our authentic self with unconditional love, we begin to feel worthy of setting limits and establishing boundaries.
WE MUST PRACTICE SETTING BOUNDARIES HOWEVER DIFFICULT
We were used to being put last, negated and having our needs go unmet. Now? We have choices. We get to decide what we will and will not tolerate and we get to enforce those rules as well. We all have had our boundaries violated and smashed by narcissists who have no concept of separation from others. We experienced great stress and fighting as a result of simply saying, “No”. We’ve been verbally abused and called selfish and other horrible names for not giving the narcissist their way. Saying No was an exhaustive battle and lets face it, we just don’t have the energy to battle anymore.
To counter the brainwashing that we don’t have the right to say, “No”, we must exercise our muscle; practice saying “no”, dish out consequences to violaters (distance, lack of relationship, lack of support from you, etc.) and realize that anyone who repeatedly fights us on our boundaries are being disrespectful towards us and should be dealt with at arm’s length, if at all.
One technique you can try to counter your natural inclination to say “Yes” to all requests, is to remind yourself that YOU HAVE A CHOICE. What do YOU want to do? When presented with choices or requests, STOP AND ASK YOURSELF, “WHAT DO I WANT?” And then follow your gut. Follow what YOU WANT. You deserve that. You deserve MORE than what you’ve allowed yourself to have in the past.
Setting boundaries isn’t easy, but with practice, it becomes easier. Boundaries liberate us to have the life WE WANT, and it’s OUR LIFE, so why shouldn’t we?
WE MUST EMBRACE THE REALITY OF PTSD AS A RESULT OF THE TRAUMA OF THE ABUSE
It’s a tough reality to accept that we didn’t escape this abuse without substantial trauma. Add to this, the fact that our abusers escaped punishment and consequences and we’re left to deal with it as we watch them move on to the next victim without any consideration of the consequences of their actions. We must come to grips with the result of ongoing abuse: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We suffer through nightmares, crying spells, startle response, managing triggers, readjusting our worldviews, dealing with lack of hope and safety, looking over our shoulders, waiting for our predators to return and make good on their promises to do us in, the anger, the feeling of a shortened future, the list of symptoms go on and on with PTSD. The bottom line is that we realize we are not the same person we were before. We are forever changed and these changes from this diagnosis are not pleasant at all to deal with or accept.
Here’s my personal reality:
Tough pill to swallow. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything else in my 45 years. That is until I met a narcissist.
While this seems like a “life sentence” to most of us, let me encourage you with what I’ve personally learned about my managing my PTSD: It’s NOT hopeless!
I have learned how sensitive I am and how the world NEEDS this kind of sensitivity. Also, this sensitivity is of great value and deserves being protected by me. I know what triggers my reactions: Abuse, bullying, control, disrespect, and intimidation. My reactions are signals that someone in my environment is violating my rights. Now? I ACT on them. I tell. I report people. I walk away. I refuse to play. I turn them into authorities or the powers that be, whether it be in society or the workplace. I have ZERO TOLERANCE for toxic people.
I have learned techniques that have empowered me to manage my life in a way that doesn’t cause me stress or harm. My body and mind just can’t take abuse any longer. My body reacts strongly to any form of abuse. I’ve developed a tremendous amount of self compassion when Im feeling pushed or stressed. I know how to calm down, self sooth, get to a safe place and feel better. I don’t blame myself for this condition. Im honest about it, I talk about it, I tell others I have it and where I got it, but I take FULL responsibility for living my best life possible, despite this condition.
I encourage you, if you’ve received a diagnosis of PTSD as a result of narcissistic abuse, PLEASE seek treatment and assistance with a trained therapist or trauma worker. The peace you’ll experience as a result of dealing with symptoms head on, is unmeasurable and so very worth it!
WE MUST RE-DEVELOP TRUST IN OURSELVES
It’s no surprise that after surviving a predator that we’d come out with trust issues. This seems to be one remnant of the abuse that’s most troublesome for survivors. We used to have the trust that all human being were basically kind. With no prior experience of having met an abuser like the narcissist, we were safe in believing that. Yet afterwards, our understanding of the danger that narcissists and other sociopaths present, we swing to the other extreme and fear trusting ANYONE; ourselves included.
The good news? We have learned that we can’t trust everyone. Although this was an extremely painful lesson to learn, wasn’t it in the end, one that we very much needed? EVERY SINGLE TARGET I’ve spoken to is leery of the next narcissist; the next sociopath and fear that we’ll have a bleak future avoiding everyone we meet. We know bad people exist, yet our trusting and loving nature pushes us forward to find solutions to find ways to trust again and avoid living in a shell of fear and isolation.
When we learn the dangerous traits to spot and we see them in someone, we AVOID that person to protect ourselves from danger. The more we learn what and who to avoid and choose to distance ourself, we are building SELF TRUST. We are teaching ourselves that when it comes to danger, WE are our #1 Ally. We are there for ourselves to protect us when we need to; when confronted with someone who wants to use and abuse us. The Self trust we gain as we exercise our boundaries, propels us towards trusting others. We begin to realize that we don’t need to fear and avoid everyone, but armed with our new protective instincts and behaviors, we can shut down who we need to BEFORE we are exploited.
Once the main topics of worth, identity and boundaries are sufficiently addressed, targets find that our zest of life and carefree natures of our identities return. We begin to experience the expression of our unadulterated life force and hope in our future free and far from abuse returns. A narcissist’s abuse doesn’t hold us down forever, if we don’t let it. It takes concerted effort and determinism to fight the good fight through the destruction of their abuse, but this is the one fight against narcissism that is WORTH FIGHTING FOR!