Surviving Narcissism

Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 2

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com elements of healing from narcissismHealing from narcissistic abuse is a process, and it looks different for everyone because every relationship is unique, and the same goes for emotionally abusive relationships.

You may be wondering where am I with my healing?

It is impossible to determine the number of steps or elements involved with healing from emotionally abusive relationships, but I am covering 8 main components. I discussed the first 3 of these pieces in Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 1 (here).

4. Reclaim Identity

You may not be the same person you were prior to entering a relationship with a narcissist, and then, you may not want to be that same person.

When you reclaim your identity you know who you are. You know your beliefs, core values, and which direction you want and need your life to take to maintain your mental well-being. You also know how you want, and should, be treated in a relationship.

You may not want to be the same person you were prior to the emotionally draining relationship because you are now stronger, more aware of what a narcissist looks like (their tactics and behavior), and you know what you might have lacked when you locked elbows with the narcissist. As you reclaim your identity, you are either working on regaining what you (then) missed, or you solidly have it under your belt today.

5. Self-Compassion and Celebrate You

As you heal, you have compassion for yourself. You no longer blame yourself for the narcissist’s behavior. You no longer believe that if you do the right thing, or say the right thing your relationship will upright itself and the narcissist will get better. You stop laying a guilt trip on yourself for getting into the relationship.

You learn to celebrate yourself.

You do even the smallest of things for yourself. You get out and do what you love. Sometimes, when we are in the healing process, it is accompanied by financial difficulties. Go out and spend little. Go to a bargain movie, the library, a thrift store, or, buy yourself something within a small budget. Start a journal (so very therapeutic)! The point is, celebrate YOU, celebrate your accomplishments…celebrate your life!

(Celebrate Your Accomplishments. Read more here.)

(Does therapy help a person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Read more here.)

6. Feelings May Stick Around

Know that the feelings and emotions that you have—hurt, pain, frustration, confusion, grief, shock, etc., may stick with you for a while.

Think of it as what it is, a grieving process. You have lost yourself to a relationship that you thought was ideal. You have lost the relationship with the partner that you thought was the love of your life.

When we grieve, it takes time to heal. Today, we may feel the hand of healing upon us, and then tomorrow something may trigger us to feel emotions that we thought were buried and long gone. Allow yourself to feel what you feel at the moment.

Allow yourself to acknowledge the where and the why of your feelings, but, I want you to pat yourself on the back at the same time. You are in the healing process and what you feel today is not permanent. You own your good feelings, and you own your uncomfortable feelings (they come and they go).

7. Seeking New Love Relationships

While you are healing, one of the last things that you should do is seek a new love relationship.

Give yourself time to heal. Give yourself time to recognize the milestones that you have reached in your healing. Give yourself time to understand who you are. You do not want to take the hurt, pain, or doubts, with you into a new relationship.

You may feel starved for love after any period of time with a narcissist, but love comes in many forms. The best form for you until you have healed is a friendship and not a romance.

When you give yourself time to heal, you will learn to expect what you need in life. You will expect respect in a mutually give and take relationship. You will know what is healthy for you.

8. Your Support System

You may have been in a narcissistic relationship, or in one, where you were led into isolation and for a time, you didn’t recognize it. It may have separated you from any sort of support system, leaving you to feel alone, as if you were on an island with your enormous struggles.

Especially when you are in the healing process, and this is always a human ‘need’ in life, ensure you have a support system that is made up of at least several people that you can trust and rely on.

Your support system can be friends, loved ones, or professionals that have your back. They listen with a non-judging ear. Your well-being is a priority to the people in your support system, and you are confident in your trust in them.

With a support system, you should find an honest mirroring back to you when you either thrive or slide back.

9. Speak as a Survivor

What you verbalize in life speaks volumes of how you view yourself. Are you a victim? Remember, you own who you are internally, and nobody can claim your thoughts, actions, beliefs, or core values. Are you a survivor? You may be a survivor. I hope you are! But, are you a thriver? Do you emanate a strong person that has the ability to, and/or, made your way beyond the hurdles of narcissistic abuse?

My own story (about being a victim): I was in a session with my life coach. I mentioned how angry and downgraded my boss led me to feel. He made me feel belittled, frustrated, and hurt. My life coach didn’t go easy on me, she let me know that I had adopted a victim mentality.

Victim mentality is defined by Merriam-Webster as the belief that one is always a victimthe idea that bad things will always happen to one.

I compared this definition to my (what felt like abusive) boss and how I related to his behavior. I then asked myself some questions, and these are the questions that you can ask yourself (in relation to how you feel about the emotional abuse that you have/are experiencing):

  • Am I always a victim?
  • Will bad things always happen to me?
  • Am I allowing his/her thoughts to victimize me, or am I setting mental boundaries and not claiming his/her thoughts/ideas/abusive words as the truth?
  • Am I living my life (mentally and physically) based on my own beliefs, thoughts, and core values? Or, am I mirroring a victim mentality?

My wake-up call/answer: I am NOT a victim! I have this!

Summing the Healing Process Up

The healing process is like a three-part book.

  • Part 1, the first section, you will not either understand or know what you need to heal from.
  • Part 2, page by page, your needs, wants, and well-being, as well as how to heal, arrives (gradually) from each page that you turn.
  • Part 3, you recognize your healing milestones. You recognize that you have closed one door and you have opened another. You recognize that you are breathing (an image of) fresh, clean, non-abusive air. You now feel free to enjoy your life. You trust yourself with renewed compassion. You stand on solid ground.

I hope you enjoyed this two-part series. We would love for you to share your own healing experience(s) in the comment section below.

Surviving Narcissism

Elements of Healing (From Narcissistic Abuse) Part 1

elements of healing from narcissistic abuse www.maryhumphreycoaching.comHealing from narcissistic abuse is a process, and it looks different for everyone because every relationship is unique, and the same goes for emotionally abusive relationships.

You may be wondering where am I with my healing?

It is impossible to determine the number of steps or elements involved with healing from emotionally abusive relationships, it may be limitless, but in this blog, I have identified 8 main components.

1. Acknowledgement and Acceptance

To acknowledge abuse, you give it a name. You call it what it is. It is not “it might be abuse.” It is not “abuse, but he/she is good to me.” It is not “Abuse, but he/she does not mean it.” It is abuse, emotional abuse. Period.

Acceptance mirrors acknowledgment. You do not make excuses for the narcissist. You do not deny that you have been abused. You accept, and you do not fight the fact that you have been abused. Abuse is never okay.

2. Set Boundaries

Boundary setting is also limitless, but when healing from narcissistic abuse, there are three main constituents important to the process.

Physical boundary. You go no contact. You put physical distance between you and the narcissist. You change your phone number. You change your social media profiles or accounts. Or, you may block the narcissist from finding you, calling you, or commenting on your social media accounts and online platforms.

Not everyone must take measures to go no contact (some narcissists will walk away without any further contact).

You may not be able to go no contact. You may be a parent with under-age children. You may share custody of your children with a narcissist. It is impossible to manage joint custody of younger children without some form of communication.

Conversational boundary. This boundary includes communicating with the narcissist, but this can be a tool to keep abusive behavior out of it. This involves making a statement to the narcissist, such as, “When you can talk in a calm and non-abusive manner, we can have a conversation about this.” Then, stick to it.

Mental boundary. There isn’t a soul on this earth that can change how you feel/think/believe. You know your own core values. You guide your life based on your beliefs and values. When/if you are being emotionally abused (and I hope never), or perhaps when something has triggered a memory of emotional abuse, let your mind go to the truth of who you are. You are not who or what the abuser says you are (see Gaslighting Narcissistic Manipulation). You are also not your thoughts. You are your beliefs and values…this is your TRUTH. You own this, and nobody can touch it!

It can be challenging to mentally put yourself in your place of truth, especially when you are in the midst of turmoil with a narcissist. It will become a habit once you practice it a number of times. It can be difficult to remain calm and to maintain a stoic facial expression, but the less emotion you display, the less you will tangle with the narcissist. The worst thing you can do is to fight back with your own defensive words. When you are defensive, it feeds the narcissistic. It validates, in the narcissist’s mind, that you are the problem and that their behavior/words/abuse is okay. Remember this, you will continue to heal as you practice this mental boundary. There will be a day in your life when you obtain and recognize healing milestones!

3. Myriad of Emotions

When healing from narcissistic emotional abuse, you feel a myriad of “normal” emotions.

Confusion sets in early in the healing process, and typically it occurs before a victim understands what they are dealing with (narcissism). Confusion sounds like, “What is going on with my relationship?”, “Why is he/she so mean and uncaring?”, “Is he/she mentally sick or unstable?”, “How did my relationship go from being a perfect love match (i.e. love bombing) to what it is today?”, “What is this? I do not understand what is going on!”

Once you work your way through the muck of confusion, the wheels of healing begin to move.

Grief (sadness, depression) is an early part of the healing process. Even though some levels of depression can be dangerous (please seek professional help if you are thinking of harming yourself, or if depression stops you from functioning in your day-to-day life), know that sporadic and brief periods of grief and sadness are normal to the healing process.

Grief comes and it goes. When it comes early in the process, it hurts because it is a loss, and it hurts ‘big.’

A client shared her story of healing and grief: She was out with her husband (a narcissist) at a shopping mall. She knew that her marriage was deeply troubled (mental abuse and adultery that the narcissist felt no shame for). The reality that her marriage might be unfixable had begun to hit her. She was walking along in the mall, in the middle of a non-stressful conversation with her husband, when a round of grief took her by surprise. She dashed into a store where she saw shelving that she could hide behind and she cried…she bent over in sheer emotional pain. When she was able to gather herself together, she returned to where the narcissist was waiting. His words were, “What is wrong with you? People are going to think you are an idiot.” Did she feel a sting from that comment? Yes, but it also validated that even though he knew that she was grieving, and why, he still chastised her for her behavior. This became one of many turning points for her to do something to regain control of her life. Devastation eventually transformed into a sense of surety.

Shock appears early in the healing process, and this where acknowledgment and acceptance are important. Shock diminishes once the abuse is called what it is. A victim may feel a sense of shock before they feel confusion, but just as often, the sense of shock, to a lesser degree, can return throughout the many stages of healing.

(As a life coach, this is my main goal, to educate others so that they recognize what they are dealing with—narcissistic emotional abuse. A person doesn’t know what they don’t know!)

Shock can take on different looks, depending upon circumstances. In the very beginning, when the victim starts to recognize the narcissist’s behavior, it can sound like this, “I am shocked. He/she acts like they do not care about my feelings. What happened?!” Later in the healing process, the victim might feel momentary shock, “How did I spend 20 years of my life with this person?”, and then the healing continues on from there.

Anger is healthy when it doesn’t get in the way of our healing. With healing, anger must be turned into forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that we believe the abuse is okay. Forgiveness means that we have released feelings of vengeance, hate, and hurt towards a person that we feel has harmed us. If we harbor these feelings it becomes toxic. We create anxiety and pain within ourselves, and this can lead to mental and physical unwellness.

Fear is healthy as long as it is a momentary feeling. Fear is a mechanism that can keep us from physical harm. Fear alerts us that something is wrong, that we are facing ‘real’ danger! Fear is not healthy when prolonged.

You may trust the narcissist, but you may find yourself suddenly fearing them or their behavior. This is a healthy ‘warning signal’ of proposed danger. Fear speaks to us, it tells us to take action to ensure our safety.

Anxiety is never healthy. It can lead to mental and physical health problems when prolonged. Anxiety is similar to fear, except anxiety can become chronic. Anxiety is often a manifestation of perceived fear, or fear of a poorly defined threat.

Anxiety might keep a victim awake at night. Anxiety might become a barrier in the healing process. An example of how our fear-related anxious thoughts can become a barrier to healing, “I just might not ever get out of this situation with (the narcissist), what if they turn the tables on me?” These words speak of fear, doubt, and anxiety.

Paranoia is common, especially for victims that have been involved with a covert narcissist.

Covert narcissists lack self-esteem, which makes it difficult for victims to live their lives. The covert narcissist often believes that people have hidden agendas. This can manifest into stalking the victim, and it can lead to the victim developing paranoia for some time to come. The victim may continue to feel the narcissist is watching their every step, even though it might no longer ring true. Paranoia, especially when it includes distrust, can eventually dissolve as the victim heals.

(Fear, anxiety, and paranoia are OKAY for temporary periods of time. Seek professional help if you chronically experience either/or, and if it interferes with normal functioning in your daily life.)

Shame is one of the more painful aspects of healing from emotional abuse.

Shame can prevent you from opening up to others about the abuse.

Shame can prevent victims from leaving the abuser, or from acknowledging that they are a victim of abuse.

Shame keeps people in abusive relationships for years, sometimes lifetimes. Shame can lead the victim to feel that they somehow deserve the abuse, or that if they were ‘better’ the abuse would not happen.

Always remember this: You cannot change or heal the narcissist by being better…by saying the right thing, or by doing the right thing. Clinical therapeutic treatment typically does not help a person diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD (read more here). You did not cause narcissism in the abuser. Do not validate the narcissist’s behavior through your sense of shame!

I will discuss co-dependency and enabling the narcissist in future blog posts. Both of these personality types (victims) fail to recognize that abuse is wrong, and that abuse is never deserved, and each can type can blame themselves for the abuse.

Continued reading, part 2 of this blog series will be published soon. In part 2, I discuss reclaiming identity, self-compassion, celebrating you, length of healing (it may take time, and give yourself time), talk with people in your support system, and speak as a survivor, scratch that, a thriver, and NOT a victim.

Surviving Narcissism

Why Victims Stay in Narcissistic Relationships

www.maryhumphreycoaching.com victims stay in toxic relationships

As an advocate for victims who are in or have been in narcissistic relationships, I all too often see blame placed on the victim for either not leaving the relationship, or for not breaking it off sooner.

If you have never been in an abusive relationship, you may wonder, “Why don’t they just leave?”

Why Victims of Narcissism Stick It Out

The list of reasons why people stay in toxic relationships is lengthy and endless. Every abusive relationship holds a unique story of its own.

Here are the common reasons people remain in narcissistic relationships (in no order of importance):

Lacks an Understanding of Narcissism – More often than not, people get involved with narcissists before they identify what they are dealing with. People that do not understand, or have never heard of narcissism (and yes, this is still common today), frequently get deep into relationships (i.e, marriage and children) before they put two and two together and realize that they are in a whirlpool of emotional abuse.

When victims do not understand narcissism, they can fall into the trap of believing that if they say or do the right thing, the abuser will change. Victims can fall prey to trauma bonding, meaning, they become hooked on the back and forth (good times in the relationship, love bombing, combined with emotionally abusive times). Years upon years, lifetimes, can be entangled in a narcissist’s web—sadly, while the victim remains in place and staunchly believies that the relationship is foundationally good and that someday the abuse will go away.

Note: True narcissists, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), either refuse to change (refuse to accept that their behavior is not appropriate and/or shifts the blame to others), and treatment typically does not help.

Protect the Children – Divorce rates are at an all-time high, yet, victims in toxic relationships commonly keep the marriage intact because they do not want their still-at-home children to experience divorce.

It is not uncommon for a parent victim to fear losing custody of their children, especially when the spouse, or extended family, are strongly rooted in narcissism. This is like a two-prong fork, staying hurts the victim (and can emotionally scar the children) in the relationship, leading the victim parent to weigh out, “Is it bad enough for me to simply leave, and hope that I can remove my children from this pain?” Or, “Do my children seem happy and safe? If I stay, my children will not suffer from the effects of a broken home. Which is worse? Which is better?”

Fear – Fear of the unknown may keep a person deeply rooted in an unhealthy relationship.

Fear frequently sounds like: Where will I live? Will I lose my children? He/she has threatened me so many times, how will he/she react if I leave? After all these years, how can I make it in the world alone?

Shame – Victims often feel ashamed that they are involved in a difficult relationship.

Part of this sense of shame can come from Gaslighting, which is the narcissist’s manipulative attempts to take control of the victim. It can also feel embarrassing to a victim to admit that they are being abused. They may also worry that their support system (family and friends) will judge them.

Love – Narcissists are super good at love-bombing. This often happens early in the relationship, leading a partner to feel they have found Mr. or Mrs. Right, falling ‘madly in love’, and unaware that they are being manipulated and groomed by the narcissist.

In truth, narcissists often lack self-esteem and the response that they receive from their partner due to their love-bombing gives them reassurance and feeds their self-enhancement supply needs. The victim, however, can simply feel immense love, and later in the relationship, even if emotional abuse sets in, they long for the partner they “once knew.”

Financial Control – Finances in a narcissistic relationship can go in several directions, and can also involve financial abuse (preventing the victim from having the ability to leave).

The victim may be manipulated into being the sole breadwinner, with the narcissist contributing very little and reaping the benefits of a roof over their head and food on their table (i.e., a sense of entitlement). In these situations, the narcissist often feels entitled to a financial stipend, which can be costly for the victim if they feel this is their only way to get out of the relationship.

In other abusive relationships, the narcissist may have complete control of the household finances, from bringing home the paycheck to operating the bank account, to hovering over the victim to ensure they have no way to earn an income. This leaves the victim in a pickle (feeling unable to leave with no financial means). If this is your situation, know that you are not alone. Call emergency services if you are in danger of physical abuse. Otherwise, seek help through a shelter or advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations can walk you through your options.

Low Self-Esteem – Some victims enter narcissistic relationships with low self-esteem, leaving them vulnerable to manipulative abuse. Some victims lose self-esteem after being in a narcissistic relationship for a while. This can happen after months and years of verbal manipulative abuse (see Gaslighting).

Some victims are codependents. They enter toxic relationships knowing nothing better than emotional or physical abuse (raised as children in an abusive or neglectful home). At the root, codependents believe that their needs are not worth being met. Codependents become enablers, as they do nothing to stop the abuse. If this is your situation, please seek help from a therapist or counselor. You deserve much better in life.

Faith – People stick it out in abusive relationships, marriage especially, when they find no backing in their faith that supports their reason to leave or divorce.

Even after the narcissist cheats, the partner may still believe they can turn the relationship around. Manipulative narcissists are commonly chronic cheaters. It can take an enormous length of time for victims to realize that it does not matter how “good” of a partner they are…the narcissist will only blame the victim for their infidelity and they typically refuse to accept responsibility for their behavior.

There is hope. Scripture for the Christian faith, read Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32.

Avoid Blaming or Shaming the Victim

Not only are victims often blamed for the abuse, but they are also shamed, which can add to a victim’s feelings of confusion, bewilderment, and abandonment. The more they are blamed and shamed, the less chance they will stand up for their own rights in life. Truthfully, shaming the victim is abusive in itself. I hope you are not experiencing this in your life!

Instead of blaming or shaming the victim, ask yourself “What can I do?” “How can I help?” You can listen. Check out these two sections Don’t Say These Things to the Victim and What You Can Do to Help in my blog Don’t Blame the Victim (of Narcissistic Abuse).

Practice Compassion

As common as narcissistic abuse is, and it is growing more common as time goes on, people in our world need to develop compassion, and I believe that can only happen through education. Education = an understanding of narcissism and narcissistic relationships.

If you are a victim of narcissistic abuse, I want you to thrive! You deserve nothing less. Have self-compassion and take care of yourself! Remember one key thing…the abuse is not your fault, and abuse is never okay.