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First 3 Steps After Narcissistic Abuse

How to heal and thrive after a toxic relationship with a narcissist

It may feel like this hellish pain will go on forever and that you have lost all sense of self and of hope in life. I am writing this primarily as a genuine effort, through my own past and recent experience healing from this kind of insidiously damaging abuse, to reassure you that you can and will get through this. It will not feel easy at times and you may even find yourself regressing to past thought processes and behaviors, but as long as you are kind to yourself even in those difficult moments while making a conscious choice to keep moving ahead despite setbacks, you will not only heal but wake up one beautiful day and find that you are in fact thriving like never before. So here are some tips I have gathered through my own personal experience recovering from this type of abuse, through other survivors’ stories, and from taking in expert blogs on the subject matter as well as suggestions from narcissistic recovery abuse therapists:

1) Disconnect from the abuser and any reminders

It is crucial to your healing that you disconnect not only from your abuser but any reminders or remnants of him or her. Although my abuser discarded me, he extended the altruistic friend/guru card. Thankfully, I immediately realized that this would only reaffirm his sense of superiority and “specialness” while leaving me in a perpetual state of self doubt, groveling at his feet and waiting around for his crumbs. It would mean not only a continuation of the abuse cycle but also a loss of my dignity. Even in the haze immediately following the awful discard, a small part of me was able to see through the fog and detect his attempt at manipulation. I made a conscious choice to disconnect and go No Contact.

The key to successfully enforcing No Contact is to be clear with yourself as to why you are doing this. It is for your own sanity and so that you can gain clarity in the face of all of the confusion, doubt and cognitive dissonance. Going No Contact is solely meant for you, as a means to jump start your healing process. This should not be done as any kind of effort, however tempting, to “get back at him or her” or to make him or her miss you and want a relationship with you again. A true narcissist (whether somatic or cerebral, overt or covert) will not suddenly wake up one morning, realize that he or she is disordered, has been abusing you and desire to make amends. If he or she does reach out to you, what is known as “hoovering,” know that this is solely done for his or her own ego (everything a narcissistic individual does is centered around bolstering him or herself through obtaining narcissistic supply with little to no regard of the negative impact on the other person).

It is equally important to disconnect from any reminders, remnants or triggers associated with the abuser. This means that you must block or, if you find this too difficult to do, at the very least unfollow the abuser and common friends on all social media. If you find yourself checking his or her page or posts (believe me I’ve faltered on this one as well), then take note of how this makes you feel absolutely terrible. Forgive yourself for doing this and start over. You will begin to observe over time that the less you know about the abuser, whether by checking his or her social media or staying in touch with mutual friends, the more focused you are and better you feel about yourself. You will discover that you actually prefer being in this more serene state and naturally choose to steer clear of any reminders or triggers.

2) Tell and write your own Truth

In your research of narcissism and narcissistic abuse recovery, you may have come across the term Cognitive Dissonance. What this means is being in a state of perpetual confusion as to what you experienced when you were with the abuser and what truly happened to you (assuming that you are now in the No Contact stage). Narcissists rely on tactics they have used time and time again within the context of their interpersonal relationships. Such tactics include cycles of intense focus on the partner (known as “lovebombing”) followed by a period of devaluation (where they begin to blame shift, ignore, and minimize you and your accomplishments) as they prepare for your final discard (the painful breakup). This creates a kind of dissonance in the mind of the narcissist’s partner. Oftentimes, while you were still in the relationship, you may have found yourself distraught trying to make sense of this dissonance — between who you initially thought your abuser was and who they became as the relationship progressed.

This dissonance is still very much present post-discard and is one of the major reasons why it feels so excruciatingly difficult to break free from ruminating and obsessing, as well as constantly doubting your own experience of what transpired. You may even find that you have accepted the blame and guilt that the abuser shifted on to you, thereby believing that the relationship ended because of something you did or did not do. This is a direct result of the manipulation and brainwashing sustained at the hands of the narcissist. The narcissist will do this over and over again in every relationship, because he or she has on some visceral level realized that it does in fact work. The more their partner begins to doubt themselves and their experience, the less likely the partner will come to a realization and decide to leave the abusive relationship. Narcissists are inherently afraid of abandonment and will do whatever it takes to ensure that they will never be found out and abandoned.

So, what can you do whenever this doubt (as to who the narcissist truly is and what you experienced while in the relationship) comes up?

It is crucial to tell your TRUTH, to tell your story as long as necessary and as often as this cognitive dissonance arises within you. Make sure that you are going to a friend or qualified therapist who understands the nature of narcissistic abuse and recovery, who listens to you without judgment and who can validate your experience.

Additionally, start journaling. Journaling is extremely therapeutic in that you get to immediately externalize your emotions and obtain the necessary validation as you read back what you have written. You may also choose to start a blog if you feel comfortable sharing your experience and healing process. The point is to find a healthy way to externalize your emotions, release the trauma held in your body, and validate your experience. The more you do this, the less doubt and cognitive dissonance you will experience.

3) Engage in extreme self care and mindfulness

When we come out of an abusive relationship, we usually find ourselves feeling empty and lost. While in the relationship with the narcissist, we were managed down and became hypervigilant in our efforts to please the abuser and avoid abandonment. It is natural to feel at a loss now that the relationship is over. I personally experienced a deafening silence, a painful void and intense loneliness, post-discard. Please know that this too shall pass. Sometimes, especially in the first days or weeks following the traumatic break, you will find that your only solace is retreating into a cocoon under a blanket and crying it all out. After all, we are going through terrible withdrawal symptoms while grieving the loss of not only a relationship (normal sense of loss after a breakup) but also the fantasy of who we thought that person was.

It is crucial, however, that over time we make more conscious choices to engage in self-care. For me, taking a hot shower, going to the gym and signing up for a fiction writing workshop became my way out of the initial devastation and sense of severe loss.

Whatever it is that you enjoy that brings the focus back to you, go for it! Light that scented candle, take that long bath, go for a leisurely stroll in the park, buy that dress that makes you look and feel fabulous again. Begin to accept invites to friends’ gatherings and relearn to find pleasure in socializing again. This will all take time. There may be moments, where you want to run back to your cocoon, and please know that that is perfectly fine. As long as you no longer stay there for prolonged periods of time. That said, if you sense that you are sinking into a depression, cannot find any pleasure in activities you once enjoyed and/or find that you are avoiding social interaction, seek immediate help from a certified therapist and inquire about medication to help you through this difficult time.

As you learn to re-engage in activities that you find enjoyable and pleasurable, your mind may still try to trick you into ruminating over the narcissist again. Remember, what you sustained was abuse and it is not easy to break free from the trauma bond. So there will be moments where you feel sad or spend a lot of time remembering or even experiencing pangs of nostalgia for the “good” moments. One sure fire way to snap out of this is to bring your focus back to what you are doing in the moment. We call this mindfulness — to become aware of the moment. If you are drinking a cup of coffee, observe the way the cup feels in your hands or the aroma as you take a sip. If you are writing something, notice the color of your pen and the movement of your hand on the page. Observe and be present.

These are the most fundamental steps on your journey of recovery from narcissistic abuse. As I go through my own healing journey, I will be offering additional suggestions. But for now, these are the steps that will get you started on the right path, one which will no doubt bring you back to your beautiful self, the one that was always there but got obscured by the ultimate soul vampire — a highly disordered abuser. In time, you will not only heal but thrive. The narcissist will always stay the same and go through his or her awful cycle of abuse in every relationship. That is Karma. That is the narcissist’s certain self-inflicted punishment. The narcissist will forever be stuck needing supply to validate the false self he or she has created since childhood. You no longer need to dwell on that. It is enough that you are beginning to realize that you have escaped this hellish nightmare and your life will be filled with genuine reciprocal love and joy going forward. Remember, you are a beautiful soul; you will make it through this and thrive.

Originally published at medium.com

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