If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how destructive they can be, leaving you feel powerless and depressed with your self-esteem shattered. Still, your sense of compassion and empathy makes you wonder how the narcissist could treat you so badly. You make excuses for him; you give him the benefit of the doubt, over and over again. When you do that, you’re actually enabling the abuse. And you’re encouraging the narcissist—who never feels empathy—to continue and maybe even increase his abuse.
At some point you recognize that this is not the life you want to live, and you break away. But you are still wounded and suffering from the narcissist’s assault on you. You need to recover. You need to treat yourself with kindness, understanding and forgiveness. You’ve gone through a lot.
- Release the bad stuff. You’ve been holding a lot of sorrow, anger, and stress in your body. It’s entirely possible that toxins have built up within you. Sometimes physical activity can help you get rid of toxic chemicals. Try deep breathing, dancing or yoga or exercises that work up a good sweat. Treat yourself and get a massage, which will also do your body good. Of course your mind is affected as well, and for that you might try journaling or confiding in a trusted friend or joining a support group or seeking therapy or some combination of things that work for you.
- Accept the truth. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to finally come to grips with the fact that a person you loved was toxic and deliberately hurt you. You may feel duped—you’ve been charmed by a narcissist who hoodwinked you and manipulated and used you badly. The more empathetic you were, the more suffering you took, the more pain he inflicted on you with every cruel cycle. You might not even have known you were being manipulated because you’re such a good person you can’t imagine such behavior. But he did use you. And it’s not your fault. Work hard on forgiving yourself until you succeed.
- Recognize that there were red flags. Look back on how the relationship with the narcissist began. You’ll realize you saw some red flags but chose to ignore them. The object here is not to blame yourself, but to learn from your mistakes so you won’t repeat them in the future. Maybe you needed love in your life so much you would accept some abuse in order to make the relationship work. Whatever the reasons for letting a narcissist into your life, find them. In the aftermath of this relationship there’s an opportunity for growth.
- Look to the future. Even while you examine your past, realize that you have your whole future ahead of you, unencumbered by a toxic person. Strangely, it can be an adjustment to leave the abusive relationship that you’re used to and find a healthy way of living instead. Practice being mindful. Think of the kind of future you’d like to create for yourself. Reconnect with unrealized dreams. Find your sense of purpose. Imagine what your best life would be like and then work to create it. Having a healthy, better life to look forward to will help you heal from the past. You are no longer a victim. You are the architect of your new life.
- Be good to yourself. Treat yourself at least as well as you’d treat a good friend. If your friend backslides, you’d encourage her, right? If she gets frustrated or wants to cry, you’d lend her your shoulder, wouldn’t you? If she’s impatient to heal faster, you’d tell her it takes time to overcome trauma. So tell yourself the same things. You’ve suffered and you may be undergoing PTSD. Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Know that having experienced narcissistic abuse will make you a more aware, empathetic, loving human being.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact