There is much buzz online recently about recognizing narcissism in relationships. Personalities are outlined, behavior is described and the impact of these relationships is made clear. What isn't made clear is how to pick up the pieces once you have been able to escape.
Surviving a relationship with a narcissist is no easy task. It doesn't matter if you are in an intimate relationship with one, they are your parent, sibling, friend or co-worker- surviving their wrath can be exhausting!
What is Narcissism?
People with a narcissistic personality have typically had a traumatic experience that was never resolved. In order to survive the emotional pain they developed a false self with a false experience in which the wound is not present.
This false self is grandiose, demanding, critical, uncaring and never takes responsibility unless doing so has a direct benefit for them. There is no way to connect in a healthy manner with a true narcissist, no way to rescue or save them, no way to survive the relationship. Yet many caring and loving individuals have tried only to suffer emotional wounds that can take years to heal.
Typically when you first meet a narcissist your benefit to making them look good is highlighted and lavishly praised. Then out of seemingly no where the pedestal you once adorned is pulled out from under your feet.
You are criticized, humiliated, devalued and it's all your fault
You are accused of being too sensitive and your perceptions about the reality of the situation are challenged and ridiculed leaving you to question your ability to maintain your own sanity!
What happens next...?
Rarely does the caring partner have the confidence to leave after months or years of emotional abuse. More often it is the narcissist who ends the relationship blaming their partner in full, taking no responsibility for the break up. Additionally they often slander their partner to mutual friends as well as to their new victim.
They are master manipulators and are thus quite believable; this only adds to the feelings of being insane and doubting your role in the relationship. And there are those narcissists who are not satisfied with leaving their former partners in shambles – they attempt to destroy them.
A true narcissist has no capacity for empathy and seems to feed off the pain and suffering of others.
So how do you recover and heal from such a traumatic experience? What helpful tips to I offer to those dealing with a narcissistic personality?
Protect Yourself: The first step isn't healing at all – it's protection and safety. Block this person from any contact – your cell phone, email, social media. Block their friends as well because they could be stalking for the narcissist. If necessary get a restraining/stay away order.
If you have children with this person, share pets or share property – find the best attorney in your area. They will use the things most dear to you to hurt you with no regard for the people and things they are using to do so. I advise hiring an attorney because you will not be able to stand up to the narcissist. You will be crippled with insecurity, self-doubt, fear and panic. So hire someone to stand up for you.
Begin to Heal: Once you are protected and safe the healing can begin. Be patient – this is going to take time. It didn't happen overnight and won't heal overnight.
I usually advise starting by writing yourself a letter as if to your best friend. Imagine you just heard that your closest friend just went through this experience.
What would you say to her, what advice would you have for her?
I am confident you would have compassion for her.
You would remind her of who she was before she met the narcissist and who she still is under her pain.
You would tell her your heart is breaking for her and that you will be there for her any day or night of the week and any time of the day or night – that all she needs to do is call.
You would tell her she is the strongest, most loving, caring and beautiful woman you know and you are both proud and lucky to have her as a friend.
You would tell her she will get through this, find herself and find true love in time.
This letter is your center point. As you start your healing journey you will need a guide post – the letter will serve as such. As you stray into self-doubt, worthlessness and insanity, the letter will guide you back to yourself. Getting back into your routine will also guide you back to yourself. Going to work, meeting with friends, going to the kid's soccer games, food shopping - the routine will help you feel normal again.
As I have mentioned in The Restore Yourself Series, self care is of utmost importance.
Eating well, a regular sleep schedule, a consistent exercise routine and social bonds and connections are vital
Releasing the pain and anxiety from the relationship can be achieved through techniques such as TRE (Trauma Release Exercise), acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and balancing body work such as Reiki
Relaxation techniques including yoga and meditation are also helpful in restoring and healing
Check out more of my Helpful Tips here!
I also suggest professional support.
This is a very difficult and challenging time in your life. You will be questioning yourself, your beliefs, your values all while trying to manage your feelings of regret, shame, worthlessness and at times insanity. Finding a professional who can help you sort out and correct these thoughts and feelings will offer you the support you need to get through this.
Additionally a professional can help you access the need for either supplements or medication to help sleep, think clearly, or simply get through the day without crippling anxiety.
Please remember this – it's not you!
You are in this situation because you are a loving and caring person. Transfer that love and care from the false mask you fell in love with to yourself. I know it is hard, I know it is painful but I also know you deserve better.
You deserve to be free of this pain, free of this anxiety, and free of fear.
You deserve to be loved for who you are in your entirety.
With compassion and support you can and you will achieve that.
If you or a loved one are experiencing this type of relationship crisis and would like support, please feel free to reach out to me for either questions or an appointment. Contact Deb here.
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