If you’ve been exposed to the toxicity of narcissistic abuse, you’re likely feeling plenty of confusion and hurt. You might know you weren’t to blame on an intellectual level, but it’s a different story in your heart. You’ll need some strategies to recover from the emotional abuse you suffered.
There are a number of common themes in a toxic relationship with a narcissist. First, it can be intoxicating. The narcissist can seem so charming when you’re first getting to know them, and suddenly they change into an angry, entitled and selfish person.
Another common theme is that you experience intermittent reinforcement which can help keep you hooked on this toxic individual. Finally, your narcissistic abuser will spare no efforts to make you feel guilty and ashamed of your role in the relationship.
To recover you’ll have to deal with all of these factors, and you’ll have to work hard to shake those painful memories. It will take time, but you can regain your sense of self. Read on to discover four strategies that can help you feel better as you heal.
Any time you’ve been exposed to a toxic narcissist, you can be left feeling lost and uncertain of your own perception of reality. These strategies can help you to begin the process of recovery.
The first step in recovery from any kind of abuse is to acknowledge it has happened and accept the experience. It’s difficult to admit that someone you were close to would actually hurt you the way they did.
It can also be difficult to accept that the situation happened to you. You might feel guilty as though you were somehow to blame for what happened. This response is completely normal and very understandable.
The problem is that if you keep denying what has happened, it will be difficult to address the effects and heal from the abuse. What’s more, it can set you up for more pain in the future. It can help to learn about narcissism so you can understand what your loved one is experiencing, but it’s also important to create a safe space for yourself.
2. Set Boundaries
Part of your recovery strategy needs to be redefining your boundaries. This is true whether you stay in contact with the narcissistic person or cut them off entirely. You still need to redefine what is and what is not acceptable for you in your life.
If you do go no contact, you’ll need to understand that they will consider this another boundary they can violate, particularly if they become more desperate to get your attention. They will call, text, email, and reach out through social media.
If they appear particularly sincere in apologizing to you, you might be tempted to get back in contact with them. Blocking them at every turn can help you avoid the temptation to respond to them.
If you can’t or don’t want to go completely no contact, then you have to set and discuss your boundaries with them. There should be clear consequences for violations, and you should implement the consequences every time.
A few other ways you can take control of the communication with them includes: leaving immediately if they begin to shout or insult you; refusing to share personal information with them; and restricting your communication with them to only one platform. Those strategies can help you take control of your communication with them.
3. Prepare Yourself for Some Difficult Emotions
It doesn’t really matter that they abused you, you will still experience some very complex emotions when you break it off with the narcissist in your life. It makes little difference what role they played in your life — whether lover, family member, friend or professional colleague.
Breaking it off with your narcissistic abuser will cause such feelings as grief and loss, shock, sadness or depression and anger. You may also experience anxiety, paranoia, shame and fear. Moreover, the trauma that resulted from this relationship can leave with you complex PTSD symptoms.
While a toxic narcissist creates a lot of pain in a relationship, the problem is that they can also make you believe in their version of reality, and that can be hard to shake once the relationship is over.
You might tend to blame yourself for what happened, and you might question your own behavior. You might feel disloyal and guilty. All of these are normal feelings, and you will need to work on ways to process them. A therapist can help and you should at least process these feelings with a good friend if you don’t want to seek professional help.
4. Reclaim Your Identity
The narcissist in your life likely employed numerous manipulative techniques to make you uncertain of your own identity. They might have told you that you are stupid, ugly, foolish or simply a waste of space.
This kind of emotional abuse can cause you to question your own version of reality and even who you are. Following the end of this toxic relationship, it’s important to take time and get to know yourself once again.
Spend some time with good, healthy friends and ask them to give you their take on how they would define you. Reacquaint yourself with things you like to do and places you like to go.
Give yourself time to heal and rebuild your own self-identity. A toxic relationship with a narcissist can leave you feeling very vulnerable, so be kind to yourself during this time. A vital part of recovering from narcissistic abuse is self-compassion.
Think about how you would treat a good friend who was telling you these experiences. You would likely be very loving and supportive of what they need to heal. Give yourself that same compassion and kindness. Let go of any guilt or shame you might still be feeling for letting them mistreat you and practice both self-compassion and self-forgiveness.
Narcissistic abuse can leave with conflicting, confusing and frustrating feelings. You might doubt your own perception of reality, experience low self-esteem and suffer symptoms of complex PTSD. You might even question if you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse at all.
The first thing you should know is that all of these feelings are normal, and you should not feel ashamed that you were abused. It was not your fault. Narcissists can be extremely charming at first, and they can turn ugly very quickly.
There is no reason you should have known what might happen. You deserve better, and to get it, you’ll have to implement strategies like these to begin the healing process. There will be more to do, but this is a great start.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse is helpful if you understand more about the toxic ways a narcissist will abuse you. Learn more in the article, “Five Toxic Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Abuses You.”
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