Narcissistic abuse is behavior that feels like evil. For narcissists the compulsion to emotionally destroy is so strong they’re unable to resist the urge no matter how grave the consequences. The victim’s feelings are denied, avoided, discounted, and held in contempt.
In the beginning you thought you had met your soul mate, a real life version of a gentleman or princess, charming, and somewhat mysterious. You instantly fell for him or her. Within a few months you were married or living together. The nightmare then began…
You misread some very important character clues. You saw a superior person who was exciting, outgoing, and entertaining. Unable to see past the charm, you ignored warning signs about the inner person, didn’t evaluate your inner needs or question what your life together might look like. As time went on you realized your partner had to be the center of attention and was totally self-involved. Your admiration became unchallenging and he needed a bigger audience. He got bored with being nice. You became more focused on recapturing attention as your newly aloof and withdrawn partner barely acknowledged your presence. Quiet desperation set in. Your identity developed into an extension of his; you gave up aspirations and outside activities to meet insatiable needs. You were isolated from loved ones and the road narrowed. You were in constant emotional pain; feelings of loneliness and abandonment were part of daily life.
Your friends grew to be impatient because you stayed in a relationship that was clearly damaging your self-esteem. The thought of having to face alone the emotional pain of a breakup terrified you. Focusing on your partner allowed you to avoid dealing with your true emotional state. In the beginning you felt euphoric. Then the negative experiences became more frequent, but the emotional price was not significant enough yet. You worked hard at being to your partner what you thought he wanted you to be, losing sight of your identity. In a fog of denial you became lost. The denial impeded the possibility of real change. When you thought about leaving fears and anxiety blocked your way. Eventually the emotional pain was so great you surrendered.
You accepted things as they really were. You admitted “I am powerless over this relationship and my life has become unmanageable” (1st Step of 12-Step Codependent Anonymous). Even though scared, you began trusting in yourself; trusting that you would be fine without an intimate relationship. Finally, you cut off all means of communication with the narcissist and detached yourself; minute by minute, day after day, you walk into your new life.
Recovery from narcissistic abuse is an ongoing, uncovering, and self-forgiving process towards wholeness with self and others. The abuser must be released forever, the desire for revenge extinguished to begin developing self-awareness and love for who you are. You must give up the obsessive thoughts to hurt your abuser for what has happened to free yourself. You must eventually stop telling your story of abuse. If you don’t give up the victim identity you are likely to repeat the experience in another relationship or go back to your abuser for more pain.
Often emotional work needs to be completed with a critical and/or narcissistically abusive parent. Many adult victims of relationship abuse were used as children for emotional support and the release of anger and tension. You may have been treated kindly one minute and abused or shamed the next, which resulted in a confusing mixture of love and abuse. Your happiness might have been dependent on the mood of a caregiver.
Recovery from narcissistic victim syndrome requires the willingness to accept temporary discomforts of change once you commit to being true to yourself. Anxiety and panic can arise when you risk finding out what it’s like to be unattached and allow maybe for the first time in your life to feel a range of conflicting emotions. Healing requires you to look at the life lesson of getting caught in a destructive relationship and being victimized. Detachment from an abuser does not mean disconnection or aloofness it means seeing reality as it is, not as your illusions would like it to be. It means separating your personal boundaries from your abuser, getting a clearer sense of where your limits are or need to be. The initial uncovering, the gradual detachment and awakening to reality, the intense grief, the slow process of recovery, and forgiveness must take place to end the abuse. Giving yourself emotional space to make sense of the past, to learn about what happen to you, and grieving dreams lost is important for future loves. By building endurance to withstand the grief process you may avoid repeating the same mistakes in your next relationship.
Thank you for reading this post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create a healthy relationship with self. And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.