In this second article, we delve deeper into how to heal ourselves after coming out of a narcissistic relationship. If you haven’t read my first article on this topic, I recommend you do so as it is an introduction. Click here to read.
While it is important to have full awareness of what happened in the narcissistic relationship, and how we were manipulated, controlled, and played so totally that we lost ourselves in the process, and ended up feeling hopeless, broken and depleted – we now have to focus on ourselves, and find a way to truly heal and put ourselves back together anew.
That we fell into the deceitful trap of the narcissist is not our fault, nor is that we loved them, and gave them everything we had, and would have trusted them to the ends of the earth… But in our attempts at healing, and forgiving ourselves and the other person, we must look at our responsibility for our own dysfunctional patterns. We were so easily baited because of our own childhood dysfunction that we unconsciously carried into adulthood.
Usually we were surrounded in our childhood by the same type of people – parents, siblings or caregivers who are also narcissists. We grew up with emotional and physical abuse and exploitation by those we called family, and didn’t know that this wasn’t normal, since we were born into these conditions. We got through our childhood and teen years by the means of heavy survival mechanisms that helped us to forget about the atrocities committed against us. We learned to live our lives on the surface over top of the abyss of the soul theft we had experienced.
Some of us developed what is called the Stockholm Syndrome, a term that is used for the psychological flip that can occur in hostages of kidnapping who form an unbreakable loyalty and alliance with their captors. All the same, some of us growing up with heavy abuse came to idolize our abusers, and created an illusion of being loved and cared for within our own minds. Because we couldn’t deal with the reality of the physical or emotional violence, we created a fantasy world that was much more safe and nurturing.
Unfortunately, burying our real feelings and the devastating effects of our abusive upbringing, we went into adulthood unaware that this was even an issue. Coming out of such darkness, most of us wanted to finally enjoy life, and feel that we were someone… We wanted to experience feeling loved and taste the freedom that was previously denied to us. While we broke free of some of the social and cultural limitations that were placed on us, we did not know ourselves, and continued to attract the same familiar environment that we were raised in.
And as such it is no surprise that we entered into a relationship with a narcissist, oblivious to what we were getting ourselves into, and firmly believing that we finally had found real love. Because narcissists are incredible charmers and self-promoting megalomaniacs who are able to project that they are all kinds of wonderful, we opened ourselves up quickly and trusted implicitly. As with many narcissists, the con-game amped up slowly, and we felt loved and seen in the beginning like we never had before. And we didn’t notice that slowly but surely, we were forced through control and manipulation to live in a box of their making.
In the process we lost our confidence, sense of worth, maybe even financial resources and assets. We became smaller and smaller, and turned to them for assurance. Just like them, we became completely outwardly focused. We thought that everything was our fault, just as they were telling us, and that we didn’t deserve their kindness and love. When we tried to break out of the box they had created for us, we were met with punishment, shaming and mind-tricks that put us back into a controllable mindset. We were usually the ones apologizing after the narcissist projected all of their rage and darkness onto us…
While we may have had thoughts of breaking out, and moments of clarity that all this was incredibly wrong, we usually felt so low about ourselves and loyal to them that we chose to ignore the myriad of red flags, and dismissed the idea of leaving them. Many of us felt obligated, just like our parents, to show the world that everything was “fine” and that we were happy in the relationship. We covered our emotional and physical bruises, and justified and defended their behavior toward others.
We must understand that, as I had mentioned in my first article, the narcissist is someone who grew up under similarly devastating conditions as we did. While we developed into givers and happy-makers, they fragmented so hard that they felt they had no resources left within themselves. And so they learned from an early age on to take energy from others, and to control and manipulate others into given them everything they wanted. Just like everyone else, they deserve our compassion for how hard and devastating their life has been for them.
But despite what they may have told us, we do not owe them our lives or anything else, nor were we obligated to endure their abuse and exploitation in the name of love. They had no right to pull us into their chaos and dysfunction. We now have a choice: we can either let it destroy us – or leave the toxic relationship, forgive, learn from this experience, and allow the deep healing of everything that needs healing within us – including our childhood traumas that we had repressed and dissociated.
In healing from narcissistic abuse, first and foremost, we must forgive ourselves for giving our power away, for trusting them so completely, for being loyal beyond reason, and for helplessly standing by as our spirit, mind, body, heart and inner child were torn down day after day. We must accept that it was not our fault, and consistently approach our healing with love and compassion for ourselves.
While we need to work through the anger, betrayal, disgust, disappointment and loss that we are feeling, we must focus on our healing, and not on the narcissist. Their journey is no longer our concern, and it is wise to break all contact, for otherwise we will inevitably get pulled back into their schemes. We have the option of breaking all soul contracts with them. But we must learn to release them with love. We do not need to forgive the actions, but we must forgive the person – because they come from the light and because we deserve peace. We need to be very clear in our boundaries to create a safe space for ourselves in which we can heal. That means we don’t act out and create a mud fight on social media, in the workplace or other community setting. We have responsibility for our own co-dependent and self-defeating actions and behavior, and to put all responsibility on the narcissist is playing the blame game. We need to heal, not create karma for ourselves that we then have to clean up… It is crucial for our progress that we let go of the victim-mentality.
More than anything, we need to find our freedom and our will again. Throughout our relationship with the narcissist, we learned to be silent, to hold back, to be invisible, to say yes when we meant no, to justify and explain our words and actions, to adjust to feeling small, and shamed, and stifled, and to being constantly watched and controlled. Not unlike someone who has been released after years of false imprisonment, we need to accept and embrace that we are no longer trapped and living on their terms. We cannot just keep going in the manner we were while be were bound to narcissistic abuse. We must question everything now, and let go of all that no longer serves us.
Observe your posture, your voice, and body language. Give yourself permission to change, to straighten your spine, hold your head high, and to speak up. Stand up for yourself and say what you need to say. Break out of any routine, and find what suits you and what you want to do with your time and resources.
Shed the layers of trauma and of conditioning, and give yourself permission to consciously and deliberately walk away from everything that was projected onto you – by the narcissist, but also by your parents and caregivers. You are not who they saw in you, nor what was projected onto you… Give yourself permission to explore who you really are. Allow everything that you internalized that is not truly helpful and loving to be released from your mind, heart, spirit and body. Take your inner child in your arms and give him or her all the love, and approval, and nurturing that they never had. Love yourself back to life – one day at a time, and embrace the limitlessness that is your true nature.