How To Communicate Effectively After A Narcissistic Relationship

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Learning to communicate and feel safe expressing your needs and wants are two areas in narcissistic abuse recovery that take lots of dedication and practice.

Generally, when a narcissistic abuse survivor forms new relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, they often feel paralyzed by thoughts of being too sensitive or over reacting.

This often leads to sweeping things under the rug and learning – once again – to put your needs last, which is what the previous relationship with a narcissist forced you to do.

When it comes to forming new habits in new relationships, fear of communication and self-expression are often symptoms of identity loss and C-PTSD, both of which include a conditioned response to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.

Before we dive in, it’s important that you be aware of possible triggers in any new relationship after narcissistic abuse. This is because such triggers may have nothing to do with you and more to do with whether you could be dealing with another manipulator.

Often, people feel as if they’re being hypervigilant, when sometimes, they are triggered because they are dealing with another narcissistic individual. But, since they’ve learned to ignore their intuition, this doesn’t come up as a red flag for them.

But for the sake of this article, I’ve organized these two obstacles, loss of identity and C-PTSD, into two sections to accomplish one goal: Learn how to recover healthy communication after a narcissistic relationship.

Let’s go over each barrier and what to do.

1. Loss Of Identity After Narcissistic Abuse

Loss of identity is unavoidable after being in an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship.

People often compare living with a narcissist to living in a cult – but with even more isolation.

In a cult, you have fellow comrades sharing the same abusive experience. With narcissistic abuse, however, you’re totally alone.

Just like living in a cult, it’s difficult to understand the full range of loss of identity until after you’ve left the toxic relationship for good.

The narcissist’s control over their target’s thoughts is sometimes so subtle, severe, and deeply ingrained that the survivor struggles to manage life on their own after they begin to recover.

I’ve put together some identity crisis examples to help you figure out if you’re experiencing identity loss so you can start to dig yourself out.

How Narcissists Manufacture A Loss Of Identity To Manipulate And Control You

So, how can you tell the difference between healthy influence and psychological manipulation? Well, it isn’t usually obvious.

Narcissists don’t want you to think for yourself, they want you to think for them.

The narcissist has several resources in their toolbox for achieving this goal.

– Trauma Bonding: Rollercoasters of chronic fighting (you’re always the bad guy, of course) and fleeting moments of artificial compassion to solidify a bond based on trauma. Other than responsibilities like children and bills, these brief moments of seeming love are what keep you from leaving.

– Cognitive Empathy: Objectively empathizing with you for the sole purpose of manipulating your thoughts. This empathy without compassion is a prerequisite for torture. (Read my full article on this: How the Narcissist Hurts You Using Cognitive Empathy)

– Imposing Guilt and Worthlessness: When you attempt to state an opinion – even on benign things like clothing – you’re wrong. And even if you’re not wrong, the mere act of having an opinion will offend the narcissist. This leads you to believe your thoughts are wrong and you must listen to the narcissist for guidance.

A total loss of identity doesn’t happen overnight. But over time, the narcissist gradually implements these tactics to slowly chip away at both your perception of self and the world around you.

7 Identity Crisis Symptoms That Indicate You’re Suffering From Identity Loss At The Hands Of A Narcissist

A narcissist will do everything they can to remove every opinion, every viewpoint, every thought you have until you’ve reached a complete loss of identity. You become an extension of them.

These identity crisis symptoms can help you identify if you’re facing loss of identity at the hands of a narcissist.

  1. You struggle to talk about yourself outside the superficial labels applied to you by the narcissist.
  2. You feel like your life lacks a real purpose or motivation – but you don’t believe you deserve such things.
  3. Before making any decision, you wonder what the narcissist would say or want you to say.
  4. You feel panicked or uncomfortable when you’re away from the narcissist – what if you do or say something wrong?
  5. You feel like you’re living on autopilot. You’ve become a passive bystander in your own life.
  6. You don’t think of yourself as a changed person but literally a completely different person. You don’t recognize the person you were and you may feel ashamed of your old “freer” self.
  7. You focus heavily on your appearance because the narcissist forces you to or it’s the only tangible part of yourself you can know exists without a doubt.

These symptoms are not a full list of examples of identity loss, but they should give you a good idea if you’re suffering from it.

If you’re experiencing any identity crisis symptoms, it’s important to understand that inspired action is the only way to recover your lost identity.

Now, let’s discuss how C-PTSD can cause problems with effective communication and getting your emotional needs met.

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2. C-PTSD

Victims of narcissistic abuse generally leave their toxic relationships with C-PTSD.  This acronym stands for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is also commonly known as Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.

While PTSD results from experiencing a devastatingly stressful event, C-PTSD results from persistent psychological trauma within an environment in which the victim believes there’s no possibility of escape.  There is a perceived sense of helplessness and one’s sense of self is annihilated over time.

Let’s say Judy is in a relationship with a Narcissist.  Because of brainwashing, the breakdown of her friendships, and constant verbal abuse, she now believes she is worthless and no one else would be interested in her.

Additionally, the last two times she tried to leave, she was stalked, harassed, and intimidated until she came back.  In her mind, there is no escape.  She is experiencing C-PTSD.

Left untreated, C-PTSD can lead to other symptoms and conditions which affect all areas of life.  These include:

  • Inability to handle stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addictions
  • Damaged relationships with others
  • A negative outlook on life
  • Depression
  • Crippled Self-Esteem
  • Panic becoming your baseline emotional state
  • Loss of career and loss of desire to be productive

Healing Identity Loss And Recovering Healthy Communication Skills After Narcissistic Abuse

Just like the narcissist slowly chipped away at your identity, healing your self-image and restoring your communication skills is a slow and continual process. Incorporate these points into your strategy for healing from identity loss.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

Go back to the people the narcissist forced you to push away – they’ll understand. Most will validate your experience and you can absorb their positive personality traits in a healthy way.

Do something the narcissist always said you couldn’t.

Maybe this is a hobby, career, or something you’ve always wanted to experience. Do something just because your inner child wants out.

The narcissist has held you back for so long. It’s time to live on your own terms. Just make sure not to act out of spite.

Move slowly.

At first, you may have a hard time communicating with other people and making decisions for yourself. It’s okay to not know everything about yourself yet. This is all part of healing from identity loss.

If you move too fast, you might end up in another toxic situation or turning to unhealthy coping tools.

Set boundaries and stand your ground.

There are plenty of narcissists and other abusive people out there. It’s important to know where your boundaries lie and stick to them.

Where will you draw the line between a healthy relationship and loss of self-identity? What about discerning between constructive advice and abusive criticism?

Join a program for rebuilding your identity.

Rebuilding your life and your inner identity after narcissistic abuse can feel overwhelming and scary.  But it doesn’t have to be.

Beyond No Contact is a step-by-step course and community where you’ll learn highly effective healing and new life strategies, so you can start living the life you’re meant to live, and reclaim your ability to communicate effectively.

When you finally go “no contact” and rid yourself of the narcissist’s abuse, you’re going to feel uncomfortable.

The narcissist has manipulated you into depending upon their approval, feelings, and well-being for so long that healing your self-image will feel selfish and unnatural.

It’s not.Healing from identity loss is possible and absolutely necessary to liberate yourself from the narcissist once and for all.

A quick note from Steve, founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink: I have worked with Kim for a number of years and have referred many people to her programs. I can highly recommend her as one of the most experienced teachers in the narcissistic abuse recovery space. If you feel like you need more specific help on your road to recovery, do not hestitate to join one of her two programs: Beyond No Contact and The Essential Break Free Bootcamp. They will change your life.

This page contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you choose to purchase either of Kim’s programs, but this in no way affects my recommendation of them.

This page contains affiliate links. I receive a commission if you choose to purchase anything after clicking on them.

About Author

Kim Saeed is an author, coach, and creator of The New Life Academy and she specializes in helping people break free and move on from toxic relationships with narcissists. Her programs - Beyond No Contact and The Essential Break Free Bootcamp - have helped countless people from across the world with their recovery from narcissistic abuse.