8 Essential Elements To Successful Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse

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If you’re in the process of recovering from narcissistic abuse, whether from a partner or a parent, you’re probably feeling very brittle right now.

This is likely because dealing with a narcissist can eat away at everything that made you who you are. Or were, depending on how long the abuse went on for.

The suggestions that follow are being made with the assumption that you have already cut the narcissistic abuser out of your life.

If you haven’t yet escaped, it’s a good idea to read our article on how to leave a toxic relationship. Only then will you be able to take the vital next steps to recover from the abuse you’ve been subjected to.

1. Immerse Yourself In Something You Love

Narcissists are so self-absorbed that they make their worlds revolve around themselves.

If the narc in your life shamed you for your interests or hobbies, or downright prevented you from taking part in them, chances are you shut down that part of yourself to avoid conflict, belittling, or being punished by them.

One of the best ways to heal from this cruelty is to re-immerse yourself in the very things they kept you from doing.

Do you love to bake, but your ex used to police your food intake and fat-shame you? Invest in some new baking equipment, and create some gorgeous morsels to enjoy.

What about creative hobbies? Did they make fun of you for the “uncool” artsy things you liked to do? Well, they’re gone now: pick those back up again with full enthusiasm.

This kind of immersive practice can be immensely healing. Not only does it take your heart/mind attention away from the damage that person inflicted, but you’ll be full of happy energy from pouring your attention into something wonderful.

Narcissists are so good at stripping people’s natural identities from them, manipulating them, and making them forget who they really are.

It’s time to take that back and celebrate yourself.

2. Distance Yourself From Them

Stay away from the one who damaged you, and don’t allow yourself to be drawn into any kind of contact or drama with them.

You may be tempted to be compassionate and forgiving toward them, but you can do so internally, without engaging.

Alternatively, once you start to feel stronger and more confident, you may feel tempted to confront the narcissist about how horribly they treated you.

Don’t go and allow them to wrench the scabs off the wounds that are healing so well.

No matter what you say or do, they’ll never understand how their actions affected you. This isn’t just because they don’t care: they’re actually incapable of understanding that. 

If you try to seek validation or retribution, you’ll only end up getting hurt. They’ll demean and gaslight you all over again, call in their flying monkeys as backup, and make your life a living hell. Again.

You’ll never get the response you want from them, nor will they ever admit to any wrongdoing. Continue to ignore them, and focus on your own healing. 

You’ve given them enough of your light.

3. Embrace The Healing Properties Of Sound

Are you a person who’s calmed by silence? Or do you prefer to have music playing in the background? Whatever it is you enjoy most, make that an essential part of your daily routine. 

Another great listening option to look into is calming, guided meditations. There are many of these available now, narrated by countless different voices. You’re certain to find a few that help to alleviate anxiety, focus on the present moment, and help you feel strong and safe.

Why is this kind of auditory focus so important? The narcissist in your life said so many horrible things to you that you got used to hearing negativity and nothing else.

Words spoken to us tend to roil around in our minds indefinitely, but we can do our part to replace them with positivity.

When you find yourself feeling down about things your abuser said to you, tune in to sweeter sounds instead.

4. Ask Loved Ones For Positive Reinforcement

Unless the narc you’ve fled from has alienated you from your family and social network, chances are you have some great friends in your life.

Years ago, when I was dealing with the aftermath of an abusive relationship, an older friend of mine suggested something to me.

He suggested that I start either a Word document or handwritten journal in which I wrote down all the wonderful things people said about me. That way, whenever I felt sorrow or lack of self-worth, I could return to those notes and remember positive things in other people’s voices.

Narcissists make a point of cutting down others so they’re easier to manipulate. This can be absolutely devastating to their target’s self-esteem, and that kind of damage may take years to rebuild.

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help in healing this. When you give people the opportunity to be awesome, they’ll often surprise you.

Let your social circle know what it is you’ve been dealing with, and that you’d like their help. Ask them to tell you what it is they admire and/or appreciate about you, and keep the tissues handy.

Before you know it, you’ll be flooded with loving, supporting texts that can help you build your self-esteem and self-love back up.

Any time you start to hear that narc’s cruelties at the back of your skull, open that journal or document and look through it. Seeing all those kind words will help you get over all the ugliness the narc inflicted upon you.

5. Get Proper Rest

Dealing with a narcissist is exhausting, and you may have a severe deficit when it comes to proper, revitalizing rest. Depending on how long you dealt with that abuse, you may be contending with adrenal fatigue as well.

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling like you don’t have enough energy to clean, or socialize, etc. Allow yourself the space and time needed to heal from all you’ve been through.

Make your bedroom or sleeping space as welcoming and calming as possible.

Take naps when you need them, and try techniques like gentle evening yoga, or long baths to help relax you.

If you’re having trouble relaxing and sleeping, or you find that anxiety and hypervigilance are keeping you up at night, speak to your healthcare provider. They may be able to help you with supplements that can help you rest properly.

It’s absolutely okay if you need to sleep 10 hours a night right now, plus have an afternoon nap. You’ve been through one hell of an ordeal: give yourself the space and time needed to heal from it.

6. Reclaim Your Power

Since narcissists do all they can to disempower, demean, and control their targets, you may feel like you’re drawing from an empty well while recovering from their abuse.

After all, they pour so much effort into making others feel worthless and powerless.

If you’re finding it difficult to figure out how to refill that well, grab that journal of yours, make a cup of tea, and write down people and situations you admire, and consider to be powerful. 

Have you visited locations that thrummed with power and energy?

Who are some of your strong, powerful role models? What have they overcome? What is it that you appreciate and admire about them?

People can regain personal power in many different ways. Most often, reclaiming this power involves a full mind/body/spirit experience, as being strong in all three of those creates incredible harmony and strength in the self.

There isn’t one single “how-to” manual for this, as every person is so unique. What one person might find appealing and empowering might be distasteful to another, and vice versa.

Do some research, and try out several different techniques, subjects, regimens, and routines until you find something that makes you happy.

For one person, that might involve daily runs, regular scrapbook journalling, and weekly attendance at a house of worship.

Another person’s self-empowerment program may involve powerlifting, immersion in a new language, and witchcraft/spellcasting. 

Whatever you choose is right and valid: what’s important is that it makes you feel strong and powerful again.

7. Treat Yourself

Once the initial love bombing is over, chances are the narc you had to deal with spent more time insulting and manipulating you than doing anything nice for you.

In fact, they likely took perverse pleasure in doing and buying nice things for themselves and rubbing it in your face.

You may have bent over backwards doing great things for them, or surprising them with little gifts in an attempt to keep them happy. Depending on your circumstances, you might have even worn yourself ragged supporting them financially and cleaning up after them.

Well, guess what? Now you can take all the time, energy, and care that you used to pour into their sucking black voids and invest it in yourself.

Because you’re worth it.

Treating yourself doesn’t necessarily mean going on massive shopping sprees on a regular basis, unless you have the means to do so, and that kind of thing really makes you happy.

It’s more like… making sure that you do little things for yourself that make you smile, and make you feel valued.

Do you love flowers? Don’t wait for someone else to get them for you: pick up a bouquet the next time you’re out, and keep them in a vase on your nightstand.

Have you been carrying a lot of stress in your shoulders? Book a massage for yourself and have those knots worked out.

Self-care is absolutely vital, and is usually placed as lowest priority when you’re dealing with a narcissist. After all, everything revolves around them, and unless you’re pandering to their needs and wants, they don’t even think about you.

Place yourself and your needs as a priority now. 

8. Forgive Yourself

It’s very difficult to look back on a relationship with a narcissist and not beat oneself up over it.

I’ve been there, and was really quite awful to myself for a long time for having tolerated the toxic behavior as long as I did. 

When we’re in the process of picking up the pieces of ourselves after a narc has shattered us, it’s very easy to fall into abusive, negative self-talk. After all, that’s what we got used to hearing from them, and without the constant onslaught of their voice, there’s often a void that we fill almost instinctively.

This is exacerbated by feelings of shame, along with so many questions about our own behavior.

Why didn’t I acknowledge the warning signs when I first saw them?

What stopped me from walking away the first time they were verbally abusive?

How did I allow them to mistreat me so badly?

Why did I pour so much energy, patience, and compassion into a person who never gave anything back?

How could I have been so stupid?

Please try to be kind and forgiving toward yourself. You, as a kind, loving, and possibly empathic soul, tried to help (and love) someone who’s incapable of loving anyone but themselves.

You weren’t weak or pathetic. At all.

Narcissists have spent decades perfecting the art of manipulating other people to serve their whims and needs. They’re masters of gaslighting and emotional blackmail, and have amazing techniques for getting away with horrible things, while blaming other people for them.

These people tend to have so many skeletons in their closets, there’s no room for Narnia. They have so many shadows that they need constant attention and drama to distract them from their own crap. As such, they project their negativity onto others so they don’t have to look at, or acknowledge, their own horrible behavior.

Even if they did, they wouldn’t admit to it.

You’re so loving, caring, and compassionate toward others – try to turn some of that inward and be kind to yourself.

Prevention, If Possible

If none of the above applies to you because you’re still in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, then you have the opportunity to end it before it damages you any more.

Prevention is more effective than any cure, and stopping the situation before the poison has a chance to seep more deeply into you is invaluable.

If you’re stuck in that environment and literally can’t leave, then look into the “grey rock” method

This is a means of withstanding a narcissist’s abuse: if you absolutely have to interact with them, then you learn to show absolutely no emotional response whatsoever, no matter what they do.

It’s utterly exhausting, but it prevents them from getting any satisfaction from cruelty toward you. Think of it like turning off a water or food supply: they can’t feed off your energy if you don’t allow them any access to it.

They’ll still try to antagonize or hurt you, and you’ll probably have to go cry and scream into pillows when they’re not around, but it can help.

Hopefully you’ll be able to extricate yourself from that situation as soon as possible, so you can begin the healing process and live life for yourself.

Remember that recovery from abuse isn’t a simple, straightforward process. Rather, it takes the form of little jumps and starts, periods of well-being, and side-steps into anxiety and depression. 

It can take an entire lifetime to heal from the wounds your narcissist caused, which is why it’s so important to be patient with yourself, and the process.

Hopefully these suggestions can help you on your journey. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are many different ways to get help and support when needed.

If you haven’t yet found yourself a good therapist, that’s always a good idea. There are also social media communities and support groups that may be helpful.

Please be gentle with yourself, and never speak to yourself with the same cruelty and ugliness that was inflicted upon you. 

Let your healing take whatever form it needs to, and know that it’s perfect, and beautiful, and absolutely right for you.

Check out this online course designed to help someone heal from narcissistic abuse.
Click here to learn more.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.