Let’s start with a simple question…
How long, exactly, does it take to heal from narcissistic abuse?
Because that’s the objective here, isn’t it?
Depending on what site or Facebook page you land on, it could take anywhere from ten minutes to ten years. And if we’re honest with ourselves, ten minutes is expecting a bit too much…but, ten years? In the words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
If you believe it could take ten years to heal from narcissistic abuse, you might be tempted to stay in your toxic situation because, better the devil you know than the one you don’t. Am I right?
Sadly, many people search for a magical golden ticket that will make their pain disappear in an instant, but such a ticket doesn’t exist.
So, what does it take to heal, then?
While healing is different for everyone, there are three essential steps that must be taken before true healing can begin. If these steps aren’t achieved, healing can take much longer than it needs to, if it happens at all! To ensure you don’t sabotage your recovery, I cover these three essential steps below. They don’t necessarily need to be executed in the order I list them, but they do need to be achieved before you can get on with the business of true healing.
1 – Acceptance
When is it time to let go of a relationship? It’s time to let go when you stop growing as a couple, your bond causes more pain than happiness, you are being manipulated and abused, and/or the relationship’s overall climate is one of anxiety, fear, and shame.
What do I mean by relationship climate? If you think of your relationship in terms of weather, what’s the overall climate? Plenty of sunshine and balmy breezes with a few rain clouds here and there, or constant thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tsunamis? Obviously, a relationship with a narcissist would be one of perpetual, tempestuous cyclones… the likes of which Mount Vesuvius would be highly envious.
It’s not healthy. Once you’ve made the determination that your partner is abusive or emotionally unavailable and won’t change, it’s time to accept the need to end the relationship – as opposed to hanging on, vainly hoping they will go back to being the person they were when you first met. It’s natural to want to make things work with someone you are in love with, but loving a narcissist is about as good for you as a cancer diagnosis. In fact, narcissistic abuse has been correlated with certain types of cancer. (And if you do have cancer, leaving the narcissist is the first empowering step you can take towards your recovery.)
Accept that the breakup is imminent and that reconciliation is not in your best interest. By doing so, you can save yourself from more pain down the road and move on to the next healing stage of letting go.
2 – Letting Go
Once you’ve accepted that you must detach, the next step is to let go. Letting go is similar to acceptance, but involves an inner shift. It’s an inner process of consciously recognizing that you can make it alone and that you do not need your Ex in order to survive emotionally.
In your mind, you let go of the unswerving belief that you need your Ex in order to feel good about yourself.
In your mind, you accept there will be a hard road ahead, but it’s one you’re willing to travel to get to a place of true healing (and make space for a loving, reciprocal relationship later on).
In your mind, you let go of waiting for apologies and closure from your abusive partner.
In your mind, you let go and release the narcissist.
In your mind, you drop the mic and walk away.
Once the above two steps have been accomplished, the next one is the coup de grace, albeit a hesitant one…
3 – No Contact
Going No Contact is often the hardest step in narcissistic abuse recovery. However, this one step is the crux in determining whether or not you will heal. You cannot finalize the other steps without it.
In the case of shared custody, Extreme Modified Contact must be enforced to protect your emotions and allow healing energies into your personal space.
When you avoid No Contact, don’t properly block the narcissist, and/or attempt to stay friends, you accomplish many things, none of which are helpful or healthy for you. Several examples of these self-defeating accomplishments are:
- Taking away your credibility for any boundaries you tried to set
- Coming across to the narcissist that you are colluding with or quietly accepting their unacceptable behaviors
- You’ll be incessantly looking for signs that there’s still a chance for reconciliation
- You’ll set yourself up for a no-strings sex situation (no strings from the narcissist’s side)
- You’ll put yourself in the role of “safe fallback” when the narcissist needs extra supply aside from their new partner
- You’ll develop (or deepen) feelings of self-loathing because you are holding out for a person who will never reciprocate your emotions or devotion
- Your self-esteem and confidence will plummet because you won’t be able to accept that the narcissist won’t commit (even if they pretend they will, you’ll be crushed when you find out they lied again)
- Your core abandonment wounds will only become worse, setting you up for complete dysfunction and annihilation
You must work through all three of these critical steps in order to begin your recovery. This is why it’s impossible to magic away the pain of narcissistic abuse….because the relationship is the cumulation of all of your worst love experiences that haven’t been resolved (romantic or otherwise), many going all the way back to your childhood. People who accept the need to end the relationship, truly let go, and implement No Contact in its true form are the ones who successfully move on towards healing and happiness.
“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things
to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, let it go.”
― Mary Oliver
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