Steps to narcissistic abuse recovery

Awareness and Responsibility: Two Initial Steps to Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

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There are two basic steps to recovery from narcissistic abuse, and they are taken both within and after a “romantic” relationship with a personality-disordered partner. 

The first step likely occurs while you’re still entangled in the relationship, or perhaps during a discard while your head is spinning (again) and you’re wondering what happened (again).  The second step happens sometime after the relationship is over

While the first step is an event–the culmination of a painful process called “narcissistic abuse”–the second step is a process that leads to prevention of future abuse.

Experience and Knowledge Lead to Awareness

Step One is gaining AWARENESS of just how disturbed (and disturbing) your toxic ex really is (and was, and will be) and how much damage he or she has done during your weeks, months, or years of relationship.

In all likelihood, your abusive ex-partner…

lied to you repeatedly;

pretended to be what you said you wanted early on;

–set you on a pedestal, only to knock you down repeatedly;

consumed your time, energy, and resources;

prevented you from pursuing other life opportunities, hobbies, and interests;

isolated you from your friends and family;

twisted your reasoning ability in crazy-making ways;

–made endless “future promises” that they would change (but never did);

triangulated you with other possible relationship (or affair) partners, or with their exes;

–inflicted passive-aggressive jabs and guilt trips onto you;

–made false accusations and/or threats against you;

…and so on.

Step One includes learning–perhaps while still trying to function within the relationship–that this sort of behavior pattern likely means change is next to impossible and your efforts to maintain this disruptive relationship will likely never bear fruit for long. 

It means recognizing that, despite your repeated attempts to change yourself or your partner, the primary change that’s happening is the loss of your own sense of self, independence, and vitality.

In other words, you are sacrificing yourself in the relationship, not for some greater future reward, but for NOTHING.   Your efforts to maintain the relationship are effectively allowing a dysfunctional person to continue to be dysfunctional, but without suffering the natural consequences of his or her dysfunction (which would be perhaps the first step in their own healing, if it were possible).

Instead, YOU are suffering for themenabling their continued dysfunction, even while enduring their abuse.  You’ve been acting as a buffer between your abusive partner and reality, and all the rest is just the collateral damage from your own well-meaning, but pointless, self-sacrifice.

This can be a hard pill to swallow because it effectively means giving up hope on both the relationship AND your abusive partner.  Once you’ve realized, however, that the person you thought you loved was merely a phantom conjured up by your abuser in an effort to “hook” you through your heart and manipulate you–THEN your radical acceptance of the truth about your partner puts you one step out the door.

Taking Responsibility Leads to Having Boundaries

Step Two is taking the RESPONSIBILITY to search through the rubble of your previous life; gather up what you need or want to keep from the past; tend to your wounds; comfort yourself in (hopefully) healthy ways, and evaluate your relationship experiences. 

Throughout this process, you can finally learn—as a result of your abuse–exactly where your personal boundaries are:

what sorts of behavior or “treatment” you’re willing to allow from someone else, what words and actions you won’t tolerate from someone else, and how far you’ll let someone else enter into your rightful domain.

You gradually become the King or Queen of your jungle, so to speak, instead of allowing weeds and vines from someone else’s jungle to encroach on your own.

At some point in recovery, you realize that if you’d had these boundaries to begin with, as soon as your abusive ex started his or her shenanigans (early on!), your boundaries would have bounced the ex right out of your life.  This would have happened with very little effort from you; very little consideration for why he or she is abusive; and very little FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) to make you question your boundaries and maybe even return to the abusive relationship.

Step Two in recovery means learning where your boundaries are and how to hold them when someone challenges them.  First, you decide them.  Then you practice them.  Then you adjust them as necessary, in response to your experiences and interactions.  You don’t adjust boundaries to placate other people.  You adjust them as you discover what’s important and what’s not important to YOU.

Doing this will make them more solid.  The more wiggle room your boundaries have, the more easily they can break.

Let your personal boundaries be an expression and extension of who you are. Define them, and let them help you define YOU…or, rather, let your boundaries show you who you really are.

Recovering Yourself after Abuse

Recovery from narcissistic abuse is possible, but it can be a lengthy process.  This is no surprise; after all, the abuse itself was a rather lengthy process, too.  Just as there are some predictable stages to the process of narcissistic abuse, so there are also some predictable stages in the process of narcissistic abuse recovery.

Ultimately, we suffered abuse because we trusted the wrong person, partly because of our lack of personal boundaries.  Healthy boundaries prevent personal violations (such as those collectively described as “narcissistic abuse”), and they are a result of having awareness and taking responsibility.

Although everyone’s experiences of narcissistic abuse and recovery are individual and unique, what you recover in the end is YOURSELF–a stronger and wiser self who is much less susceptible to being targeted and victimized ever again.

Final Thoughts

Narcissists don’t have the ability to connect with you or feel remorse (even though it often feels like this in the beginning). Instead, over time it will feel as if your spirit is slowly getting sick. This is why relationships with narcissists are often referred to as “soul rape”.

If you know you need to purge the horrific addiction and devastating emotional and spiritual contamination from a narcissist, then please consider The Break Free Program.  Healing is a process that can open up some truly transformative revelations and opportunities when we give ourselves the chance to recover and thrive. 

You can find out more about The Break Free Program by clicking this link.

I look forward to answering your comments and questions below.

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Leave a Comment:

Anthony says September 22, 2019

What do you do when a narc just keeps throwing it back in your face every time you try to explain to them what they did……standard response is that I’m a narcissist!! Maybe I am. I don’t know. Doubts doubts doubts.

Anonymous says September 17, 2017

I am so broken and hope it not to late find myself and happiness again.

    Anonymous says September 29, 2017

    I am broken too but I believe it’s never to late and I want to find my way again. We can do this we have to!

Anonymous says August 23, 2017

Wow. I needed to read this today. I have been asking why. And trying to “understand ” his reasons, way of thinking, accepting that I was responsible. But the key really is boundaries. If they were in place, I would not be writing this. My heart hurts for the person I fell in love with. I can absolutely agree with everything written here.

    Kim Saeed says August 26, 2017

    So glad to know the article resonated with you, Anon. I hope Ven, the author, sees your comment. He’s truly a talented writer 🙂

    Kim XoXo

Anonymous says August 22, 2017

I often wonder how I can be of help and positive influence in this community of narc abused men? I was married to a narc female for 21 years and cannot begin to describe the horrific traumas i experineced. The betrayals of trust, fog, anger, bitterness and resentment I have in my mind still today toward her. Divorced in 2012. But it still exists in my being. Gradually healing but takes a lot time to let go.

    Jan says August 29, 2017

    Wow. 21 years. I’m currently separated after 23 years of marriage to a covert, or shy narcissist. Just starting the healing but still have some contact via text. This is so hard. Thought I was staying out of unconditional love. Have now finally admitted that it’s my own lack of boundaries that kept me stuck all this time. There are times I’m still trying to convince myself that he is a Narc. But I know he is! In my heart I know it. I just don’t want it to be true. I feel a lot of shame for letting it go on for so long God bless and good luck to you.

Aisha Shareiff says August 22, 2017

I got out the narcissistic abusive relationship 2 years now. He me to live with one his other women. The person he was living with died , he took over her house and moved other women in. That is when I started to remember how sick he really is. I have dropped others out of my life once I could see how brought other in my world that didn’t need to be there. I now have boundaries. I can see

Aisha Shareiff

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