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Kim Saeed:  Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program
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healing from identity loss

Healing from Identity Loss After Narcissistic Abuse

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Crafting a self-identity is an ongoing process that most people don’t give much concrete thought to – it just kind of happens.

You slowly build interests and dreams. You take jobs, learn things, and experience different activities. This all shapes who you are, what you believe, and how you express yourself.

Then a narcissist enters your life. Well, they become your life: all your thoughts, feelings, hopes, words, and actions are ultimately subservient to them.

Many survivors of narcissistic abuse don’t even realize they’re suffering from a loss of self-identity until they’ve left the situation and aren’t sure what to do with themselves – their inner child and sense of identity have vanished.

How the Narcissist Forces a Loss of Self-Identity by Abusing Your Inner Child

If this all sounds familiar, you aren’t alone.

You probably (and rightfully) feel a lot of resentment and anger right now but you can move on. Healing from identity loss is a slow process but you’ll come out stronger, more dignified, and more assertive than ever before.

The Narcissist’s Misunderstood Sense of Self

Understanding the narcissist’s own self-identity is crucial for healing your self-image.

The narcissist doesn’t really have a sense of self or personality. They shapeshift by changing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions depending on who they’re trying to manipulate at any given moment. If you’ve spent any amount of time around a narcissist, you’ve probably noticed that they say completely different things about themselves to different people.

In reality, the narcissist doesn’t know who they are because they’re focused on short-term gratification: your attention, focus, energy, and resources. It’s very similar to how people with substance abuse chase a high from drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Your attention and energy are the narcissist’s high.

Their sense of self is rooted in manipulating people they perceive as vulnerable and putting on a façade to seem like a victim. Their self-image doesn’t really go any deeper than that.

Killing Your Inner Child Is a Deconstruction Process – Not a Demolition

A narcissist doesn’t strip your identity overnight. They subtly chip away more and more until every thought you have, word you speak, and action you take is worship and tribute to them.

This is when the denial starts.

You tell yourself they’re just a tortured soul – that they just need someone to support them and show them compassion. They have horrible stories about past abuse and toxic family members.

So you invest your time, energy, and self into the narcissist – but it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

You reevaluate everything you thought you knew about yourself. “I was stupid for thinking I could succeed in this career path,” you think. “He’s right. All my male friends just want in my pants,” you tell your other friends (if the narcissist hasn’t forced them away yet).

By the time you’re on the outside looking in, you’ll see every pebble that slowly created a landslide and wonder how on earth you didn’t notice it happening. This gradual process makes healing your self-image such a difficult challenge.

Learned Helplessness and Isolation: Creating an Emotional Blockade

Economic blockades are a tactic of war to strangle a nation’s or entity’s financial standing, demoralize civilians, and gain powerful leverage over an adversary. A blockade often causes prices for basic commodities and medical items to skyrocket, leading to starvation and disease.

The narcissist employs this same tactic (and if there’s physical abuse, you’d be under siege). Just like a blockade isolates a nation from the international community, the narcissist forms a mental and emotional blockade to isolate you from the rest of the world.

With isolation (and employing other tactics akin to torture), the narcissist puts you in a state of learned helplessness where they have complete control.

Resistance doesn’t work anymore. You’ve given up regaining control and have gone into survival mode. At this point, you might start to get depressed and feel incompetent or dabble in substance abuse to escape your reality.

Now the narcissist has you where they want you: complete dependence and a total loss of self-identity. That inner child energy you once had is gone. You exist for them.

Where Do You Draw the Line Between Healthy Bonding and Identity Loss?

By nature, all relationships require some emotional give and take. You give parts of your personality to a friend, coworker, family member, or partner while absorbing some of theirs.

We’ve all seen the jokes about how romantic couples morph into a singular being where individuals regularly use the term “we” out of context. This might make for funny TV shows, but it also means a person is experiencing a loss of self-identity.

But that example only applies to romantic relationships. It’s not exactly socially acceptable to consistently use the term “we” to describe relationships between parents and offspring, coworkers, friends, or other acquaintances. In these cases, a loss of self-identity is often even less obvious to the victim and outsiders than that of romantic relationships.

6 Warning Signs a Narcissist Is Diminishing Your Sense of Self and Inner Child

It’s not easy to notice a loss of self-identity as it’s happening because most of us don’t have a super strong sense of self to begin with. The narcissist knows this and uses it to their advantage – they prey on it.

Healing from identity loss is a long road, but first, you need to identify the signs that your sense of self is slipping away so you can figure out where to begin.

  1. You’ve missed out on major opportunities. In healthy relationships, people are supportive of each other. Does someone in your life guilt you out of accepting careers, education, travel, or other exciting opportunities?
  2. You’ve hit a plateau in life. Narcissists’ arguments, troubles, and problems take a lot of time, resources, and energy. If it feels like you’ve been spinning your wheels for months (or years) trying to please someone, they might be a narcissist. This could also involve symptoms of depression.
  3. You feel uncomfortable in your own skin. In romantic relationships, narcissists often put down their partner’s body to make the victim think no one else could desire them. Narcissistic parents may constantly criticize an offspring’s appearance or abilities.
  4. They don’t directly put you down, but they imply you’ll always fail. Some narcissists disguise themselves as realists providing a dose of reality. If a person in your life always has to mention the possible ways you could fail at something, they’re probably a narcissist.
  5. They’re always on your mind. You find yourself constantly wondering “what would X say” or “how would X react” before choosing how to react for yourself.
  6. You don’t know what to do when you’re alone. Maybe you end up trying to please the narcissist in your spare time by cleaning, buying gifts, or earning extra money for them. Maybe you spend your time relying on unhealthy coping tools like alcohol because it’s the only activity that seems “safe” (but the narcissist will throw it back at you later).

Healing Identity Loss Is an Ongoing Process

Just like the narcissist slowly chipped away at your identity, healing your self-image and restoring your inner child 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?
  • Ban, block, and cut them out. A narcissist will use any opportunity to keep you in their web. “No contact” isn’t easy – especially since the narcissist forces you into a state of dependence – but it’s the only surefire way out of the abuse for good.

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 wellbeing 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 your inner child from the narcissist once and for all.

Grab your free New Life Kit below and begin healing from identity loss after narcissistic abuse!

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31 comments
Nina says August 14, 2019

I was raised by not one but two narrsersist dad hit us a lot and our mom raped her daily too he is a overt narrsersist and my mother she mentally and physically and emotionally abused us daily a lot she is a covert narcissist
So my full family is now either married to narrsersist or mentally ill badly I’ll
I’m okay I survived
My advice
Take time alone
Get to love yourself again
Do things that make you feel happy
Make your home enviroment safe and full happy new experiences
Find your self again
Yes every day is hard for me I don’t have friends or family I’m single mom when I got pregnant my mom throw me on streets I was homeless non my 10 siblings helped me my mom said kill that baby
But no I kept my baby and each day I thank God for him my son showed me taught me how to love real pure love
I never seen my son’s dad or let my son near him or my narrsersist family I cut all contact to all narrsersist including his dad
Best thing I ever did
I finally got to heal learn how to love though loving my baby I became healthy my heart felt safe I loved like I never loved
My job became to love me like I love my son to portect me to get to know me to cherish me
It’s such an amazing experience to be mom but my son god saved me
I’m alone completely but my heart is full I’m extremely grateful and I’m free finally so yh u will heal when u love u again respect you again Cherish ur self

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Khalid says July 20, 2019

First time to share some of my own story,

I am the scapegoat in my family . An abuser father and a covert narcissistic mother. I am the second child and second son after my overt narcissistic brother. Life always seems to me as a something that I could not handle and I did always wonder how my siblings and cousins enjoyed their lives while I was living in hell.Tell my 23rd year when I developed migraine I started to read about childhood abuse and the affects it has on depression and enjoying life. After that I learned about c-ptsd and started to change my mental condition to better one . But I noticed that my narcs relatives continued treating me badly even my situation was horrible. Then I discovered what narcissism means and the lack of empathy on it. I am now 25 years old and I do struggle identifying myself. Am I the aggressive gay who I all my last years or the kind one with my new friends. Life countiues being difficult although I went no contact with most of my family members. I wish I had learned and had some knowledge about the psychological abuse and got recovery earlier in life.

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Esther says May 11, 2019

Hi Kim,

The more I read about narcissism and the narcissitic abuse syndrome the more I start to think I am the person with NPD, although my partner who discarted me 1 month ago was diagnosed with NPD 6 years ago, when he was in a rehabclinic for a porn and alcohol addiction. I did not want to believe it at that time, as I ran into articles about the open narcissist.
The last 3 years he suffered from depression and envy towards his brother and me. Now that we are separated (I received a letter in my mailbox with the message) his life seems to be up and running. He started new therapy beginning of this year, and it seems that his life starts to be like a ‘normal’ person.
He never spended any money, we had fights during the holidays when I wanted breakfast and it was topo expensive according to him. Now he can buy all he wants. Lost 60 pounds, started sports (while he was a real coachpotato) bought all new clothes, buys expensive wines, a new car etc.. He completely tuned 180 degrees. which makes me feel even more that it might have been my fault that he was unhappy and feeling depressed and miserable. As they say narcissist can not change, do I believe in that memorable ferry tale that he is the 1 narcissist who found the perfect therapist who could help him?
I know from the family that his previous wife was a narcissist, I sometimes wondered whether he might have suffered from the narcissistic abuse syndrome when I met him, as I do not really recognize the love bombing phase from the beginning of our relation 9 years ago. The no contact came also from him, he blocked everything within 2 days after the letter, and had send a company to pick up his personal belongings. I am in a kind of shock mood, and can not believe this happened just after he started therapy, and his life seems to be so much better now, that I really start to doubt myself 🙁 I start to see a therapist later this week to help me.
Wishing all the best for everybody here.

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    Anonymous says October 11, 2019

    He has to show everyone how much you held him back… apart of his victim role.

    Reply
Jeanne says April 29, 2019

I am currently in the process of getting a divorce. My narcissistic husband, as many are, had complete control of the finances in our family. Thirty years ago, my spouse and I agreed that I would quit my job so that we could have children and I would be a stay-at-home mom and raise our children / be there for them as they got older. Over the years, my husband put me on a strict budget–only grocery money– but he constantly would berate me for spending too much and tell me that I was the reason that we didn’t have “nice stuff”. On the flip side, my husband always found the money for the things he wanted– guns, motorcycles, snowmobiles, trailers, etc. At one point I gathered enough courage, (after he yelled at me about spending all of our money), and asked how he could accuse me of that when he always managed to have money for the things he wanted. His response was that he had set aside money and budgeted for the things he was purchasing, which, of course, made me feel bad because he had convinced me that my problem was that I was a poor money manager and wasn’t smart enough to stick to a budget. It took me a long time to get over the guilt of not having an income to add to our family finances, and I still wonder if I somehow contributed to his greediness by not having a job to enable me to contribute to our family finances. I finally realized that even if I’d had an income, my husband would have taken control of it and I would still only have been allowed to spend as little as possible on groceries for our family, and nothing more. My kids are all grown now and have asked me why I stayed married for so long when I was being treated so poorly, with no control at all of my own life. Unfortunately, I don’t know what to tell them. Over the years, I learned to make do with very little and it finally became the norm. My husband manipulated me to the point where I agreed with him when he wanted to purchase another “toy” for himself since he was the one who was working and making the money.

A few years ago, I believe I subconsciously started to find little things to do that my husband couldn’t control, (such as staying up late when he wanted me to go to bed when he did). The fact that he couldn’t control this aspect of my life drove him crazy! I also recently received an inheritance from my parents, and my husband was furious that he could not control it, as well. I actually believe that when he became so frustrated by not having control of these things, he decided he wanted a divorce. Now he is upset that he is going to have to split all of our belongings up, and also can’t believe that he will have to support me with alimony.

Unfortunately, I still struggle with losing him and my dream that we would someday have the perfect marriage. I also struggle with the feelings that I have failed at the one thing that I really worked toward–raising wonderful kids and being happily married. (The wonderful kid part I actually got right!) I am the only one of my large extended family and group of friends that will be divorced, so that makes it all the more difficult for me. Can anyone tell me when the pain stops? I feel like I am grieving a dream that has died…

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    Julie Fitzhugh says June 18, 2019

    I’m right there with you Jeanne! I too feel as if I failed at my whole lifes work (except my kids which are thriving no thanks to him). My mourning process has been drug out for 6 years so far. And the pain is still going strong. My trauma bond to him so far has proven nonpenitratable. You are not alone in your pain. Keep on keeping on. It has to subside eventually! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
Shirley says January 15, 2019

Looking forward to a divorce, new cell phone service and getting my shape back. Maybe do some braids too or buy a braid wig. Looking forward to my health being restored and buying a townhouse this year. time to take out the trash! You cannot have a relationship without communication and for three years the silent treatment was all i got. I will explain to our adult son that the devil straight up will come out of the swine narc once divorce proceedings begin, The narc will try to turn him against me. We have to know our enemy and how he operates. Thanks Kim for being part of the healing process. shalom.

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Anonymous says January 15, 2019

Kimberly, you are amazing!!

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Kimberly says December 15, 2018

When I left my husband after 26 years of marriage I didn’t know he was a narcissist, I only knew that something was not right and my relationship was not normal. Your article hit home with me. I’m angry with myself for not leaving sooner but I couldn’t. I had children and through the years he had isolated me from all close friendships and my family. Everyone was wrong and he was always better than them.
I walked on eggshells. I gave up many of the things that brought joy to my life to try to make him happy (something that I could never achieve). One day, something just snapped and I knew I could not continue to live my life with him. My health was suffering, I was in a depressed state and something had to change. It’s been a year since I left. The first few months I had to learn so many things about myself. I’m 54 years old and I felt like I had been in a time capsule and was finally released in the world. It was not easy. He had total control of our finances. He bought everything and I was given a very strict budget. He used to check the mileage on the car to make sure I was not using too much gas! Now I’ve had to navigate on my own. Every decision has been my own. I had nightmares that he was chasing me around my new apartment in the dark. He really messed with my head.
The divorce process has been hell. He is portraying me as leaving a committed and loving husband. His family has shut me out. My own kids are angry with me for leaving their poor father.I’ve had to hold my chin up and know that I left for good reasons. It wasn’t because of infidelity or physical abuse; it was because of many things that felt wrong and over time had chipped away at me.
I know that I am a strong woman and can make it through this. It’s hard not having friends or people that understand what I lived through. It’s lonely and it’s places like this that I receive validation. I’m not alone.

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3 Scary but Necessary Steps to Healing From Narcissistic Abuse - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Personal Growth says October 1, 2018

[…] The 5 Phases of Trauma Recovery After Narcissistic Abuse Healing from Identity Loss After Narcissistic Abuse On a Dating Site? One of the Top Ways to Avoid Users Online How Survivors Can Help Current […]

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Maria says August 21, 2018

Hi Kim!
I just found you today and I’m fascinated. I love this comparison with a cult as for me I’ve had both experiences. When I was catapulted out of the the cult, I couldn’t find the right help and healing. I suffered a lot on my own. Then I met the malignant narcissist who I married and had two children with, whom I now am being systematically abused by. I met him six months after leaving the cult and it fit like a glove. It was the same, and it healed the holes in my soul from the cult, by being able to take on a whole new level of a controlling person with a massive set of life issues and needs. Wow. I have literally spent the past 10 years like this. And more. All the way back to childhood I’m tracing it- my mother is a covert narc. Reading this is making me realise that my soul has never really belonged to me. I’ve said for as long as I can remember that I have a hole in my soul.
Thank you for all your information, the best I’ve found so far, so clear and direct and the only one I’ve encountered so far that keeps insisting that going no contact is the one and only solution.
I will get out of this and I will help others get out of this dark dungeon of abuse.
Thank you x

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Anonymous says August 17, 2018

Thanks for this message! I will continue to do the necessary work to heal. The tools you provide are helpful.

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Jerry H. says July 19, 2018

Thank you again Kim. Everything said in this article applies to me. It took me about 4 years now to gain my individuality back. I still have SOME issues that surface at times, but I now know how to deal with them. I feel better knowing I am not alone.

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    Kim Saeed says July 20, 2018

    I’m very happy to know you are healing and moving forward, Jerry. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

    Kim

    Reply
Stella says July 11, 2018

Hi Kim,

I want to personally say a huge THANK YOU 🌹❤️ for helping people like me into recovery.
I escaped my narcissist 2 years ago after 21 years with 5 children.
I find the biggest hurdle to overcome is the reality you lived in was actually an illusion.
The journey only starts when you dare leave.
Only through reading your posts has helped me each day to understand what’s happening to me.
You explain everything in such a way even a single word can scream my inner child out.
Narcissism is like air you cannot see it, you cannot prove it’s
Existence.
To actually be able to go into a shop and choose something of a shelf has took me two years to accomplish.
My story is tooo long to share but with you everyday helping my recovery I feel blessed it is slowly all explained to me.
Your a Angel in disguise Kim
I thank you from bottom of my heart for helping me with my journey.❤️❤️❤️

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    Kim Saeed says July 11, 2018

    Hi Stella, thank you for writing in to let me know how I’ve helped you along your healing path. It is so heart-warming to know you’ve gotten encouragement from my blog. I am beyond happy for you and your children and sincerely hope that you continue to heal and find the happiness you deserve.

    Hugs,

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Shirley Akpelu says July 10, 2018

Thank you Kim for your support. I have come a long way and I still have a long way to go for complete healing of narc abuse.
I am getting stronger every day though thank The Most High. Halleluyah.

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Gwen Stewart says July 10, 2018

I enjoy reading your post, however, the depression is so weighty, that I just feel stuck. I’ve left the narc and I’ve gone NC. Sometimes, I feel like I’m loosing my mind. I want to move on, but, I feel helpless.

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Monica lane says July 9, 2018

Can you explain when you say if you use alcohol to cope the narcissist will throw it back at you later ? My narc would always drink with me but say I have a problem or I drink too much but I only Drank because he forced me too and then he would degrade me about it later .

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    Kim Saeed says July 11, 2018

    Hi Monica, I wish I had some helpful advice, but the only advice I can offer is to find a way to leave. The reason this is the only solution is that there is nothing you can do to change who he is or to control his actions/words. You can only control your own. Once you leave, then make sure he is blocked so you won’t be subjected to his verbal and emotional abuse.

    Kim

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Sheryl Malin says July 9, 2018

Hello, Kim
I have been reading your posts for a few months now and they have opened my eyes and confirmed my suspicions about my husband’s mental state. Most of the things I read are right on but some are not therefore confusing me at times about my conviction that his is a narcissist. Contradictions include: he does not hover-in the beginning he did, I foolishly asked him to reconcile right after he filed for divorce and he said, “no”. Of course, I realize that this is because I served him with a TRO (3 weeks after his open heart surgery). The TRO was preceded by 17 years of lies, emotional cheating, smear campaigns, isolation, physical abuse, and the list goes on. The main difference is that he NEVER attempts to reconcile. He does not have someone in the cue but he continually casts his net. He is very sick and has been “doing damage control” with not only his family but mine. His family does not speak to me and m daughter does not want to talk to me.
I feel awful about the TRO but you see, I had had surgery and I was 5 weeks post op. He pushed me on my surgical site. It was calculated and he intended it to hurt. This was my breaking point. I am a healer, a registered nurse and an Oriental Medicine practitioner; the TRO went against every grain in my mind, body, and soul.
Do narcissist sometimes cut the cord and are not willing to return? I do not want this as I am getting stronger but it makes me wonder if he is a true narcissist. Every other sign is accurate and he has put me through all the things you speak about.
Thank you so much for your articles, they have soldified my beliefs and keep me strong while moving forward with the divorce.
Nameste, Sheryl

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    Kim Saeed says July 13, 2018

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am sorry for your struggles. You deserve better than that.

    As someone on the outside looking in, you do not need the label of ‘narcissist’ to know that you did the right thing in leaving him. You’ve been abused in every way possible over a period of years. He’s an abuser, and most likely a narcissist, but this has been an ongoing pattern and not likely to change. Ever.

    I cannot predict whether he will try to come back. It would be in your best interest to have a backup plan in the event that he tries. Otherwise, the best thing you can do for yourself is cut the cords on your end and continue with the important work of healing.

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Anonymous says July 9, 2018

Everyword you speak is,truth…thank you..

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Jay says July 9, 2018

Very timely and valuable information. Thank you for what you do!

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    Kim Saeed says July 11, 2018

    Thank you, Jay! Glad to know my article resonated with you 🙂

    Kim

    Reply
Evan Fitzsimmons says July 9, 2018

♥️♥️♥️

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Melissa says July 8, 2018

I knew that I had become a shell of a person. I have started the healing process and been divorced for 1 year now. I still find that it’s difficult to feel free to discover myself again. I often find myself saying: “Melissa you can take your time and drive another route home”! “You can try that”! “You can travel on your own, it’s okay”! Discovering myself again is a process I forget that it’s okay, and it doesn’t need to be approved by anyone. It’s real hard to put into words but when you aren’t used to being a sovereign/ autonomous person and have been ruled over and treated as an object most of your life, it’s real hard to validate finding your true identity again.

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    Kim Saeed says July 9, 2018

    Hi Melissa,

    I can relate to what you’re feeling. I remember after I’d moved out during one of my ex’s silent treatments and being somewhere in town…this feeling that I had to rush back home, even though there was no one to rush home to! In the beginning, I had to force myself not to drive back home, which was hard because on the occasions when I did rush back home, even though my apartment was empty, I felt a feeling of relief.

    It’s really difficult to overcome the conditioning, but it can be done. You can do this. Don’t give up on yourself.

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
      Jerry H. says July 19, 2018

      Yes Mellisa, I believe it is called “Conditioning.” Your brain has been reprogrammed and in my case, I had to reprogram it. It took a few years, but it will come.

      Reply
An says July 8, 2018

This post is very good for me. I got a lot of strength from your site. Thank you Kim. I really think my best friend is not what i thought he was. And i still cannot believe it sometimes but i think he really is a narcist. Constantly changing his mind, if he can be friends anymore. He often says he is better dan my husband. He lies a lot , wants to borrow money all the time. Wants to do things when he wants. Is saying almost everytime im always there for you. In the beginning a lot of things saying he wants to do with me, taking me to Marocco to show me everything, wants to go with me to a festival etc. But he did not .
He came a couple of times a week because he needed me, now he comes when he has troubles. And he tells his girlfriend he now has for a year nothing about his serious troubles, large debts cause of a gambling addiction. A read a lot, and still sometimes i wonder, is he a narcist? Im very sad and depressed about it.

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    Kim Saeed says July 9, 2018

    Hi An,

    I can sense your confusion. Perhaps I can help you. You don’t have to use the label of ‘narcissist’ or figure out if he is one or not. As an objective outsider, I can see this guy is just using you and his being in your life is extremely toxic to you. So, whether he’s a narcissist or not, it’s obvious that he doesn’t truly care about the relationship he has with you and he never will. You deserve better than what he is giving you and the best thing you can do for yourself and your future is to end things so you can begin healing.

    Wishing you the best,

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
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