You’re sitting at home alone and suddenly you remember all the happy times you had together with the narcissist.
All the laughs, the gifts, the excitement, and adoration.
Maybe you should respond to that text. Maybe you could have done a few things differently in the relationship yourself. No one’s perfect, right?
Well, the truth is, your mind is playing tricks on you because of something called euphoric recall.
Euphoric recall is causing you to remember all the happy times and minimize the bad. It’s a defense mechanism and, in the case of narcissistic abuse, it’s dangerous.
Here’s how to identify euphoric recall as it’s happening and keep up no contact for your own safety and well-being.
Euphoric Recall and Addiction Recovery
According to Wikipedia, Euphoric recall is a psychological term for the tendency of people to remember past experiences in a positive light, while overlooking negative experiences associated with that event or person. Individuals may become obsessed with recreating the remembered pleasures of the past.
Euphoric recall is arguably the driving factor behind chronic relapsing in addiction recovery.
Chronic relapsers are people in alcohol or drug recovery who have no problem maintaining sobriety for months or even years. But at some point, thoughts start creeping into their head that “just one won’t hurt.”
They remember how good it felt to crack a beer after work. They think about all the times they had a few drinks and didn’t drive drunk or start a fight. They dismiss the nights spent in jail, hangovers, and arguments.
Their mind convinces them to have that one drink and it all spirals from there. Maybe not that same day, maybe not even that week or month, but the addiction eventually comes back in full force.
Euphoric recall happens because our brains are wired to avoid suffering and seek comfort.
This instinct is healthy when it comes to wearing a seatbelt but dangerous when it comes to addiction recovery or narcissistic abuse.
When you’re in the throes of euphoric recall, you remember all the happy times during your relationship with the narcissist. Your brain desperately wants to experience those euphoric times again – so much in fact, that it conveniently forgets or minimizes the intense abuse you suffered.
You’ll gaslight yourself. You’ll convince yourself that you have your own problems to work on and could have done a few things differently yourself. You’ll resort to leveling to justify giving in to the narcissist’s hoovering – or even reach out to the narcissist on your own accord!
How Does Euphoric Recall Fit into Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?
Going No Contact with a narcissist puts you in the same situation as someone going through addiction recovery.
Narcissists manipulate you into a love addiction. In the beginning, during the love-bombing phase, the narcissist gives you a high – you feel on top of the world.
They shower you with affection, gifts, and promises. You believe this is the greatest relationship in the world and nothing could ever compare.
Before you know it, the love-bombing has disappeared and is replaced with insults, manipulation, and gaslighting. You feel like a shell of who you once were – just like an addict at rock bottom.
When the narcissist feels like you might be getting fed up and slipping away, they’ll dole out small “hits” of love bombing again to keep you hooked and hopeful. They’ll promise to change (with no intention of changing).
Before you know it, the abuse has returned with vengeance.
When Does Euphoric Recall Happen?
People suffering from the disease of addiction understand that recovery isn’t linear. Chronic relapsers are well aware of a phenomenon called pink cloud syndrome.
Pink cloud syndrome happens a few weeks or months after getting clean. After breaking their dependence on a substance, their brain chemistry starts shifting back to baseline producing its own serotonin, dopamine, and GABA again.
In the pink cloud, they’re so ecstatic to be clean and living a good life. The world looks bright and they feel like a kid again, rebuilding their identity and experiencing everything they couldn’t do during active addiction.
But the pink cloud eventually wears off and reality sets in.
Their daily routine gets boring and all the problems they faced before or during addiction are still there.
Suddenly, picking up a hit or a drink doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to break the monotony. The world sucks – how can anyone go through it 100% sober?
That’s euphoric recall kicking in. They remember all the reasons they started using or drinking in the first place. They remember how good it felt to get drunk, buzzed, or high.
When you leave a relationship with a narcissist, you’ll also go through the pink cloud phase.
You’ll be thrilled to have your freedom back and start rebuilding your identity. Then, the reality of boring ole daily life hits you. You feel lonely. Suddenly, the love-bombing sounds pretty darn exciting.
Just like someone in addiction recovery, people going through narcissistic abuse recovery must prepare themselves for the pink cloud to wear off and euphoric recall to set in.
How to Avoid Succumbing to Euphoric Recall
You can’t avoid the euphoric stage from hitting you but you CAN take a few steps to avoid breaking No Contact.
1 – Play the Tape
People going through addiction recovery are told to “play the tape” when they get cravings to use.
Imagine you had a time-lapse video of your entire relationship with the narcissist. If you were to watch such a tape, you would see a clear cause-effect pattern. You would see that giving in to the euphoria just for a little love bombing always leads back to the cycle of narcissistic abuse.
2 – Make a List of the Relationship’s Abuse
When people go through addiction recovery programs, they’re encouraged to make a list of their shortcomings and all the ways they’ve harmed people during their addiction.
It’s part of learning about your resentments and why you use or drink so you can move past and make amends.
After you go No Contact with the narcissist, the first thing you should do is make a list of all the ways the narcissist has harmed you. Get specific if you have to. How many nights and weekends did you spend fighting? How many times did they promise to change? How many times did they insult and degrade you?
It’s also a good idea to think of anyone in your own life who may have suffered as a result of your abusive relationship. This might include children, parents, siblings, and good friends.
Go back to the lists every time you feel compelled to break No Contact.
3 – Acknowledge Euphoric Recall for What It Is
Don’t repress the urge – acknowledge it for what it is. Ignoring your urge to break No Contact will just force it to reappear later, perhaps when you’re in an even more vulnerable mental state.
Instead, look at the urge objectively. You can’t always control the cravings or thoughts but you CAN control how you react to and manage them.
Do you act on every thought that comes into your head? Of course not! Treat this urge to break No Contact the same way.
People in addiction recovery are taught not to think of sobriety as “forever” if that feels terrifying. They’re encouraged to think of sobriety as “just for today,” every day. If thinking of No Contact long-term is too overwhelming, just try to get through each day.
4 – Reach Out to a Support Group
Relationships with narcissists involve trauma bonding and love addiction. Many secular and Buddhist addiction recovery programs are open to people who suffer from addictions of all kinds: alcohol, drugs, video games, food, etc. If it creates suffering in your life, you’re welcome to join. (Be mindful, however, that many narcissistic abuse recovery groups have been infiltrated by narcissists because it’s an easy way for them to scope out new supply sources).
It’s important to work through a specific narcissistic abuse recovery program from a qualified mentor. However, sometimes you just need to connect with people in real life (or through Zoom) in a larger group to build community support.
You’re Stronger Than Euphoric Recall
Keeping No Contact isn’t easy but it’s the best decision you’ll ever make for yourself. No matter what you tell yourself during euphoric recall, that doesn’t change the fact that your relationship with the narcissist was abusive.
You deserve more than manipulation and love addiction. You deserve the freedom to build an identity and surround yourself with supportive people.
Recovery involves rewriting everything you thought you knew about yourself. It requires rebuilding your identity – or in many cases building an identity for the first time.
Like someone suffering from substance abuse, you need a narcissistic abuse recovery program that can help you avoid relapse by learning about yourself, habits, and triggers.
The Break Free Program may be the missing piece of the puzzle.
I know what you’re going through and I’m here to help. Learn more about the course and see what my students and neuroscience experts have to say about it.