Trying to free yourself from narcissistic abuse through the usual venues simply doesn’t work.
Getting a ‘Ph.D. in narcissism’ is the route that most people take, and it has become alarmingly clear that this does little in the way of actual healing or liberation from a narcissist and their abuse.
For one, collecting information on narcissists and their dysfunctional behaviors often becomes an addiction that keeps people stuck for months or years beyond reasonable limits.
But more than that, many people believe that knowledge is power, but this isn’t always accurate. Getting your ‘Ph.D.’ in narcissism is a massive waste of time if you don’t use that knowledge to make powerful changes in your life.
Knowledge is a tool…and just like any other tool, it can sit unused, collecting dust.
In today’s article, I cover why knowledge isn’t always power and three keys to true liberation from narcissistic abuse.
If you’ve been reading about narcissistic abuse, you’ve probably come across the phrase, Knowledge is Power, but knowledge is not power unless you actually apply it. Knowledge in and of itself can be incredibly useless.
Furthermore, we often get stuck in varying stages through our journey when we rely solely on knowledge as a defense against narcissistic abuse because there are simply too many people writing on the topic and sharing their opinions, many of which are not helpful.
The reason we see so many folks who’ve (metaphorically) gotten their Ph.D. in narcissism, yet are still stuck at square one, is partly owing to a phenomenon called Information Overload. According to Wikipedia, Information Overload is the difficulty in understanding an issue and effectively making decisions when one has too much information about that issue. Generally, the term is associated with the excessive quantity of daily information.
Many unsuspecting victims of narcissistic abuse believe that doing hours of research every day will help them get to a place of authority and power on the topic, but what actually happens is that information overload causes your brain to shut down, resulting in many ineffective choices in the process.
There are three keys to freeing yourself from narcissistic abuse, and gathering information is only a small piece of the puzzle.
Let’s jump in…
3 Keys to Free Yourself From Narcissistic Abuse
1 – Awareness
Awareness of a problem is a good start. It’s a powerful stepping stone. This is usually the beginning of a person’s journey of recovery from narcissistic abuse. They’re reading all the articles, watching all the webinars, and signing up for all the newsletters. And of course, watching videos on YouTube.
That’s the awareness stage and whether or not knowledge is power, depends on what you do in the next two stages.
Maybe you find yourself not only reading reams of articles, but also delving into narcissism on all the social media platforms, saving all the memes so you can go back to them later.
That’s okay because a lot of times we do need reminders when we’re being abused. But at some point, you’ll want to get out of the awareness stage and step into the acceptance phase.
2 – Acceptance
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you are promoting someone’s abusiveness. You’re not resigning yourself to continued abuse. That’s not what acceptance means.
Acceptance means you accept the narcissist for who they really are. Unfortunately, our minds can play lots of tricks on us. When we’re observing that someone is emotionally abusive, acceptance means that you choose to live in reality instead of clinging onto someone’s potential because they were nice to you three or four years ago (or 10 years ago). If that’s not who they’re showing up as every day, you’ll have to accept that that person no longer exists.
If there is a pattern of verbal abuse, of psychological manipulation and it’s been ongoing, this is what you want to accept. You’re accepting this person is not who they used to be or who they pretended to be when you first met them.
Acceptance means you release the illusions, release the delusions, and accept that the narcissist has abusive traits. This is the second step in your liberation from narcissistic abuse. The third step is action.
3 – Action
What are you going to do with all the information that you have gathered so far from all the webinars you’ve watched, all the videos you’ve watched, and from all the books you’ve read?
Awareness is great. Knowledge is great, but none of that means anything unless you’re putting a plan into action.
Too many of us stay stuck in the awareness phase, ruminating on it, continuing to read about narcissists well past any semblance of it being beneficial.
It’s normal to do this, in the beginning, because you’re in shock. You’re just realizing what is happening, what has been happening to you, but you don’t want to stay there. It’s true, healing does not have a timeline, but at the same time, you don’t want to waste your life in the gray zone.
Using myself as an example, I’m going to be 50 in December. I have a lot fewer years in front of me than I do behind me. If I had stayed in the awareness phase, I would still have to go through all the healing work that’s required. I’d still have to take all the steps to create my own life, which would mean detaching from that relationship and working on healing myself every day to get to the place where I am now.
How to Get Started on Freeing Yourself From Narcissistic Abuse
What course of action are you going to take? If you have kids, what course of action are you going to take?
It certainly won’t be easy. Especially if you’re financially dependent upon the narcissist. Sometimes you can’t leave right away. But, too often, people feel like they’re trapped and they’re looking for reasons why it wouldn’t work out instead of looking for ways to make it work.
You might consider moving in with a family member or getting a place and looking for a roommate, which could be a friend or a coworker or someone that you know. It might mean that you go on assistance for a while. I did that for a few years back at the beginning of my own journey.
A lot of folks might think that’s incredibly embarrassing. They don’t want to go and apply for assistance. Especially if they have (or had) a good career. They may wonder how they could possibly go and apply for assistance!
That’s true. It is embarrassing. But, what’s worse? Feeling embarrassed while you’re there applying or wasting the rest of your life, living under the roof with the narcissist?
These are just ideas and suggestions because everyone’s situation is different, but you’ll need to get to a place where you do step into action if you truly want to free yourself from narcissistic abuse.
Gathering More Information Can Cause More Harm Than Good
You’ve probably come across a lot of different information. Some of which is very confusing. For example, some authors or people who have PhDs keep insisting that narcissists can change; that there’s a way that they can change for the better. That there are ways to make things work with them.
I’m here to tell you that I’ve never seen that happen. A lot of this is based on theory. Sometimes it’s also based on that particular author having a narcissist in their own life, and they’re trying to justify keeping them in their life.
Because someone has a license in counseling and they’re writing about narcissists, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re free. I work with a lot of professionals in the mental health field who are involved with narcissists. Now, these aren’t the people out there writing about narcissists changing. But I do know of some authors who write about narcissists being able to change, and they are entrenched in their own toxic relationships.
How to Step Out of the Awareness Phase and Into the Acceptance Phase
You get to acceptance by radically accepting that there’s a long-term pattern of emotional manipulation. There’s a long-term pattern of brainwashing. There’s the long-term pattern of you not mattering. There’s a long-term pattern of infidelity lies, financial exploitation.
If this has been happening to you, you’ve got to understand that this is not going to change. They’ve already shown you all this time, who they are. So when I talk about acceptance, it means accepting that until you go into that third step of taking action, your life is not ever going to be different. And that is what helped me in my own journey. When I left narcissist number one, who I also share a son with, I told myself that if I wanted my life to be different, I would have to make it happen on my own.
I had to accept my ex for who he was and accept that he wasn’t going to change. I had to stop listening to his excuses, his lies, and his justifications and finally stand in my own power.
I knew that unless I did something to change my life, it was not going to change. And do I want to continue living this way? Do I want to continue being abused? Do I want my children to continue seeing that? No, I didn’t want that. So then what, well, then I had to step into that third phase taking action.
It did not happen right away, but I saved up some money and put a down payment on a new apartment. I didn’t tell him anything about what I was doing. There came a time when he was subjecting me to the silent treatment, as he had done hundreds of times before, after telling me also that he wanted a divorce, he didn’t want to be married to me anymore, and I was such a horrible person. Sound familiar?
So when he was subjecting me to the silent treatment and had gone out of town, which was like three or four hours away, I moved out. I had already arranged everything in private. I had my furniture moved to my new place. So when he got back from that silent treatment, he came home and there was nobody there.
One thing that might help as you plan is to come up with a date, just like getting engaged. You set a date for getting married, right? Or maybe you set a date for the day you’re finally going to go on a diet or start a new lifestyle and be healthy. You might set a date on the day that you’re going to stop drinking alcohol.
This is one of those important milestones. This is going to be the date of your liberation from narcissistic abuse.
There are so many people just like you who have taken a stand against their abusers. They’ve gotten a taste of the good life–and that taste of freedom is too sweet to turn back to the lives they had before.
If you’re ready to take control of your life, download the free Beginner’s Healing Roadmap. You’ll get a 14-day series of emails with emotional support and encouragement and a 13-pg PDF of healing prompts. Plus, you get complimentary seating to the masterclass, 7 Proven Steps to Break the Narcissistic Spell.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse is hard, and it’s okay to admit you need help. If you’re ready to go deeper now, check out the #1 therapist-approved online program for narcissistic abuse recovery. This program is so effective, counselors and therapists refer their clients to it and it’s also shared in shelters across the U.S. You can see for yourself here.