8 minute read
Meaning of recovery
What does it mean when we talk about recovery from narcissistic abuse? You’re probably most familiar with the term ‘recovery’ with reference to injury or ill-health including addiction. Dictionaries define it’s meaning as finding your way back to full health and wellness after injury or illness; or retrieving something that is lost.
These definitions don’t really do the outcomes of the process of healing from narcissistic abuse justice. It is something much more life changing than this. It is about walking through the darkness and finding your light. It is about reclaiming your freedom and joy.
Recovery in the Narc Wise context, is the transformation of your inner world emotionally, psychologically, and mentally, achieved by working through wounds old and new. This delivers you to a state of awareness that enables mindful living, no longer caught in past repeating traps of unhelpful behaviours.
To recover means moving beyond blaming the narc for all your hurts and working through the pain that led you to them in the first place, stepping into a place of accountability, reality, awareness, and full, proud ownership of your gorgeous self.
It is about reaching authenticity where your inner voice and true self is honoured, with living your best life the natural consequence.
Breaking the cycle of narcissistic abuse
We are blessed to live in an age where finding a recovery program for pretty much any challenge is possible…alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, shopping, cluttering, gambling, hoarding, compulsive lying, internet usage, workaholism, overeating, codependency and of course, narcissistic abuse.
These last two, are predominantly treated separately. It’s either a recovery program for codependency or for narcissistic abuse. Years of working with survivors of narcissistic abuse suggests that this isn’t the way to go due to a pattern that exists where: 1. experience with abusive narcissists is rarely limited to just the one relationship; and 2. the survivor is more often than not, codependent.
For this reason, focusing solely on healing the wounds sustained through narcissistic relationships is not sufficient to achieve true recovery as it has been defined above.
Programs that concentrate only on the perils of narcissism do not resolve wounds entirely, with vulnerability to future narcissistic abuse remaining. Full recovery relies on also addressing the root of your hurts and healing these.
This takes huge courage and commitment.
It is the shift from blaming another for the terrible narcissistic abuse inflicted on you as the cause of all your troubles (please do not misunderstand me, they are unequivocally responsible for the abuse you have suffered at their hands), to also recognising how and why you made certain decisions that led you to the situation.
It is a transformative choice to leave victimhood behind and seize personal responsibility for your present and your future.
This is about understanding your susceptibility to certain situations and people. It means looking some of your biggest and scariest hurts, square in the eye and saying: ‘It’s time to deal with you, it’s going to be hard, but I am fiercely ready to do this for myself’!
These hurts are likely to manifest as codependency traits and the source of these will be the reason you find yourself trapped in a repeating cycle of unhealthy relationships with narcissists.
Why is this you ask?
The development of codependency occurs through the suppression of own needs, in order to meet those of others within dysfunctional families-of-origin or other significant relationships.
Identity and self-esteem become dependent on the behaviours, emotions, and needs of others. This motivates the abandonment and sacrifice of the self in favour of the needs of others. For example, the child of a narcissist may bury the desire to express negative emotions to prevent punishment from the parent, who is unable to permit any semblance of challenge or criticism of themselves.
Over time, this pattern of behaviour becomes so ingrained it is normalised. So much so, that for many the concept of love fuses with self-sacrifice and pain.
Enter the narcissist who demands their needs dominate all others, and well, it’s simply magnetic. The insatiable giver and the insatiable taker fit together like a key in a deadlock.
The attraction is an inevitable and recurring disaster UNTIL you do the recovery work.
Understanding these mechanics highlights why an externally focused narcissistic abuse recovery program will only ever do half the healing job and emphasises the importance of also tackling your codependent tendencies.
This is the magic bullet to breaking the cycle if you keep finding yourself abused by narcissists.
I share with you here the Narc Wise steps to recovery. Yes, these will demand hard work, strength, and determination from you. But these resources are ready inside you evidenced by the fact that you are reading this article now.
You CAN do this.
It’s actually super exciting! You are about to start your journey to reclaim your freedom and joy. Kudos gorgeous one.
Blueprint for narcissistic abuse recovery
Step 1 – Unhook from the narc
- Recognise the truth of your situation and that the narcissist is abusing you. Step out of denial about who they are, and that you have any capacity to control anyone other than yourself.
- Make it your personal mission to become your own expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the abuse through education. This is key to comprehending it isn’t you, it is them; and that you cannot change them, nor do they want to change. For excellent material, please check out Recommended Wisdom.
- Sever your connection to the narcissist, ideally through ‘No Contact’. If this isn’t possible, for reasons such as shared parenting, family or work responsibilities, initiate ‘Low Contact’ & grey rock (see Glossary for terminology definitions).
Step 2 – Ensure self-care is your priority
- Expect discombobulation to reign for a period after severing ties. This will be due to your own disorientation without the narc constantly controlling your every move; as well as the likelihood of the narc employing smear campaigns and flying monkeys to punish you for no longer being in control of your every move.
- Prepare for this period & reconnect with support networks such as family, friends, colleagues etc. you 100% know you can trust. Consider additional reinforcement such as appropriately trained therapists and other resources available in your community. Accept all genuine helping hands offered.
- Begin practising basic kindness towards your mind, body, and spirit, by eating healthily, sleeping well, exercising for at least 30 mins a day, and refraining from leaning on substances.
- Limit exposure where possible to situations and people who make you emotionally vulnerable.
Step 3 – Assessment of self and reality
- Commit to facing reality with unflinching honesty and courage.
- Examine your reality: where are you at; why are you where you are; what patterns exist in your life; what underlying behaviours led you to these repeating situations; what is in you that drives your unhelpful behaviours; what would you like to change; what have you learnt; what is working and what isn’t working for you?
- Acknowledge the needs of your childhood which were not met.
- Identify what/who is self-limiting or toxic in your life.
- Be bold, be brave – take full accountability and ownership of your one precious life and your reality. No rationalisations. No excuses. No defences. No denial. There is no need to, this is about building self-knowledge to heal and make the changes you are seeking. You are doing this for you.
Step 4 – Reclaim your gorgeous self, your present and your future
- Forgive yourself. Know that you have done the best you could in the circumstances given to you, much of which was beyond your control. Whatever it is…you did it to survive.
- Grieve the unmet needs of your childhood. These cannot now be fulfilled by others in adulthood, the time has passed. To move forward and break the repeating patterns of behaviour that lead to relationships that break your heart, you must acknowledge the hurts, accept them, and let them go.
- Reconnect to your inner voice and current needs, this is your pipeline to your true self and authenticity. Your compass to finding your best life. Tune in by mindfully asking yourself regularly ‘What am I feeling at this moment?’. The answer will guide you towards any necessary changes that align with your freedom and joy.
- Define and implement strong, clear boundaries to take full responsibility for what is yours to own and to separate you from responsibilities that belong to others.
- Ruthlessly remove the toxicity out of your life.
The framework for recovery from narcissistic abuse provides immediate rescue from the current harm by removing yourself from the situation.
Assessing and healing the wounds that have kept you returning to similar relationship dynamics inoculates you from future narcissistic abuse.
Reconnecting to your needs as they exist now and honouring them by taking appropriate action, creates authenticity between your internal and external selves. In doing this, the central false belief of codependency is shattered. It is no longer possible to equate self-sacrifice and pain with love.
Instead, you mindfully choose to shape your life with people and experiences that are consistent with your needs and how you value your gorgeous self.
Voila – hello freedom and joy!
This is no tick and flick task list. I reiterate the work, commitment and courage needed for recovery from narcissistic abuse.
I also know it has been done by many, and therefore, so too can you. Believe in you. Dig deep and make it happen. There can surely be nothing more worthy in your life than saving your own sweet self.
Please do leave a comment below with your insights or questions on these steps and any advice on recovery. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery.
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
- What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out
- Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how
- When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse
- No Contact vs. the narcissist’s silent treatment & ghosting: The differences
- The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it
- Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now
- Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents
- Getting past fear & leaving the narcissist
- Who is the abuser & who is the abused? Identifying the narcissist
As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help others ain reclaiming freedom.
Hungry for more?
I recommend the following key works healing the wounds from narcissistic abuse:
- Psychopath Free & Whole Again by Jackson Mackenzie
- Rising Strong by Brene Brown
- Emotional Blackmail: When People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation & Guilt to Manipulate you by Dr Susan Forward
For more titles check out Recommended Wisdom.
(If using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and titles heavily discounted. You’ll also be supporting my work in providing you free resources on this site, by earning a very small commission, at no extra cost to you – thank you 😊)
- Beattie, M. (2006).Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. Minneapolis, US: Hazelden.
- Bradshaw, J. (1990). Homecoming: Reclaiming and championing your inner child. New York: Bantam Books.
- McBryde, K. (2008). Will I ever be good enough? Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York, US: Atria.
- Miller, A. (1997). The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. New York: Bantam Books.
- Sweet, C. (1994). Off the hook: How to break free from addiction and enjoy a new way of life. London: Piatkus.
Oh, how I could have used this “blueprint” eons ago. Took nearly a lifetime, but through much pain and anguish, I figured it out. As it is said, “Better late than never.”
Thank you agoodlittlegirl. Better late than never indeed – although I tend to think this stuff isn’t quickly figured out, for some never, so kudos to you 😀
Oh, but so many years were totally wasted. 🙁
Not wasted! They were learning years necessary to get to the place you are at now. Having said that, I’m so sorry you have endured what you have.
I truly don’t want people feeling sorry for me or pity. My goal is only for others to come to a better understanding of the person I am, and perhaps gain wisdoms from my mistakes. Thank you for your kind words.
I can even start to thank you tremendously for this article. You have opened a window to this so complicated argument. My Ex husband got involved with a demon like of what you have described..I have endured this abuse. He strangely detached of being a survivor in a 20 year sick relationship. She has compromised our marriage, bank accounts, insurance lies, all to gain. WE BOTH ARE SURVIVORS….IM READING MORE ABOUT THIS ..Help!
Dear Vasquez, if you need help, please do not for a second hesitate to reach for it. I’m not 100% sure what direction to point you in as I’m a unclear about what’s happening for you. Reaching for help locally is the way to go to help you develop strategies that meet your needs. Look up someone you can work with who is qualified and has experience in the areas you need support, and make whatever changes you need to make to start healing yourself. You’ve got this gorgeous one. Light & love to you. Maggie x
All I can say is Thank You! This article just reiterates what I need to do.
No thank you someone! This is wonderful news – look after you x
Thanks for your article. I pray many people read and benefit from it as I am during their self-discovery healing!
Hi finallyolderandwiser, thank you for your very kind words. Wishing you big joy & freedom on your healing journey x
This article meets me right where I am at. I have armed myself with validation and knowledge of how to deal with my Narcissist, and am looking for the guidance to turn inward and upward with more positive affirmation. It’s time to look towards my future. Thank you!
Yeah! So great to hear claflyn! I can feel your positivity coming through your words. You are clearly already well on your way to affirming for yourself all you need to hear. You sound very empowered. I’m excited for you and for your future which will no doubt be blessed with the freedom and joy you are seizing through your decisions right now. I’d love to hear of your journey! My very best to you claflyn x Maggie
Thank you for sharing. This knowledge can help restore individuals to their healthy selves. There is hope. http://www.hopehasahome.wordpress.com
Hi Chosen. Thank you. Yes, there is indeed hope when this is invested in reclaiming ourselves! Maggie x
Thank you for such clearly laid out information. I have just recently made the connection between the emotional trauma and abuse inflicted by my mother and low self-esteem, low self confidence and recent health issues. Articles like this are crucial in directing survivors to the avenues of healing. Three months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have helped me tremendously. I am able to see clearly and start moving forward with hope for a happier, healthy life. Thanks again!
Dear Anonymous. You must be going through such a transformational time. It’s such a massive shift mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually when we realise what we lived through was actually abuse. The validation is a game changer in the healing journey. It’s so very wonderful to hear that this is the path you are on now. I wish you every single thing you are now reaching for in building your happier and healthier life! Thank you for your kind words. Maggie x
This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you
Dear someone, I am so glad. Look after you. Maggie x
This article is by far the most concise accurate on point and helpful presentation of the process of recovering from this abuse .
Five years ago I entered formal therapy with a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with complex PTSD. I have just recently in the last year broken away from a narcissistic husband.
In true codependency form I did not recognize my husband being a narcissist until seeking out therapy with a new therapist who brought that fact up to me immediately.
I’m so thankful to finally understand what has been going on in my life and to be able to rejuvenate myself. I recognize the process you layout as a blueprint because this describes my journey.
I’m so glade you have made this available. It reassures me and hopefully will help many others.
Dear Starlina, biggest, fattest, most resounding congratulations to you on breaking free from what has caused you harm. I can hear the gratitude you feel in the words you write, which is always a sure sign that you are very much on the right path. At the same time, I recognise that the sigh of relief and thanks comes from sustaining the unbearable for too, too long. I’m so glad you have found someone who does understand what you have endured and how this has impacted you, and that you are indeed on your healing journey. I only wish you had found someone who gets this sooner. Sending you light & love gorgeous one. Maggie x
Knowledge is power! Thank you for this knowledge and opening my internal powers to finally begin my healing. Everyday is an internal battle to overcome and find my true self but with this knowledge I am empowered to begin and become victorious! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Dear Cathy Cordell, what an uplifting and joyous message! And for this to be coming from a place of darkness and hurt tells me you are one remarkable soul. You are already on your way gorgeous one. I can feel your power and determination. You are already victorious. A hundred times over, you’ve got this. Light & love to you Cathy Cordell, Maggie x
This has moved me to tears. Just left my husband 2 weeks ago and I’ve realised that my childhood growing up with a narc/sociopath mother got me here. And I feel ready okay maybe kind of ready but willing to deal without saying everying is my husbands fault.
This article reverberated to my soul. Thank you for people like you and your bravery that makes it easier for me/us to steer through these murky Waters.
Dear Sunshine. My heart goes out to you. Whilst I don’t know your experience, I know this journey. The size & impact of the hurt can’t be described. Your words take my breath away as they don’t focus on the reality of any of this, which says so much about you gorgeous one. You are a beauty. There is so much joy coming your way. Despite the pain, you are open. You see the light so very soon after leaving your partner. You are reflective. You are grateful. I’m cheering for you gorgeous one. You are an inspiration. Never lose sight of your beauty. You are indeed Sunshine. Big love & light to you. Maggie x
I’m going thru personal hell. This has been the only thing that lifted me up. Bless you. I needed that.
Thank you, especially, for how to recover. It’s a really long road I’m on now, after 25 years of abuse. I only realized what he was after he left, and I began therapy. He thought he had me cowed to the point he could leave and take my son, not realizing that my son was my lifeline, and not someone I was willing to risk or give up. Even at the end, when he would start on my son, I would get between them to protect my son.