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.
To my mind though these definitions don’t really do the outcomes of the process 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), 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, to fill 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.
Blueprint for recovery from narcissistic abuse
Step 1 – Unhook from the narc and say ‘bye bye’
- 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 you cannot change them, nor do they want to change. For excellent material, please check out Recommended Wisdom.
- Sever your connection to the narc, ideally through ‘No Contact’. If this isn’t possible, for reasons such as shared parenting, family or work responsibilities, initiate ‘Low Contact’ (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. 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. 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.
- 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 let these 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 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, so too can you. Believe in you. Dig deep and make it happen. There can surely be nothing worth more in your life than your excavating and 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.
- 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.