10 minute read
Are you thinking of going No Contact with the abusive narcissist in your life, but feel unsure about it? Maybe you feel torn, and are hoping to find a way to continue having them in your life in some way?
If this is how you feel, I get it. Facing such a monumental decision agitates all sorts of conflicting, icky, emotions.
It means entertaining severing an attachment with someone who has played a significant role in your life such as a partner, parent, sibling, or friend. Adding to the complexity of your decision and power of these ties, is the trauma bonding that takes place with an abusive narcissist.
It is an understatement to say that contemplating No Contact is extremely painful. It can in fact feel like you are ripping out your very heart.
Yet pushing you to this point, is the realisation that this just may be your only way to save yourself from any further abuse and reclaim your life.
Going No Contact is not always possible and other measures must be implemented for protection. However, in most instances it is, and I urge you to give serious consideration to making it happen. The single most compelling reason for this is: your recovery.
So gorgeous ones, this piece aims to help you find clarity and peace in making your decision by checking out why No Contact precipitates healing.
What is No Contact?
First up, let’s define the intent of No Contact. It means precisely what the words imply. No contact, no communication, no interaction at all.
No reaching out to the narc in any way, and no responding to their attempts to hoover or bait you (see Glossary to check out terminology).
For the sake of clarity, it entails:
- Not answering the phone when they call (blocking their number is the way to go).
- Not reading/responding to any texts messages or emails (block, block, block! If one gets through delete unread).
- Not reading/responding to any cards, letters etc.
- BLOCKing them on ALL your social media accounts (getting the picture regarding the importance of blocking?).
- Not answering the door when they rock up uninvited to your home/workplace etc.
- Refusing to engage with flying monkeys information gathering for the narc.
- Adding any unsafe mutual relationships who are not able to be there for you without donning the flying monkey hat to the ‘No Contact’ list.
No Contact is about preventing exposure to any further abuse, whether this be directly or via third parties (a.k.a. flying monkeys).
How No Contact supports narcissistic abuse recovery
In addition to protecting you from ongoing abuse, removing the source of toxicity accelerates your healing exponentially.
When hope sabotages
To save yourself, you must remove yourself from the abusive situation. It sounds so simple, so obvious, right?
Yet, for victims of narcissistic abuse, it is anything but easy. In fact, it can be one of the very hardest things you will ever have to do.
Relationships are inextricably linked to your sense of identity. This is normal in that the significant people in your life, also contribute to shaping your life. When this is healthy, those relationships strengthen your sense of self. They are a place of safety where your true self is honoured.
However, in the narcissistic relationship, the opposite takes place. The abusive narcissist undertakes a deliberate campaign to erode your identity. After all, when you lose your sense of self, your dependence on them and their power over you strengthens.
In handing over your power to the narcissist as a consequence of the abuse, capacity to self-validate is hijacked. The narc becomes your sole source of validation for your identity, your worthiness, and your reality (for more on this check out Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents).
This establishes a powerful need for the narcissist, you therefore cling to any hope that they will change (specifically stop abusing you) so that you can stay in the relationship. In your mind, holding out hope becomes a matter of survival. In reality, hope is sabotaging you and supporting your destruction.
So how do you get to a place internally where you can release yourself from the nightmare?
You must accept the reality of the situation and that they will not change.
Letting hope go
The abusive narcissist repeats a relationship pattern of idealise, devalue, and discard. Without deviation, the narc will cycle through this loop, ad infinitum. With you, and with all other sources of supply.
Even upon discard, do not assume the cycle is broken. The narcissist will return and recommence the cycle (when they have exhausted other targets), if you still hold the possibility of supply.
The point here is that because of the predictability of their pattern of behaviour, you can be 100% sure they will never change. Need more convincing? Read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change now.
In other words, the abuse will continue until you break the cycle.
Any residual hope you still hold in your heart, you must relinquish it. It is sadly, the falsest of hopes.
In this instance, hope is doing you a disservice. Conversely, letting it go, gifts you with acceptance.
And in this moment, you turn the corner.
In accepting what is, you begin to reclaim your lost self.
The narc as a narcotic
There is a second thing you must accept.
It is imperative that you wrap your head around the fact you are addicted to the narcissist as powerfully as any drug would have you bound.
This is not hyperbole.
Let me ask you. How much time do you spend thinking about the narc each day? Honestly, how much? And how do you feel when being punished? Let’s use the silent treatment or disappearing act, or discard as examples.
Are you in a level of pain that takes your breath away? Physically ill? Perhaps even demented?
Would you quite literally do anything to have them engage with you, come back, make the pain go away?
This sweet pea, is addiction.
It happens through trauma bonding. The narcissist cements your dependence on the highs of love bombing in the idealisation phase. Once hooked, they shift you into devaluation where you come face to face with the malevolence they are capable of.
To keep you hooked, the narc mindfully sprinkles intermittent doses of love bombing amongst the cruelty. This reinforces your addiction to them and the relationship (read Why is it so hard leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist for more on this).
Just like recovery from any other addiction, the only way to beat your need for the narcissist, is to abstain.
At some level, you understand that your purpose is to continuously feed the narc’s addiction. You also come to realise the transactional nature of the relationship, and that it is entirely based on either punishment or reward depending on your capacity to meet their needs for supply.
Because you crave being rewarded with the narc’s validation of your worth through love bombing, you continue chasing the next hit, despite the abuse.
The narc chases their hits of supply from you by hoovering and baiting you. And you bite. Every time. With each bite, the conditioning to think and behave in a way consistent with narcissistic abuse becomes ever more entrenched.
Very deliberately, you are programmed to react on cue to the narc. Because of this, and the predictability of the narc’s behaviour, contact and recovery are not compatible. Ongoing exposure only invites regular relapses.
Breaking this cycle with No Contact allows you space to reprogram your behaviours making your decision to rescue your lost self entirely doable.
3. Heart, mind & soul first aid
The thing with behaviours is that they are driven by what you think and feel. Consequently, reprogramming is about giving your heart, mind & soul some serious first aid.
At the crux of the devastation of your heart, mind & soul in narcissistic abuse is cognitive dissonance and denial.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when you hold conflicting beliefs at the same time. This causes confusion and distress and motivates the need to resolve the contradiction in any way necessary.
This is evidenced in gaslighting for example, where you question your grasp on reality because what you believe is being countered by the narcissist in some way.
Fundamental to your capacity to cope with the cognitive dissonance is denial.
On the one hand, this gets you by as a band aid measure for single occurrences of abuse. On the other, constant use of denial means you are suppressing your overall truth and reality which only exacerbates cognitive dissonance further.
This gorgeous one, makes you sick. The pain of sustaining this as a survival mode causes a host of symptoms. These might be depression, anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness, inability to trust, paranoia, nausea, confusion, fear, hypervigilance, social isolation, obsessive thoughts and compulsions, rage, muscle aches, intrusive and obsessive thoughts, suicidal ideation, insomnia, night terrors, and numbness.
The sum effect of whatever symptoms of narcissistic abuse are present for you, and the denial, leaves you unable to fully recognise them while still in contact with the narcissist.
As a result of the abuse, your cognitive clarity, and emotional awareness to what’s really happening for you are necessarily blunted. You cannot heal, until you work through your hurts, and this cannot happen while emotions and thoughts are being suppressed & denied.
No Contact allows you to set aside these defence mechanisms.
Abstinence from your addiction, slowly dissipates the fog so deliberately crafted by the narcissist. From the point of No Contact, you gain increasing clarity about the situation, the narcissist, and the damage you have suffered.
The ugly truths will hit you like a freight train. But as with letting hope go that things will change, you must embrace this naturally unwelcome experience of negativity.
Trust me gorgeous ones, the nuggets of yuck, the truths, are really your friends. When you wrap your head around your pain, and that what happened to you is unforgiveable, acceptance is taken a step further.
You can begin to grieve. And healing begins.
A note on the reality of limitations
In some circumstances, No Contact is not possible. For instance, you may hold shared parenting responsibilities with the narcissist in your life. This does not mean there are no measures of recovery if you are in this situation.
There are ways of taking care of you, such as combining Low Contact (limited interaction) with the grey rock method, and/or supported contact through intermediaries to minimise interaction even further.
Having said this, when an inability to detach emotionally within the confines of a Low Contact arrangement exists, No Contact is ideally the way to go. Quite simply because we cannot heal a wound that is continuously being exposed to the cause of injury.
Before I go…
In writing this article, words from C.S. Lewis have been circling in my mind: ‘Courage, dear heart’.
You may paradoxically feel anguish, panic, or even pure terror at the thought of cutting the narcissist out of your life. Know that there is light beyond this darkness. This severing, in reality, is about cutting yourself free.
‘Courage, dear heart’.
As always, please do share your insights, tips or questions below on healing through No Contact. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery – so thank you!
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
- Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change
- 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
- Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now
- Invalidation and narcissism: Why they slowly erase you
- Narcissistic Invalidation: How to stop them erasing you
- Blueprint for recovery from narcissistic abuse
- Personal Bill of Rights for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Hungry to know more?
Good. Your hunger to heal is half the battle! The books that jolted me into understanding my patterns and unhealthy needs that fed into that addicted feeling in narc relationships are Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood, and Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody. These titles were so helpful in expanding my understanding beyond how the cycle of narcissistic abuse was binding me through trauma, to get me to look at what was going on inside me that was contributing to feeling stuck.
Also, one of the reasons I loved Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie so much, was because he describes so honestly and with great kindness the pain of addiction and withdrawal, and the treasures that are ours to claim throughout this journey of detoxing and healing. He definitely applies a lens of gratitude to these very difficult lessons faced in cutting ourselves free. Very uplifiting and who doesn’t love a bit of that when things feel insurmountable!
(Note – if using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and title 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 😊)
- Keller, P.S., Blincoe, S., Gilbert, L.R., Dewall, C.N., Haak, E.A., & Widiger, T. (2014). Narcissism in romantic relationships: A dyadic perspective. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(1), 25-50.
- Mellody, P. (2003). Facing love addiction: Giving yourself the power to change the way you love. New York, US: Harper Collins.
- Norwood, R. (2009). Women who love too much: When you keep wishing and hoping he’ll change. London, UK: Arrow.
- Roark, S.V. (2013). Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Effect on relationships. Alabama Nurse, 39(4), 12-14.
I have nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. https://pascaleshealingjourney.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/sunshine-blogger-award/
Oh how wonderful! Thank you so very much Pascale. I’m very grateful 🙂 Have a beautiful day – Maggie x
I was so comfortable in my 20 year abusive relationship that when I finally escaped, I almost returned to the monster. Thankfully, a loved one convinced me of the error in that thought. Then the demon began a 12 year stalking despite my refusal to speak with him or respond to his hundreds of letters. A face on confrontation between him, the new man in my life, and myself, finally brought an end to his madness. But, I wouldn’t recommend this approach. By sheer luck, we were fortunate to scurry away rather than depart in body bags.
Great to hear from you agoodlittlegirl. I hope this means you are feeling a little better! Thank you for sharing. Dear Narc Wise community, you can read more about this situation and how it turned out, in Kenzie O’Hara’s book A Good Little Girl, grab a copy now.
Thank you for this great article. I am currently trying not to contact my narcissist father – it’s unbelievable how much clearer my head is. I have to do it as the stress has affected my health very badly. The trouble is I’m having terrible nightmares and am scared of what he’ll say and don’t really know how to explain to him. I just don’t want any contact at the moment. Do you have any advice on what to say to buy yourself some time for peace of mind? It’s so hard when it’s the family as hard to completely cut off, but it’s pretty negative and no kindness anywhere
Dear Bee – yay the fog is lifting for you! It is such a gift when it does start to clear. Particularly from parental narcissistic abuse as it really is about seeing clearly for the first time when it’s all you’ve ever experienced. I’m so happy for you. I’m sorry your health has been affected badly, I’m sending you healing thoughts right now. I understand the nightmare – mine were horrific when I first went No Contact, they do improve over time once things that have been suppressed come to the surface and reconnection with your deepest self is underway. If you’d like to chat about your question and bounce ideas, you’re welcome to email at firstname.lastname@example.org. That way I can get a clear picture of what you want to achieve, and where you would like to get to. The most important thing at the moment is for you to follow your own needs: do what the thing that is looking after you. If the lack of kindness and negativity is hurting you, then I would ask whether you need to accept it? And if no, then what do you need to do to protect yourself from what is causing you hurt? Hope to hear from you. Maggie x
I have jyst recently realized the extent and meaning of my 12 year relationship was. I am not quite sure how strong i really am. I do have a question however. We had 2 ChiShi dog. He uses the shared responsibility factor to keep me coming back. He doesnt want to not see them and they pretty much helped me through life a few times. What do i do. I cant take this anymore.
Dear Julie, you ARE strong. Believe this. Believe in you. Keep reminding yourself, you ARE strong every time you question this. Your dogs sound very special, and important to you. Do you need to have shared responsibility for them with your ex? Can you take full responsibility of them? Is there a need to keep going back to your partner because of the dogs? Or can you see an opportunity to make the break given you can’t take anymore? Is there an option to make the break AND keep the dogs with you? I hear you Julie and how hard this is. But, whatever it is your heart, mind and spirit are telling you to do – do that. You’ve got this. Sending you light & love. Maggie x
I would love to keep them but my circumstances after the split has left me with nothing and living in my truck. I just feel so badly that im even thinking to leave them but i feel that may be the best for them. Also if i keep them solely with me i am afraid i will not be able to get better within because he will keep trying to see them and then in turn tormenting me. Im sorry. I just need to decide and move on but its really really hard. Thank you fir listening and replies.
Dear Julie – whatever you decide to do, it will be the best thing for you. At this time, focusing on this alone is the most important thing. Take care of you. Things will shift when you know what path you want to choose. Promise. Maggie x
I am having a problem with going no contact with my narc parents. I went limited contact last year, before learning what a narcissist was and that they both fit the description. What I allowed to continue are emails (which have been very rare) and cards in the mail to our children. Now that I know what they are and that they will not change, I want to stop all contact, especially between them and our children. My problem is that my children are “missing” their grandparents (who live very nearby) and I don’t know how to explain to them that no contact is the best thing for them. Our youngest especially (age 6) is really struggling since it’s difficult for her to grasp what a narc is and that my parents don’t really “love” her, even though they said and pretended to. I’m feeling very lost in this, though the limited contact has provided so much peace, growth and clarity after a lifetime of abuse! This one thing has me so stuck! Any advice on how to help my children through this? Thank you so very much!!
Dear J, going No Contact is such a courageous move when no other option is available. It is by no means an easy task. When children are involved what is already monumentally difficult, becomes even more so. But I know you already know this! General advice with respect to children is openness & honesty. Having said this, in terms of what precisely is positive to share with your children depends very much on the details of your specific situation, and how old each of your children are. As you say, pulling away from family members for complex reasons is challenging to convey to children. Part of the solution for you will be about giving them enough information in a way that makes sense to each of them. J it would be worthwhile speaking with a counsellor or therapist locally for tailored advice that works for your family and takes account of all the above. I have no doubt you will get through this positively. You clearly care very much for your children, which as you know, is such a gift that will carry them through this time. Light & love to you J. Maggie x