A relationship with a narcissist is an emotional roller coaster that can leave you feeling completely unsure of yourself and highly vulnerable. If a decision has been made to end the relationship, whether by you or the narcissist, this is an opportunity for you to self-reflect and begin a journey of re-evaluating yourself in a different light. It is an enormously difficult process and some people can take years to fully recover from the suffering caused to them by a narcissistic partner. However, many people have rebuilt their lives successfully and there are a number of methods that can help you in the initial phases and over time that will increase your mental resilience and rebuild your confidence.
Grounding techniques and self-soothing methods
Narcissistic abuse is emotional trauma. When betrayed, let down, rejected or treated with disdain by a narcissist, your rational brain is hijacked by your amygdala and is hard-wired to go into fight or flight mode. For example, you might start blaming yourself for the situation and feeling that you are inadequate. This can lead to a spiral of other emotions that become extremely distressing and debilitating.
You can use grounding techniques and self-soothing methods to try and overcome these patterns of behavior.
Grounding techniques are tools that help you stay focused on the present moment in times of intense anxiety and distress. These can be actions that create strong physical sensations such as running cold water over your hands or holding ice cubes. It might be to make mental checklists to refocus your attention, such as naming 5 things you can hear in your immediate surroundings or 5 things you can pick up in the room.
Self-soothing techniques help you feel calm and relaxed. Almost akin to a childlike state of protection and contentedness. For example, taking a hot shower or relaxing bath, wrapping up in a blanket with a cup of cocoa or listening to calm and soothing music to re-energize yourself. However useful this is in the moment, it is still not a long term solution. It’s important to also express your emotions in a safe space.
Allow yourself to express your emotions
It’s important to express your emotions about the relationship you’ve had and to find a healthy outlet for this. Like any form of abuse, recovery will take time and if you try to just push past the pain, you won’t have given yourself the opportunity to heal properly. Bottling up these emotions and holding them within can leave you in a state of sadness or depression. It can lead you to a path of more destructive behavior that can even affect you physically, such as increasing your risk of addiction or leading to chronic pain or illness. Channel your emotions into outlets such as boxing or writing a journal. Talk to a therapist and they will also suggest techniques and methods you can use on a daily basis.
Avoid self-blame and accept that it’s okay to move on from your narcissistic partner
It’s an easy trap to fall into to start thinking about how things could have been different or what you could have done to avoid your current situation. Its crucial at this point to remember that your narcissistic ex-partner has a mental disorder that you have no control over. Narcissists are also expert manipulators and have convinced you that you are the sole root cause of the issues when this is simply not true.
The person you loved initially may not be the same person you see today. It is your decision to make and yours only if you don’t feel happy in your relationship and you see no way of improving the situation. On an even more important level, if you feel in danger then it’s even more reason to cut ties for good, or in the case where contact may be required (e.g. in child custody situations), have a clearly defined legal boundary for visits.
Clear Rules on No-Contact
Where possible, you should maintain a strict no-contact policy so you can give yourself space and time you need to fully heal. The Narcissist’s mentality is that any door left ajar is a door to you that they can exploit and manipulate. If you respond to texts or emails from them, you are in essence giving them a sense of power over you. Of course, as mentioned above, this might not be possible in the case of parental visits, shared custody or if the narcissist is a relative. In these cases, have a clear plan in place for how you deal with them and also see our article on the grey rock method that can provide a practical solution for communication in these cases.
Progress through the 3 stages of recovery
The first stage is the ‘victim’ stage where you may feel betrayed, angry and fearful. It’s also a time where you might feel a sense of loneliness or abandonment. It’s important to remember that as hard as this phase is, you will get through it.
The second stage is the ‘survivor’ stage. This is where you have the mental energy to do some more self-reflection. You might evaluate all the significant relationships in your life and look deeper at situations that have triggered different emotions.
The third stage is the ‘surthriver’ stage. Even at this stage, you will find particular challenges. You might struggle to maintain focus at work. You may also feel fixated on past events that are unresolved. Feelings of residual anger and resentment towards your ex-partner may resurface.
The presumed fourth stage is not mentioned but that is for good reason. The process of healing will take a long time and there will be many setbacks on the way. Be kind to yourself, listen and read the wealth of resources out there. There are many stories of people who have recovered from narcissistic abuse and a community of supportive people who have understood what you have gone through and have taken the journey to healing themselves. Give yourself the time and all the tools you need and you will get there.
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