Today I will share the seven steps it takes to break the cycle of narcissistic abuse and how we know we’ve broken the cycle. This article could be a book - there are thousands of resources and people breaking down this sort of recovery. Instead, I’ve just picked out what I feel to be the highlights.
- Grieving. There is so much pain that we experience from narcissists. I believe grieving is the single greatest step to break the cycle. This could mean bawling your eyes out! I would make a list of memories, look at them, and grieve it. I had to learn there is a limit with this type of grievance - if I sat too long grieving, I would dip into learned helplessness and massive depression. I learned 30 minutes was my limit, and I would always have some self-care to do after (paint, go on a walk, etc.). I would dip into the grief, then pull myself back out into my life. It can be challenging - the only safe place you may feel is sleeping. You don’t think about it or feel it when you’re asleep. Yet sometimes, I would wake myself from crying in my sleep. The pain is overwhelming but must be grieved. If you are filled with rage, anger, or resentment: you have not grieved, and you need to. If you still have rage, the narcissist owns and controls you without even being with you.
- Support. We need it. We were isolated, shamed, and belittled by a narcissist. We need a support system, whether that be a support group, family, or professional help. I believe this type and extent of trauma requires professional support and help. The narcissist strips us so much of our identity that our solutions and thinking processes are very distorted. That’s why we need a caring professional to guide us through it.
- Expertise. Become an expert on relationships, parenting, codependence, grief, etc. We don’t teach these things as a society - please don't assume that it’s our fault we don’t know them, but we need to learn. The only examples of relationships we see are in TV shows and movies, which are massively dysfunctional – you will recognize this when you become an expert. What areas must we become an expert in? My opinion is primarily codependence. I think Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody should be on everyone’s bookshelf. This book will blow your doors off.
- PTSD Recovery. A relationship with a narcissist creates PTSD, whether we like to acknowledge it or not. COMPLEX PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker is wonderful for learning - you will learn that nearly everyone on this planet is walking around with PTSD from childhood trauma.
- Imperfect Parenting. Nobody is a perfect parent, and no one came from a perfect childhood. Parents adore us and do wonderful things most of the time, but they are perfectly imperfect. A common trait of narcissists is they were spoiled growing up - this is horrifically abusive. The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel breaks down different parenting styles – you will be able to look at your own childhood and evaluate. Parents don’t know that what they think is loving is actually hurtful.
- Denial Work. We cannot remove ourselves from responsibility for the part we played. Saying we had nothing to do with what happened is disempowering and allows it to happen again. No person, place, or thing gets near our life unless we allow it to.
- Your Journey to Success. My book, Your Journey to Success, is a mix of all I’ve discussed here. You will discover how your childhood created your attraction to a narcissist and how to heal.
How to know you’ve recovered from narcissistic abuse:
- Boring people are attractive. Our excitement with a narcissist, the butterfly feeling, is a result of trauma. When that tingly feeling goes away, we know we’ve healed and are ready for a real relationship.
- You adore your narcissist. This is not saying you condone the behavior, that you go near them, or that you would be in a relationship with them. Instead, you realize you’ve picked this person so that you could learn about your own perfect imperfections. You see them as your greatest teacher and that they helped you discover the best part of yourself that was hidden under all the pain you didn’t know you had or needed to deal with.
My counselor once said to me: if you take a Labrador puppy, the sweetest and most gentle animal on the planet, and chain it up to a fence, starve it, and mistreat it - it will bite you. This happened to you. When you put in the work and see your part in the relationship, you will learn to adore the narcissist and recover. When we no longer resent, loathe or hate them, we have broken the cycle.
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