In the days after you have gone no-contact, recovery from narcissistic abuse feels like an out-of-reach fantasy.
Narcissists leave a part of themselves inside of us after they’re gone.
No matter how much you wanted to go no-contact, once they’re gone, it feels as if the narcissist has unceremoniously ripped out a part of your own body. [See The Ultimate Narcissistic Abuse Dictionary to review unfamiliar terms]
We’re left sitting in shock, bleeding, wondering how everything that just happened doesn’t affect them.
Yet, despite their absence, it’s as if somehow, they’re not gone at all. In our minds and bodies, we can feel them with us as if they are telepathically reaching out to us.
It feels as if this roller coaster of emotions will never end. [Read The Emotional Hell of Breaking Up with a Narcissist]
One of the worst parts is that, despite everything they do, we fear that a part of us will always be in love with that undefined piece of them that they leave behind.
There are ways of moving past this fugue state and starting your narcissistic abuse recovery.
7 Ways to Start Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
If you’re struggling in your narcissistic abuse recovery, here are seven things you can try to start purging him or her from your heart.
Even if some time has passed since the relationship ended and you went no-contact, these tasks can still give your recovery from the narcissist a boost forward.
It’s never too late to recognize our strengths, ease our pain, and put the narcissist even further in the past.
1. Write out a list of all the things your narcissistic partner ever did to you that was damaging.
Make a list that’s as detailed as possible.
What insults did he or she hurl at you? How many times did he or she cheat?
What did they say when you weren’t around, and how did it contradict what they said when you were?
Did they threaten you? Was the narcissist in control of what you did or where you went? Did you lose friends?
Was your job in danger?
Was your life in danger?
Pinning down narcissistic abuse is hard. It unfolds slowly over time, and we often can’t quite put our fingers on what’s wrong.
A lot of what feels so wrong about the relationship is not just what they do, but the result that gets deposited in us. We feel utterly violated and defiled.
That’s precisely why this task is so important. Pin down all those little things they did. Don’t forget the lies, the times they turned themselves into a victim, the code-switching between love and hate, and the denial, deflection, projection, and blame of their behavior onto you.
It all creates a false reality for us that has left us standing where we are now, in this freefall, unable to cope with life.
So write it all down. Nothing is too small. The invalidation, the smears, the lies, the gaslighting, the double standards, the verbal abuse, the physical abuse, the things they used against you, the silent treatments… it all goes on the list.
The Power of the List
You may begin to feel anger or vindication as you write. You may get an urge to contact your partner and tell him or her off or send them your list.
Do not do this.
Reaching out to them will backfire and make narcissistic abuse recovery even more difficult. This list is for you.
The goal is to start putting together a different narrative beyond the one your ex-partner wanted you to have. The urge will pass.
Don’t stop at writing the list. Please read it. Read it as many times as you need to until you can no longer deny all of those things you may have put out of your head or repressed.
By actively reading and writing, with a consciousness you may never have done or been able to do with the narcissist present in your life, the pieces may start to come together differently.
You may feel less sad and more indignant–but this is a good thing. That anger will build a wall in your heart and help you mentally “stand up” to the narcissist if he or she returns.
The new insight can help you stop falling into the abyss. You may start to absorb some of the peace that comes in the narcissist’s absence.
Please note that if you find your anger or other negative emotions increasing in intensity, then stop. Use another form of emotion management, such as a relaxing activity.
2. Write out a list of all the things you have survived in your life.
Make a list as detailed as possible, and include anything you feel was challenging. You could have both positive and negative events on the list.
You might include childbirth or finishing school. Perhaps you were in a severe accident or were bullied as a child.
Again, nothing is too small—every incident in your life matters.
Narcissists think we can’t live without them. They need to believe that everyone is thinking about them, worshiping them.
They love the thought that they created this “larger-than-life” soulmate idea in our minds. To them, it overrides everything else we have ever done or experienced.
They imagine we will sit around pining over them forever.
Maybe you even believe right now that you will. Yet those are the narcissist’s fantasies, not yours.
Look at your list.
You are strong. The narcissist is a blip on your radar, an unfortunate detour along the path of your beautiful life.
Their reality is not your reality, and you have the proof in your hands.
3. Avoid people who are victim-blamers.
You’re trying to make a significant life change by recovering from narcissistic abuse.
The last thing you need right now is someone judging you or your emotional state.
Victim-blamers have an image of you as someone who was “getting something out of” the abuse–or you would have left sooner than you did. They also define a pre-conceived role for you in their minds that colors their interactions with you.
You don’t need that negativity and their lack of support holding you back while you’re trying to break out of an old mindset and take the next steps to move forward.
You may also decide to avoid people who call you codependent for what happened. At this point, you are still feeling connected to the narcissist. It may not be the best idea to examine what either led to that connection or held it together. [Read Don’t Say Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse are Codependent]
The narcissist used manipulation tactics that resulted in mind control. The tasks in this article are all about breaking it. [Read If You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist, You’re in a Cult]
If any, sorting out any other mental health issues can come later after you have taken your mind back first. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t belong in your life right now.
4. Get a brief session of Emotion Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping therapy.
What if I told you that there was an evidence-based treatment you could learn in an hour from a trained therapist that could start immediately helping you feel better?
When I was in the early days of my narcissistic abuse recovery, I had Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
Narcissistic abuse survivors need immediate relief from the painful thoughts and feelings before any talk therapy can help us process it.
This therapy was so effective that I wrote about the unique ways I thought narcissistic abuse survivors could benefit from it. I wished every survivor of narcissistic abuse could experience it. [Read How EMDR Therapy Can Help with Narcissistic Abuse]
Survivors can now easily and quickly try something very similar, called Emotion Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping.
What is Emotion Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping?
EFT is a similar form of therapy to EMDR that combines cognitive therapy with the physiological response of tapping on our bodies’ pressure points.
Over 100 studies demonstrate its effectiveness, including a decrease in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and an increase in overall well-being (Bach et al., 2019).
Since the fall of 2019, Stacey Vornbrock, MC, LPC, has been offering a one-hour $25 session of EFT that she developed specifically to help with narcissistic abuse recovery.
Vornbrock tailored the session tailored to survivors to help them break the spell they have to narcissists and sociopaths. She specifically the tapping series to reduce the emotional pain caused by that connection: EFT Tapping to Break Your Addiction to a Sociopath.
If you’re hurting right now and need something to help you stop the pain, I recommend giving it a try. It can take less than fifteen minutes for most people to start feeling better. Once you learn the techniques, you can practice them yourself.
Yes, this item on the list has a small cost, but I decided to include it because it works. I know this from my experience with EMDR, and many of my readers have let me know this particular session worked for them.
5. Keep reading about narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
The influence the narcissist had over your thoughts will fade away the longer you’re in no-contact. Yet continuing to read about narcissistic abuse will validate your experiences when you start to have doubts.
It will remind you that nothing about what happened was normal or acceptable. You will see your own story reflected in other people’s stories over and over again.
The similarities between what you read and what happened to you will start to drain the narcissist’s spiritual residue out of your sphere.
It will start to sink in that we are all feeling the same thing. There is nothing to miss because our stories are carbon copies of one another; we are missing ghosts.
6. Expose yourself to the work of narcissists.
Seek out the videos, books, and articles created by narcissists themselves that explain their behavior (e.g., the works of H.G. Tudor).
When you start to see the world as they do and understand how very differently they think from you, it will begin to erode your desire for the narcissist. [Read How to Think Like a Narcissist and Why You Should]
You will be so disgusted by the narcissist’s manner of viewing people and relationships that you will want no part of it.
You can start applying to your situation what you read about how narcissists think. Eventually, you can start giving yourself pep talks, reminding yourself what they did wasn’t personal. Putting yourself in their minds is particularly useful if you start to get nostalgic or miss the narcissist.
You will, maybe for the first time, be able to start rejecting the narcissist as you reject the narcissist’s way of thinking (instead of the other way around).
7. Take your space, time, and personal choices back.
Did you change or hide things about yourself to keep the peace and avoid the degrading accusations and questions?
If so, change them back. Now. Do what you need to do to purge the narcissist’s influence. Take your power back. Let go of that stranglehold you had on yourself to keep him or her happy.
Anything you put on hold, left behind, put off, ignored, didn’t explore, or changed about yourself to appease the narcissist, drag it out and let it shine.
These things will take the place of that space in your life that the narcissist is squatting in. That space belongs to you, and you can and should put in it whatever you want to without guilt, without fear.
If there are things in your home environment that remind you of him or her, get rid of them.
For example, you could get new sheets. Redecorate. Do it in colors you love, maybe ones that the narcissist would not have approved. Move furniture around.
Stock up on food the narcissist didn’t like that you love. Watch a series or a movie that the narcissist never enjoyed.
Do some things you had put on hold because he or she was dominating your life and that you never had time for, or you shied away from because he or she mocked them.
Take up a new interest that had always looked appealing or an old one you had given up. Invite a friend out that you haven’t talked to in a long time, especially if it’s someone from whom you were isolated because of the narcissist.
When you make these changes, these are the things that will help you start living your own life again in small steps, one day at a time. [Read Ten Ways to Start Living Again After Narcissistic Abuse]
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery is Possible
There may be a small piece of you that you can’t explain to anyone that doesn’t want to recover.
Narcissistic abuse recovery not only means letting go of some of the worst things that ever happened to you. It also means letting something fade away that sometimes felt like it contained all the beauty and goodness in the world.
Maybe you’re afraid you’ll never see those things again.
Because you have these conflicting emotions, you may have to force yourself to do things you know will take you further along the narcissistic abuse recovery path.
In those moments when the pain of holding on is greater than the pain of letting go, use it to take some power back. Grab onto one or more of these tasks and use it to push forward and close to your new and beautiful destiny.
Bach, D. et al. (2019). Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine 24: 1-12.
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If you like this article, you’ll also enjoy these:
- 11 Things You Might Do Before Going No-Contact and Meaning It
- How Narcissists Use Cognitive Dissonance to Control Us
- How to Know When a Narcissist is Finished with You
- What a Narcissist Says About Breakups: They Never Let You Go
- 10 Things I Would Tell My Narcissist Ex If I Could
A version of this article appeared on Thought Catalog.