Once you have gone no-contact, no matter how much you wanted to do it, it may still feel like you have ripped out a part of your own body and you can do nothing but wait for the bleeding to dry up. There are ways of moving on after going no contact with a narcissist, however, even the thought of doing so can leave you inexplicably frozen in either turmoil or indecision.
For me, what was even harder than moving on was feeling like the narcissist had left a part of himself with me. I could see him everywhere I turned, especially in the places we had spent time together. I could feel him with me at all times, in my mind and body, as if he was telepathically reaching out to me.
I would sometimes have the thought that the fact that we were both on the earth meant we would never be far enough away from each other for me to truly be free of him. Despite everything he had done to me, I feared that a part of me would always be in love with that undefined piece of him that he had left with me for the rest of my life.
Moving on After Going No Contact with a Narcissist Means First Moving On From Holding On
The strange thing was that a part of me did not want to lose that feeling, even though I didn’t understand it.
There was another part of me that wanted, needed, to be free of that tie, so I took conscious actions to force myself to start letting him go. What anyone who has never been in a relationship with a narcissist doesn’t understand is that there are actions that have to be taken to move on from the feeling of holding on before one can move on with one’s life.
These were things that I did after I went no-contact in order to help myself move on from him and begin to get my own mind back, to gain control of my life. They didn’t work overnight, but they did work for me pretty quickly.
If you’re struggling to let your narcissist ex go and to remove him or her from you’re sphere even if you’re in no-contact, here are five things you can try to purge him or her from your heart and move on.
1. Write a List of Everything The Narcissist Ever Did to You That Was Damaging.
This item comes in two parts.
First, make the list. make it as detailed as possible. What insults did he or she hurl at you? How many times did he or she cheat?
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 caveat here for me was that sometimes I’d get so angry, I’d feel like telling him off. Do not do this.
Instead, write all the lists you want and need to. Perhaps put them in the form of letters, telling him or her what a jerk he or she is and do not send the letters. Write, write, write until you can’t write anymore.
However, the goal is to purge yourself of emotion about the relationship for the moment, to rid yourself of the desire to reach out or hold on, not incite the emotion.
What that means is to stop often and get a read on what you are feeling. If you find your emotions are building, rather than fading, then stop and use another form of emotion management, such a soothing activity or distraction.
2. Keep reading your lists and your letters 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 about what was done to you and how. You may feel less sad and more indignant–but this is a good thing. That indignation will build a wall in your heart and help you mentally to “stand up” to the narcissist in case he or she returns.
Even if he or she doesn’t, that emotion will help you put the distance there emotionally to analyze what took place and then help you move past the connection you were unable to break before.
2. Avoid People Who Are Victim-Blamers.
You’re trying to make a major life change by recovering and letting go of the narcissist so you can move on. The last thing you need right now is someone judging you for having been in the relationship, or even judging whatever emotions you may still be having even though you’re no longer in it.
Victim-blamers make it harder for you to make the changes you need to make because they have an image of you as someone who somehow invited the abuse. The pre-conceived role they have defined for you in their minds colors their interactions with you.
You don’t need that negativity and 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.
This may or may not include people who call you codependent for what happened. At this point, while you are still feeling connected to the narcissist, it may not be the best idea to examine what either brought or kept you there.
What you are doing is trying to break the connection. The narcissist used manipulation tactics on you that can work on anyone, regardless of their own state of mind, and codependence for these types of relationships especially damaging for victims of mind control.
You will be in a better frame of mind to examine any particular once you have moved on from holding on. This examination could actually be categorized in the second aspect of moving on from this type of damage.
3. 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, but continuing to read about narcissistic abuse will validate your experience 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 what the narcissist left behind out of your sphere. It will start to sink in that we are all feeling the same thing, that there is nothing to miss because all of our stories are carbon copies of one another; we are missing ghosts.
4. Think Like a Narcissist.
Seek out the videos, books, and articles created by narcissists themselves that explain their own 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 own desire for the narcissist.
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 what you read generically about how they think to your own situation, and start giving yourself pep talks, especially if you start to get nostalgic or miss the narcissist: Why do you want to hear from someone who seeks to use and control you like this? If it actually worked, he would be secretly laughing at you for falling for it. He doesn’t even miss you. Do you really want someone controlling you like this, and so blatantly, now that you know what’s going on?
You will, maybe for the first time, be able in your own mind to start rejecting the narcissist (instead of the other way around) as you reject the narcissist’s way of thinking.
5. Take Yourself and Your Life Back.
Were there things you changed or hid about your life just to keep the peace and keep him or her from questioning you (settings on your phone, for example)?
Change them back. Now. Do what you need to do to that is in your power to do to purge the narcissist from your sight or your psychic influence.
If there are things in your home environment that remind you of him or her, get rid of them. 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 some television shows or a movie that the narcissist never liked or wasn’t interested in. Do some things you had put on hold because he or she was dominating your life and 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. Invite a friend out that you haven’t talked to in a long time, especially if it’s someone the narcissist had isolated you from in some way.
Anything you put on hold, left behind, put off, ignored, didn’t explore, felt bad about, or changed to appease the narcissist, drag it out and let it shine. These are the things that are going to take the space that the narcissist was squatting in. That space belongs to you and you can and should put in it whatever you want to without guilt, without fear.
They are the things that will help you start living your life again in small steps, one day at a time.
Taking Your Mind Back is the First Step
I engaged in these five things to keep the narcissist from having any more power over my life.
I had made a deliberate decision that I did not want to be in love with someone who had only not really loved me as I had loved him. I did not want to stay connected to someone who had lied to me about the nature of his love and had repeatedly and intentionally done things to hurt me.
It hurt to let go of my love and to believe these things. I wanted to keep believing the lie–but believing it was hurting me.
Although these actions are not a substitute for therapy with a qualified therapist, they can be done in the absence of one. It is a really good idea to seek out a therapist who has a background treating trauma and abuse, particularly one who is either knowledgeable about narcissistic abuse or is amenable to learning more about it.
In the meantime, however, believing a lie was keeping me from getting my mind back. Giving over control of my mind was and keeping me from doing the type of moving on that would help me get my life back.
If you’d like to get a copy of the toolkit that I developed to help take your life back, it is available at this link:
A version of this article also published on Thought Catalog: 5 Things to Help You Move On After Going No-Contact With a Narcissist