Narcissistic abuse recovery | Michelle Dixon

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery | Trauma Relationship

Healing after a breakup

Whilst it is important to acknowledge the very real hurt caused by narcissists in a relationship, in the healing journey the focus should be 100% on you.

So, I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you how awful people with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) are. It goes without saying that these toxic personalities are frankly very dangerous, and they do very real damage that can take many years to undo.

They are broken individuals, lacking empathy, having a grandiose sense of importance, attention-seeking … and if you are their (in)significant other, you will always be in service to them, feeding their self-importance (narcissistic supply).

Yeah, nasty. If you want to be certain that the person you are dating is a narcissist you can check here.

Getting back to you … 

Here’s how to tell if you are in or were in a narcissistic relationship.

Narcissistic abuse recovery
  • Your relationship started off great! Your partner was charming and full of stories highlighting how amazing, successful and interesting they were, and they showered you with affection in the first few months. Until they suddenly turned on you, becoming manipulative and controlling;
  • They pick on you a lot;
  • Everything somehow becomes your problem, your character deficit, your issue – you start to feel crazy (this is gaslighting);
  • You REALLY start to feel crazy – crazy and confused;
  • You are always apologizing and feel like you are doing everything wrong!
  • You make excuses for them to your friends and family or keep them a secret because deep down, you know it’s not right;
  • There’s a bit of addiction here: you crave those amazing highs, that connection or intimacy, then you crash and are devastated by the lows, but then you feel totally blissful when you get affection and that blinds you to the lows… (*this is a rollercoaster ride, not a relationship);
  • You start to accept their crazy stories, their accusations, and begin to accept that you just have to tolerate it all because they are so great and charming (aren’t they? Surely they are?), but yet –
  • You know something is wrong, just not what, and you definitely don’t know how to get out of the relationship (or maybe even why, because maybe that’s just how it has to be – *this is brainwashing).

Why did you end up in a relationship with a narcissist to begin with?

The statistics are really clear. Most people who end up in narcissistic and abusive relationships experienced either abandonment as a child, some form of abuse, or had a narcissistic parent themselves (and therefore abuse).

It’s possible (okay, it’s very likely) that if you have a partner with NPD, you are codependent to some extent – I am not saying this is a label you wear for life (see more on that further down).

Narcissists often end up with a codependent partner for a very good reason – they fit nicely, like complementary pieces of a puzzle.

Codependence is about, to some extent, being –

hyper-focused on others. They typically form an identity around serving others’ needs. They may try to control another person’s behavior, believing they know what is best for the person. Instead of praise, codependents often crave gratitude and a sense of “being needed.”

Good Therapy

Research is clear that ‘adverse childhood experiences’ or ACEs (from, say, developmental trauma), are highly linked to both Narcissism and Codependency. 

You can think of it like this: one person may develop an adaptive behaviour of sacrificing their own needs or wants in order to prove their worth, in order to ‘survive’ in their early environment.

(By survival here, I mean either to get the approval or love they craved, or to actually survive – when there was abuse).

Another person with an unhealthy early environment might counter neglect with an inflated need for self-importance, leading to a narcissistic personality. In fact, a 2001 study of 793 mothers and children found a threefold increase in NPD among children whose mothers were verbally abusive. Wow.

Then, in adulthood, these two ‘opposite’ personalities find a good match: the narcissist wants adulation and control, and the codependent is happy to sacrifice themself for this.

Okay, it’s not so straightforward. Truth is, a trauma relationship reveals the cracks that were already there.

A trauma relationship is a relationship characterized by trauma, which means it is one that negatively impacts your nervous system (your fight or flight), limbic system (emotional self-regulation), and negatively impacts your health and wellbeing.

narcissistic abuse recovery

You cannot judge yourself for your behaviour when you are in trauma.

Narcissistic abuse is trauma, and often it’s only when you are healing from narcissistic abuse that you understand some aspects of ‘how you do relationships’ which you may have not noticed before!

You may have had healthy relationships before the narcissistic one.

So it’s not fair to say that because you were in an abusive relationship, you should have the label ‘codependent’ tattooed on your forehead!

Having been in a ‘codependent’ category myself, I can tell you one overlooked truth we should all be shouting from the rooftops – a narcissist will bring out all your unresolved codependency issues.

So, again, if you have been in a Narcisstic relationship, it doesn’t mean you are hopelessly and forever codependent. It means that you have some unresolved patterns to look at.

Sometimes, just to give you one example of how it might happen, we repress or ignore our childhood experiences until we hit a breaking point: divorce, job loss, illness – in short, we become vulnerable.

When we are vulnerable, that’s often when we become open to abuse, and our deep internal patterns rise to the surface to be seen clearly.

{Unfortunately – it’s so not fun, but it can show you where there is healing to do}.

Healing After a Breakup

You CAN heal, completely and utterly, and find yourself in the happiest and healthiest relationship of your dreams. (I did and my clients have.)

I can tell you that not just in my own personal experience having been in such a relationship, but also in having worked with hundreds of clients who had been in narcissistic relationships, the first step on the healing journey is really inquiring into the collection of beliefs, experiences, and expectations you’ve had around love and connection, which have contributed to this high tolerance for unhealthy relationships.

By tolerance I mean you tolerated it – you stayed for however long you stayed.

Please do not ever feel shame. I have been there. Countless others have been there. It’s like addiction, and it takes as long as it takes to get out and get better.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

My work is of course about you, helping you to heal, helping you to regrow your sense of self love and self belief, and ensuring that you are relationship-ready, so that you can have the love and connection that of course you really deserve.

So, to that end, I must always point out an obvious fact – not everyone ends up in a narcissistic relationship. So why me? Why you?

I’m sorry to say that it’s not some unfortunate accident of fate, that you just fell for the wrong person.

I’m also not saying that it’s your fault, and you are 100% entitled to your anger, hurt, and more, because the damage is real.

But please consider this:

A child who grows up and a loving and healthy family, where their needs were met, where they knew the experience of being supported and loved, these children end up in healthy happy relationships for the most part. And that is no accident either.

Healing from narcissistic abuse

This category of people, those who come from these loving early environments, are not targeted by narcissists. Nor would they tolerate that kind of treatment were they to find themselves in a dynamic with someone with NPD.

Another way that I often explain this to my clients is by emphasising that we each have our internal template of what it means to be loved, and what it means to be in a relationship.

We each have a relationship/love template that has become comfortable to us. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, it’s just familiar and comfortable.

When we become used to a certain dynamic in childhood, we tend to repeat that in adulthood. We start to tolerate the intolerable because our nervous system has basically been trained to gravitate to what we consider normal.

So, in my case, with a father who wasn’t around and didn’t see me often, I thought that love was always conditional. And I felt that really my role was to prove that I was worthy of being visited, of having gifts given to me, of being approved of and loved.

I thought: I must not be worthy – or else why would he not have wanted to be my dad, and see me a lot like other dads did with their little girls, and like he did with his other children?

And this energy was so familiar to me that I just thought that’s what a relationship must be about, which is how I ended up in such unhealthy dynamics with really terrible men!

Of course I see this in my clients again and again, but I just shared this with you as an illustration because my goal really is to help you to understand that in order to heal from a narcissistic abusive relationship, you not only need to restore your sense of worthiness, but also begin to fundamentally change you’re very basic love and relationship programming!

Narcissistic abuse recovery is about re-doing your relationship programming and learning self-love first.

Narcissist recovery

The first questions to start asking yourself are:

  • What are your beliefs about what it means to be loved, what it means to love someone, and what it means to be in a relationship?
  • What do you see as your role in a relationship?
  • Do you feel that you always need to work hard to maintain the interest of your partner?
  • Do you feel that it’s okay to tolerate being ignored or not spoken to kindly, because that’s just what one has to deal with in any relationship?
  • Do you feel your significant other is just so great in so many other ways, that this mistreatment is ‘the price you pay?’
  • Are you afraid that if you end this relationship, you’ll never find anyone again who makes you feel this way (the highs, not the lows).

There are many such questions to be considered in the healing journey, and I’m not going to pretend that the journey is simple, but it’s achievable, and you are worth it.

Working with your most vulnerable self (maybe it’s your inner child) is one powerful way to begin healing. I write all about a process for doing this in this blog.

You are worthy of love, of connection, of being adored and spoiled, listened to and heard, of commitment, of being shown off to all your partner’s friends and family, of being a priority in someone’s life.

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