This week, I’ve been talking with a lot of women who are struggling to heal from narcissistic abuse. They are putting a lot of energy into their recovery. Yet, they are not getting the kind of results that they would like. As I listened to them, three key points emerged. I wanted to share them with you so that you don’t have to struggle as they have.
The three things that stop a person healing from narcissistic abuse are, actually, all unmet emotional needs.
Nobody should have to continue living the “half-life” of unresolved trauma after narcissistic and emotional abuse.
As a survivor of emotional abuse, you become very good at soldiering on, disregarding your unmet needs. You become so good at it because, for a long time, you simply didn’t have any choice.
But, as with all things, there comes a time of reckoning with all buried feelings and unmet needs. You can only keep working that survival strategy for so long before these three needs start clamouring ever more loudly for your attention.
The 3 things that stop you healing from narcissistic abuse
1) You need to be heard
You need to be truly heard by someone who can hold the space for you and help you explore your own feelings in a climate of safety. That is not something that just anyone can offer you. Even with the best intentions, friends and family members cannot offer you the kind of care coupled with detachment and deep listening that you need.
So, you need to ensure that you do not work with someone who is either not listening or not validating you.
Kelly (not her real name) realised that her performance at work was suffering as a result of the damage she had suffered in a narcissistic relationship. Her self-doubt, low self-worth and constant need to people-please impaired her ability to show up as the competent, high-flying professional that she really is.
Still, Kelly believes in confronting her issues. She arranged to see a counsellor who offered her CBT.
“She didn’t want to hear about my personal issues,“ Kelly told me. “She just focused on strategies for not falling into my trauma-driven patterns of thinking and feeling.”
How is that one meant to work?
Kelly was hurting because she was carrying a lifelong wound of invalidation.
Narcissists do not see, hear or validate you in the way that you need.
When you are not validated you come away feeling that you don’t matter.
Her counsellor’s approach – “I don’t need to hear what happened to you. You just have to do X, Y, and Z to silence the hurt” – felt like confirmation that she really didn’t matter – and did not deserve to matter.
All of us who have suffered abuse from a loved one, have had similar experiences. We may well end up using similar strategies to stay upbeat and keep ourselves on track. However, before we get to that stage, we need to be heard.
You need someone who can hear you and work with you to liberate yourself from the straightjacket of negative thinking.
When you are feeling unseen, unhappy and decidedly unhopeful about the future, it really is too much to try to get through that alone.
2) You need to hear yourself
Have you ever stopped to think how much of the time you spend talking at yourself rather than with yourself?
Yes, I know that talking to yourself is meant to be one of the first signs of madness. Actually, I would suggest not having an internal dialogue is probably the first sign of either not having a brain or a pulse.
You have a brain. Brains love to chatter.
What matters is the kind of chatter you have going on.
Most people, especially survivors, have a negative, damning motor-mouth sitting inside their own head telling them,
- Everything – and I do mean everything – that is wrong with them,
- How they are inferior to other people, every which way.
- What they can never aspire to be, do or have.
That is not just negative but toxic.
You need to switch from that horrible, internal… rant to a more conscious conversation.
You say horrible things to yourself because you feel bad. That is not rocket science.
When that happens, what you need is comfort and reassurance.
You have stepped up to the plate a thousand times for other people. It’s time to start doing that for yourself. You need to open up a comforting dialogue inside your own head.
You need to listen to yourself and tell yourself,
“Hey, I know it is really hard for you. I know just how you feel. And you are a good person for all that. You will find your way through. You will be happy.” If you don’t feel comfortable starting up that new dialogue then you can open the way with my Healing Affirmations for Dark Moments.
One way or another, you owe yourself some respectful listening and empathetic conversation.
That is a responsibility that you have towards yourself.
3) You need to make yourself a priority
I’m beginning to think that I shall probably still be saying this as I shuffle off this mortal coil. For the simple reason that survivors of narcissistic abuse find this very hard to hear – or, at least, take seriously.
So, here’s the thing. You were not very good at making yourself a priority. In fact, you were programmed to put other people – pretty much anyone other than you – ahead of you.
That was one powerful reason why you ended up in a relationship with a toxic, self-centred horror.
That horror saw the possibilities. They saw that there was a job vacancy for someone to take centre stage in your life. They decided to step in and fill it.
So, on the one hand, you can’t afford ever to have that kind of vacancy again.
On the other, you cannot heal what you don’t prioritize. If it is not important enough to you to focus time and energy on, healing will not magically happen of its own accord.
Rather, you are giving yourself the counterproductive message that your pain is really not important enough for you to do anything about.
So, these are the 3 things that stop you healing from Narcissistic abuse.
If you are not where you would like to be right now, ask yourself which of them do you feel is getting in your way? And how important do you feel it is for you to get past that block.
If you feel that working with me would help you, get in touch.
Either way, be sure that you start making yourself a priority in your own life. You matter.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.