How do you do life after you have had your heart broken and your spirit crushed by narcissistic abuse? If that strikes you as an impossible question, I hear you. It’s both normal and understandable to feel that the challenge you face is both overwhelming and impossible.
And yet, there is always a way forward.
Narcissistic abuse leaves you with so many questions about how you pick up and sort out each part of your shattered life that it is paralysingly hard to know where to start. In today’s article, I want to look at creating some kind of useful perspective. That begins with getting a handle on your life.
Quick Should alert
Obviously, there are no easy answers – unless you listen to the ranks of the Smarter-Than-Thou folks. Their lack of empathy for your situation seemingly equips them to pontificate, unasked. If you just listened to them and “put on your big girl panties”, or similar, then it would be easy. Allegedly.
Similarly, if you just followed the uncharitable voice of your own inner critic and thought, said and did all the things that voice tells you that you “should” then your life would be … a monument to your being able to do things that neither you nor that voice know how to do.
It’s always dead easy to tell someone, including yourself, what you should be doing. What is not so easy is communicating a message that they can hear without feeling diminished.
The art lies in shifting that person’s mood and mind-set from despair and doubt to feeling sufficiently at peace with themselves to recognize and take the necessary steps.
The crossroad you face post-Narcissistic abuse
The truth is that after emotional and narcissistic abuse you face an inner crossroad; the road way more travelled – or at least more started and then stalled along – is the road of all the “shoulds” and practical considerations.
This road demands that you “just” haul on those “big girl panties, shake off the pain, trauma and depersonalization and get your life back in working order. Preferably in a matter of weeks or a few months.
Plus, to reassure those “Big Girl Panties” advocates, you should probably dive headlong into the next relationship within 6 months.
(I have to admit that I have yet to discover an outlet that offers these Big Girl Panties, despite having looked long and hard. I wouldn’t mind a pair myself.)
The road WAY less travelled is… is the road back to you. How do you find a self who has the strength to take you forward and make the rest of your life meaningful, successful and joyful?
How, when you are feeling incredibly lost and broken do you go about putting your life back together?
The better the answers that we find to the problems that we have to grapple with, the easier our recovery will be.
The road more travelled
I say this as someone whose own early answers were decidedly suboptimal. I was definitely a Road More Travelled kind of gal – except that I never seemed to get anywhere along that damned road.
Sort out the practical stuff first, I thought and then, when you have time to breathe, you can work on yourself. The problem with that, as I learned to my cost, was that I never did find the time to breathe. All that working on the practical stuff when I was in Red Alert mode, left me without the bandwidth to work on myself. Or move forward.
Fortunately, our failures are often a lot more edifying – as well as painful – than our successes. The things that I learned from my own failures have enabled me to help others to do that recovery far more smoothly and painlessly than I ever did. Discovering what finally moved me on from my sticking points turned out to be useful to a lot of other survivors, also.
Knowing what doesn’t work is one small step for womankind on the way to discovering what does work.
The double standards you face
Our society is awash with double standards. A key one here is that society, generally, takes a dim view of a person when they are at some kind of rock bottom.
When you come back from rock bottom, society will see you and acclaim you as a hero. But when you are at rock bottom and most need support, society tends to opt for creating a – reassuring – emotional distance from you.
This is where all the smug dismissiveness that you experience come in, in various forms of words, including:
- “Why did she/he stay so long?” or
- “Why didn’t she/he just leave?”
- “ would never let anyone treat me that way”… and
- “It takes two to tango.”
No judgement, right?
Judgement works wonderfully well to keep an insecure person’s own fears at bay.
Seeing you at rock bottom makes them uncomfortable.
So, instead of being thankful that they are not at rock bottom – as they very well could be – and showing compassion for you, they prefer to keep you at arm’s length. As if your unhappiness could be contagious. As if, given half a chance, you would drag them down into the depths of misery that you inhabit.
Since these people don’t care about you enough to support you when you most need it, you really don’t need to worry about their opinion.
Your feelings matter
Instead you need to start caring about your own feelings. Your feelings matter.
See, here’s the thing. When any abusive relationship breaks down, life is incredibly tough for the victim.
For the abuser, whether or not they cry crocodile tears, it is more or less just another day at the office of narcissistic self-promotion. Whether they still have to find your replacement, or they already have that person lined up is almost immaterial. Wherever they start from, they will soon bounce back. You can bet they will be okay. They will be okay even if they belong to that small minority who decide that the Permanently Heartbroken status will suit them best.
For you, of course, the situation is incredibly tough. What matters now is how you live that tough situation.
If you keep telling yourself the old, toxic, catastrophizing narrative that all abusers drill into you, about it all being downhill from here, you will, inevitably end up feeling much worse.
Your thoughts have a powerful effect on your mood.
The only thing worse than being in a really hard situation is reflecting constantly on how hard it is.
You already know that.
The issue is how you stop doing that.
What helps is to focus on any glimmer of light that you can see, no matter how far down the proverbial tunnel that light maybe.
Your inner soundtrack
That means moving away from all the terrifying, worst case scenario “what if’s” and the vision of the tragically lonely, unfulfilled life of regrets to becoming your own best friend, cheerleader and – good – parent.
If you were to really listen to the narrative inside your own head, you would be appalled.
The assumptions that narrative makes about you are shocking. It assumes that
- You’re helpless and hopeless
- You don’t have the wherewithal to sort out your own life.
- Most everything about you is not good enough.
- You are one of the more undeserving people on the planet.
- You have to settle for second best – or worse.
- Other people are better than you,
- You are stupid and generally unappealing.
You wouldn’t say any of this to even a casual acquaintance in distress. You would know that you would only make the person feel even worse , and feeling worse would not help that person to move forward.
You know, from experience, that when someone stokes your anxieties and bad feelings, the effort required to surmount the distress increases exponentially.
Yet, when it comes to you, you probably repeat some of these destructive mantras to yourself many times a day.
How to get perspective on your internal narrative
How crippling do you suppose that kind of narrative is?
Or, to put it another way, if you discovered that a child of yours was running that kind of narrative, how deeply do you think it might affect the way she, or he, functioned? Even if she or he was academically successful, how likely would it be to affect his or her self-worth and social relations?
Why would you be different in that respect?
What can possibly justify you speaking to yourself in a worse way than you would speak to other people?
When you are facing the massive task of putting your life back together , why would you want to do anything that actually makes it harder.
When you are struggling to put your life and your sense of self back together after narcissistic abuse, you may well feel that the odds are stacked against you. Certainly, your abuser will do everything that they can to make things as difficult as possible.
Start from the most powerful place possible
So, start from the most powerful place possible; your own mind. Instead of attempting to fighting too many battles at once, create a more empowering inner dialogue. Treat your feelings with the respect that you would show to someone that you care about and you will start to find your best way forward.
If you are struggling to create a more empowering inner dialogue, start somewhere, right now. If you haven’t already downloaded my Healing Affirmations for Dark Moments , then start there. Certainly, it is as good a place as any to start. There is a magic in constructive beginnings.
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.