What do you suppose is the most important thing that a Narcissist steals from you? Admittedly, that is one big question. However, it is a big question that needs to be asked. It can only help your healing if you can drill down to the core of the problem. How are you meant to heal from what you have been through if you do not even see the full effects of what has happened? When you don’t fully understand the consequences of abuse, you end up blaming yourself and saying, “It’s just me” when, in reality, you are struggling with previously unacknowledged trauma.
Once you can see that trauma for what it is, you can show more self-compassion – and work on your healing in a deeper, more effective way.
So, in this article I am going to look at the most important – and often overlooked – thing that a Narcissist steals from you and how you reclaim it.
All Narcissists are emotional asset-strippers
Any toxic relationship is, in reality, a kind of emotional asset-stripping operation. Your abuser will rob you of your
- Faith in humanity
- Material assets
- Friends and family
But, in the end, the biggest thing that they steal from you is your sense of who you are.
Early on in the conversation, just about every woman – and man – that I have ever spoken to about emotional and narcissistic abuse has stated that they have
- Forgotten who they were
- Lost their voice
- Lost sight of themselves
- Lost the happy and/or confident person that they once were.
Toxic people specialise in identity theft.
You don’t end up feeling like a hollow, broken shell of the person that you once were by chance.
It is no accident that when I ask survivors what they enjoy doing, they often look at me blankly and reply, “I don’t even know anymore.”
Narcissists rob you of your sense of self because that serves their best interest. There really is only room for one person in the relationship. That person was never going to be you. You are only there as a mirror in which they can see their own reflection.
Healing requires you to reclaim your missing self
So, when it comes to healing, the logical place to start is by reclaiming that missing self.
Unfortunately, the double-bind is this: when you have come to feel so unworthy, how do you justify focusing on yourself, first and foremost?
Most of us don’t.
Instead, we take that lesson learnt from a Narcissist that we are unimportant and we continue to run with it.
We leave our own healing on the back burner until such time as our circumstances, our children and everything else finally cut us some slack. Unfortunately, that tends not to happen – because Life just doesn’t seem to work that way.
John Lennon famously said that Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
On one level, I wouldn’t disagree with him. However, on another, an abusive relationship could teach us that we need to make a very clear distinction between Life and people.
An abusive relationship happens when…
Sooner or later, you come to realize that an abusive relationship happens to you when you were busy making very different plans.
Once an abusive relationship has happened to you, you start to see that you can never, EVER, afford to let people happen to you as they please.
You can only afford to let them happen to you insofar as that works for you – and with your consent. In other words, you really have to take charge of who is, and is NOT, allowed access to your head and your heart-space.
In order to do that, you have to break the old patterns of thought and behaviour. You have to take yourself beyond the old patterns of believing that
- a) you really don’t matter and
b) it is always your job to go the extra mile, or several, for other people – irrespective of their behaviour towards you.
An instructive dream
Just today a client was telling me about an important dream that she had had, the night before.
In it, she found a note that her husband had written and left around, intentionally by accident. The message that it conveyed was, essentially, that she was an inferior sort of person – standard narcissistic stuff, of course.
In her dream, without a moment’s hesitation she stormed out on him. He followed her and begged her to come back. She told him precisely what she thought of him, told him that she was divorcing him and kept on walking.
Now, dreams don’t make up much of the work that I do with my clients. However, this one was too instructive to disregard. My client had been processing new ways of feeling about herself and her soon-to-be ex and she had arrived at a very different way of feeling about him.
Until that point, her (sleeping) dreams had all been about how she needed him in her life, despite his abusive behaviour.
Now, her subconscious mind was just telling her that something had shifted inside her and he no longer had access to her head and heart-space.
Like me, she had spent 20+ years with her horrible husband.
Understandably, she regretted those years. But she had made another mental shift, too. She had realised that, while she couldn’t have those years back, she could use the rest of her life to more than make up for her joy deficit.
She reckoned that might be a good project to work on.
Making a clear break with a wretched past
My client was making a clear break between her wretched past and her present and future. She has no doubt that her present and future will be brighter because she is committed to making them much brighter.
Besides, removing a Narcissist from your life is not unlike removing a piece of grit (no typo) from your eye – just the absence of the pain is enough to make you feel much, MUCH better.
Healing does require you to focus on yourself first.
You cannot heal what you do not focus on.
You cannot root out old patterns of feeling and behavior that you do not address.
Break the old patterns
If that is something that you still need to do but, for whatever reason, you cannot commit to 1 on 1 healing work, then my new Breaking Old Boundaries Toolkit could be exactly what you need. It offers you all the tools, techniques and insight that you need to start breaking old patterns – including the pesky few that you might not even be aware of yet. (Needless to say, it even helps you identify them first off, so that you can then effectively set about rooting them out.)
The most important thing that a Narcissist steals from you is your sense of yourself. When you break the old patterns of letting other people fill your head and heart-space with their negative feelings about you, you soon start to reconnect with your authentic self that lies beneath all of that programming. When will you liberate your heart and head-space?
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.