Servicing your emotional distress takes a lot out of you

17 Mar 2022

Being in a relationship with a Narcissist means that you are constantly in their line of fire. Even when they are “nice” – by narcissistic standards – you can never relax. You know that it is only a matter of time before the other shoe drops. So, you learn to be hypervigilant.

You also learn to try to micromanage the Narcissist’s entire environment. Because, if you can only ensure that every area of their life runs smoothly, they won’t turn nasty. Right?

Wrong! They always turn nasty.

Nevertheless, you cling to the hope or belief that your best efforts at least delayed the inevitable, for a while. So, if you can just build on these past “successes”, maybe you will be able to … well, transform the relationship. Mutate the Narcissist’s temperament. Create your Happily Ever After. Finally.

“I am controlling and high maintenance”

A client of mine who spent 20 years vainly trying to perform that miracle, recently said to me. “I am willing to accept that I am controlling and high maintenance.” She said that with reference to a divorce lawyer who didn’t like being held accountable – lawyers can be weird like that.) (No offence intended to any lawyers who might be reading this.)

In fact, my client is neither controlling nor high maintenance.

Nobody who ever stays in a relationship with a Narcissist can be high maintenance.

As I understand it, there is only room for one high maintenance person in a relationship with a Narcissist. That person is not you.

Living with a volatile, Narcissistic husband, my client learned to become a hypervigilant micromanager.

Didn’t we all?

It wasn’t that she was controlling, she was simply trying to get a handle on the very high level of emotional distress that she experience in her marriage.

Just like we all did.

Narcissists teach you to live in fear

Narcissists teach you to live in fear of the pain that they will inflict on you.

They will always try to find a way to up the ante.

Even if they are no longer “your” Narcissist. Even if they have replaced you with another partner but still “co-parent” with you.

Even if they are officially out of your life, their words and the fear that they instil within you can remain with you for the longest time.

As a general principle, the survivors of Narcissistic abuse are very easily wounded. By virtually anyone who shows any negativity towards them.

Servicing that level of emotional distress – which you cannot help but do when you live with it – takes an enormous amount out of you. It occupies a lot of your emotional bandwidth and leaves you precious little time to rebuild your self-worth and enjoy your life.

Your kind of normal

In a narcissistic relationship, you come to accept that living with a high level of emotional distress is your kind of normal.  It’s all too easy to confuse what is usual – for you – for what might be normal for you or anyone else. Especially someone living in a less toxic environment.

However, the reality is that – at least for those of us not living in a true war zone – living with a high level of emotional distress should not be normal.

Rather, as a general principle, we do well to stay away from people who ratchet up the drama and distress at every possible opportunity. It takes such a heavy toll on us.

If you have not already done so, you need to become aware of the very high toll that servicing your emotional distress is taking on you. That is not okay either for you or the people who love you. They don’t want you to show up on just 50% – or perhaps rather less – of your authentic, beautiful self.

Survivors of narcissistic abuse are very quick to tell me about all the things that they can never hope to do, be or ever have again as a result of what they have been through.

That is the exactly what a Narcissist hopes to achieve.

How to stop servicing emotional distress

Narcissists want you to spend your life without them servicing the emotional distress that they have left you with.

They are very happy for you to view your life as some kind of emotional waste ground that can never be replanted.

The reality is that that ground does require a degree of weeding and tilling but it is not waste ground. Rather, it is potentially very fertile soil. You can always replant and turn it into a more beautiful space than it ever was before. Experience will make you a more careful gardener than you were before.

The first step has to be the decision not to continue servicing your emotional distress. That distress is what keeps you stuck. You can eradicate it.

The problem is that when you are worn out from servicing that emotional distress, you just don’t have the wherewithal to eradicate it all by yourself.

All my years of working with survivors of narcissistic abuse has taught me that it often does not take nearly as much energy to transform someone’s inner world as that person might think. But they do need the tools and the “aha” moments.

That is why I am pouring everything that I have learnt that helps survivors heal from narcissistic abuse into my Break Free membership. It was designed to be as comprehensive,  doable and affordable as possible.

If servicing your emotional distress is still taking a lot out of you, and the healing work that you have done already hasn’t achieved everything that you would have hoped for, check it out.


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.

6 thoughts on “Servicing your emotional distress takes a lot out of you”

  1. I can identify my situation with beeing exposed to emotional abuse for the last 4 years (lies, words never match actions, my needs last, multiple episodes of weeks with silent treatment). I’m confused and exhausted. I need structured help but how do I know it is narcissistic abuse and not something else (attachment issues ie.) and that BreakFree program will be the right thing?

    • Good question.

      Attachment issues don’t lead to abuse.

      If it looks like abuse, it feels like abuse and it corresponds to a typical description of abuse… you can be pretty sure that it is abuse – in which case, the Break Free program will be a perfect fit.


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