Are you still playing catchup and how to stop

16 May 2024

Are you still playing catchup and how to stop

This week, I really want to talk to you about catchup. It’s far from being my favorite game but it is very much on my mind this week. But I’ve spent the last 24 hours playing catch up with myself.


Because my partner is struggling with his health and I and my emotional bandwidth   totally overstretched.

Catchup – the rules

Catchup is a simple game. The rules are always:

  • There is vital information that you either lack or miss
  • You have insufficient emotional bandwidth available to process information correctly
  • You end up doing a great deal of chasing your own tail, together with a massive and, ideally, unnecessary consumption of emotional energy.
  • Nobody ever wins at catchup.

A tale of two games of catchup

Yesterday, catchup resulted in me turning up – at exactly the right time – at the wrong Central London Hospital. Today, it meant 3 woman-hours tracking down my partner’s jeans with his wallet in them.

Not good.

While all of this was going on, I had an ongoing dialogue with a client about someone dear to her who has let her down very badly.

Now, S. is a typically sweet soul (as survivors of narcissistic abuse always are*) with a tendency towards hyper accountability. She works on the principle that everything that does not work out the way that it should, within a thousand miles of her, is somehow her fault. To some degree, at the very least.

S was spectacularly economical with the scenario she described. Still, what she said pointed to a narcissistic friend using her as a scapegoat, despite knowing how much S. was hurting over her own tough situation.

It isn’t much of a stretch for you to understand how S. was feeling. She had done everything that she could to support this friend over the years. Plus, she had been open and vulnerable with her.

What lesson to learn

  1. vowed to learn the lesson from the abuse and rejection that she had experienced at the hands of her false friend and never to trust anyone again. She decided she was through with opening up to people and getting hurt.

Fortunately, a trusted third party confirmed that S.’s friend behavior had been reprehensible and, in fact, bore all the hallmarks of narcissistic abuse.

When she communicated that to me, I replied that I was glad that she was finally hearing it. I also hoped that she would learn the right lessons from it – just as I was setting out to apply the right lessons from the missing jeans.

You see, one of the things that I have found that works for both me and my clients is to learn the right lesson from tough experience. This serves three useful purposes:

  • It means that we don’t make Life any harder for ourselves than it already is by closing ourselves off from future good experiences.
  • It ensures that we bring new wisdom to our future encounters.
  • It restores a reassuring sense of having some control over a situation even when circumstances have not turned out as we would have wished.

You stop playing catchup when you learn the right lessons

When you learn the right lesson, you spend a lot less time playing catchup and that greatly reduces the wear and tear on your nervous system. But what are the right lessons that will break that old pattern of playing catchup, once and for all?

  • Kindness towards yourself. Nowhere in the rules of catchup is kindness ever mentioned.

Narcissists teach you that you are always in the wrong, never deserve the benefit of the doubt and never warrant kind treatment. Most everything that a Narcissist upholds is completely untrue. So, you need to allow yourself to open to the idea that you could well be in the right and always deserve kindness, either way.

Kindness from others is not always guaranteed. Kindness towards yourself, in every situation, is something that you need to start working on. Whether or not we mess up (as I did) when overstretched, we gain precisely nothing by punishing and abusing ourselves.

Cruelty does not improve anyone. Kindness gives reviled souls – like abuse survivors – a helping hand in rebuilding their sense of self-worth.

  • Ask yourselfWhat might I be missing?”

Survivors are always quick to berate themselves for any perceived failure, mishap or oversight.  Even when the causal connection between what happened and what they did (or did not do) is tenuous to non-existent.

Instead of rushing in to blame themselves, they need to take a step back and ask themselves: “What might I be missing?” You could be missing something as glaringly obvious as the fact that other people are responsible for their actions, too, or something about this is not making sense – which tends to suggest that another person is either withholding or distorting information. (Or, in my case, the message could be as simple as “things work better when you stop being Mrs”).

  • “What specificially can I learn from this situation?” Human beings are meaning and generalization-making creatures. However, untested generalizations tend not to serve us very well.

The generalization that S. could have taken from her situation was that human beings are horrible and will always betray you. Whereas more specificity could lead her to reflect that the other person involved had a habit of being unkind to her.

The specific learning from the situation then becomes: “Stay away from people who are in the habit of showing me unkindness. That does not ever work out well.”

In an ideal world, we might be able to eliminate the game of catchup from our lives. In the real world, sadly, it just doesn’t work like that. However, the important thing about catchup is always to treat yourself with more kindness, and learn and apply the right lessons.

When you do that, you play more or less by your own rules.  When you play by your own rules, you transition from loser to winner.  That’s powerful.


Do you need more support with breaking free of your old beliefs and patterns, getting closure on a Narcissist and moving forward along your healing journey?

Here’s how I can help you:

  1. Feeling paralyzed by the past – book a one-off Breakthrough Session to get beyond what is blocking you.
  2. Want ongoing insights into narcissism, as well as tools and techniques for healing, and a supportive community around you – check out my Break Free Membership​
  3. Need 1 on 1 support: email me at

* that is one sweeping generalization that experience has shown me to be true


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.

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