Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
by Diane Linsley
A client once asked me, "Do you have any personal experience
with narcissistic abuse?" I couldn't help laughing as my life flashed
before my eyes. I replied, "I have 49 years worth of experience
with narcissists. But I'm happy to say that I've been narcissist-free
for several years now."
Then she asked me if she would ever be her old self again - the person she was before the abusive relationship. I said, "No. You will never be the same. You will heal, but you will never be that naive person again. You will be a wiser version of yourself. And you will finally learn how to love yourself."
My Experience of Narcissistic Abuse
Without going into too much detail, I assure my clients that I understand what they are going through. My history of narcissistic abuse began in earliest childhood. By the time I went to public school, I was primed to be a target of abuse by any bully or boyfriend who came along.
Fast forward to age 45.
In my coach training, we were asked to choose a niche. At the time, I wanted to be a relationship coach. I had just gotten divorced after 26 years of a marriage that I can't even call a relationship because I was ignored by my avoidant husband most of the time.
I felt like I couldn't be a relationship coach without being in a relationship, so I started dating. Trusting in the Law of Attraction, I set out to find a partner. The universe brought me exactly what I needed - another narcissist.
Even though this was one of the worst experiences of my life, I know it was not a mistake. How do I know? First of all, I met this person in a dream 13 months before I met him in waking life, and I recognized him when he showed up. I knew we were supposed to be together for an important purpose, but I didn't know what it was until after the relationship ended.
Being with this person triggered forgotten memories of childhood, which created a crisis that I barely survived. I realized that I needed to heal myself because there was nowhere left to turn.
After a few months of doing a recovery program, I got impatient and went back to dating. But I kept attracting bad relationships until I figured out that I needed to take a much longer break to focus on healing. That was the best thing I ever did. It was a wonderful experience of rapid personal growth.
During this time of solitude and self-reflection, I received a download from the universe telling me what my coaching niche was and giving me instructions for how to proceed. My niche was not about relationships in the way I had previously thought of them. It was about the relationship with self.
Learning from Narcissistic Abuse
Melanie Tonia Evans says that those of us who have gone through narcissistic abuse chose this experience before we came here as part of our soul's journey.
I questioned this at first. What kind of soul would choose such a miserable spiritual path? Surely, there must have been better options.
Eventually, I saw that my reluctance to accept this part of my soul's journey was due to the shame associated with having been abused. I now acknowledge that narcissistic abuse is a very effective path for soul development because it comes with some great lessons.
Among the many lessons I learned are self-compassion, patience, discernment, intuitive skills, individuality, self-reliance, and emotional intelligence. As my teacher Bill Harris says, "Once you have the learnings, you no longer need the feelings. The feelings are just there to point you to the learnings." My personal education in narcissist abuse would not have been complete without experiencing all three types of narcissists - altruistic, cerebral and somatic. I spent hundreds of hours watching videos by Melanie Tonia Evans and Sam Vaknin. But there's no substitute for personal experience.
Narcissistic Abuse and the Group Ego
Many of my clients have been abused by the group ego. You may be familiar with this pattern. The group ego is an energy field that appears whenever a group of people gets together. Energy sensitive people like myself can actually feel it as a palpable force. Here are some things to know about it:
The group ego always sinks to the lowest common denominator. It includes shadow material that is held in common by the members of the group.
If the members of the group are on a low level of development, there is often a ringleader (a narcissist) who selects someone to be the scapegoat. The ringleader then mobilizes the group to attack, or at least ostracize, the scapegoat. Unconscious group members don't dare to defend the scapegoat because they are afraid of becoming the next victim of the group ego. The way out of this dilemma is to disconnect from the group ego, ground yourself, and connect with the power of your own higher self.
If you have been persecuted by a group, it may help to think about individuals throughout history who transcended the group ego. Some examples are Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Joan of Arc. There are many others, including great philosophers, artists and writers.
Transcending the group ego is a vital stage of soul development that makes self-actualization possible.
Recovering from Complex PTSD
Complex PTSD begins with childhood abuse. Once a person is sensitized through early abuse, minor events can trigger emotional flashbacks that throw them into a state resembling the intense fear and powerlessness they experienced as a child.
There's nothing like narcissistic abuse to give you an opportunity to face your past and the things you have repressed since childhood. The narcissists in my life gave me the opportunity to bring old wounds to the surface to be healed. Sam Vaknin says that the Cluster B personality disorders, along with C-PTSD and codependency, are just different manifestations of the same thing. These so-called diseases are all coping mechanisms developed in childhood in an attempt to deal with trauma.
The narcissists in my life were traumatized like I was in childhood. But while they were using narcissistic defense mechanisms to protect themselves, I was using codependent tactics. We were subconsciously attracted to each other by our common wounds.
Once I'd done enough recovery work, my attraction to narcissists fell away. I still feel compassion for them, but I no longer feel attracted. True love is compassion, not fatal attraction. The most loving thing I ever did was leave the narcissists and create a new life where I could be happy and help others.
Some people blame the narcissist for everything that goes wrong in their lives. You cannot heal yourself while obsessing about someone else. Remember that you get what you focus on. I suggest you focus on loving yourself and working on your own personal growth.
Practices for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
I wrote these affirmations on a sticky note and put it next to my computer: "I am enough. I am loved. I am always evolving. I choose my own experiences. Change is natural. I will always be here for myself. People are free to come and go. I am secure in myself."
My life coach taught me that it's okay to have emotions. Crying wasn't allowed in either my family of origin or my marriage. My coach encouraged me to feel my feelings, which was essential for recovery.
Eventually, I developed the emotional healing process that I teach to clients. This process is designed to retrain the brain. I did it every day for 6 months until the process became automatic, and I stopped experiencing intense negative emotions.
Basically, I did everything that I write about on this website. There wasn't just one miracle cure that worked for me. The secret is to never give up. If you are determined, you will heal.
It's essential to learn how to love and care for your inner child. From the perspective of your higher self, you are a precious, unconditionally loved child. Practicing self-compassion helps us develop the attributes of a loving parent and connects us with our higher self. Try watching the following short videos with your inner child. They explain the meaning of the stories of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. They are good for helping children understand what narcissism is and how to cope with it. Remember to take care of your physical body. I worked on releasing trauma from my body by dancing. Here's a clip from a video that a client and fellow life coach sent me. She appeared with Oprah to talk about her experience of dancing to raise her vibration. Rachel Platten's album, Wildfire, is my favorite. It has some good breakup songs, along with her inspirational Fight Song and my inner child's favorite, Better Place.
Any type of exercise can be helpful. Just move your body and breathe, laugh, cry or get angry. Let any emotions that surface be okay. I never know what my dance sessions are going to be like. The music and exercise bring up a lot of stuff to be healed.
Blocks to Recovery
Initially, my biggest block to recovery was my fear of being alone and single.
In How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, John Van Epp says that two risk factors for divorce are getting married before age 26 and marrying someone you've known for less than 2 years. I wish I'd known this before I got engaged at age 19 to someone I'd known for only 10 days. Narcissists are in a hurry to get married, have sex, or move in together because they can't keep up the facade for long. I gained a new perspective on relationships by reading The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other by James Hollis. I saw that I had been using relationships to run away from my own maturation process. I learned that I needed to grow up if I wanted to attract another mature person.
The biggest problem I've seen with abuse clients is they are afraid of being alone. I think this stems from the way they treat themselves. Who wants to be with someone who is mean? Self-compassion helps us get over the fear of being with ourselves. Be your own best friend!
Healing Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem increases as we move forward one step at a time, noting our progress and congratulating ourselves for making improvement. Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, says that self-esteem comes from what we do. Any positive action that we take to move towards our goals increases self-esteem. Living in fear, denial and blame undermines self-esteem.
After spending so many years doing personal growth work, I have no desire to be with someone who hasn't done his own work. I'm only interested in healthy relationships with growth-oriented people. Narcissists don't do personal growth work because they are too busy looking outside of themselves for validation. If you are doing the same thing, then you are a match to the narcissist.
Codependent relationships are not about love. They are about control, attachment and infatuation. Your attractions are your responsibility.
You know you are done with narcissists when you see them as boring. The fatal attraction is gone.
The final stage of recovery is forgiveness, which arises spontaneously when you are healed. It's not really about the other person. It's about forgiving yourself and letting go of the past.
After spending 8 months doing concentrated healing work, I felt like I was ready to dip my toe in the world of dating again.
I was surprised at how confident I was and how easily I could identify narcissists without having to go on a first date (in most cases). A couple of narcissists still slipped through my screening process, but I dumped them quickly after one or two dates.
I decided that I would either find a loving man or stay single for the rest of my life. I was fine with being alone because I loved myself. Then, when I least expected it, my soulmate came along. We started dating in 2018, and I'm amazed every day at how kind and loving he is.
Here's the interesting part: He treats me as well as I treat myself. I had to work for years to develop this level of self-love. Sure enough, I attracted someone with the same vibration of love. Now I know that Law of Attraction works. As Melanie Tonia Evans says, "So within, so without."
"How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." ~Trina Paulus
Here's a video by Matt Kahn that explains the spiritual purpose of abusive relationships and how to recover from them and find your soulmate.
As a life coach, I use many different processes to help
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