Anyone who has suffered from narcissistic abuse knows it takes a lot of time and healing to recover. But how do you heal your shattered confidence when your self-esteem is at rock bottom?
Narcissists use a range of manipulative tactics to gaslight you into thinking you are worthless. These pathological liars make you doubt your own mind. If they have discarded you, you might be isolated, with no support. If you have managed to escape their clutches, they could be love-bombing you to get you back.
Although it may appear to be a helpless situation, there are stages of healing after narcissistic abuse that can help you.
7 stages of healing after narcissistic abuse
1. Confusion and shock
The narcissist devours people, consumes their output, and casts the empty, writhing shells aside.Sam Vaknin
What a lot of people won’t realise is the experience of shock when a narcissistic relationship ends. This person swept into your life and completely took over; now they’ve gone. What just happened? Just as quickly as you were in love, now they have vanished.
You are confused about this situation, and that’s normal. Anyone would be. But this wasn’t a normal relationship to begin with. If the narcissist discarded you, you’ll be in a state of shock. If you ended the relationship, they might start love-bombing you to try and get you back.
This is confusing because by now, they will have destroyed your self-esteem, so why would they want you back?
Remember, it’s never about you, it’s all about what they need. Narcissists need an audience. They’ll search out potential victims and think ‘What can this person give me?’ If they’ve drained you dry, they’ll drop you with no word, but they’ll hang around if they believe you are still useful.
Feeling confused or shocked is normal at this stage of healing after narcissistic abuse.
2. You don’t need to understand the narcissist
“An abuser’s psychological diagnosis isn’t the problem. Their sense of entitlement is.” ― Caroline Abbott
How do you reason with an unreasonable person? You can’t. Narcissists are not normal people. They didn’t go into this relationship with you hoping for love, romance and a happy ever after. They targeted you because they thought you could give them what they needed.
Narcissists demand attention, praise, and utter devotion but don’t give anything back. Instead, they manipulate you into thinking you are not doing enough for them, when, in fact, that’s all you are doing. By the time the relationship is failing, you’ve given them everything they wanted, but they are still not happy.
You might never understand why the narcissist acted the way they did, or why you got sucked in so quickly. Narcissists are charming and over-attentive at first, and you feel special. They make it almost impossible for you not to fall in love with them.
You might want to analyse every aspect of the relationship, but my advice is to now focus on yourself.
3. Rebuild your self-esteem
One of the most important stages of healing after narcissistic abuse is getting your confidence back. Remember that sparkle you had before the relationship? How recently have you felt dragged down and worthless? That’s not the real you. That’s the person the narcissist wanted you to feel like so that they had greater control.
A good way of rebuilding your self-esteem is to reconnect with loved ones. Spend time with the quality people in your life who know and love you well. Don’t be afraid to reach out, even if you have isolated yourself recently. The people who really know you will already understand what was going on.
These people can make you laugh, make you feel loved and validate you again. They’ll remind you of your goals and who you were before the narcissistic abuse.
4. Forgive yourself
“You don’t attract narcissists because something is wrong with you. You attract narcissists because so much is right with you.” — Unknown
Don’t beat yourself up because you fell for a narcissist. Just like online scams, we all like to think we are smart enough to outwit the fraudsters, whether it concerns money or romance. But you have to understand, that narcissists have been in this game for a long time. They are proficient liars, charming and look out for any weaknesses they can exploit.
Then, once you are under their spell, the degradation starts. The gaslighting begins. Suddenly, you don’t know where this loving person went. It’s not your fault that you are a trusting, and loving person, open to possibilities. That’s a great quality to have.
Narcissists do not have one redeeming quality. Despite falling for their tricks and lies, you will always be the better person.
5. Learn from the experience
I did say earlier, that you don’t need to understand a narcissist to move forward with your life. However, there are lessons you can learn that will help with the healing stages of narcissistic abuse.
Ask yourself, why did you fall for this person so quickly? What was your gut feeling about it? Did it seem too good to be true? Did you feel rushed into entering a relationship? Was there something missing from your life that the narcissist filled for you? Did friends or family question your choice at the time?
There are warning signs that the person you are dating is a narcissist. Knowing these signs will help you heal moving forward.
“Narcissists, however, are similar to a spider that has built a web for its prey to bring itself.” ― Mwanandeke Kindembo
Things narcissists do to entrap you into a relationship:
- They’ll love bomb you
- They’ll want to take things further quickly
- They’ll talk of marriage and children within a couple of weeks
- They’ll tell you they have never felt this way about anyone before
- They’ll say you don’t need anyone else but them
- They’ll isolate you from your family
6. Start to trust your judgment again
“Intuition — once you have had a narcissist in your life, you must develop your intuition and learn to listen to it and act accordingly.” — Tracy Malone
Once you know the warning signs of a potential narcissist, you can begin to trust your judgment again. When you come out of a narcissistic relationship, it is easy to wonder how you can be sure about a person’s intentions. If they fooled you once, they can do it again.
However, now that you have lived the experience, you can watch out for the early signs of narcissism. And remember, narcissists are rare. Don’t let this experience put you off opening your heart up again.
I know it will be hard to trust people again. You might wonder if people are manipulating you when they ask for favours. You may start to watch people’s behaviour and become hyper-vigilant. Or you could become over-sensitive to criticism and overreact.
Hopefully, you have a good support network around you. It might consist of a best friend or a family member that understands you. When in doubt, go to them and ask for their advice.
7. Be kind to yourself
Finally, when talking about stages of healing after narcissistic abuse, remember to forgive and be kind to yourself. You may have spent months or years trying to please an impossible and unreasonable person. Now it is your time to heal and move on.
You don’t have to be a ‘yes’ person or people-pleaser for others to like you. You can say no, and you have the right to share your emotions. You might have become anxious in confrontational situations, but now your self-esteem is building, you can argue your case without repercussions.
The important thing to take away from narcissistic abuse is that it could have been anyone. The narcissist doesn’t care about your feelings, so don’t waste time thinking about them.
I don’t care what you think unless it is about me.Kurt Cobain
Healing from an abusive narcissistic relationship takes time. Narcissists are skilled manipulators who make you question reality. Use the above stages of healing after narcissistic abuse to regain your identity. You may need only need one stage, a few or all of them. You might even find that you remain in one stage longer than others.
Do whatever it takes to get better. I hope the above advice is helpful.
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This is the most brilliant article I have ever read with regard to recovery from narcissism. It has given me a final “boost” to complete that goal and get on with my life again. Narcissism destroyed my family as a single parent as well as the horrific disappointment of going through this with Christian believers while trying to survive the loss of my grown children as well as grandchildren through the worldwide epidemic of parental/grandparent alienation. I have written my story in Unmasking the STRONGMEN of Narcissistic Abuse, however, what you have written is what I have needed to truly get on with my life.