There is one primary reaction narcissists seek as they pull you into their orbit. They want you to lose your unique initiatives so they can fill you with themselves. And if you eventually become off-kilter, all the better. When you repeatedly respond to them with dysfunctional reactions, flailing and arguing, they feel energized. It is a twisted goal, yes, nonetheless, their need for dominance supersedes solid reasoning.
As you remain in unhealthy patterns with narcissists, you can become bonded to their toxicity.
The negativity created by that person becomes the glue holding the relationship together. Repeatedly, as a therapist, I heard stories about people being dysregulated for years due to such dysfunction. It’s tragic, yet it is also quite common.
At some point, though, you can determine: “I’ve had enough. I don’t like what this relationship has done to me. I want to be different. I want to rediscover who I was meant to be.”
I applaud such grit, and when a person becomes devoted to personal healing, I remind them it is not an overnight process, and it will involve adjustments on numerous levels. But it can be done.
To that effect, I encourage several adjustments to help the healing process move forward. Let’s examine them here:
- Lay down your head-strong “I’m right” mindset. So much tension between yourself and the narcissist is anchored in a battle over control and correctness. But as you move forward, you will learn that correctness is not the ultimate healing ingredient. The narcissist will never affirm your beliefs, and you already know how difficult they are. You have little to gain by justifying your decision, so move on.
- Accept an honest measure of reality. Too often you can look back on the relationship with wistful thinking, saying something like: “I just wish…”. That does not help the healing process. Instead, realize that you live in a broken world full of broken people. What is more, you shared in that brokenness (unwittingly perhaps), yet you need not scorn yourself for having a less than ideal life.
- Ask why questions about the narcissist. Narcissists insist that you were the cause of their problems, and through the course of the relationship, you were reminded of that. But pause to remember, the narcissist already carried personal chaos that was not created by you. What were that person’s primary influences? Why did they choose to target you? What longstanding needs fed that person’s behaviors? Objectivity related to these questions reminds you that you were not the source of their difficulties.
- Take an inventory of your own emotional responses. Inevitably, in reaction to the narcissist, you acted out of fear, anger, guilt, duty, anxiety, or confusion. What was that all about? What ingredients in your history caused you to be susceptible to such responses? With no need to blame, become aware of the impulses within yourself that can be adjusted.
- Become thoroughly familiar with psychological boundaries. Having boundaries involves much more than simply knowing how to say no. It means you have devoted yourself to living inside a clear description of who you want to be. How do you define yourself? What traits do you want to prioritize? What initiatives and priorities should you pursue? Make plans to enact your concept of a healthy life.
- Brace yourself for ongoing blow-back from the narcissist. As you move forward, most narcissists will not move away quietly. Being unwilling to self-reflect, they will continue to shame, accuse, and blame you. They will refer to you as sick, phony, unlikeable, dumb as a brick, and so on. If necessary, discuss this with those pulled into their propaganda, then release yourself from the erroneous messages the narcissist wishes to perpetuate.
- Reclaim initiatives you set aside when you were under the narcissist’s influence. As part of the narcissistic trauma bond, you were separated from many of your preferred activities. Healing can occur as you reconnect with friends and organizations that you like. Also, you can give greater attention to priorities and habits that reflect the real you. And furthermore, you can hold firmly to opinions or beliefs you previously eschewed.
- Prioritize quiet, alone time. A primary aspect of healing involves pulling away from everyone’s requirements, finding some “me time.” This may come in the form of reading books you have ignored, spending time in nature, listening to favorite music, and so on. Charging your personal batteries in this way can reconnect you to you.
As you heal, there are multiple thoughts that can guide you:
I like what emanates from inside me.
I own my attitudes.
I own my opinions.
I own my responses.
I own my emotions.
I own my priorities.
Stepping into the reality of who you really are is the ultimate sign of healing. The narcissist (for a time) influenced what happened to your exterior, but ultimately you get to be in charge of your interior. That is when you know the bond is broken.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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