Dark shadows of narcissistic abuse can follow us long after these destructive personalities have discarded us and slithered back into their holes…
~ Yancosky Moore
The best way to ‘fight back’ against a narc is to not fight at all. Your job is to recover and the only way to recover from narcissistic abuse is by shifting the attention away from them and onto you. Sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s counter intuitive for an empath to put themselves first and also NARCS ARE HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.
If you’ve been raised alongside narcissistic family members, you’ll likely have formed a strong attachment to this dark breed of soulless, empty humans, and be plagued by a hefty back catalogue of romantic partners, friends, neighbours, bosses and colleagues who all have one thing in common: YOU.
My previous article ‘The Empath Fights Back’ (https://medium.com/hello-love/the-empath-fights-back-f57028cc4851) focussed on identifying narc abuse and fronting up to it, so this one will focus solely on recovery — sans narc.
Once you’ve implemented the ‘No Contact Rule’ (see previous article above), adopt the following steps below and also check the list of additional resources at the bottom of this article.
Step 1: Research
Know thy enemy. If you don’t understand NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and need to fully comprehend WHY these people are like they are in order to heal, then the quickest way to get up to speed is via Youtube; specifically HG Tudor and Dr Romani’s channels.
The former is a self-confessed psychopath/ Ultra Narc, the latter a clinical psychologist, and, combined, they will tell you everything you need to know about the narc/empath dynamic. I suggest you get in and out as fast as possible— flood yourself with info until the full horror of what you’re dealing with hits, then leave this topic well alone, occasionally dipping in for a timely reminder whenever a narc reappears in your life (which they undoubtedly will).
Do NOT become addicted to narcissistic research! This is just as bad as being addicted to a narc and if you fall down that wormhole it can take weeks/ months/ years before you come up for air!! Obsessive research will not help you heal or win back a narc, and you don’t need a PHD on NPD in order to heal yourself.
I can guaruntee you you’ll never catch a narc obsessively researching empaths — they simply don’t have the time or interest. In which case, why should you?
Once you’ve assimilated all the info and the penny has finally dropped, focus full-time on cultivating healthy connections and self acceptance.
Step 2: Therapy
Tread very carefully when looking for a therapist; not only is therapy expensive, but many therapists are narcs or sociopaths in disguise, also some are well-meaning but don’t understand the specifics of narcissitic abuse, and some may even misdiagnose YOU as the narc.
Do a specific search for a narc abuse therapist, preferably selecting one who’s had a narc family member or partner themselves. Use the free 20 minute consultation to drill the therapist for info on their background and routes to recovery before you sign up. Genuine therapists want to help and often offer a discounted rate for 6 session bundles — they understand that alongside the abuse comes financial ruin and will hopefully try to accommodate you in that area.
If you can’t afford a therapist try a 12-step support group. At the time of writing, I’ve found no specific 12-step support group for narc abuse, but there are several support groups for the side-effects of narc abuse i.e. codependency, sex and love addiction, coping with alcoholics etc. (See list of support groups in the ‘Resources’ section at the bottom of the article). I hate to say it, but often these support groups are a breeding ground for predators, so again tread carefully — you need cast iron boundaries for group work.
Step 3: Unfollow
If you’ve implemented the ‘No Contact’ rule, you may think you’ve successfully detached from the narc. Even if you’ve blocked their number or changed your own, if you repeatedly check Whatsapp to see when they’re ‘typing’, or stalk their Socials under a pseudonym, or drive past their house to check if the bedroom light is on, or obsessively monitor Spotify to view their ‘Last Played Track’, then you are still very much connected.
Music, in particular, is an intensely effective source of emotional supply for the narc; a sentimental playlist is the perfect way for them to reel you back in. So, if a narc is repeatedly playing ‘your song’ or publishing loaded playlists packed with subliminal messaging ‘especially for you’, then unfollow their profile immediately, make yours private, or sign up under a new name.
Step 4: Calm
Narcs wreak havoc on our physical and emotional bodies: FACT. Involvement with them is like a full-time UNPAID emotional filtering job. Further, if this insidious abuse has occurred over a prolonged period of time, you’re most likely riddled with trauma, in a permanent state of hyper-vigilance, and therefore in urgent need of relieving the pressure on your PNS (Parasympathetic nervous system).
The physical side effects of narc abuse can manifest as: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-tension, insomnia, hormonal imbalance, chronic stress disorders, and auto-immune deficiencies, to name but a few.
One obvious red flag indicating you’re in a hyper-vigilant state is if you experience something akin to an electric shock whenever the narc randomly texts/calls/ appears out of the blue. Their casual ‘just checking in’, ‘you ok?’, ‘still alive?’ efforts can instantly reignite ‘startled deer’ syndrome in an empath. WHICH IS PRECISELY WHY THEY DO IT! Whatever you do, don’t react. Delete, delete, DELETE.
If narcs are all you’ve ever been used to romantically, then anyone half decent who has a genuine interest in you and what you have to say will seem BORING. There will be no 1000 kilowatt charge through your system whenever they text or call you, and you won’t have to hermit away after spending time together. Be aware and try not to confuse ‘safe’ with ‘boring’…
A quick word about rage:
One of the biggest side effects of narc abuse is rage. Empaths have a real problem dealing with this one: they simply aren’t used to expressing anger, standing up for themselves, or handling the full force of such a toxic emotion. If left undealt with, this rage will become volcanic, so it’s essential to find something which helps to release it.
Whatever you do, don’t vent spleen at the narc — you’ll just be giving them more emotional supply. ANY attention is fuel, be it positive or negative, so don’t indulge them. Write a letter and burn it instead.
It’s extremely important to learn grounding and calming techniques to help heal your nervous system. Exercise, walking in nature, yin yoga, meditation, and any gentle, creative pursuit should become part of your daily routine in order to support your recovery.
Step 5: Boundaries
A narc abuse counsellor advised me that the first and best thing you can do when recovering from narc abuse is to learn about and implement boundaries. This is something free that you can do right away in order to keep yourself safe.
I recommend reading ‘Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship’ by Adelyn Birch. Leave it on your night stand and read it every night before bed, much like a bible.
Whilst you’re implementing the steps above and getting your life in order, this is a comfort blanket you can return to on a daily basis to reinforce your personal rights, because being empathic should NEVER mean sacrificing your right to be treated well.
You are important, your life is important, your feelings are important.
One of the biggest challenges when healing from narc abuse is the endless time spent going ‘cold turkey’, educating yourself, processing the damage, feeling the feelings, and doing the work, whilst simultaneously pining for the narc, and secretly CRAVING all the chaos he/she caused.
Be careful not to regress or to try and sidestep the work by diving into another toxic entanglement. Don’t fall prey to Cinderella syndrome and expect someone to rescue you either — one of the biggest gifts of narc abuse is self-empowerment, i.e. you become ferociously protective of your own energy and actually begin to enjoy your autonomy.
It IS possible to break free from narcissistic abuse and hope is the axe you’ll use to break that door down.
Knowing the Narcissist — narcsite.com
Gabor Mate — addiction, codependency, ADHD, NPD: www.drgabormate.com
Dr Sarah Davies — recovery from narc abuse: https://www.drsarahdavies.com/post/recovery-from-narcissistic-abuse
Sex and Love Addiction: slaauk.org
Support for people with alcoholic partners: al-anonuk.org
The Drama of the Gifted Child — Alice Miller
Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship — Adelyn Birch
Facing Love Addiction — Pia Mellody
Codependent No More — Melody Beattie
The Body Keeps the Score — Bessel van der Kolk
Untamed, Stop Pleasing Start Living — Glennon Doyle
This post was previously published on Medium.
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