8 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

8 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

8 Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

Living with a narcissistic partner is hard, breaking free is harder, and healing after narcissistic abuse is the hardest.

When you are in a narcissistic relationship, you feel as if you are trapped in a vicious circle, unable to break free. The narcissistic partner is constantly controlling and manipulating you for their own gains with no care for your well-being. On top of that, every time something goes wrong, you will invariably get the blame.

So, the decision to walk out of a narcissistic relationship is not an easy one. The narcissist will use all the power to suck you back into the relationship and prevent you from leaving. If you manage to get away from a narcissist, that is something you should be proud of. 

But your ordeal doesn’t end with leaving the narcissistic partner. You need to heal the wounds of narcissistic abuse. This needs to be done properly so that you complete narcissistic abuse healing and are ready to move on in life.

Healing after narcissistic abuse is usually undertaken in stages to ensure it is done the right way. This article explains the 8 stages of healing after narcissistic abuse. If you have suffered narcissistic abuse, all you need to do is follow the steps given here.

Stages of healing after narcissistic abuse

Overcoming narcissistic abuse is not easy. Even after leaving the narcissist, you will be hung over in the relationship, unable to shake off the negativity associated with it. You will feel confused and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead.

During your time with the narcissistic partner, they would have destroyed your self-esteem and confidence. It would be etched in your mind that you are to be blamed for all mishaps and troubles.

You may have suffered all kinds of abuse, including emotional, verbal, and even physical. Getting out of this mindset and moving forward in life needs time and patience.

These are the 8 stages of healing after narcissistic abuse. If you are finding it hard to manage narcissistic abuse recovery and get back to normal life, you can just follow the steps described below.

Stage 1: Detach yourself from the narcissist

Whether you decide to leave the narcissist or the narcissist is leaving you, you will be made to feel responsible for the turn of events and guilty about the consequences. The narcissist will be seething with rage in either instance. 

It’s easy to understand their anger when you’re leaving. But when a narcissist is leaving you, they will be upset that the relationship didn’t work the way they planned it and they will blame you for not following the rules they had framed.

Moreover, when their relationship fails, the narcissist feels humiliated. Shame is one of the hardest emotions for a narcissist to handle. They go berserk with fear and rage. They need to dominate to keep these emotions under control.

You may have pacified and comforted your narcissistic partner whenever they blew their fuse before. However, things are different now. They know that you know about them. The narcissist will consider you as an antagonist and an adversary. 

Against this backdrop, if you try to comfort them, they will see it as you trying to control and exploit them. Again, they may also view this as a sign of surrender.

Stage 2: Safeguard your interest

Even before you leave the narcissist, you need to make detailed plans about how you are planning to handle the separation. You should give high priority to protecting yourself and your interests. 

As the narcissist may use intimidating tactics to keep you from leaving and under their control, be well-prepared to tackle it. By now, you may be more aware of their underhanded methods to dent your confidence and self-esteem and keep you bound to them. They may use the same tactic to quell your rebellion. If you’re not accustomed to such pressure games, you may give in and surrender.

Protecting yourself physically, financially, and psychologically are important. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Put in a new lock on the front door
  • Open a bank account in your own name
  • Opt out of joint credit cards if payment is your responsibility
  • Cut off ties with your narcissistic ex. No calls, no texts, no emails.
  • Don’t ask for their help

In case you feel agitated and need help, have a plan in place to deal with such situations. You can try calming exercises or have a trusted friend as a confidant. You may also seek help from a mental health professional.

No contact rule is always recommended for those leaving a narcissistic relationship. In case you need to interact with the narcissist after leaving, keep it short and professional. No emotional outbursts, caustic remarks, name-calling, mud-slinging, crying, begging, or intimidating body language. You should desist from sharing your innermost feelings and thoughts with the narcissist.

Stage 3: Take good care of yourself

The most vital part of the narcissistic abuse healing process is to focus on self-care. All these years, you have neglected your health and well-being. It’s time you pay attention to this. Self-care doesn’t translate to being selfish, it’s just good sense.

Besides focusing on your physical health and well-being, you also need to work on your mental strength. Ensure that you’re getting enough healthy food, the right exercises, quality sleep, and me-time. Indulge yourself by getting a massage, taking a long leisurely bath, or doing anything else you find relaxing. 

A positive fallout of self-care is improvement in confidence and self-esteem. All these can help you avoid anxiety episodes, depression, and emotional breakdowns. However, you may have trouble keeping your thoughts and feelings in order during these troubled times. Journaling is highly recommended for this. It can also help you to keep track of your progress.

Finding support is vital when you’re healing after narcissistic abuse. Dealing with the situation alone can be traumatic. It helps to have someone to talk to about what you’re going through. You also need validation to prove that you’re not the kind of person the narcissist made you out to be.

You may seek support from a trusted non-judgmental friend or mental health professional. You can join a narcissistic abuse recovery support group or read books on the topic.

Even while working on getting yourself back into normal life, you shouldn’t feel ashamed of what you went through and hide it from others. Shame and humiliation are the weapons used by narcissists to keep you under their control. Now, it’s time for you to come out of it. 

But talking about your experiences doesn’t mean revisiting every single traumatic episode. This will only keep the wounds open and memories alive. And, don’t get deluged by feelings of hate and anger. 

Stage 4: Find closure

If you want to move past this traumatic experience, you need to learn to accept that the narcissist has innate character flaws and you can do nothing about it. Even if they make promises to turn a new leaf, that is not going to happen. 

You also need to accept that the narcissist can appear normal or even charming at times. This is part of their chameleon-like character. Don’t fall for it.

The narcissist will draw you into a contest of who’s right or who’s better. The rules of this contest are decided by the narcissist and so are they the referee. You can never hope to win it. So, try not to engage. Just step away and let go. 

The narcissist may try to pull you back into this contest. Be aware and stay out of it. Instead, work on rebuilding the life you want.

Stage 5: Grieve the end of the relationship

When you’re letting go of an integral part of your life, grieving is natural. How long this should last is entirely your decision. Grieve as long as is needed to make you come to terms with it. 

After all that you’ve gone through during your time with the narcissist, you may be losing much more than a partner when ending the relationship. You need to mourn the loss of each one of them to find proper closure. 

Experience grief through its various stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may find these suggestions helpful.

  1. Accept your suffering is real.
  2. Acknowledge and experience emotions.
  3. Feel the anger.
  4. Stop bargaining and postpone moving forward.
  5. Grieve all your losses as long as it takes to get them out of your system.
  6. Ensure that you don’t succumb to despair. 
  7. Learn to accept the present by living in the moment.
  8. Learn to accept that there is no option for you to go back.

Stage 6: Heal the wounds

Look inward and understand who you really are. Get a better understanding of your beliefs, dreams, and personality. Reevaluate where your life is headed and where you actually want it to go.

What did you give up in your frantic efforts to please the narcissist? Did you imbibe negative traits or beliefs during your stint with the narcissist? Reconnect with and embrace the real you. Be in tune with your emotions and experiences. Indulge in activities that make you happy.

You cannot avoid negative thoughts and emotions at this stage. You need to consciously work on them and replace them with positive ones. Journaling and affirmations are highly recommended tools for this work. Don’t expect changes overnight. You need to be patient and persist with your efforts for the results to show. Narcissistic abuse recovery is a painfully slow process. 

Stage 7: Rebuild your life

Though we are well aware of the fact that change is the only constant in our lives, we still try to put up resistance to it and ignore the gains. Try to keep an open mind to all that you may experience in this new free life.

If you need convincing about the progress you’re making in life, go back to the journal. Just notice the changes in your attitude and feelings after you walked away from the narcissist. 

Now, it’s time to search for new opportunities to focus on in your new life. Meet new people, try new options, and grab every lucrative opportunity that comes your way. 

Stage 8: Let go

Letting go happens when you manage to forgive your narcissistic abuser and relegate the experience to the past. However, forgiveness is not about finding excuses for the narcissist’s behavior towards you. Nor is it about giving in and letting them off the hook. 

For you to forgive the narcissist, you don’t need to consider what they did to qualify for forgiveness. In fact, the narcissist doesn’t even need to know that you’ve forgiven them. It’s all in your mind and for your own peace of mind.

Forgiveness is letting go of the painful emotions welling up inside your mind. Like fear, anger, and resentment. Forgiveness is about self-commitment to purge toxic feelings, heal wounds, and wipe the slate clean to start a new life.

Hanging on to anger and resentment is a serious error you can make at this stage. It can hamper your narcissistic abuse healing process. When you do that you are keeping the memory of the most despicable person you have ever known alive in your mind, together with all the abuses you endured at their hands.

You forgive for your own well-being and not for that of your narcissistic abuser. In fact, forgiveness is an integral part of self-love. When you love yourself absolutely, you will find it unnecessary to hold on to grudges.

You can forgive your narcissistic abuser without involving the person. Such as writing a letter describing all that you went through when you were together but not posting it. Or sitting opposite an empty chair and pouring your heart out, all the while imagining your tormentor is sitting on it. 

You may also try forgiveness meditation. 

Begin the forgiveness process only when you feel you’re ready. There is no point in forcing this upon yourself. Then, you won’t be able to carry it out. Forgiveness can never be forced on anyone, let alone a victim of narcissistic abuse. 

However, if you feel you’re not yet ready to forgive, you can still practice self-care and self-love. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Sooner or later, you’ll feel up to it.

Why is narcissistic abuse healing so hard?

Narcissistic relationships are unique in various aspects, making it especially hard to break free, heal wounds, and move on. Here are the most prominent among them.

1. Narcissist’s hold over you

The bond you share with a narcissist is a traumatic one. A trauma bond is described as a highly compulsive attachment with a person who has hurt you. Neither is this bond formed in a day nor can it be thrown away overnight.

A narcissist has some unique personality traits that make them the perfect candidate to form a trauma bond with. What a narcissist offers is conditional love. They use this as a leash to keep you in their control and make you do whatever they want.

Unfortunately, the trauma bond will make you think that you need them in your life and you cannot survive without the narcissist. 

2. Guilty feeling

In a narcissistic relationship, the victim gets the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong, including the failure of the relationship. After a while, you will start blaming yourself, resulting in shame and guilt. 

You may be unable to see beyond your own guilt and forget about the role of the narcissist in the whole fiasco. The guilty feeling can make you do weird things. Such as wanting to return to the narcissist, ask for forgiveness, and prove that you’re worthy of them and capable of handling the situation.

 Unfortunately, all these can only further dent your self-esteem and confidence and will do nothing to fix what’s wrong with the narcissist or the narcissistic relationship.

3. Lack of experience and awareness

When you don’t have a good role model or have seen a healthy relationship while growing up, you may not know what is right or wrong in a relationship. You won’t know the boundaries and would be unaware when they are crossed. 

Most of what we know about relationships is acquired from the world around us – from people, books, and movies. We are told repeatedly that love may hurt, that it can change people for the better, and that we need to be selfless in love. 

Such wrong images and depictions of love and relationships can make it further hard for you to identify abuse by the partner and take action.

4. Absence of help and support

You may not fall victim to a narcissist or at least suffer for a long time from narcissistic abuse if you have people who love and care for you in your life. The absence of such people is taken full advantage of by the narcissist to keep you under their control.

Again, narcissists can be persuasively charming when they want to be. They are good at hiding their real selves, making it hard for anyone to recognize them. This again may make it difficult for you to convince others of your ordeal, because they may find it hard to disbelieve your narcissistic partner.

Narcissists are good storytellers and rumor mills, spreading fake stories about you among the people who care about you. This may drive people away from you and you will no longer have access to their help and support.

Final thoughts on narcissistic abuse healing

Overcoming narcissistic abuse can be arduous as it erodes your sense of confidence and self-esteem. However, you can still succeed in narcissistic abuse healing when you approach it right away and with the help and support of your loved ones. 

A therapist can contribute much to your journey towards a happy and healthy new life. 


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