Life Lessons Learned From A Narcissistic Relationship

“Painful lessons will turn into magnificent blessings, if you choose to travel the road of learning them.”

(Read time: 1-2 mins)

The aftermath of a relationship with a narcissist is wracked with pain, confusion, turmoil and suffering. Along with this, as painful as it is, comes valuable lessons that can help keep you from falling again into web of narcissistic abuse. The road ahead is bright and filled with opportunity. Take the following lessons with you as travel insurance, you’ve already paid for a lifetime policy:

* A man who says he trusts no one, can be trusted by no one

* A man who repeatedly accuses his partner of infidelity and lying is himself doing all of those things

* Pay very close attention to the simplest of behaviors that seem “off”

* Trust your gut, not your heart

* Evil doesn’t appear with a cape and horns, but that it appears as everything you’ve ever wanted

* A man who has nothing good to say about anyone is himself a bad person

* Never again question or doubt your instincts

* Never settle for anything less than what you know you deserve, you are supposed to be loved, valued, empowered, and happy in a relationship, not depressed, anxious, irritated, angry, walking on eggshells, isolated and abused

* A man without any meaningful friendships has serious issues

* It’s not your duty to try to stand by an abuser, no matter how many times he vows to “work on” his coldness, and his disrespectful and abusive behaviors

* Leave any relationship that is deteriorating, dysfunctional, and detrimental

* Run at the first sign of a red flag and do not – under any circumstances – look back.

Many thanks to Kimmie Browne, a Quora contributor, for sharing these wise lessons.

*Please note: All of my articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse, as they are too.

The Turmoil Trap and The Path To Freedom

“The path to freedom requires but one thing: that you choose to take it.”

(Read time: 1-2 mins)

One of the most distressing elements in healing from narcissistic abuse is the intense emotional conflict between the relief at being free from the toxic dynamic and abuse, and the longing to have what you thought you had, with the person you fell in love with. There is a tidal quality to this emotional and mental struggle. The conflicting feelings ebb and flow, and sometimes pound the shore of your soul. It’s a turmoil trap of pain, confusion, and emotional exhaustion. Read More

Creating A Masterpiece From Tragedy

(Read time: 1-2 mins)

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” – Nido Qubein

A victim of narcissistic abuse often does not fully realize the extent and depth of the trauma she (or he) has endured until several weeks, or even months after the relationship is over. Initially, there is a period of shock, a state of feeling emotionally frozen, rooted in pain, confused, anxious, betrayed, and grief-stricken.

Anxious rumination sets in, and it is common to rummage through your devastated memory bank, trying to make sense of what happened, trying to put the shattered pieces of yourself back together, and analyzing the relationship from every angle, the what-ifs, and the what-could-have-beens. This can go on for weeks, even months, and can be very distressing, and exhausting.

And, it always leads to the inevitable conclusion that you can’t make sense of the relationship, and the trauma you have endured. This is because narcissists subject their partners to sociopathic behaviors, and a mind-bending toxic dynamic that healthy functioning people are just not equipped to comprehend and integrate. In order to heal, it is very important to let go of the need to understand the narcissist, and accept that he is a toxic, disordered, manipulative, abusive individual – full stop.

This is a difficult truth to accept. This is made even more difficult from the pain of finally comprehending the full impact of the present circumstances and the tragedy you have experienced: the trauma the narcissist inflicted, the loss of your dreams, the betrayal, damage to your self-esteem, adverse impact on your friendships, finances, and health (many ex-partners develop C-PTSD). Healing, and ever feeling normal again, seems impossible.

But, healing IS possible. It is more than possible. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, you can emerge stronger, wiser, and be freer and more successful than you ever imagined. This sounds great, but, how to get there? Patiently. Healing does not happen overnight. Healing is the product of time and intentional effort. It is not a linear process. It is a forward, backward, sideways process.

Healing also involves proactively changing the negative, self-critical, self-invalidating thought patterns that the narcissist created in the toxic, abusive dynamic. It sounds trite, but find, and focus on something positive. Rebuke negative thoughts. Instead, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” (Phil: 4-8)

When you feel exhausted, beat-down, tired, overwhelmed, hopeless and empty, remind yourself it’s temporary, and it will pass, and your life is unfolding in a wonderful, new way. We become our thoughts and beliefs.

Healing is not easy. None of this is easy. It requires strength, determination, and perseverance. The reward is, it makes you stronger, wiser, and positions you to be a source of empathy, strength, and inspiration to others who are suffering.

So, stand firm. Keep standing. Keep looking forward. Do this from a perspective of hope, and growth. You can turn your trauma into a wellspring of creativity, hope, and strength. You can use what you have endured, and learned, to forge a new path that opens up your life in ways you never could have imagined.

It’s not the end of your story. It’s the beginning. It is your starting point; a beautiful, open book. You hold the pen, the brush, and the paints, in your hand. You can create a masterpiece. Truly, you can.

What have you learned on your healing journey? What ways are you creating your masterpiece? Please share your inspiration below!

Clearing The FOG Of Narcissistic Abuse

(Read time: 3-4 mins)

“Some sensations … take up all the extent of the mind like a fog, don’t let us think, don’t let us act, don’t let us live clearly.” – Fernando Pessoa

“Keep on moving forward. The fog will lift, a fresh wind will heal your mind, you will see clearly, and you will be free.” – Grace

FOG is an acronym that is used in the narcissistic abuse community for Fear, Obligation and Guilt. The narcissist uses FOG in relationships to manipulate and control his partner during, and even after the relationship is over. Fear, obligation, and guilt provoke intense feelings, and the narcissist knows how to use them very effectively against his partner to exert control.

Fear

Fear is a powerful manipulative force. Narcissists are vindictive, which becomes evident over the course of the relationship. The narcissist harbors a constant “You hurt me, I’ll hurt you!” mentality, and makes sure his partner knows this. His abuse, explosive rages, temper tantrums, and hostility increase his partner’s undercurrent of fear, and walking on eggshells anxiety that generally becomes chronic.

Many partners of narcissists experience a gut instinct that the narcissist is capable of doing anything, and has no limits when it comes to exacting revenge if he feels he’s been wronged. Because of this, the partner “stays in line” out of fear of what the narcissist might do in retaliation. The partner becomes fearful of being herself, of feeling her feelings, of speaking her mind, and having her own opinions. The narcissist is so critical and devaluing of the partner that she begins to restrain her own personality, her own self, because she is fearful of the narcissist’s reaction.

Physical abuse, which occurs in a number of narcissistic relationships, and the mental, verbal, and emotional abuse the narcissist inflicts on his partner, further suppresses her inclination to stand up for herself, defend herself, and often prevents her from leaving the relationship. And, if the partner manages to leave the relationship, she is often fearful of the repercussions, which can include stalking, defamation of her character, potential violence, and other cruel and vengeful acts.

Obligation

Obligation is a very potent form of manipulation. The narcissist starts to cultivate obligation in the lovebombing stage of the relationship. He leads his partner to believe she is the only star in his universe, she is the only one who truly understands him, his soulmate. He leads her to believe that she is the only woman in the world who can satisfy his needs. He combines this with “woe-is-me” stories from his past, depicting himself as the tragic victim. This plays on the partner’s compassion, and her desire to be the one who can make everything better for him. And, the physical intimacy that narcissist typically – and successfully – rushes his partner into, reinforces the partner’s feelings of intense bonding, and her desire to be the one who can make him happy, and feel true love.

The result is that the partner, intoxicated by lovebombing, and emotionally manipulated by the narcissist, feels that she, and she alone, truly understands the narcissist, and that she is uniquely qualified to give the narcissist the kind of love he needs, to heal him of his suffering. The narcissist plays on this repeatedly until the partner’s sense of obligation to, and compassion for, him are hardwired into her brain.

Her feeling of obligation becomes hardwired from the lovebombing bonding biochemicals that her brain releases during this phase of the relationship. The frequency, and amount of oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins released during the lovebombing phase with a narcissist are in much higher amounts, and with much greater frequency than would ever happen in a healthy relationship. So, while the partner is being groomed and manipulated into feeling obligated to the narcissist, her brain is releasing, at the same time, a flood of very strong bonding biochemicals. The result? The partner becomes biochemically bonded to feeling obligated to the narcissist.

Guilt

Guilt is one of the strongest forces of control and manipulation that exists. Narcissists are experts at inducing guilt in their partners through projection, blameshifting, self-victimization, and being punitive. The narcissist will provoke situations with the sole purpose of upsetting his partner, blameshift onto her, and cause her to feel guilty. When she reacts to the narcissist’s provocations, he aggressively pushes back, invalidates her feelings, and punishes her, accusing her of hurting him. He will call her uncaring and self-centered. He will pout and give her the silent treatment, leave – anything that causes her to feel guilty and ashamed of her feelings. And, the powerful stress biochemicals, adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine flow in her brain. When the partner capitulates to the narcissist, and apologizes, he will show his approval with lovebombing gestures, affection, approval, even physical intimacy. And, the powerful love bonding chemicals flow in her brain.

This toxic abuse cycle spins like a wheel, repeating itself over and over and over. Every time it does, the partner’s brain becomes more biochemically hardwired to the abuse cycle, and FOG dynamic that keeps partners trapped in relationships with narcissists, and ties ex-partners to the narcissist after the relationship has ended.

The narcissist’s manipulation of fear, obligation, and guilt causes the partner to become psychologically and emotionally conditioned to:

  1. Fear retribution for being herself, and standing up for herself
  2. Feel deeply obligated to care about the narcissist’s feelings and put his well being above her own, and
  3. Feel guilty and ashamed of her feelings, and her reactions to the narcissist

The FOG Will Clear

The good news is, leaving the abusive relationship with narcissist, establishing safety, maintaining No Contact, and focusing on self care and healing, will clear the FOG. It will take time. It is important to be patient with yourself, and the healing process.

Tips to clear the FOG:

1. Don’t allow the FOG to victimize you. Take ownership, and validate the feelings of fear, obligation, and guilt. Accept that they are normal feelings to have in these circumstances – but they are not permanent. *If you fear for your safety, are being stalked, harassed, and/or threatened, always contact the authorities, and take the steps you need to stay safe.

2. Tell yourself the truth: feelings of FOG are a conditioned response to a toxic, abusive relationship. It is a conditioned response, it is temporary, and it will pass.

3. Surround yourself with support: There are a number of online support groups for narcissistic abuse survivors where you can receive the validation, understanding, and encouragement you need to keep you moving forward. Life coaching is very helpful, and therapy by a licensed professional counselor who has experience in treating victims of narcissistic abuse is very helpful, and often necessary – given the level, and complexity of trauma that victims endure.

4. Engage in activities that make you happy and give you peace: have you ever wanted to learn to paint with watercolors, raise orchids, knit, crochet, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter, learn to play the violin, work a 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle, join a book club, write a novel, take a cooking class, do yoga, train for a marathon? Reach out and explore your interests, you may discover a gift and talent you never knew you had!

5. And, most importantly, take care of you, and be kind and compassionate to yourself: celebrate your strength, celebrate the wisdom and resilience you have shown by getting out of the abusive relationship, and staying out. Be encouraged, knowing that you can use your experience to help and empower others someday – that you can be a force of beautiful strength to help other abuse victims move forward and thrive in their lives.

“Making a decision to see through the fog is a commitment to life.” – Chosen

Articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist, and feminine pronouns to describe the partner. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse, And Why Is It So Damaging?

(Read time: 2-3 mins)

Not all abusers are narcissists, but all narcissists are abusers. Narcissistic abuse is intentional, malignant cruelty by design, that inflicts serious emotional and psychological harm to the partner. The narcissist operates with purposeful malice designed to devalue, dismantle, and completely subjugate his partner.

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