Rediscovering my true self
Rediscovering my true self required that I have a deeper understanding to what narcissistic abuse is and how to navigate it. Until I met my ex in 2018, I didn’t know what narcissistic abuse was. But he was the textbook definition of a narcissist. And with that information I was able to find my way out of that relationship. Rediscovering who I am after that made a huge difference because I was able to determine where it all started; with my mother.
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse refers to a pattern of manipulative and controlling behavior exhibited by someone with narcissistic personality traits. However, a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder may also be the cause. It typically occurs in interpersonal relationships, where the narcissistic individual seeks to assert dominance, maintain power and control, and undermine the self-esteem and autonomy of their victim.
That is to say, the impact of narcissistic abuse on one’s sense of self can be profound and long-lasting. The abusive tactics employed by the narcissist can gradually erode the victim’s self-worth, self-confidence, and perception of reality.
Key elements that contribute to the profound impact:
- Gaslighting: Narcissists often engage in gaslighting. They manipulate the victim’s perception of reality, making them doubt their own thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This can lead to confusion, self-doubt, and a distorted sense of reality.
- Emotional manipulation: Narcissists excel at manipulating the emotions of others to their advantage. They may use guilt, fear, shame, or love-bombing to control and manipulate the victim’s emotions. Over time, this can leave the victim feeling emotionally drained, anxious, and dependent on the narcissist for validation.
- Devaluation and idealization cycles: Narcissists often cycle between idealizing and devaluing their victims. They initially shower the victim with love, admiration, and attention during the idealization phase. However, they later devalue and criticize the victim, causing immense emotional pain and confusion. This unpredictability destabilizes the victim’s self-image and self-esteem.
- Isolation and control: Narcissists tend to isolate their victims from friends, family, and support systems, ensuring their control over the victim’s life. Furthermore, this isolation can lead to a sense of dependency on the narcissist and further diminish the victim’s self-esteem.
- Trauma bonding: The intense and unpredictable nature of the relationship with a narcissist can create a trauma bond, a deep emotional attachment to the abuser. The victim may struggle to leave the abusive relationship due to a combination of fear, hope for change, and a distorted belief that they deserve the mistreatment.
Acknowledging the abuse
The recognition of narcissistic abuse and the journey towards acknowledging its existence can be a deeply transformative and often painful process.
Here are some reflections on this journey:
- Denial and Cognitive Dissonance: Victims of narcissistic abuse often experience denial and cognitive dissonance initially. They may struggle to accept that someone they care about and may even love is capable of such manipulative and harmful behavior. The cognitive dissonance arises from the stark contrast between the image the narcissist presents and the reality of their abusive actions. Furthermore, overcoming denial requires confronting uncomfortable truths and questioning deeply ingrained beliefs about the relationship.
- Emotional Rollercoaster: Recognizing narcissistic abuse is an emotional rollercoaster. It involves a range of intense emotions, including anger, sadness, betrayal, and confusion. Additionally, victims may experience a sense of mourning for the loss of the idealized relationship they once believed in. It can be overwhelming to process these emotions and confront the magnitude of the abuse suffered.
- Validation and External Support: Validation from others is crucial in the journey to acknowledge narcissistic abuse. Seeking support from trusted friends, family members, therapists, relationship coaches or support groups can provide an external perspective that helps victims see the patterns of abuse more clearly. Most importantly, validation helps victims break through the gaslighting and self-doubt that often accompany narcissistic abuse.
validating ones experience and giving yourself permission to heal to rediscovering my true self
Breaking the silence:
Narcissistic abuse often thrives in silence and secrecy. Victims may feel ashamed or afraid to speak out about their experiences. Therefore, validating one’s experience involves acknowledging that the abuse happened and that it was not their fault. It allows survivors to break free from the silence, shame, and isolation, and begin to share their stories with trusted individuals or support groups. As a result, validation helps victims realize that they are not alone and that their experiences are valid.
Overcoming self-blame and guilt:
Victims of narcissistic abuse often internalize the blame placed on them by the narcissist. They may believe they deserved the mistreatment or that they somehow caused it. Validating one’s experience helps shift the focus away from self-blame and guilt and instead recognizes the manipulative tactics employed by the narcissist. Additionally, it allows survivors to understand that they were the target of abuse and that no one deserves to be treated in such a manner.
Affirming one’s reality:
Narcissistic abusers often gaslight their victims, making them doubt their own perceptions and experiences. Validating one’s experience involves affirming one’s reality and recognizing that the abuse was real, regardless of the narcissist’s attempts to distort or deny it. Therefore, affirmation helps victims regain a sense of clarity and trust in their own judgment.
Healing emotional wounds:
Giving oneself permission to heal is essential for the recovery process. Survivors of narcissistic abuse may have suppressed their emotions or denied their pain while in the abusive relationship. Allowing oneself to acknowledge and process the emotional wounds is a vital step in healing. That is to say, it involves giving oneself permission to grieve, feel anger, sadness, or any other emotions that arise from the abuse. Furthermore, validating these emotions helps survivors release them, find closure, and begin the healing process.
Rebuilding self-esteem and self-worth:
Narcissistic abuse can profoundly damage an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth. Validating one’s experience is a way of reclaiming and rebuilding these aspects of oneself. It involves recognizing that the abuse was not a reflection of their value or worthiness as a person. Giving oneself permission to heal is an act of self-care and self-love that allows survivors to rebuild their self-esteem and cultivate a positive self-image.
Validating one’s experience and giving oneself permission to heal is an empowering act. It signifies taking control of one’s life, breaking free from the cycle of abuse, and reclaiming one’s power. It allows survivors to prioritize their well-being, set boundaries, and engage in healing practices that promote personal growth and resilience.
Embracing the healing process
Overall, validating one’s experience and giving oneself permission to heal are transformative acts that acknowledge the reality of narcissistic abuse and lay the foundation for recovery. It is an affirmation of one’s worth, resilience, and the inherent right to heal from the trauma inflicted by the abusive relationship.
Healing after narcissistic abuse is a highly individual and nonlinear process while rediscovering true self.
While there is no fixed roadmap, survivors often go through several stages as they work towards recovery. It’s important to remember that each person’s journey is unique, and the progression through these stages may vary. Rediscovering your true self after narcissistic abuse can be challenging but rewarding.
Recognition and Acceptance:
This stage involves recognizing that the relationship was abusive and accepting that the narcissist’s behavior was harmful. It requires acknowledging the impact of the abuse on one’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Furthermore, recognizing the abuse may involve educating oneself about narcissism and abusive dynamics to gain clarity and validation.
Setting Boundaries and No Contact:
Establishing boundaries is crucial in protecting oneself and creating a safe space to heal. This may involve implementing no contact with the narcissistic abuser, which means severing all communication and minimizing any contact or exposure to the person. Additionally, setting and enforcing boundaries can be challenging, as the narcissist may attempt to manipulate or violate them, but it is an essential step towards reclaiming personal agency.
This stage involves allowing oneself to experience and process the emotions that arise from the abuse. Survivors may confront a range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, betrayal, grief, or relief. Emotional processing can involve therapy, journaling, talking to supportive friends or professionals, relationship coaches and engaging in activities that promote self-expression and emotional release.
Self-Care and Rebuilding:
Self-care becomes a priority in the healing journey. This stage involves taking care of one’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Above all, engaging in activities that bring joy, practicing self-compassion, establishing healthy routines, and prioritizing self-care contribute to rebuilding one’s sense of self and fostering resilience.
Reclaiming Identity and Rediscovering Values:
Narcissistic abuse often erodes one’s sense of self and values. This stage involves rediscovering personal identity, values, and interests. It may include reconnecting with hobbies, passions, and activities that promote personal growth. This is to say, exploring new experiences and setting goals aligned with one’s authentic self can be empowering during this stage.
Trust and Relationships:
Rebuilding trust, both in oneself and others, is a gradual process. For example, it involves learning to trust one’s instincts, judgments, and boundaries. Developing healthy and supportive relationships, whether with friends, family, or a therapist, becomes crucial in fostering a sense of connection, validation, and safety.
Integration and Post-Traumatic Growth:
Over time, survivors may reach a stage where they integrate the abuse into their life story while embracing personal growth. This stage involves reframing the experience as an opportunity for resilience, learning, and growth. It may lead to increased self-awareness, empathy, and a deeper understanding of oneself and others.
It’s important to emphasize that these stages are not linear and may overlap or repeat. Healing from narcissistic abuse is a complex and ongoing process, and the time it takes to move through each stage can vary greatly. It is essential for survivors to be patient, practice self-compassion, be very gentle with yourself.
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