The Real Reason You Break No Contact (It’s Not What You Think)

The toughest, most lamentable ordeal in detaching from a toxic relationship with a Narcissist or other personality-disordered individual is implementing and maintaining No Contact (or Modified Contact in cases of shared custody).

The word on the street is that, on average, it takes leaving a toxic partner seven times before finally leaving for good.

I wonder where this number originated from.  From my experience and that of my readers, it often takes a much larger number of attempts before ultimately detaching and moving on.

Some people never truly leave and instead are placed into the “Friends with Benefits” category while their toxic Ex strings them along whilst living out his or her “real life” with someone else.

So why do we break No Contact?  Why do we monitor the Ex’s social media, looking for any shred of evidence that the person we thought existed might still be?  Why do we ruminate obsessively, sometimes becoming dysfunctional in the process?

Trauma-bonding?  Partly.

Psychological conditioning and manipulation?  To a degree.

Fear that our partner will never approve of us or consider us worthy of love and affection?  Most certainly.

There are many factors that determine why we break No Contact, but one is the biggest underlying factor in this self-destructive cycle.  When we break No Contact, we are essentially trying to recreate and repair the traumatic childhood memories and emotional injuries we sustained when we, as young and innocent children, couldn’t understand or process why we were ignored, neglected, invalidated, and/or abused.  Ultimately, we internalized the abuse and mistreatment as meaning we were innately bad and there was nothing we could do about it.

Childhood trauma and repetition compulsion

Many psychologists and thought leaders have recognized a tendency for humans to be drawn to situations that trigger unresolved traumas from earlier in their lives. A child who has an abusive parent may later be repeatedly drawn to abusive partners.  Someone who was often abandoned may be drawn, unconsciously, to people who will become close to them and then suddenly detach and leave.[1]

In the world of psychotherapy, this tendency is referred to as repetition compulsion, which was coined by Sigmund Freud as “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.”

Narcissists are masters at figuring out what our weaknesses, wounds, and fears are.  Since most of these developed during our childhood, it only stands to reason that they choose to push buttons that trigger our childhood wounds.  In fact, the narcissist brings the childhood wounds that we’ve suppressed from our subconscious mind to the conscious, turning our innermost sufferings into everyday reality. This is precisely how they keep us compliant and obedient – and enmeshed in a relationship with them.

Revisiting the trauma

In most cases of dysfunctional relationships with narcissists, the disordered individual represents a parental figure or caregiver.  When the adult who was supposed to be a source of safety and nurturance became simultaneously a source of suffering, we maneuvered to re-establish some sense of safety. Instead of turning on our parents and thereby losing hope for protection, we blamed ourselves. We became fearfully and hungrily attached and anxiously obedient.  [2]

This perfectly describes the relationship dynamic that plays out with a narcissistic individual and his or her target.  We want to be the “good girl” or “good boy”, literally doing whatever it takes to get a nod of approval or acknowledgement, often accepting deplorable behaviors such as infidelity, perpetual unemployment, pathological lying, and daily emotional torture.

Cognitively, it makes no sense to go back to a person who mistreats and abuses us, but these curious behaviors are driven by our subconscious minds – and have us waiting in vain for our abuser to “rescue” us from our feelings of unworthiness or to give us confirmation of our negative self beliefs, which is a peculiar unconscious desire of countless codependents and narcissistic abuse victims.

And who better to do that than the narcissist we know?

Don’t believe everything you think

The important thing to remember is that the negative, underlying beliefs that we may have regarding our worth are not facts.  Many of the beliefs we hold about ourselves originated in childhood due to repeated disappointments and the inability to comprehend that our parents or caregivers treated us the way they did because they were damaged themselves (or, worse, were narcissistic).

Our internal scripts, or the beliefs we have regarding our worth, can be changed.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) can provide effective treatment paths for reshaping thought patterns that lead to self-defeating behaviors. These types of therapeutic approaches focus on bringing awareness to cognitive distortions, irrational beliefs, and negative thought tracks.[3]

Alternative approaches to healing include transformational healing methods such as:  reiki, energy healing, psychic cord cutting, spiritual counseling, and getting help from a coach who can guide you in creating clarity, reality-based relationship analysis, and assist you with useful skills to help you break through to the next level in your healing journey.

Resist the urge to break No Contact

Coming to terms with what is can go a long way in implementing and maintaining No Contact.  No matter how many times you fall for the hoovering or reach out to the narcissist yourself, the relationship and the accompanying damage will not improve.  No amount of forgiveness or compliance extended to them will cause them to look at you or your relationship in a different light.  In fact, with each return to the relationship, the abuse gets worse because the narcissist then sees that there’s no need to put forth any effort for damage control or pretend to have basic decency because they can do whatever they please, yet suffer no consequences.

Nor will breaking No Contact repair your painful childhood.  Only by maintaining bona fide No Contact will you have any hope of healing and finding relief from the very wounds that keep you enmeshed with a toxic narcissist.

Resources

[1] THE REPETITION COMPULSION. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2015, from http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/mind/repetitioncompulsion.shtml

[2]

Van der Kolk, B. (1989, June 1). The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma. Retrieved August 23, 2015, from http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk/

[3]

DeName, K. (n.d.). Repetition Compulsion: Why Do We Repeat the Past? Retrieved August 23, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/06/29/repetition-compulsion-why-do-we-repeat-the-past/

 

Not All That is Buried is Dead

Time is not a healer.

It’s a system for keeping track of seconds, minutes, hours, and days.

Time may take the edge off of intense pain, but it doesn’t heal.   It’s what we do with the passage of time that determines whether or not we heal from our wounds.

Often, we make the mistake of believing that if we keep the pain buried under the guise of a busy schedule, commitments, and trips to Starbucks that our pain will eventually go away on its own.

Because we bury our pain doesn’t mean it’s dead.

It’s very much alive, resurrected by an off-color remark; betrayals big and small.

It wants – no, needs – to be exhumed over and over until we finally acknowledge it.  Look at it.  Figure out why it’s there and do something about it.

Burying it again won’t bring lasting change, nor will reaching out to the very person who keeps our pain alive.

The first requirement in healing our pain is to banish the source of what’s bringing it to the surface.

Then, while our pain is still open and raw, we must examine it.

We must face it and embrace it.  Treat it with loving care.  Let it know it’s understood.

And if we don’t understand it, we must make a point to learn.

Your pain wants to know why you stay with a person who is unfaithful to you.

Why you eat meals with someone who claims to care about you, yet speaks to you in a manner that desecrates your uniqueness.

Why you share your gifts with someone who diminishes your light.

Why you invest in someone who wants you to be dead inside to make them alive.

Healing lies in learning the why.

No, time is not a healer.  That’s a job we must do ourselves.

Healing takes courage

I’m digging in the dirt

Stay with me I need support

I’m digging in the dirt

To find the places I got hurt

~ Peter Gabriel

A Letter from My Future Self as a Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse

~ by Amy L.

To My Present Self –

I know right now you feel scared and lost. I know that the amount of pain you are in feels unbearable and you are scared to experience your feelings.

I know that right now you are afraid of the deep depression that you think you may go into if you stop and allow yourself to grieve it all. I promise you one day this will all make sense. I promise that you aren’t going through this in vain. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I promise that you will get there.

You have all the tools, remember to use them.  Don’t use alcohol, work, or other men as a way to escape. Please have patience with yourself; your soul is going through a transition. Reach out and connect with people when you need help. You are worth it.

I promise you the pain will lessen each day and that the worst of it is over. If you need to cry, let yourself cry…no matter where you are.  Don’t hold back tears for other people’s comfort.  Be open, don’t allow yourself to stay secluded in your pain.

Take the time to learn to trust your instincts again, they are beautiful. One day you will use this pain and turn it around. Remember how resilient you are.

Use where you are right now as a tool to further your empathy and compassion for others. Fall in love with yourself.

Remember who you are. Allow God to heal you. Don’t hide. Don’t say that you are okay when you are not. It is brave to share. Stay in the arena. I know how bad this hurts right now. I know you thought you were his soulmate, special and different. I know believing that seemed to soothe the childhood wounds you had that made you feel you were not lovable or important…and I know when he took your dreams away by revealing his mask that those wounds became deeper.

This is your chance to heal the mistaken beliefs you hold about yourself. I am sorry you had to be hurt so to remember that healing these wounds is a part of your journey. Please know that karma is inevitable… and you need do nothing to have justice.

Please stop thinking that connecting to him will bring you closure. It won’t.  He banks on keeping you uncertain and imbalanced so he can continue to take from you.  Even if he has New Supply at the moment, his keeping you in a state of imbalance ensures that you’ll be around for back-up supply. Remember that. I know it hurts, but you have to be the one to never allow yourself to be manipulated again….

You are getting there, I promise. One day this will all make sense. Pray to God when you need Him…He is there, always.

Love,

Your Healed and Hopeful Future Self

Cognitive Dissonance Removal Strategies: Harmful vs. Healthy Ways

Abusive relationships often reshape your entire belief system. If you are like most victims of narcissistic abuse, you experienced a distorted sense of reality throughout the majority of the relationship with your partner. When your partner’s alternating sweetness and rage suddenly defied everything you believed about him or her, you experienced an internal conflict known as cognitive dissonance. This created great self-doubt about your ability to predict a partner’s abusive potential in the future. As human nature asserts, you began to seek ways to remove the cognitive dissonance, most likely by denial.

How Emotional Abuse Creates Cognitive Dissonance

Prior to the abusive relationship, you always thought you were not the type to fall under somebody’s psychological manipulation, but you did. When your awareness of the relationship first changed from feeling loved to feeling mistreated, you may have told yourself that he or she was just in a bad mood. As your partner began to exhibit more frequent bouts of gaslighting behavior, where he or she would deliberately confuse you and accuse you of acts against them, you felt very conflicted about your partner’s feelings for you. Early attempts to leave your abuser may have resulted in blaming and threats against you for daring to leave the “best” partner you ever had. This created a lot of cognitive dissonance.

Harmful Ways to Remove Cognitive Dissonance

When you act in ways that contradict your beliefs, it is another form of cognitive dissonance. Subconsciously, you will remove the dissonance with the same thought patterns that caused your dissonance to begin with.

Evasion of what you don’t want to acknowledge creates a sense of denial, and the dissonance it creates is known to destroy lives.

Twisting the truth eliminates the facts that you don’t want to accept, so it reduces the dissonant feeling.

Seeking validation from others can be good if they have your best interest at heart. If they are a negative influence in your life – such as your toxic partner – the removal of cognitive dissonance through these harmful methods will only reinforce your denial.

Refusing change of your current thoughts and beliefs allows you to adhere to them, removing the dissonance.

Healthy Ways to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance has come to be known primarily as a negative emotional conflict, but there are ways to use it constructively as a healing tool.

Speak to a trusted friend. If you keep your troubles to yourself and continue contradicting your own thoughts and feelings, it only serves to perpetuate your confusion and self-doubt. Like it or not, you have learned through psychological manipulation how to abuse yourself in a similar way that your narcissistic partner inflicted upon you. The important aspect of this is to have at least one friend or relative whom you can count on for positive and unbiased support. Don’t seek support from friends and family who may be well-meaning, but only offer placebo advice such as, “Why don’t you just break up?” and “I don’t know why you stay with him or her, anyway!”

Keep a written journal. Express the confusion and conflict going on in your head and in your heart by just pouring those thoughts on paper. In doing this, you liberate the trauma and become more self-aware of your inner thoughts, allowing you to consciously shift your thinking. Go back to read your entries about once a week to observe the patterns of your thoughts. Observe whether they are becoming more positive, or if they are slipping back into denial.

Experiment with reading and writing poetry. Poetry can help you to remove your cognitive dissonance much like the journal, letting go of the trauma. It helps you connect to and express your deepest feelings and inner conflicts, fostering a sense of inner peace and tranquility.

Try to become more extroverted. Introverts are more apt to emphasize negative outcomes of trauma, whereas extroverts are more apt to seek positive outcomes. In addition, extroverts tend to seek input from others, broadening their perspective on life and situations, while introverts go out of their way to avoid the input. If you are introverted, it would be very beneficial to join some positive social groups in your community. Socializing with positive people who share your interests both personally and professionally can reduce cognitive dissonance.  (Remember to choose company that will emphasize new beginnings and positive outlooks).

Once you begin to unload your cognitive dissonance in healthier ways than you did during the narcissistic abuse, you begin to free the tension from your spirit. You gain a much deeper self-awareness and start to make peace with your new sense of reality. You acknowledge to yourself that you have the power to act according to, or against, your beliefs. You begin to open your mind to new ways of thinking, instead of being locked up inside your head all the time.

Definitely continue to reflect inwards, but remember to balance that with a healthy dose of input from the outside world. Most of all, you should be proud of how far you have come in your healing journey. It takes a lot of work to overcome cognitive dissonance from emotional abuse.

Copyright © 2015 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Healing from narcissistic abuse?  Join the Let Me Reach Facebook Community!

7 Ways To Reduce Self-Doubt After Narcissistic Abuse

Perhaps you have fallen victim to the control and manipulation of a narcissist. You may have become aware of the toxicity in the relationship long ago, but have been too emotionally attached to your abuser to leave the relationship. You could even be free from your narcissist now and are wrangling your way through the healing process.

The narcissist may be anyone who has a tremendous impact on whether you believe in yourself and your abilities. This is most often a parent, intimate partner, sibling, or boss. You have gradually lost yourself as you have succumbed to his or her psychological conditioning. After a while, his gaslighting instilled confusion and anxiety in you to the point where you detached your sense of reality. You have become consumed with self-doubt and are easily controlled.

Learn the Warning Signs of a Narcissist Before Another Strikes 

A true narcissist has these traits embedded in their personality and in many cases may be clinically diagnosed with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” In order to avoid slipping into a long-term pattern of the “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome,” it is important to understand how the mind of such a person works.

  1. The most notable trait of the narcissist is his pompous sense of self-importance. He clearly doesn’t care about the wants or needs of anyone but himself. He blatantly exaggerates or brags about his achievements and talents, looking for recognition as being superior to other people. His exaggeration is a way to mask his low self-esteem and emotional insecurity.
  2. He often talks about his terrible childhood and seems consumed with it. He projects his cognitive dissonance onto you or others about that time in his life by seeming agitated and quick to anger. This is his coping mechanism for feeling so conflicted.
  3. He denies responsibility for having many failed relationships in his life. Nothing is ever his fault.

Likewise, as his victim, you tend to have the opposite personality traits. You are highly empathic and forgive your narcissist repeatedly. You are more thoughtful and caring of others than you are about yourself. It is generally in your nature to be overly cooperative, so people easily take advantage of you. When it comes to your abusive partner, you ignore the proverbial red flags of his unacceptable behaviors. Worse, you overcompensate for his most deviant behaviors, and you must take care not to let it lead you down a path of self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse or self-mutilation.

Why You Are Filled With Self-Doubt After Narcissistic Abuse

The longer a target suffers through narcissistic abuse, the more they are programmed through psychological conditioning. Once you finally leave your narcissist, you still feel chronically detached from yourself and your life for a time. You can even find yourself missing your abuser, and feeling a lot of self-doubt because of that.

Self-doubt is very common among adults who were raised by narcissistic parents. If this happened to you, then you grew up hearing your parents tell you how pride is a bad thing and how you were never going to amount to anything good. You may now feel incapable of giving yourself credit for your good traits and accomplishments.

Regain Self-Trust And Diminish Self-Doubt After Narcissistic Abuse

  1. Get into a counseling or recovery program. Many communities offer free counseling in a group setting and sometimes they even offer free one-to-one counseling for victims of domestic abuse.
  2. Tell yourself positive affirmations daily. Telling yourself what a smart, loving, beautiful, and capable person that you are while looking in the mirror should eventually reprogram your thinking and help you feel good about yourself again.
  3. Read self-help books about abuse recovery and finding the heart to trust your judgment.
  4. Go with the flow of the healing process. Don’t rush yourself or be hard on yourself when you feel doubt creeping in.
  5. Reevaluate your needs in a partner. Make a list of the absolute must-haves and no-ways and don’t settle for anything less. Ask yourself if he/she exhibits those traits.
  6. Focus on listening to your inner voice and keep it positive. This is a great time to incorporate positive affirmations.

Learning the warning signs of a narcissist is very important. Knowledge is power, so empowering yourself to see the warning signs listed above can encourage you to overcome your fear of falling victim again.

Regain your self-trust after narcissistic abuse.
Regain your self-trust after narcissistic abuse.

Copyright © 2015 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Healing from narcissistic abuse?  Join the Let Me Reach Facebook Community!

3 Ways Narcissists Consume Your Cooperation (Which Leads to Your Exploitation)

You live by the Golden Rule, treating others as you’d like to be treated.

You take criticism to heart, reflecting on how your words and actions might affect other people.

You are highly empathic, having the ability to sense the emotions of others and respond instinctively in ways that help those in need.

You have a high level of tolerance, embracing the beliefs, practices, and lifestyles of other people.

One thing is true of victims of Narcissistic abuse.  They are the most caring, thoughtful, helpful people I’ve met.  And if you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you possess these same traits I just described.

If everyone in the world boasted your qualities, we’d live in a Utopia.  But, sadly, the world is full of manipulators who seek out and exploit people with your character profile, especially your toxic partner.

Does this mean you should turn villain, acting with cold-hearted callousness – in other words, take on the character traits of your abusive, manipulative, and exploitative partner?  No.  Believe it or not, there are actually people in the world who would love and respect you for your reputable qualities and morals.  Even more, people who would reciprocate them back to you!

However, regarding narcissists and other manipulators, your friendliness and compassion are like a big, flashing neon sign that says, “Hey!  Over here!  I’m like the Energizer Bunny!  I can take a licking and keep on ticking!  I’ll keep going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going…”

You get the picture.

So, how do you maintain your core values while maintaining your dignity and trust in others at the same time?  It starts with knowing how narcissists think and how they use your very best qualities against you.  This knowledge will help you establish boundaries going forward, and allow you to save your efforts for people who truly deserve them.  Following are the top three accommodating qualities narcissists look for in prospective sources of supply.[1]

Cooperation

Being cooperative is generally a good thing.  It helps us gain respect, excel in the workplace, and form friendships and other relationships that have the potential to be long-lasting.  However, where cooperativeness gets us into trouble is when it turns into unbridled selflessness.

Narcissists look for cooperativeness in partners because they know that they don’t possess this trait at its most basic level, and excessively cooperative partners will put in the work of two people to keep the relationship going, projecting their own desirable traits onto the narcissist, thereby filling in the yawning gaps in order to make the relationship seem more normal.   This high level of cooperativeness is the most significant trait narcissists look for in partners because they intuitively know that such partners will stay in the relationship with them way beyond reasonable limits. [2]

Narcissists test their partner’s level of cooperation by starting out with small boundary violations and, over time, are able to get away with severe relationship crimes while simultaneously keeping their cooperative partner believing there is hope for change and improvement.

Signs of excessive cooperativeness –

  • All of your efforts at cooperation result in outcomes that only benefit your partner
  • Your level of teamwork smooths the cracks that result from your partner’s non-cooperativeness
  • You believe that the more cooperative you are, the more connected it makes you to your toxic partner and that he or she will eventually acknowledge your efforts and appreciate them
  • You consistently compromise your own interests and goals to help your partner achieve theirs

What to do:  If you find yourself making all the compromises and consistently putting your own needs last, it’s possible that you’ve developed pathological altruism (which is very common in dysfunctional relationships) and may need therapy to work on boundaries and empathy-derived guilt issues.[3]

Empathy

Your partner has suffered a string of failed relationships, a terrible childhood, and is always taken advantage of at work (if they even have a job!)  In turn, you stay with them because everyone else has left the Narcissist out in the cold, and you believe your love might one day change them, or at the very least, prompt a divine epiphany where he or she suddenly realizes the pain and suffering they’ve put you through.

You’re always there to lend a sympathetic ear, though they barely stifle a yawn when you attempt to confide in them your own problems.  (Or worse, if your problems involve them, you’re suddenly faced with a hulking brute who’s hell-bent on making you pay for pointing out one of their flaws!)

Ironically, your high levels of empathy trigger you to forgive the narcissist repeatedly because you believe his or her behaviors are derived from causes outside of themselves.  You feel sorry for them down to your core and don’t want to leave the relationship because you feel personally obligated to help them and not abandon them.

Believe it or not, the narcissist doesn’t need your empathy, but instead uses it to maintain power over your emotions and the relationship. The same can be said for your high level of cooperativeness (Brown, S.  2009).

Signs of excessive empathy (or hyper-empathy) –

  • You offer compassion and understanding in the face of your partner’s severe cruelty and abuse, believing that your undying patience will eventually have an effect on them
  • You try to educate your partner on the underlying reasons for their weaknesses, character flaws, and emotional wounds, believing that doing so will help them see the error of their ways – even though they’ve raged at you for doing it before
  • You often wind up helping your partner at the expense of your own needs

What to do:  Excessive empathy can be a sign of an underlying mental or emotional problem and can also increase the risk of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors (such as codependency). If you find yourself participating in extreme empathy, talk to a therapist who can help you set boundaries and resolve unhealthy relationship patterns.

Tolerance

Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Have you tolerated the following in your relationship:  pathological lying, numerous infidelities, sexual deviancy, financial abuse and manipulation, porn and other addictions, and/or your partner’s long-term unemployment?

Though you never would have thought you’d put up with these behaviors from a romantic partner, the narcissist likely started out with small boundary violations until they were eventually bull-dozing over all of your deal-breakers, while having you tell yourself it isn’t all that bad (much in the same way that they tested your cooperativeness).

As you can see, tolerance can reach pathological levels when you’re in a relationship where all of your values, deal-breakers, and personal ethics are violated on a consistent basis.  The Narcissist’s ability to have you tolerate more and more unbelievable behaviors on their part feeds their sense of entitlement and dominance over you and also perpetuates their power to get you to tolerate even more awful behaviors the next time (Brown, S. 2009).

Signs of excessive tolerance –

  • You’ve stayed with your partner through their long-term affair (and/or numerous affairs)
  • You agree to sexually demeaning acts to “keep your partner happy”, even though it brings about severe self-loathing (this may include threesomes – with your partner asking you to find the sex partner, an ‘open’ relationship, participating in degrading acts you’ve never considered before)
  • You’ve lost hundreds or thousands of dollars to your partner, perhaps even going bankrupt or losing your home due to all the money you’ve given them

What to do:  Make a list of your top five deal-breakers and be willing to walk away from anyone who doesn’t respect them.  This will feel uncomfortably awkward at first, but only by setting personal boundaries and enforcing them will you be party to healthy relationships where you are respected on an individual level.

Remember, cooperativeness, empathy, and tolerance are all good qualities to have, but offering too much can cause you to lose your voice, feel used, and walked over – which in turn can lead to depression, anxiety, and PTSD in the context of pathological relationships.  If your good qualities are filling the cracks of your partner’s scandalous shortfalls, you can decide today that you won’t let them exploit you anymore.  Get yourself into therapy or a CoDa group in your area, work on setting healthy boundaries, and commit to breaking unhealthy relationship patterns so you can live the happy, fulfilled life you deserve.

Copyright © 2015 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Healing from narcissistic abuse?  Join the Let Me Reach Facebook Community!

How to Do No Contact Like a Boss! Currently #1 in Personality Disorders and #9 in Divorce on Amazon!

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References

[1] Brown, S. (2009). Women who love psychopaths: Inside the relationships of inevitable harm (2nd ed.). Penrose, N.C.: Mask Publishing.

[2] Brown, S. (2009). About Her. In Women who love psychopaths (2nd ed., p. 131). Penrose, NC: Mask Publishing.

[3] Schreiber, K. (n.d.). Too Much of a Selfless Good Thing: Pathological Altruism. Retrieved July 20, 2015.

7 Signs You’ve Arrived as a Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse

7 Signs Blog Pic

 

Recovering from narcissistic and emotional abuse can seem like an ordeal of the most grievous kind.

You may have endured months of struggle and suffering without knowing if you’re making any progress because the pull to go back remains strong.  You miss the moments under your abuser’s sway because, in your traumatized mind, cognitive dissonance and memories of so-called “good times” cloud your objectivity.

How do you know where you stand on your road to recovery?  Victory isn’t always in-your-face.  Arriving as a survivor of narcissistic abuse comes in waves, even ripples, but if you experience the following seven signs, you can feel gratified knowing that healing is within your reach.

1)  You’ve begun to appreciate that self-care is something you need to participate in consistently. Not only because you are healing from emotional abuse, but because healthy people in general understand the importance of putting on their oxygen mask before they can help others.

Life can be stressful enough without the added obstacle of toxic abuse.  It only stands to reason that if you’re healing from narcissistic abuse, your body and mind require extreme self-care.  This might include reducing social engagements, staying off of the internet, saying “no” to friends and family, taking a nap when you feel exhausted, and making time to do meditations.

You resist the urge to make excuses as to why you can’t take care of yourself, realizing that even single mothers can work self-care into their schedules.  If you are a single mother, you deliberately get a babysitter on occasion to take yourself out.  You do guided meditations at night.  You journal and do mirror work.  If a friend asks you to visit and you don’t have the energy, you respectfully decline.  You take the initiative to be a little “selfish”, because you understand the need to do so after putting out other people’s fires for too long.

2)  You do what it takes to protect your mental and physical space. You no longer acquiesce to things that intrude on your privacy and peace of mind.

Most narcissists and other Cluster-B disordered individuals pull out all the stops when trying to hook a previous source of supply back into their realm of crazy.  They pretend to have changed, to want to be friends (especially for the “sake of the kids”), to be just another normal person going through a typical breakup or divorce.  They may go so far as to tell you their relationship problems with their new partner.

Arriving as a survivor means you no longer want, nor tolerate, any of those things.  You want peace and autonomy so badly that you are willing to go complete No Contact and resolve not to let them into your home anymore.  You don’t leave yourself open to any of their tomfoolery, and instead put up all necessary boundaries to protect your new sense of peace.

3)  You no longer care about how your Ex will react to your decisions. You don’t worry whether your life choices will make your Ex angry or make life “inconvenient” for them.  You understand that true fulfillment means honoring your own dreams, desires, and ambitions regardless of how your ex may respond.  As long as you abide by any court orders in place, you know that your future is in your own hands.

4)  You may start to notice that some of your other relationships have been a big energy and time drain, and you resolve to do something about them.

You’ve gotten into the habit of honoring yourself and releasing that which doesn’t serve your highest good.  Consequently, you’ve become more sensitive to other relationships in which you feel taken advantage of.  This doesn’t mean that you would dump a friend in need, but rather that you’ve started noticing your relationship ‘climates’.  In the same way that a long-term weather pattern creates a climate in a particular region, if the climate of any of your relationships has proven – over time – that you typically feel put upon and used, then those are the ones that you now consider releasing.

5)  You’re more concerned about what you’re doing with your life than what your Ex is doing with theirs. You no longer obsess about your Ex with their new supply or the fact that they seem so happy because you’ve come to understand that your Ex is destined to repeat the same cycle of abuse with anyone they are with at any given time.

6)  You no longer focus on problems, but on solutions. You realize that you have the power to conquer and change your circumstances, rather than remain defenseless against whatever stunts your Ex might be playing.

You understand that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If you need to delete an email you’ve had for years because your Ex emails you from different accounts, you delete it.  If you need to file a restraining order because your Ex is stalking and harassing you, you drive to the courthouse and file it.  If you see the need to change your cell phone number and insist that they call you on your landline, you do so.  If your Ex sends you unwanted gifts and flowers, you mark them “return to sender” or refuse the delivery.  You fight the good fight to protect your newfound freedom.

7)  You no longer consider what happened to you a punishment, but rather an eye-opener because you understand that it happened so you could heal the wounds you’ve carried since childhood.

You’ve arrived as a survivor from narcissistic abuse because you no longer look to your Ex for approval or appreciation, knowing that even the appearance of those things comes with a high price.  You accept that there are people whose behavior is disturbingly damaging, but you no longer open yourself up to it.   Instead, you respond appropriately, with full awareness of why it’s necessary to do so.

You’ve arrived as a survivor because you no longer tolerate anything that discounts your value – from anyone – for you’ve become your own best friend and advocate.

Copyright © 2015 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Healing from narcissistic abuse?  Join the Let Me Reach Facebook Community!

How to Be Smart in a World of Users

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

But before I do, be forewarned – you may be offended, disgusted, or even downright furious.

You might be driven to kick yourself at the obvious simplicity of it all once I lay it out for you.

Or, you may say to yourself, “Who does this woman think she is?”

Nonetheless, I’m going to say it because it’s not easy to come across this information unless you spend hours combing narcissism and codependency sites, and even then, it’s not always laid out for you in the way I’m about to do for you…

Here it is – if you want to know if your partner appreciates you, you need to stop being so nice.  You see, while you may pride yourself on being overly giving and a hard worker, your nice and giving nature may well be what holds you back, at least when it comes to meaningful relationships.

No duh, right?  I mean, you’ve probably realized by now that people often take advantage of you when you try to be nice to them.  But, I’m not talking about the friend who calls you for emotional drive-bys – you know, the one who vomits all of their problems onto you and hangs up feeling refreshed, while you are left feeling antsy and slightly annoyed.  (Although that’s a great topic for another article.)

No, I’m talking about the guy or girl you just started dating or perhaps have been seeing a while.

Maybe they’re never happy – you work your butt off to appease them, while they sit on the couch barely noticing your efforts, hinting around about your wonderful future together as they take another bite of pizza during their Netflix marathon.

You, on the other hand, have put in many long months of struggle and sacrifice working for that dangling carrot they call a future together, yet they never really commit to you or put in their fair share towards the relationship.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking to yourself, “If I just show them that I think of their needs before they have to ask for anything, they’ll see me as good relationship material”.  You buy all of their favorite foods, take them to their favorite restaurants, and buy them special gifts ‘just because’.

You hold out hope that they’ll see your value, but instead all you get is a bored yawn when you sit next to them on the sofa.

Puzzled, you’ve started putting in double-time, because you think maybe the stuff you’ve already been doing for them isn’t enough and if you do more, it’ll be painfully obvious that you’re the perfect person for them.

If you’re wondering what gives, I’ll tell you.

If you’ve been giving 150%, while getting nothing in return, your partner is a User (and probably a Narcissist).

The sad truth is that they don’t need to change or commit because you’re already doing everything they want and taking care of their every need.

You’re effectually rewarding them for their lack of respect and commitment!

I know it’s hard to swallow.  I remember how I felt when I realized I’d been taken for a ride while being made to believe there was a happy future out there on the horizon.

All that time and effort down the drain.

I had to learn the hard way, but you don’t have to.

How to find out if your partner is a User

If you’re not sure where your relationship is going, pull back on your efforts.  Stop being available all the time.

And while you’re at it, start doing more things for yourself.

After a while, one of three things will happen:

  • If your partner is a manipulative user – or worse, a narcissist – they will experience an injury when you stop catering to them. They took everything for granted and expected you to do those things for them because of their sense of entitlement – knowing that the only thing they had to do in return was whip out the ole “seduction of the tongue”, telling you everything you wanted to hear while delivering nothing in return, save for their World Title for Couch-Riding.  There will be name-calling, blaming, and more attempts to get you to play into the “Possibility of Commitment” game.  (If you’re married, they may promise to stop cheating if you’ll just go back to them.)
  • The person who took so much, yet gave so little will reflect on how much they’re missing out on with your being gone and realize they need to step up to the plate. No name-calling, no blame-shifting, and no ridiculous excuses.  They’ll realize that your leaving was your way of placing yourself in the “High Value Category” and they’ll start seeing you that way, too. (this is only possible with non-narcs).
  • You won’t hear from the person again. If this happens, it doesn’t really matter ‘why’.  There could be any number of possibilities, but instead of focusing on the fact they haven’t called, realize that the Universe, God, fate (whichever Higher Power you believe in) has opened up a pathway for you.  You won’t have to worry about sinking anymore time and effort into a relationship where you wouldn’t have been appreciated.  Isn’t that a comforting thought?

Turn red flags into deal-breakers

Whichever of the above scenarios plays out, there’s one thing to be mindful of.  Going forward, you’ll want to make a list of deal-breakers and stick to them.  No more turning a blind-eye or working harder to prove your worth.  Deal-breakers are non-negotiable.  You don’t have to throw them out on the table on the first date, but you do want to make them clear if someone crosses the line.  A deal-breaker list may look something like this:

  • I will not accept name-calling
  • I will not accept infidelity
  • Communication should be open and mutually beneficial
  • I will not accept anyone being mean to my children
  • I will not put in the work of two people to keep the relationship going
  • I will not stop talking to friends or family at a partner’s request , whether verbally or forced through punishment
  • I will not be in a relationship with someone who constantly talks about other people behind their backs

Those are my personal deal-breakers.  The list isn’t long because most other things can be negotiable and agreed upon through open and respectful communication.  Your list of deal-breakers might be similar.  Maybe you’re vegan and you want your partner to be vegan, too.  If so, that’s something that shouldn’t be open to compromise.

The bottom line

If you want a truly healthy and loving relationship, your first line of action is to stop accepting anything that devalues you and your sense of right and wrong.

If you want your relationships to change, you have to be willing to change what hasn’t been working for you, even if that means walking away.

Because the cold, hard truth is, you can’t change other people.  You can only change yourself and your circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that a healthy and loving relationship won’t have its ups and downs.  All relationships do.  Just look at lovebirds…they sometimes get annoyed and peck at the other, but two minutes later, they’re snuggled on their perch again.

They worked it out in a mutually beneficial way.

Plucked ChickenWhat about you?  Which lovebird will you be?  The one snuggled up with a respectful partner, rocking a content look on your fluffy face, or looking like a plucked chicken because you’re constantly stressed – or worse – because your feathers were pulled out by your disrespectful, demanding partner?

The choice is yours.

Copyright © 2015 Kim Saeed. All Rights Reserved

Healing from narcissistic abuse?  Join the Let Me Reach Facebook Community!

Grieving the Death of Addiction

grieving-addiction-680x471
by Lindsay Kramer on November 20, 2014 in Living in Recovery, Love and Relationships

According to therapist Lindsay Kramer, an addiction is a lot like a relationship: at first, both addiction and a new relationship lead to feelings of excitement and euphoria, craving more time with the new beloved, and putting a high priority on spending time together. But it’s not long before the addiction becomes a dysfunctional relationship, where the dependence on the drug becomes so intense that it takes an ever-increasing amount of time, money, and energy to maintain.

For someone who’s going through the addiction recovery process, there comes a point where they realize that they can’t have a healthy relationship with the object of their addiction, and that they have to say goodbye to it forever. And for most people, this gives rise to a strong emotional response that can include all kinds of feelings—anxiety, sadness, anger, grief—that can feel very confusing.

Lindsay Kramer explains, in this article at Recovery.org, that thinking of the addiction in terms of a relationship can help recovering addicts work through these feelings and come to a state of acceptance—where they can understand and accept the fact that addiction is no longer an option, and can look forward to a new life without wanting to return to the old one –

As a systemic therapist, I look at most everything through the lens of relationships. In working with my substance-dependent patients, the analogy of addiction to a drug is no different.

Like a new relationship, at first, the use is thrilling. There’s the high, the intimacy, the butterflies that come from anticipation of time spent together. When that time becomes more frequent, the attachment becomes stronger. Then comes the increased time spent getting high, followed by the isolation, the cravings for the drug, and placing the addiction as the only priority in one’s life. The feeling of love may even be developed.

I wasn’t having an affair with any other person, but Oxy became my best friend. I was in love with it and never wanted to be separated from it.

The dependence continually intensifies, money is spent to excess, and the “relationship” can become a full-time job to maintain. The drug becomes a permanent fixture that will never leave the now-addict. What once was exploratory and fun becomes dependent, shameful, and confining, further polarizing the relationship with addiction from the real relationships with everyone else. “My husband actually thought I was having an affair because of the time spent away from the family. He knew I was lying about something, but he couldn’t figure out what was happening,” a patient once reported to me in explaining her relationship with prescription opiates. “I wasn’t having an affair with any other person, but Oxy became my best friend. I was in love with it and never wanted to be separated from it.”

In my recovery-based work, I personify addiction as means to help my patients understand the severity of their addiction and their need to separate themselves from it in order to progress within their recoveries. In working with these patients in treatment, there is a significant emotional response when they come to understand that in order to move forward in their recovery, they must first say goodbye to the notion of ever being able to have a healthy relationship with their addiction.

This is where the analogy of the death comes into fruition.

Why does the relationship with addiction have to be explained as grieving a death?

Thankfully, relationships with people can be impaired or improved. People can grow and work to resolve problems. Conversely, one may try and get back together with their toxic “ex,” and they may find that the honeymoon stage is transitory and the same underlying problems continue to surface. I equivocate the latter process to a relapse; in order for us to be healthy, we must separate ourselves from the unhealthy. And as morbid as it may seem, comparing the relationship with addiction to a death provides a concrete finality that addicts need in order to reach the stage of acceptance. They must understand that despite how much a part of them loves their addiction and wants a relationship with it forever, their addiction will never be able to reciprocate healthy love in return.

“They must understand that despite how much a part of them loves their addiction and wants a relationship with it forever, their addiction will never be able to reciprocate healthy love in return.”-LINDSAY KRAMER

Death in this regard is the symbolization of the ending of a very deep relationship. It’s important to endure the grief process in order to understand the depth of the addiction itself, but to surrender also means to accept the death and move on from it.

How does one go about applying the analogy of grief into addiction treatment?

In working with grief itself, I’ve come to understand that 1.) it [unfortunately] is a lifelong process, and 2.) it endures many stages, several times over. That’s when the Kübler-Ross model (1969) of the five stages of grief comes into the limelight. For those needing a refresher, the stages are Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. When applying this analogy of grieving the death of addiction, I explain and process each stage with my patients in order for us to understand where they are in their overall recovery.

    • Denial: This is addiction in its active stage, and there is difficulty in acknowledging that the consequences of maintaining this relationship outweigh the benefits of the relationship itself. Denial may present as the addict not wanting to surrender the relationship due to fear of change, fear of suffering, and/or fear of “doing the work” involved in the grieving (i.e. recovery) process.Denial in this stage appears as taking the stance of the problem being everyone else’s and not of their own. “I’ve got this handled; I can manage it on my own.” The addict is not yet connected to the toxicity of this relationship and will defend it to others. A common stance in this stage may be, “why would it hurt me?” Perhaps, the addict is aware of the pain that the relationship has caused to others, but they are still in disbelief that it would ever cause pain to him/herself.

“In this stage, the addict is desperate to demonstrate to everyone else that the relationship is not toxic by attempts to prove that ‘things will be different this time’…”-LINDSAY KRAMER

    • Bargaining: This is an area in which relapses can occur, if any sobriety has been achieved. The addict attempts to bargain with recovery by means of “only just having a few drinks,” trying to maintain friendships with using friends, or by not declaring one’s sobriety to others in attempt to minimize the severity of their addiction. “I didn’t tell anyone I was sober outside of the people in my meetings, and I ended up relapsing several weeks after I got out of treatment,” is a common declaration from patients in this stage after they return to treatment.In this stage, the addict is desperate to demonstrate to everyone else that the relationship is not toxic by attempts to prove that “things will be different this time,” or that they “can control it this time.” The addict may even blame others for why the relationship isn’t working, and may displace emotional reactivity onto those that attempt to separate him from his use. This is the stage where the addict realizes that the addiction is not within their control, however they are persistent in their attempts to demonstrate any shred of control that they have over this relationship.
    • Anger: This is the stage in which the addict becomes angry at the clarity that this relationship is toxic, has caused them pain, and cannot be controlled. The anger is experienced at the awareness that the addiction has lost them jobs, cost exorbitant amounts of money, ended healthy relationships, and has ultimately caused them much pain. The addict may be angry at feeling abandoned and betrayed by the addiction, despite how they had tried to defend it early on in the relationship.As I strongly believe that anger is a secondary emotion which blankets our deeper pain and motivates us to take action, anger can be projected onto the relationship itself, or onto oneself for allowing the addiction to cause such immense damage. In this case, the addict experiences being angry toward the addiction and much more toward themselves, causing a frenetic urge to take responsibility and action away from the relationship.
    • Depression: Aside from the chemical depression resulting from the recalibration of the Hedonic Set Point (Brickman & Campbell, 1971), depression is likely the primary emotion covered by anger, and takes many forms in this stage. This is where the addict may experience sadness over the awareness of the wreckage that was caused by the addiction. “I became very sad once I realized how I let the addiction treat me and how it abandoned me,” one patient expressed. There may also be depression at the realization of how the addict has treated themselves in the course of their addiction.In this stage, the addict may become depressed due to the realization that they aren’t ever going to be able to drink/use again and that they do have to say goodbye to their relationship once and for all. Depression sets in about the idyllic thought of not being able to enjoy a glass of champagne at a wedding, use more responsibly like they did in the earlier stages of the relationship, and/or over the fact that their recovery is one they will have to manage every day for the rest of their lives. Depression may also be felt over the realization that this traumatic relationship is one that may have to be re-experienced daily in order to prevent the addict from returning to the relationship.Depression is akin to acceptance, but differs by deeper emotional responsiveness when the addict in recovery finally begins to grieve the loss of this relationship.

“Acceptance is vocalizing the understanding that this relationship is a disease that will only continue to kill them if they continue to keep it alive.” -LINDSAY KRAMER

  • Acceptance: This is the triumphant stage in which the addict in recovery accepts the loss of their relationship and begins to apply the conceptualization of living life free from addiction. This is the stage in which the recovered readily acknowledge that the fantasized wedding champagne toast could lead to a DUI following the reception, that the hangovers were exponentially worse than the highs, and that they want to experience lasting, healthy relationships in the future. Acceptance is vocalizing the understanding that this relationship is a disease that will only continue to kill them if they continue to keep it alive.Acceptance takes form as surrender, as freedom, and as the choice that the recovered make in order to say goodbye to this relationship forever. In my experience, those that reach this stage are active in their recoveries and go on to assist others in earlier stages of this grieving process. The recovered that have accepted the death of their addiction go on to lead lives that are not without struggle, but the most important change is that they are now able to lead their own lives again.

Photo Source: istock

Lindsay Kramer
With over seven years of experience treating the chemically-dependent population of San Diego, Lindsay Kramer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) that brings expertise, compassion, and perpetually-evolving insight into her work at Caroline Stewart and Associates. Lindsay graduated from the University of San Diego with her Master’s degree in Marital and Family Therapy 2008, but began her work with families and their children in 2004 by providing parent education and social skills groups to hundreds of families in San Bernardino country.

Find more articles like this one on Recovery.org

Ghosting – Silent Treatment or No Contact?


Ghosting One

You’ve probably heard by now that Charlize Theron pulled a big disappearing act on Sean Penn.  It’s all over the internet on sites such as US Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Jezebel.  The couple seemed to be the epitome of happiness in cozy beach photos, walking hand-in-hand on the red carpet, and getting engaged.  It seemed they’d each met their match when suddenly, Charlize stopped answering his texts and phone calls.

She ghosted him.

To the general public, it may seem her decision to suddenly cut him out of her life was harsh.  After all, how many people have been at the receiving end of ghosting – which is the act of not returning emails, calls, or text messages – and felt the humiliating sting of sudden rejection?  Considering that brain scans have revealed that the same brain regions get activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain, ghosting someone would appear to be an act of ultimate cruelty.

Or is it?  The answer lies in one word – intention.

Ghosting as a means of Silent Treatment

In the world of Narcissism, victims of emotional abuse get ghosted Ghosting 1all the time.  And while Narcissists are notorious for lying, cheating, and manipulating, they are absolute masters at issuing the Silent Treatment.  What makes their “ghosting” so difficult to heal from is that often, just when their target of ghosting has begun to lick their wounds and move forward, the Narcissist pops back onto the scene, effectively repeating the whole abuse cycle from scratch.

Another narcissistic move, which is more uncommon – and in some cases, more difficult to heal from – is one in which the Narcissist seemingly disappears off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again.

In either scenario, the intention is the same.  For Narcissists, creating emotional devastation is their way of demonstrating power.  They know that the wound of abandonment is at the core of human experience.  It’s a primal fear that’s been passed down to us by our ancestors when being ostracized from the tribe meant less access to critical resources such as food, shelter, and companionship.  In most cases, it was a death sentence.

In today’s world, ostracism, endured for a long time, leaves people feeling depressed and worthless, resigned to loneliness or desperate for attention—in extreme cases, suicidal or homicidal. In healing from ostracism, there is a “coping” stage, when people try to figure out how to “improve their inclusionary status.” They pay attention to every social cue; they cooperate, conform, and obey. [1]  Most Narcissists, especially of the overt ilk, take advantage of this phase by insisting their partner hasn’t tried hard enough, isn’t forgiving enough, isn’t attractive enough , and so on, in order to extract copious amounts of narcissistic supply.  Their target, wanting desperately to avoid the emotional damage of ostracism – a.k.a silent treatment – complies with the Narcissist’s every demand.

I don’t think, however, that Charlize implemented the Silent Treatment (sorry New York Times!)  I believe she grew tired of Sean’s controlling ways and possible affairs and went No Contact.

Ghosting as a means of going No Contact

I doubt it’s mere speculation to deem that Sean had it coming to him.  He made history after having beat the crap out of Madonna when the two of them were married.  And let’s not forget what he does to those pesky paparazzi.  According to Cracked.com,

“Penn was a rage head who dealt with annoying paparazzi by shooting at them, dangling them upside down from balconies, and smacking them with rocks”.

Imagine being in a romantic relationship with someone who has a hair-trigger temper, is insanely controlling and jealous, and flirts with other women to boot.  Oh wait, you probably don’t have to imagine it, as most Narcissists fit that description.

Ghosting 2I believe Miss Theron ‘went Casper’ on Sean because he got out of control and she’s too much of a lady to smear Sean’s name to Hollywood.  Whether it was out of fear, we may never know – as I’m sure many of you can sadly relate to.

Do you need to ‘go Casper’ on the Narcissist in your life?  Find out how by Going No Contact Like a Boss! Currently #1 in Personality Disorders and #9 in Divorce on Amazon!

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[1] Ostracism hurts—but how? Shedding light on a silent, invisible abuse.  (2011, April 27).  In Association for Psychological Science.  Retrieved 6/28/2015

Surviving Narcissistic Abuse | No Contact | Narcissists and Lying | Narcissistic Husband | Love Bombing | Cognitive Dissonance

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