5 Brutal Ways New Abuse Survivors Torture Themselves

By Kim Saeed | Maintaining No Contact

Sep 12
heal from emotional abuse

Legions of people who’ve endured narcissistic abuse hold the mistaken belief that choosing to leave a toxic relationship is the hardest thing they will ever do in their lives.

In fact, I once believed the same thing. 

But, the truth is…it’s what comes after that’s really the hardest.  The self-blame, the cognitive dissonance, the tendency to believe in the charade that the toxic Ex puts on. 

What about you? Are you drowning in misery? Are pain and doubt your faithful muses?

Here are five ways that new abuse survivors torture themselves. See how many apply to you (and discover how to avoid them.)

1 – They have unrealistic expectations about how long it takes to feel better

New survivors often set wildly unrealistic recovery goals for themselves.

They hope that listening to a few meditations, seeing a therapist or coach a few times, or joining a yoga program will bring about quick healing.

They scour the internet searching for a magic bullet that will take their pain away in an instant.

As much as I wish I could say there’s a magic wand that will grant you instant restoration and a healed life, getting over an emotionally abusive relationship is a process. Like any transformation, healing is a journey of incremental successes.

Set the bar too high and your every attempt at healing becomes a disappointment. Every small step of improvement is a letdown. And, it’s torture.

Of course, massive, sudden recovery does happen, but it’s amazingly rare.  It’s almost never as sudden as it seems and often happens after a near-death experience or other life-altering event.

The truth is, when we leave an abusive relationship, we face the task of healing the damage that was done during its duration, as well as the collective wounds we’ve accumulated over our lifetime.

Believing this kind of healing can happen quickly is a cruel form of self-defeat.

What to do:  Choose a more realistic outlook in regards to your healing. Because, until you have experimented with and stuck with healing methods that resonate with you, bouncing around from one healing modality to the next (or worse, doing nothing at all) is just failure waiting to happen.  Keeping yourself busy in the beginning does have its place because it lessens the chance you’ll reach out to an Ex, but there does come a time when the real work of dealing with emotional wounds, self-sabotage and self-defeating beliefs is necessary.

2 – They believe things might’ve improved if only they’d hung in there a little longer

How long have these phrases been knocking around in your mind:

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Love conquers all.  Everyone has some good in them and deserves the benefit of the doubt.  If you want to be forgiven, you must forgive.  The Ex didn’t have any family or friends, and now I’ve “abandoned” them, too.  I wasn’t perfect, either.  Maybe it WAS me after all.

These nuggets of insight might apply to other areas of life, but not to toxic relationships.  Why? Because it gives new survivors another way to torture themselves. 

It doesn’t matter if you were with your Ex for two, ten, or thirty years, it’s time to accept that you did everything within your power to salvage the relationship. 

Trust me on this.  I work with people who stuck it out for 20 and 30 years.  They tried couple’s therapy, forgiveness, compromise (and tolerated infidelity).  Guess what?  Nada!

What to do:  Accept that you did everything you could and even if you did or said things you aren’t proud of, they were in reaction to being mistreated. The misguided fear that you could have done something differently is based on your toxic Ex having changed the goal posts continuously– and yes, it was deliberate.  This explains why every single abuse survivor believes there is something else they could have done to save the relationship.  It’s a result of conditioning — and overwriting this belief will be part of your healing journey.

3 – They believe the Ex has changed for the new person

Have you read that Narcissists and other toxic people all learn from the same playbook?  Or, maybe you came up with this discovery on your own?

It’s ironic how we can clearly see that almost all narcissists engage in the same abusive and manipulative tactics, but we often don’t acknowledge that abuse survivors generally engage in the same self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviors, too.

What to do:  Stop cyber-snooping on the Ex.  Or worse, stalking them around town to see what they’re up to, “casually and coincidentally” showing up at their usual spots. 

You’ve got to stop.  Even if there is a reason that seems valid to you, such as these examples:

“Oh, I need to know when he’s in town.” 

“I need to know she’s a cheater because that’s what keeps me strong.”

“I need to stay on top of their moves so I can be prepared.”

“I want to see what they’re saying about me online.”

All of these are manifestations of self-sabotage

Did you know the subconscious mind literally cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality?  This is the reason why visualization and meditations have been scientifically proven to effect positive changes in the brain, as well as improve physical maladies.

This same phenomenon goes for obsessively researching narcissism and Cluster-B disorders.  It keeps your subconscious mind in an environment of abuse and abandonment.  It’s literally reenacting the abuse over and over, which keeps you in a state of anxiety and fight-or-flight.

Another Catch-22 is snooping on your Ex and believing they’ve changed for the new person.  They haven’t.  What you see is love-bombing.  It’s an effective way for them to sweep the new person off of their feet and encourage you to believe they’ve changed. 

Generally, no matter how many times an abuse survivor reads this, they still believe their Ex has really and truly changed for the new person and that somehow, their situation is different from everyone else’s…and they make themselves mentally and physically sick in the process. 

The Ex hasn’t changed for the new person.  It’s a story you tell yourself and you believe it – with the Ex’s help, of course.  Cease snooping on the Ex and instead dedicate that time to your healing.

4 – They believe that having been the target of narcissistic abuse makes them less intelligent

Being a target of narcissistic abuse is not a gauge for your level of intelligence. 

Being a target of abuse means that when you were a small child (typically up to age 6 or 7), you formed subconscious beliefs about your worth and how loveable you are.  This may have been the result of emotional or physical abuse, but it could also be due to other factors, such as your parents divorcing or having a parent who was a perfectionist.

The reason you were in a relationship with a toxic person is because it felt natural, including the moments of emotional trauma.

A common example it is this:  If your parents used spanking as a means of discipline, you grew up believing it was okay for people who loved you to also hurt you.  One day you’re being spanked and punished, the next day things are back to ‘normal’. 

Children are very impressionable, and sadly, the beliefs they form about their worth up to age seven are the ones they carry with them throughout their lives, no matter how successful or accomplished they become as adults. 

On a subconscious level, we recreate the emotional traumas we endured when we were young in an effort to resolve them.  However, rather than help resolve past traumas, relationships with toxic people keep us in a never-ending struggle for acceptance, validation, and love.

What to Do:  The dynamics that surround toxic relationships mostly lie outside of your awareness. 

The conscious mind has a limited memory and much of it is short-term. The subconscious mind, in stark contrast, has virtually infinite memory. It contains all the events that happened to you since you developed awareness, including hurtful events from your early life and beyond.

Most of the time when you believe you’re making decisions with your cognitive, thinking mind, it’s actually your subconscious mind driving those decisions. This explains why you may believe you’re giving a toxic partner the benefit of the doubt so they can prove they’ve changed, when in truth, you already know on a logical level they won’t change.  This happens because your subconscious mind holds the belief that you don’t have the right to establish healthy boundaries for yourself and because, subconsciously, you believe love involves elements of pain and betrayal.

But, you can change this automatic process.  The conscious mind can stimulate the subconscious mind into action, change habits, reverse negative thinking patterns, and improve your physical and emotional health.  One way to do this is through consistent use of guided meditations.

5 – They create terrible healing conditions

Having worked with narcissistic abuse survivors for almost four years now, I am always astounded by the lack of self-care and deficient healing practices I see and hear from people who say they want to heal.

  • Staying busy at a job keeps you busy, but it doesn’t heal.
  • Reading tons of books is good for education, but it doesn’t heal.
  • Hanging out on abuse forums indefinitely is good for validation, but it doesn’t heal.
  • Watching hours of YouTube videos may help you understand a toxic Ex, but it doesn’t heal.
  • Engaging in the same habits as you did while in your toxic relationship might feel comfortable, but it won’t heal you.
  • Trying to do it all alone may feel like the right thing to do, but if it hasn’t provided any true benefits, it’s not healing you.

What to do:  Healing from narcissistic abuse is a process of design.  While the exact methods of healing may vary from person to person, there is a general formula for healing which requires addressing the mind, body, spirit, and emotions.  Staying busy at a job, for example, won’t heal you because part of healing involves radical self-care, and working 24/7 isn’t self-care.  It’s also a handy distraction to avoid addressing your emotional wounds. 

Healing from narcissistic abuse happens when you address all areas of mind, body, spirit, and emotions into your recovery plan and practice healing methods daily. If you don’t have a strong support system or a person to hold you accountable for your healing, you should seriously consider finding one. Don’t hang out in groups whose members are still stuck and not living the life you want for yourself.

Schedule the time and treat it like any other important appointment with a doctor or specialist. By doing this, you tell YOURSELF that you are valuable by getting someone to hold you accountable for your healing and a better life.

Find a coach or therapist and be accountable with your healing. Stop trying to do things alone. And just a side note…. avoid coaches or therapists who work 24/7, are always available by phone, email, and any other social media platform you happen to have. Start working with people who have the kind of life you want. It makes a world of difference.

Stop torturing yourself

Being a new survivor doesn’t have to be so painful.

It’s not always easy, but it can be more enjoyable.

If you can nix the behaviors that rob your healing progress, not only will you find more enjoyment in it, but your recovery will happen more quickly.

So, check the list above and see if you’re causing yourself needless pain.  Then, download the Beginner’s Healing Toolbox below to get started on your recovery plan.

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Join thousands of others who are joining the '7-Day Healing Activation' mini-course and get instant access to:

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About the Author

Kim Saeed is a narcissistic abuse recovery expert on a mission to help abuse survivors to heal, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. She also hosts a podcast called Heal, Grow, Evolve, where she aims to help people create meaningful lives and relationships after emotional abuse. Listen and subscribe at www.healgrowevolvewithkim.com

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(23) comments

Rosie September 20, 2016

People! Listen to the experts when they say don’t cyber snoop on your ex – narc! I have been doing so well, then today got the urge to “peek”, and there it was. Pictures of him and his new woman, on a romantic weekend away, with him saying how happy he is “now”. No, I never want him back, and have been no contact (on my part) for six months. Now I feel like I have backed up again in healing. Why do I even care what he does??? Learn from my mistake, don’t look at their facebook page, it will only hurt you!! Now I have to start over again. Ugh.

Reply
    Kim Saeed September 22, 2016

    Hi Rosie! Thank you for sharing your story and I hope it helps anyone who sees it. In fact, this is so common, I think I’ll write an article about it 🙂

    Kim
    XoXo

    Reply
    Danette October 4, 2016

    My narc is just a friend, but I do the cyber snooping and I don’t know how to stop, it’s so hard, I’m sure I would be happier if I did I went for 3 months not having contact with them and I stupidly answered a text and it started everything all over again, so I definitely understand having to start over again, so frustrating

    Reply
threeheadsstudios September 17, 2016

This is so true! Especially believing your ex husband has changed. That very thought has kept me up nights for a month. I was so convinced that he changed for his NS and I was jealous that she got the version of him I had suffered 8 years to get.

It compelled me to break gray rock (stupid, I know) and go on these family days with him and our daughter. Family days that have quickly taken on the shape of dates. Even though he has a girlfriend he claims he doesn’t want to hurt.

But he keeps coming on to me, and made a pass at me just a few days ago. He says he still loves me and that he cares more for me than he does his girlfriend, given our long history and our child. But when I asked him he wanted to make it work, he said he was tempted but he had a girlfriend and didn’t want to hurt her.

I feel like he’s playing with my head. He’s so nice so it’s hard to accuse him of wrongdoing and we do have fun on our family days but I feel like I’m letting myself become the other woman. He keeps taking us out on days when she is at work. I know she has no idea and he won’t let me see her picture or meet her, even though she is already a part of our daughter’s life. It’s a mess. I keep wanting to believe that he isn’t a narc even when the evidence is glaring. He was emotionally/verbally/sexually/physically abusive. I know because I read my old emails that I wrote to family saying as much. But now, a year has passed and I can’t remember it all. It’s like my my memory is swiss cheese. I don’t know if it’s denial or what. I keep trying to put blame on myself. Maybe it was me. It’s awful.

No contact is the best contact because anything else is just a recipe for drama. I mean, I was fine when he and I were barely talking. I was happy, in fact. Happy and strong and at peace. Now, old wounds and old emotions have been engaged and I can’t seem to stuff them or even cope with them. I became so depressed I wasn’t eating and was begging God to kill me so that I didn’t feel the pain of wanting to be with him and not being able to. And yet, another part of me keeps telling me that I don’t love him. That he is bad and that there is nothing there. I feel crazy.

Reply
Brenda Karl September 16, 2016

So, we now know what activities are not healing (thank you for that) but what activities are? When you say to set aside time for your healing just like an appointment, what am I to do during that time?

Reply
    Kim Saeed September 17, 2016

    Hi Brenda,

    If you sign up for the Healing Toolkit (it’s free), you will get some ideas there. It’s a good start.

    Kindest Regards – Kim

    Reply
Kate September 16, 2016

I I recently divorced what I am beginning to think was a N. Married for 20years, when he suddenly changed and abandoned me and our 3 children, lied about everything, moved in with another women,engaged within weeks of leaving us,wedding booked for next month, we divorced July, he left last August.last year
In the marriage he was very needy, but also very passive aggressive, often exaggerated truth which I used to ignore, always had ideas of grandoire, there was a lot of warning signs I choose to ignore,and now wonder why. Throughout the marriage he never showed any signs of rage, and never lost his temper, but I always felt insecure that he would just leave, but I didnt know why, I think all our married life I’ve been manipulated and controlled in a very subtle way, my personality changed,I was always vey strong but I changed over time lost that, allowed him to do everything like parents evening in school, apparently the kids would be afraid I’d say something, also he never liked people coming to the house, so I would often make excuses,he didn’t have friends, focused everything on the family, would phone through out the day always said he’d love me, and constantly needed that back. I had always accepted this as just being him,we were together from teenagers so I’ve never known any different, but I was warned by his father not to marry him,as he would wreck my life. I am 100% certain my ex mother in law is a narc, he stopped speaking to his family when our last child was born 14years ago, and I never really got to the bottom of why.
The complete change in him, happened ,when our eldest turned 19 years and obviously didn’t agree with everything parents thought, son is big,works out a lot, ex didn’t like this, always tried to put him down, with little comments, ?play fighting, always accused me of taking sons side, then my mum died very suddenly and I completely shut down, lived in my own world, and then suddenly within 8months he’d left, still denies affair with a person from work, but the massively quick change in life, him getting married again 3months after our divorce his totally lack of remorse, his abandonment, lack of contact with the younger kids,not paying child support properly, not paying divorce costs, which iam now making enforceable, why would I pay everything. Throughout the divorce which I petitioned he constantly stalled on things, I met up a couple of times before absolute and he was charming,at this time I was not applying for absolute I was waiting as everything had moved so quick, but once I found out wedding invitations had been sent out, it was the final insult to me and the children. He did not expect absolute, he did not expect my strength to have returned, but since the divorce he is bombarding the kids, written them letters telling them what a fantastic father he is, and all what he wants, no apology about what he has done, or the fact it is now a year,and they don’t want to see him,they don’t know him anymore,and they don’t forgive. I’ve had emails, as I’d blocked everything else, he turned up in the street and was waiting to see if one of us passed, for how long I don’t know but I was driving past and asked him what he was doing. There’s lots of other things, my real question is my counsellor and friend who works with mental health both mentioned narcisstic personality, which when I did some research I found a lot of things that now make sense,and yet I was always made to feel it was me, is it possible for him to live for 20 years what I thought was a normal family, even though I know I overlooked a lot,but generally I thought we were happy until that sudden change, can a N worsen with age, I am sure now he is most definatly narcissist has even accused me,after looking on my Pinterest boards I have made one on counselling, of being a narcissists I am totally the other way,my friends actually laughed, but I have doubted every single thing , I honestly thought my heart had been ripped out, his whole total lack of empathy and complete switch was too much. I found my strength again,my children are my focus making life good for them, they are teenagers which has been easier in lots of ways, lots of friends have said iam back to my old self, I was surpressed in my marriage, and yet I didn’t see that ?? I thought I was quite intuitive, obviously not
Everything he now does ,his anger at me because I actually pushed the divorce through, he’s rewritten our history, playing victim, particularly with the children, he is not getting that they are old enough to make their own minds up,and are not influenced by me he totally overlooks he betrayed and hurt them. His new partner is 10 years younger, and they are Also having fertility treatment as he had a vasectomy 13years ago !! He also bought new dogs with her, and yet left 3 here, seems like he’s just relacing his old life with new. He’s also been suspended from work due to financial irregularities, has taken out loads of loans , credit cards, even tried to take a loan out on our house, he’s still a name on the mortgage, but that’s because I don’t have to sell until the youngest is 18years,this is normal in the uk,and I don’t want to move I can afford the mortgage on my own, but is that a way for him to still try and manipulate me, I dint know.
So iam still working on me, I can now see so many things, iam sorry it’s so long but would be really greatful if I could have some insight and is it possible for them to get worse with age.

Reply
    InvisiBlonde March 28, 2017

    “. . . once I found out wedding invitations had been sent out, it was the final insult to me and the children.”

    Oh, HELLLLLLLL, yes.

    Nobody could make the stuff up.

    Hope you are doing okay, now and still.

    (If I could afford the mortgage on my own, I’d get him off it REAL fast, but such things may be quite different in the US to how they are there.)

    Reply
Jefferson September 14, 2016

Hello and thank you so much for this. I am embarrassed to say that I am going through all these things and more. I say embarrassed because I am a 6′ 220lb man, all my hair, all my teeth, making a 6 figure salary, truck, house, and Harley… so why do I still feel so bad for leaving her.

She was so mentally abusive and yet, I pulled up enough courage and strength to finally walk away and make my life better. But I am now left with the solid guilt feeling in my stomach. She quit her job, drinking again everyday all day, doing drugs, sleeping with all sorts of men, stopped going to church, her meds, her therapy, pretty much.. life…

I feel so guilty inside for leaving her and now she is risking losing everything and everyone. She has even been talking about suicide! OMG, I do not even know what I would do if she did something to herself….

Today, I begin day 1 of no communication and I really really want to be free of this pain. I sent her an email and asked for the separation agreement and to inform her I would only accept us postal mail communications from here out. It has been that rough for me… just when I start feeling strong, I would have a weak moment and text her or she would me. I left her July 4th 2016, and we have yet to have more than 4 days with no communication.

Every time we speak, I am the devil, its all my fault, I am the reason she is so mental, and on and on. I continue to remind her of all the good things we had and the awesome adventures and to just say, what we had was good, it just wasnt right for US. She gets really mad and tells me to shut up and that im planting seeds in her head to try and control her mind.

Please God give me the strength to let this go…. to accept my part in all of this and to forgive those that do not understand what they do….

Today, D-day… zero communication is soooooo hard for me.. and I cant explain why…. but thank you for your articles and emails. They are hugely helpful!

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Rosie September 13, 2016

This is one of the most helpful articles on this subject that I have read, thank you! There are two points I would like to comment on, 1. Stop cyber snooping on the Ex. This was one of the hardest things for me to do but I quit cold turkey almost a month aho, and what a difference it has made! I was making me crazy trying to figure out what was going on in his life, and for what? It just caused me additional pain. 2. Stop obsessively researching narcissism. I was also doing this, I would research it on the computer, print it out, and read it when I went to bed. Then I couldn’t sleep and would lay there fretting about the ex, it’s exactley like this article states, reading all that information just kept reminding me of how horrible the relationship with the ex was, it kept it fresh in my mind. So I quit researching and now I am sleeping so much better! Wishing all of you who have been through one of these relationships peace and happiness!

Reply
bjacob131 September 13, 2016

I agree that you need a realistic outlook in healing. In light of what has happened in our culture, I wouldn’t say a woman who is verbally, physically, sexually or emotionally abused is co-dependent, or had childhood issues. When a man’s ego runs rampant, it is extremely controlling. That’s the nature of the experiment. Some woman have been under covert, traumatic mind control methods. I really appreciated this comment, “Accept that you did everything you could and even if you did or said things you aren’t proud of, they were in reaction to being mistreated” When you understand this, you can forgive yourself, because it’s not your fault.

Reply
Theresa Ellyatt September 13, 2016

This is incredibly good advice. I have been guilty of everything Kim has written about since my ex left, and it’s been so difficult to get him out of my head. I’m now using an addiction day counter to mark the days I’ve stopped looking at his online stuff, and I’ve also found the Calm app really helpful when I wake up with night panics.

Thanks Kim for the flow of excellent advice that regularly pops up in my inbox.

Reply
    Kim Saeed October 2, 2016

    You’re very welcome, Theresa! I’m glad to know my article resonated with you.

    Hugs,

    Kim

    Reply
    beareed October 2, 2016

    Thank you for suggesting the “calm” app! I found that it provides a great postive distraction from pain and need to a focus on healing and peace.

    Reply
GayeLynn September 12, 2016

EVERYthing you said is POINT ON!
I can only hope that all people coming out of their abusive relationships would read this.
Most importantly~BELIEVE THIS!
It may be hard at the beginning to believe what works and what doesn’t but having done it ALL for 12 weeks now, I can say, it’s a textbook for healing!
I have devoured You Tube (kinda’ still do but have gone from learning about HIM to learning about ME and now learning how to HEAL), devoured every blog out there and have weeded maybe 3 being the best out of literally 1000’s, rely on work to be my distraction (have to admit I’m still guilty of THAT though as I haven’t gotten far enough into this healing process to find any other reason to leave the house but I never HAVE done that~alone~EVER!, so I have to LEARN how to do that or I will only “exist” the rest of my life) and a few more things that you wrote about.
TRUE~It ALL has to be done for a certain amount of time but to be stuck doing it is not going to work.
Even though I am still doing a lot of the things listed, I’ve noticed that I have been weening myself which probably comes from the amount of information that I’ve learned.
The thing that I haven’t done is doing things or going places he and I would go which is good and bad.
Good because it would be a reminder.
Bad because I just can’t do things alone.
I actually know the day I started to heal was the day I realized how happy I am that he left.
In the 5.5 years I’ve been with him, he has lost his business, a front tooth and now his house.
Had he stayed, I would have NEVER EVER been able to break up with an unemployed, toothless and homeless man.
There IS a GOD!

Reply
    Betty September 12, 2016

    LOL, Gaye Lynn
    An unemployed, toothless, homeless man !!!! I needed that laugh !!!

    Reply
      InvisiBlonde March 28, 2017

      I was just chuckling about that myself!

      Reply
    Kg September 13, 2016

    I’m just bloody glad I got pregnant to him and he treated me without complete regard. His wife thinks she won him – but I never wanted him in the first place! Our souls conspired – the end. And unbeknownst to her, I am using her to keep us protected from him. The hardest thing has been keeping lid on my ego – she has no idea what she ‘won’.

    This protection has stopped me from ever making contact – he’ll never leave a brainwashed insane woman. That could have been me. And I’ve been able to heal in the meantime. Still am. All this stuff existed before he came along.

    My son saved me from a horrible fate. I thank God every day for its wonderful blessings.

    Reply
    InvisiBlonde March 28, 2017

    I, too, am laughing about “an unemployed, toothless and homeless man.”

    Hope you are doing okay! 🙂

    Reply
Paige September 12, 2016

So awesome! Thank you so much. You have been a big part of my healing journey. Lots of gratitude for the work you do.

Reply
    Sky September 15, 2016

    when his mother says he wasn’t happy , I told her he wasn’t happy before me, with me he doesn’t want to be happy, he accused me of sleeping with everyone…even people at church… that’s how he got me to get back with him and marry him, he went to church got baptized and “acted better” then after we got married it got worse… he ended up leaving and told me he had to because he wanted me dead,

    Reply
beareed September 12, 2016

Believing that ‘my ex had suddenly become happy in life without me’ or ‘I have now done something new that would change his treatment of me for the better’ certainly have kept me in a cycle of self-sabotage. I have done this, not him. Not only has repeated “justified” contact with him confirmed my beliefs to be untrue but these belief keeps me holding on to a desperately low self-worth that yearned for confirmation from someone who has “excess” or even insatiable self-worth. Thanks to support from Kim, who tries to shift the focus on healing and allows others to share stories. I am healing…and in it for the long-haul. The path the healing has lead me to maybe the first time in my life feeling alone, likely because I am not trying to take care or or fix someone else. The journey can be isolating and I have become unsure of who I am or how to interact in a healthy way, so thanks for the reminders for a more holistic paradigm.

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    Anonymous December 10, 2016

    I was very lucky my Narc was an idiot and actually posted obscene things online and now I know of at least on web site where other channels dislike him very much as long as I stay no contact I get great and possibly a new career. Kim why can’t the narcissist see that he is being watched closely and hasnt much timer before he

    Reply
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