Have you left a toxic relationship, only to continue researching narcissism like a journalist working for CNN?
Have you spent hours, months – or worse, years – trying to peer inside the mind of the narcissist to find out exactly what makes them tick?
Are your relationships strained because you talk about your toxic Ex constantly, and so you stay on recovery forums for hours desperately trying to gain a sense of validation?
Do you wonder how you can possibly get past the devastating pain and take your first steps towards healing already?
I hear you!
While recovery is different for everyone, there are particular things we do that hinder healing, and can even reverse any progress we may make when trying to get over a toxic relationship.
Ironically, these are activities that every person coming out of a toxic relationship does, and further, ones which we are innately wired to do!
When it comes to obsessively researching narcissism, we sometimes believe that if we can figure out why a partner is being cruel and abusive, we can help ‘rehabilitate’ them and fix the relationship (which you’ve probably learned is impossible to do). Other times, we do it because we want to know as much as possible about the disorder to avoid attracting another narcissist into our lives. Still yet, we may do it as a subconscious means of keeping a toxic Ex’s presence in our lives to fill the void that’s left when they (or we) leave.
Having gone through these experiences myself, I do not come from a place of judgment, but rather, I hope to save you time (and more heartbreak). In this article I discuss one of the top behaviors that hinders recovery and often keeps survivors from ultimately making it over the threshold to a better life, and that is…
During the discovery phase of learning why your toxic partner or Ex behaves the way they do, educating yourself about Narcissism is essential. It aids in understanding the traits of the disorder and helps you recognize the dynamics of abusive relationships.
However, there comes a point where further reading on the topic of narcissism becomes moot and even destructive. Moot because having a PhD in narcissism won’t change the outcome of the relationship. Destructive because it keeps your focus on the narcissist, the abuse, the trauma, and, more importantly, it keeps you from focusing on healing your own core wounds.
Remember the old saying, “What fires together, wires together”? Each time you repeat a particular thought or action, you reinforce the connection between your neurons, turning those thoughts and actions into a way of life, and thus influencing your day-to-day reality.
The truth is, you cannot truly begin your healing process while you are reading about narcissism because to your subconscious mind, you are reliving the abuse. The more you think about your Ex, the more you’ll obsess about them and that will almost ensure that you’ll continue to attract negativity into your life (and it may also be why they keep appearing out of nowhere!) It’s one example of how your thoughts influence your reality.
How to Stop the Madness
There are many elements involved in healing from Narcissistic abuse. Just as with any loss, there will be periods of grieving, denial, anger, and depression. However, unlike a typical break-up where you would eventually get to a point of acceptance, many victims of Narcissistic abuse stay fixated and obsess about their abuser, often suffering as long as ten years or more post-breakup.
Perhaps the bigger picture may help you make more empowering choices with your time. When you compulsively research narcissism and spend hours a day on recovery forums, there are other things you may be missing out on in life, such as:
These are all things I missed out on personally. And while dealing with the unresolved trauma, cognitive dissonance, and extreme abandonment wounds in the aftermath of my toxic marriage were certainly difficult, none of these felt worse than the feeling of regret. Regret over giving my life away and, in the process, missing out on precious time with the people I loved the most.
A healing alternative: True healing begins with looking inside to your own inner, wounded core. Nothing outside of you will help you heal because your emotional injuries are within. Instead of researching how your partner became a narcissist, the type of narcissist they might be, and where they lie on the narcissistic continuum, turn your focus onto healing your damaged self-image and healing the toxic shame that the narcissist cultivated inside you in order to keep you dependent upon them.
Ironically, learning everything there is to know about narcissism will not be the end-all that helps you avoid attracting another disordered person into your life. Typically, all it will do is keep you bitter to the idea of ever falling in love again because you won’t trust anyone, and the real reasons that you stayed with the narcissist in the first place won’t be healed – which are your own emotional vulnerabilities that caused the consuming need for the narcissist’s approval and acceptance (which they exploited and used to their benefit).
Then, when you do meet someone who becomes a partner, they may show signs of being a narcissist, but because your wounds aren’t healed, you may rationalize, justify, and explain away their bad behaviors. The dynamics will feel natural to you on an unconscious level, and it will feel that the logical next step would be to stay in the relationship and go into “fixer mode”. You may even feel like you know them from a past life – because you do. It’s our innate drive to reenact past traumas in order to resolve them, also known as repetition compulsion, and is one of the top self-sabotaging behaviors of those who’ve experienced abuse.
Almost all toxic relationships parallel one or more that we’ve been in previously, either with parents and/or former partners.
Lastly, if you want to join recovery forums, choose ones that have an actual healing focus, as opposed to ones where members are not engaging in healing practices of their own, are still in their toxic relationship and keep you in a triggered state…which feeds more into the unhealthy obsession. While these forums may have a place in the discovery of your partner being a narcissist, they don’t offer much benefit when you need to heal and recover. You’ll know when it’s time to leave the abuse forums and turn your focus onto healing. The question is, will you?
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Kim Saeed is a recognized relationship and new life educator specializing in helping narcissistic abuse survivors to heal, rebuild, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. In 2013, she founded Let Me Reach, a life transformation company that teaches people to flourish after toxic relationships.