Healing from narcissistic abuse is an arduous process, with many frustrating days where the fog of despair consumes you.
Low self-esteem, complex trauma and a loss of self; the long-term effects of narcissistic abuse can be crippling. These wounds are not overcome in a day. However, as you do the work of healing, you will eventually come to notice the changes in retrospect.
The five stages of healing after narcissistic abuse are as follows:
Stage 1: Grief
Healing from narcissistic abuse first entails coming to terms with what happened. At first, you feel relieved. You walk around with a sense of lightness, but also with a sense of having been stained somehow.
When the initial shock of narcissistic abuse wears off, the painful emotions arise.
Your entire reality has been turned on its head. You start questioning your core instincts. You realise how grossly manipulative your relationship dynamics with the narcissist were.
You look at people differently. You monitor their behaviour, even that of the people you have known for years or a lifetime. This loss of innocence is the beginning of the grieving process.
We lose a great deal from narcissistic abuse. Time is the obvious one. Then comes the mental space we lost as the narcissist colonised our mind. We gave up our vitality to the narcissist, our resources, our money and our body.
We even lost parts of our soul as we became traumatised by narcissistic abuse. To begin our healing journey, we need to come to terms with everything we lost. We need to grieve.
Sadness, heaviness, despair; all of this must come out. There is no telling how long this process will take. Yet the more space you create for it, and the more courage you have to face it, the sooner it can pass.
Stage 2: Toxic shame release
The second stage of healing from narcissistic abuse is unshackling yourself from the tyranny of shame.
Toxic shame is like having your heart and mind caught in a thick, noxious swamp. You need willpower and clarity of mind to pursue the possibilities, to act, to ride outward into a fulfilling life. Toxic shame from narcissistic abuse suffocates these qualities. It leaves you believing that a spontaneous and empowered way of living is not for you — it is only for others.
The Dark Night Of The Soul Of Healing From Narcissistic Abuse
The process of releasing toxic shame is deeply distressing, but is crucial for healing from narcissistic abuse. Your chest aches, your self-esteem plummets, and your brain shuts down. You have many sleepless nights. As the dark shadow descends, you feel the life draining from you.
No more coping mechanisms, no more distractions; just old-fashioned awareness and the willingness to go through hell.
When you are in the middle of it, toxic shame seems like it will never end. You will simply die of heaviness and despair.
However, with enough courage and faith, you will slowly sense a light in the dark. You only need to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings while inviting the shame to leave when it is ready. Moving closer to it with the light of your awareness, you see that there is a door just wide enough for you to peek through.
You still feel the ache, but you also notice vitality trickling through one drop at a time. Shame releases like ice melting, revealing beneath it the glow of your True Self.
At first, you only get a hint of it. But eventually, you notice that what used to crush you under its weight now only feels like a tug. You can move forward with life, take action, and even believe that you can achieve the impossible.
Vitality flowing freely is evolution in motion. Rather than be caught in a swamp of shame, you shake off the grease and stand in a wide-open space. Healing from narcissistic abuse now becomes possible. What comes next for you is anybody’s guess, which is precisely how life should be.
Stage 3: Emerging tenacity
Life is not always park walks and picnics. Progress is often hard-earned, and strength is needed to withstand and move through challenges.
Toxic shame sucks the power out of you and leaves you in a helpless state. After suffering narcissistic abuse, the strength to face challenges is simply not there.
Once you have released enough of your shame, however, you notice the presence of something made of tougher stuff. This energy allows you to resist, to penetrate, to withstand, and to shape the world around you.
The Importance Of Anger For Healing From Narcissistic Abuse
The importance of rage for healing from narcissistic abuse cannot be stressed enough.
Many people spend a lifetime without acknowledging a single shred of their repressed anger. It is entirely plausible that you have pushed the energy of your anger into your body, eventually having no awareness of its existence.
Repressed rage can be frightening to discover, especially when you have grown attached to the idea that you are not hateful, and feel that anyone who experiences hate is a horrible person. You internalised this belief from people whose power was threatened by your anger.
The simplest way to release rage is through creating space in solitude or therapy, and just allowing yourself to feel angry. When rage is repressed, it can come out in frightening ways. Even imagining violent acts is possible. It can be shocking to realise that you are capable of such aggression.
Yet thoughts are only thoughts, and they are extreme because the emotion behind them is supercharged. When you give rage mindful space to exist without judging it as good or bad, it eventually loses its charge.
Above all, when you have processed and intergrated your anger, you will have it on tap for what it was made for; setting boundaries.
Tension as an agent for growth
Tension is all around us. To grow in our lives, we need to remain present with discomfort and work with pressure. This is where tenacity comes in.
A narcissist will test and push your boundaries at any possible opportunity. To successfully heal from narcissistic abuse, you will need to lean into conflict. This involves setting boundaries with a level of force that shows you mean business. For this, you need your anger.
You know you have reached the third stage of healing from narcissistic abuse when you can remain with discomfort and set firm boundaries with relative ease. To be tenacious is to make strong eye contact and say no with conviction. Above all, you’ll be able to withstand the inevitable emotional storms that arise when a narcissist tries to push your buttons.
Stage 4: Emotional autonomy
The fourth stage of healing after narcissistic abuse is emotional autonomy.
Emotions can take us over at any time. If you have not cultivated your Higher Self sufficiently, you will be unable to contain your emotions and continue to function.
Narcissistic abuse takes away your control over your emotions. If someone makes you feel guilty for doing something or not doing something, you try to make it up to them — without considering whether you should feel guilty or not in the first place.
If someone puts you down, the resulting shame leaves you crushed and unable to defend yourself. The same goes if someone threatens to leave you or gives you the silent treatment. The fear of abandonment is so strong, and your capacity to tolerate it so low, that you react in a needy and grovelling way.
You are not terrified, ashamed or guilty. You are a human being with a Higher Self that sees and is conscious of all. Alongside this you are also experiencing emotions. You are not reacting, but rather you are experiencing a particular energetic state and then deciding how to act in a rational and intuitive way.
Once you reach this stage of healing from narcissistic abuse, you are ready to step out of the shadow of the narcissist for good.
Stage 5: The End Of Worship
The last stage of healing after narcissistic abuse is freedom from worship.
During your journey, you will achieve a certain level of enlightenment. You experience yourself and the world through an elevated state of mind, body and spirit. Above all, you begin to sense the latent possibilities within.
As you come to know the power of the True Self, your level of healing from narcissistic abuse increases exponentially. You may then look with curiosity upon those you worshipped in the past and ask:
That is, if they can call the shots, then what is stopping you from doing the same? Could it merely have been self-defeating beliefs and conditioning holding you back? This becomes a seismic discovery, akin to striking oil.
Taking Back The Wheel After Narcissistic Abuse
Many people live with what Carl Jung called a ‘parent complex.’ They are still stuck with the belief that someone else knows the answers for their life, and that only someone else has the power to get them what they need. The thought never crosses their mind that the only person who knows what is best for them is them. The only person responsible for getting their needs met is them.
Sure, we need support from others. People provide invaluable insights, and can give us a helping hand. We cannot do it alone. But it is crucial to remember that the only person who can take the wheel for your life is you.
With that comes a willingness to step into the unknown and trust your body wisdom, rather than delegate higher power to another person. This is the inevitable outcome of doing the work.
Once you have conquered the five stages of healing after narcissistic abuse, you can celebrate the hard work you put into your recovery. Then, when you are ready, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work creating the life you imagined, filled with meaning and purpose.