The first step toward overcoming narcissistic abuse is awareness of what is happening to you, followed by understanding the nature of the abuse. This includes seeing how the narcissist shames you, gaslights you, isolates you, and guilt trips you. As you gradually work toward recovery, you reclaim your mind, body and spirit. You bring balance back to your wounded self-esteem.
Narcissistic abuse fundamentally changes you, and impacts you on a multitude of levels:
- Paradigms: You view life with a scarcity mentality, seeing yourself as incapable and limited, and the world as unforgiving and tyrannical.
- Beliefs: It is given that you are flawed — at least in your mind. Your beliefs shape how you experience yourself, and your emotional patterns and paradigms reinforce these beliefs.
- Body: You carry tension all over, your posture slumps, and you often feel anxious and exhausted.
- Spirit: Hope eludes you. You lack the willpower to speak up, set boundaries, or make your wishes known. Toxic shame washes over you, and trauma burns into you.
Overcoming narcissistic abuse means re-moulding yourself. Your experiences shaped you, and so you must re-shape yourself with new experiences. For that, you will need to channel the core elements of the True Self, which in turn give potency to your transformation.
The true and tested blueprint for the actualisation of the True Self comes from the ubiquitous ‘hero’s journey’ in mythology. The tale has been told in countless forms, wherein a protagonist goes on an adventure, overcomes numerous obstacles and challenges, and then returns transformed. From Achilles, Hercules and Odysseus, all the way to Superman, Iron Man and Wonder Woman, there is no shortage of hero stories in our culture, and no sign of this phenomenon slowing down. Something about them resonates deep within us, and for good reason. That these stories are so ubiquitous can numb us to their significance and distract us from their purpose, which is to awaken the hero within ourselves.
Anyone who has experienced narcissistic abuse knows deep down that a monumental effort is required to overcome it. This undertaking requires you to channel the four archetypes of the Self; patterns of energy which you direct toward your actualisation. The archetypes come in the form of corresponding emotional forces: Vitality, Tenacity, Divinity and Wisdom. The stages of transformation require all of these energy forms, which are built on a foundation of security.
The five emotional forces for overcoming narcissistic abuse
For the hero to find themselves, they must venture away from what they consider to be their home. That is, they must temporarily disengage from the familiar. In doing so, they enter into the constantly changing flow of life. Although this path leads through the land of chaos and confusion, it also offers the hero a chance to become grounded within the Self, and with that, to earn true security.
Unless you are grounded within and in harmony with your life energy, the Self cannot function optimally. As babies, we ground ourselves in our mother, and we rely on her to temper our flow of life energy by calming us when we are overwhelmed, and mirroring and encouraging us when we become disengaged. Using touch, eye contact, body rocking, singing and humming, she regulates our sense of security until we can internalise what it feels like.
Security is not about being isolated and free of all threats. This is a common misconception. Rather, security is about remaining in harmony with the flow of life at all times while mastering situations in a way that brings us optimal power. Because life is always changing and evolving, we are required to adapt and grow with it. Only by embracing this truth can we experience true security, and thus feel safe and empowered enough to awaken vitality.
2. Vitality (The Lover)
Once security is established, you notice the presence of hope, joy, curiosity and desire. You expand mentally and energetically, looking to engage the world and integrate new experiences into the Self. This is life in motion. With vitality, life energy loses its rough edge, and fear transforms into pleasure and ease. You are ‘in the flow’, able to steer your way in and out of situations and to absorb the experiences they provide.
Vitality offers you an insight into your potential. In this state, anything can happen. Think of the times where everything went your way. You got home after a night out, having made new friends with ease and having serendipitously fallen into interesting and unforgettable situations. This is because you were in the flow, free of the sabotaging force of the ego. You stopped thinking and started being, and life simply took over and happened through you. Narcissistic abuse aims to trap this vitality within a rigid and oppressive role. Freeing it allows you to navigate out of the narcissist’s tyrannical world. However, before you can hone the power of raw life energy, you need to develop your capacity to withstand the tension it creates.
3. Tenacity (The Warrior)
Overcoming narcissistic abuse requires that you expand your limits. This includes stepping into situations that make you uncomfortable. It also means learning to see yourself in new ways which challenge what you considered to be your identity. In short, evolving your True Self thrusts you into the realm of chaos, which is where growth happens. Here you will experience things you do not understand. You will face states of energy beyond what you thought was possible. As a result, you will experience high amounts of tension and stress.
However, the warrior not only tolerates tension, they actively welcome it. Like a woman giving birth, or a seed punching through the soil, life cannot grow without first overcoming resistance. If you learn to see discomfort and pain as agents for growth, you can transform your relationship to them. This new paradigm challenges your beliefs about yourself. It helps you to make stress your ally and develop your willpower.
Ways to practice working with tension include: making strong eye contact when speaking to people, resistance training, and embracing new challenges. Such experiences demand that you be present and focused. Thwarting your efforts is your inner saboteur, which you inherited from those who abused you. To challenge this limiting force, you need to believe that you are worthy of impacting the world. You need a sense of legitimacy, which comes when you embrace your divinity.
4. Divinity (The King/Queen)
The narcissist makes you feel like you have no right to influence the world. They shame you, ridicule you, question you, block you, and confuse you. With enough time, your divine essence ceases to shine, and the darkness of the saboteur descends on you. Your mind grows dull, doubtful and slow. You question every step you take, and feel a sharp pain in your chest whenever you are exposed to a new situation. Should I, or shouldn’t I? you ask. Why bother? you say. I’m worthless.
Divinity is about facing up to your inner saboteur. Why does the narcissist have the right to tell you what is right or wrong? Where did this divine right come from? Who bestowed it upon the narcissist? They did, of course. The narcissist empowered their ego by pitting it against others and making the people in their life feel small. They grew their light by dimming the divinity of others, then used that energy to feed their ego. The narcissist corrupted your paradigms, re-programmed your beliefs and crushed your will. Knowing this is the first step. Although you may not feel like you have the right or legitimacy to impact your world, that capacity remains dormant inside you nonetheless.
Once you successfully channel security, vitality and tenacity, you will notice tiny beams of light emanating from your True Self. The saboteur will fight this rising sun, but in time, your divinity will impose itself. The King or Queen awakens. Your energy shines out into the world, and you can offer it to others with ease and minimal shame. You use this energy to create a safe container for others, you learn to lead with confidence, and you guide your True Self out of the madness of narcissistic abuse. With this energy to support and nurture you, the narcissist’s power eventually loses its potency. The person who has successfully channelled their divine essence is not only on the path to overcoming narcissistic abuse; they transcend it altogether.
5. Wisdom (The Magician)
When divinity awakens, your final challenge will be to overcome the doubt and confusion which narcissistic abuse creates. With a direct line of access to your True Self, you will begin to intuit the right path for your life. Like tuning into a radio station, you will sense the frequency upon which your life evolves. This is wisdom.
The uncertainty of life remains a factor. But as long as you stay centred and aligned with your True Self, you will experience certainty and peace. Solutions seem to come to you like magic, and your emotional intelligence thrives. You get a sense not only of what to do, but also the wisdom to know when to hold back. Healthy shame becomes an asset. It keeps you aligned with the sacred and on the path toward your actualisation by ensuring that you fight the right battles.
Security, Vitality, Tenacity, Divinity and Wisdom; these are the five forces you will need to channel to overcome narcissistic abuse. Without vitality, you fall into hopelessness and despair. Unless you can hold tension, you will be unable to withstand intense moments of pressure and suffering. Without divinity, you will constantly question yourself and sabotage your recovery. Unless you can trust your instinct, you will never achieve clarity of thought, and will remain too confused to act with conviction. Finally, unless you can be confidently grounded within the Self, you will never feel secure enough to align the emotional forces and achieve a state of wholeness.
Cultivating and aligning the five forces is the blueprint for overcoming narcissistic abuse. To read more about the hero’s journey as a structure for healing from narcissistic abuse, check out the following books: