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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Take Back Your Life: Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

girlwindowHealing from narcissistic abuse does not involve:

  1. Self-improvement
  2. Fixing your narcissist
  3. Working on the relationship with the other person

Instead, the recovery process involves repairing your reality, which has been skewed and damaged by your experience with a disordered person.  Narcissists are masters at projecting all of their negative feelings and beliefs onto others.  They use both direct and undercover accusations and implications to cause others to believe that they are to blame for any problems in the relationship.  They also masterfully cause their loved ones to feel responsible and guilty for not being able to keep the narcissist happy.

Intellectually, you may understand that no one is really responsible for someone else’s life, but intrinsically you feel that you are responsible for your narcissist’s happiness and you “know” that because of your innate failure you have been unable to be good enough to accomplish that task. You feel a constant sense of guilt for not being able to pull off the good partner, employee, or child act sufficiently.

So, what do you do about it? How do you give back the responsibility for your narcissist’s life and happiness back to her?  Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. It is time to give yourself permission to fail. Let your narc be unhappy and allow yourself to just know she’s unhappy.  Let yourself be with that experience without trying to change it.  You see, underneath your desire to please your narc is your need for her to “see” you and value you and even enjoy and appreciate you.  But, with a narcissist, those experiences are few and far between.  The best way for you to let go of the constant battle to keep your loved one happy is to allow her to be unhappy and to grieve the reality that no matter what you do, she will neither “see” you nor will she stop needing you to be bad.
  2. Realize this truth: the narcissist needs you to be bad. She needs this so that she has a constant scapegoat for her own problems and unhappiness.  As long as she scapegoats someone else she never has to look at herself. It is quite liberating, actually, to stop trying to prove to anyone that you are good enough. Let go and “be bad” if that is how the other person wants to see things. When you realize it’s a hopeless battle, you can lay down the need to defend yourself and go on with your life.  It really is that simple. Part of the struggle is the constant need to prove yourself to the narc that you are valuable. Just realize you are valuable and your value is not dependent on the opinion of anyone else, let alone someone who is notoriously fault-finding.
  3. Let yourself off the hook by telling yourself that you are now going to no longer carry the responsibility of your loved one’s happiness and that you are going to hand that responsibility back to her. It really is true that, “happiness is an inside job.” If someone is bound and determined to be miserable, there is nothing you can do about it. Stop wasting your life carrying the mantle of someone else’s emotional well-being.

That’s it.  Practice these three simple tasks each day and you will learn to stop taking on the responsibility for your partner’s happiness.  You need to tell yourself that she has manipulated you and brain-washed you into caretaking her life long enough and that you are turning the page and writing a new chapter in your life.

The only way to truly live in recovery is to keep making a “recovery” choice instead of a dysfunctional choice with each decision, sometimes moment by moment, and especially one day at a time. Before you know it, you wake up one day and realize that you have your own life back.  There is nothing quite so rewarding and liberating as that. Don’t get me wrong, there will be grief, but remember the famous words of Thomas Paine, which aptly apply:

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

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Take Back Your Life: Healing From Narcissistic Abuse


APA Reference
Stines, S. (2016). Take Back Your Life: Healing From Narcissistic Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2016/09/take-back-your-life-healing-from-narcissistic-abuse/