It’s hard to recognize the abuse
If it’s your first narcissist — whether parent, boss, neighbor or romantic partner, it’s going to be hard to diagnose the situation. If you grew up in a narcissistic family or were taught to be codependent, it might take years or even decades for you to recognize such behavior as abusive. It will take a great awakening and possibly a crisis to discover that what you thought was normal is narcissistic behavior.
Even after you catch on to the abuse, the tendency for denial is strong. Who wants to feel used and abused by a narcissist? Many people will try to make things better before conceding that they can’t fix the narcissist. Denial is not to be ashamed of — the hope that things are better than they are is natural. It means you’re not a jerk, but it doesn’t take away the facts. Go easy on yourself if you’re at this stage. Find support groups and counseling. It’s important to meet others so you can know that you aren’t alone.
It takes time to make healthy changes
Discovering the abuse, putting up boundaries, forming new ways of thinking are only the beginning. It’s challenging to change your thinking patterns after narcissist abuse because it’s likely been the soundtrack of your life. Those tapes might have been playing in babyhood, childhood, teen years, or even starred in your romantic relationships.
Like bad habits, wrong ways of thinking get embedded in our patterns of behavior. If you learned to accept verbal abuse as a child, chances are you will continue to take it until you realize you don’t want disrespect in your life. If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, it might be hard to trust your instincts. Thinking for yourself was probably discouraged. Many survivors are so used to having the narcissist impose their desires and views on them that they don’t know how to change the patterns.
Your healing will bring opposition
You’ll need to strengthen your boundaries. Chances are you had open borders, and once you try to establish new rules, you’ll be opposed. You might even question if it’s worth the fight. When you change, it antagonizes the narcissist and they might send out the flying monkeys.
Prepare to mourn
Replacing narcissistic family members is not easy, and it could also put you in another narcissistic situation. If your dog gets hit by a car and dies, you’ll go into mourning for a while, then get another dog to fill the void. It’s not that easy with people. Human relationships are more complicated (hence why people love dogs).
Healing from the loss of a narcissistic family is like experiencing multiple deaths in the family. The grieving process is complex and time-consuming. Mourning the loss of the family you thought you had might be a lifetime process. This is why you need support.
Recognize your vulnerability
Many survivors latch onto the first person who becomes available after separating from the narcissist. The problem with growing up with a narcissist is that narcissistic behavior might seem normal to you. You might get tangled up with another narcissist. In other words, you might trade people and keep the same problem you had before. The only way to avoid this is to educate yourself about narcissism as much as you can. Make sure you don’t jump from one narcissist to another. Proceed with caution in new relationships.
Self-care is the task of a lifetime
Just as you need to eat, drink water, and exercise every day, you’ll need to keep focusing on your mental needs for self-care. Every day, it’s your job to look for whatever it takes to have sustainable mental health. It’s not one size fits all, and it’s a task that is ongoing. Healing can look like many things, from going low to no contact, to finding the time and resources you’ve been missing in the past.
Remember that you are worthy
Worthy of recognizing the abusive patterns in your relationships, worthy of finding your boundaries, worthy of implementing healthy changes, worthy of finding emotional support, worthy of self-care, and worthy of love. Allow yourself the grace and time to process and grow. Learn to heal in the ways unique to your heart and your situation, and you will find your healing.
Cherilyn Christen Clough broke the rules when she started writing about her family’s secrets. Some claim she sold her soul to the devil, but she prefers to think of it as gaining freedom. You can read about her strange childhood in Chasing Eden A Memoir.