Learning how to heal after narcissistic abuse is a complex process. However, while complex, healing from narcissistic abuse is completely possible. In this article, you will learn the top three strategies to heal when you have experienced narcissistic abuse. These strategies have proven to be the most essential in working with therapy clients leaving abusive relationships for over a decade.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse Strategy #1: You must accept the reality you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist
When you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, it’s common to question yourself. Feelings of confusion are pervasive in these relationships.
You may find yourself wondering if the relationship is really that bad. Or you may ask yourself if your partner is actually abusive. You may even wonder if all the relationship problems are your fault.
Related: Is it your fault if you’re abused
Because confusion, and self-doubt, are so common in abusive relationships with a narcissist, it’s necessary to address these feelings. To heal after narcissistic abuse, you must first accept that your relationship is abusive.
Addressing your own confusion to heal from an abusive relationship
To heal you may need to work on validating your reality that this is an abusive relationship. This is because the abusive narcissist in your life will be unable to validate your perspective.
You may want him (or her) to take accountability for the ways they are hurting you. However, the narcissist in your life can’t do this.
Their priority will be manipulating your reality to keep you in their life. The narcissist will tell you that you are overreacting or misperceiving things. They will tell you it was just a “joke.” Or that your are the one who needs help. They will continue to confuse you.
How to accept reality to heal from narcissistic abuse
Therefore, you must work on honoring your own truth to heal. You may need to keep track of the things your partner is doing which are hurtful. You may want to compare this to resources by experts to validate that these behaviors are abusive. Articles like 7 (not so obvious) signs of emotional abuse and My boyfriend yells at me but then apologizes may be especially helpful.
You may want to also seek support from a trusted, emotionally healthy friend or a therapist to help you validate your truth. Then, you must work to radically accept the truth that this is an abusive relationship with a narcissist to heal.
This means you stop bargaining with reality. You accept the truth that the pain of staying in an abusive relationship with a narcissist lasts for as long as you’re there.
You accept the truth that the pain of leaving an abusive relationship does subside.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse Strategy #2: You must fully leave and go no contact
Once you fully accept that this is an abusive relationship with a narcissist, you must then prepare to protect yourself. This is boundaries work and is an essential component of the healing process.
Making the choice to leave is an incredibly painful one which I know from experience. Yet, to fully heal from narcissistic abuse, it’s an essential step. You will never feel peace in a relationship which is unsafe for you.
Developing healthy boundaries to heal from narcissistic abuse
Healthy boundaries are the practice of self-respect through self-protection. When you are ready to fully heal, you must stop giving the narcissist in your life yet another chance to hurt you.
Part of boundaries work is learning to honor your own truth. When you see with clarity that regardless of the chances your provide the narcissist in your life, they continue to hurt you then you must honor this truth.
You stop bargaining with reality and giving them endless chances to hurt you. When you are ready to accept your partner will continue to hurt you if you stay, then you prepare to leave.
How to leave and go no contact with the narcissist
In my professional, and personal, experience people in a relationship with a narcissist will believe words over actions. At times, this pattern is related to trauma and/or low self-esteem. For more information on this, please read the articles 5 ways low self-esteem impacts your dating life and Dating with trauma: What you need to know.
To leave, you must start prioritizing actions over words. However, preparing to leave which is the ultimate boundary and act of self-protection is a complex process which cannot be rushed. To support yourself in preparing for this, you may want to learn more about healthy boundaries.
I have a 4 part boundaries system which I teach my clients who are in abusive relationships with a narcissist. I was teaching this system so often, I now feature it in my course Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself.
Once you finally decide to leave, you must close the door fully. Otherwise, the narcissist will return to hurt you. You must unfollow them, block them, avoid them. This will be an agonizing process at first but it’s necessary. When you need support in keeping your commitment to yourself, please refer to the article 5 ways to stay no contact with your ex.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse Strategy #3: Work on healing your relationship with yourself
Abuse is never your fault. However, after personally being in an-again off-again abusive relationship for 4 years with a narcissist, I know there were parts of me that allowed this relationship to continue for so long.
The truth is that when a person feels total self-love and self-respect they trust themselves. When they notice red flags when dating a narcissist, they take heed. Instead of second-guessing themselves, they walk away before investing too much. They know they are worth more and trust that there is healthy love available to them.
Feeling more self-love
Therefore, to completely heal from narcissistic abuse you must develop more self-love. This is done in baby steps which you build on over time. As someone who honestly used to hate herself, I realized you must act as if you love yourself before you ever will feel self-love. After all, love is more than a feeling, or word, it’s about actions.
The best way to begin to act as if you love yourself is to practice consistent self-care. This is more about honoring your boundaries to yourself than bubble baths (but why not both?). Firstly, you must stay no contact with your abusive ex. Otherwise, you send yourself an unconscious message to yourself you are not worthy of more.
How to care for yourself and honor your worth
When you leave a narcissist, you may find you feel highly insecure. You may find that there is a part of you that wants someone’s attention even if it’s unhealthy.
This is the little girl (or boy) inside of you begging you to find someone to “prove” your worth. To heal, you must not give into this younger part’s urgings in the same old ways. You must instead learn to become this younger part’s healthy parent.
You must be the one to validate to yourself that you are worthwhile. You do this in small steps which build over time. You maintain no contact. Also, you will validate your emotions including the grief you will naturally feel after leaving. Journaling is a helpful tool for this. Finally, therapy is invaluable if you find you keep disrespecting your own boundaries.
It is possible to heal from narcissistic abuse
When you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, it’s common to feel powerless, hopeless and confused. While these feelings are valid, it is completely possible to become empowered enough to both leave a narcissist and heal from the abuse.
That being said, please be compassionate with yourself. Healing is not a linear process nor can it be rushed. Please take the time you need in implementing these strategies. The most important thing, in your healing journey, is you are here now, learning more and empowering yourself.
About The Author, Krystal
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. She has focused her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She teaches the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM us @confidentlyauthentic.com or you may send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your question.