Recently we had a reader write in and ask us if we had an article regarding the process of self-discovery after breaking free from a narcissistic relationship. In this particular case, our reader has separated herself from the relationship, but years later still feels she has lost herself as a result.
The truth is that once you have broken away from a narcissistic relationship or even just a codependent relationship of any kind, the process of, first, recovery and, second, discovery can be long and grueling. There is no time stamp on the amount of time it takes a person to rediscover the self that they feel has been lost. In reality, that is because that person no longer exists.
There is life after breaking free from a narcissistic relationship. In fact, this gives you an opportunity to become the best version of yourself, perhaps the person you always wanted to be. But how do you get there when you are left alone and broken suddenly without purpose?
Here’s what needs to be done:
Acknowledge the part you played in the relationship
Yes, you were sucked in. Yes, you were abused and mistreated. But, and this is going to be hard to hear, you allowed the abuse to happen. You were too weak to break free and for years you lived with and enabled the behavior of the narcissist. Maybe out of love or maybe out of empathy, but for whatever reason, you had a role in this relationship. Maybe just the simple fact that you didn’t know it was abuse. Until you are able to acknowledge the role you played, you will not be able to enter into the next step of the healing process: forgiveness.
Forgive yourself for the part that you played
In the healing process, there are two types of forgiveness you must face. The first is self-forgiveness. Now that you have acknowledged the part you played in the relationship, it’s time to stop beating yourself up over it. Look, we all make mistakes. We all create hardships for ourselves and in some way or another, we are all victims of life. It’s what you do after that defines who you are. “Your trauma is not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility. “
Forgive the narcissist but do not forget what they did to you
Yes, you read that right. On some level, the narcissist cannot help who they are. A cat will be nothing more than a cat. That does not mean you must associate yourself with them. But forgiveness is the only way you can move on and let go of all of the things that have happened to you. So forgive them for their behaviors and realize they are who they are. Realize you are who you are too and that together you made a bad combination. That said, never forget. Use what happened as a means to improve your life. And never allow that person back into it. Holding on to anger for the other person will only slow your healing. Don’t get this confused with not feeling your feelings. YES, you certainly have ALL the right to be angry, It’s just holding on to that anger is what keeps us from moving forward.
Refuse to take over the voice of the narcissist
After you break free from the narcissist, you may be preventing yourself from moving on by taking over the voice of the narcissist in your own head. Especially after years of being with a person with NPD, you become conditioned to a certain way of thinking. Learn to change your inner voice. Be mindful of your thoughts and each time your mind goes to this hurtful and self-destructive place, focus on the moment and try to practice gratitude instead. We highly recommend psychological support and help to deal with this.
Stop pressuring yourself to reach a goal of self-discovery
Stop focusing so much on knowing yourself. You are who you are whether you know who that is or not. By focusing so heavily on that topic you are only filling the void of the narcissist by telling yourself you are failing in this. None of that matters. Focus on what’s good in your life and don’t fall into yourself. Self-pity and prolonged grief over a self that can never again be obtained will only ruin the now you have worked so hard to create.
Recovery is a long road. Life is not a race for the finish line. Take your time, what’s the rush? You’ve just entered into spring after a very long winter. If you force the flowers to bloom too early, the late frost will kill them before they have the chance. Instead, practice self-care and nourish yourself, don’t be hard on yourself, enjoy your new life. Change your inner voice, forgive: the blooming will happen when it’s time.
You can overcome any shame the narcissist made you feel. If at all possible keep stepping back and keep looking at the whole situation as an observer. You can only learn and grow from here. There is no gain in shaming yourself.
Wishing you much love on your journey to a happier you.
For more resources or to seek professional help, you can learn more about reclaiming yourself here: Psychology Today
My book, Roots and Tendrils, a collection of poetry that takes you on a journey through love, loss, and heartbreak and ultimately leads you to self-love. Along the way, you will meet the narcissist, the ghoster and the gas-lighter. These are just characters that teach you about turning more love onto yourself.
©Love Wide Open