Surviving narcissistic abuse: How to heal and move on

As you probably are aware by now, the narcissist operates in incredibly cunning ways. They are master manipulators, constantly exploiting their victims into getting their way. 

Sometimes, we get so caught up that we’re deceived into self-blame and only wake up when it’s too late. 

So as a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you might still feel a heavy sense of emotional cognitive dissonance. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. 

Right now though, there are plenty of emotions to unpack, hence maneuvering the right way is crucial to a healthy recovery.  

In this article, I’ll walk you through some key ways you can move on from that narcissist-induced trauma. 

The rollercoaster ends now. 

Let’s dive in! 

1) Recognize the abuse 

Emotions are a tricky thing. It’s not uncommon to be in denial when we’re being abused. This is especially true with the narcissist whose methods are typically very subtle. 

Narcissistic abuse brings to mind the parable of the frog placed in hot water. Do you know this one? 

Basically, If you start at a comfortable temperature and gradually increase it, the frog will not budge. But, if you dropped her into a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out.

In other words, being able to acknowledge the actual abuse can be one of the toughest steps. 

As we’ve established, the abuser is supremely talented at exploiting predisposed feelings and gaslighting, which often results in victims questioning their own experiences and emotions.

Don’t forget: narcissistic abuse is really just a type of psychological warfare. It’s a systematic and painful game; to win you have to fully come to terms with reality. 

2) Educate yourself 

With the internet at our disposal, gaining in-depth knowledge on topics like narcissism is more accessible than ever. 

Learn about the medical definition of things like ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ and the classic signs of narcissism.

Like any illness, once you observe certain patterns of behavior, you’re in a position to diagnose it–this process can empower you to understand your experiences, give you clarity, and validate your feelings. 

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology who has specialized in narcissistic personality disorder, has discussed the importance of education. 

She says, “Understanding the patterns of narcissism can be empowering. The more you know about narcissistic behaviors and tactics, the better equipped you are to protect yourself.”

The internet not only provides infinite information, but it’s also a place where you can reach out to people with similar experiences.

This leads me to my next point…

3) Reach out to fellow survivors 

I had a long-term relationship with a narcissist. 

At first, I blamed myself for being too sensitive or thinking I somehow deserved the treatment. And as things got more toxic, my feelings of confusion and disorientation increased at a rapid pace.

To cope, I’d seek solace in online communities where I could interact with other victims of narcissistic abuse. I learned that our situations were so similar, with eerily similar details. 

Through the support and advice of the fellow survivors I’d come to know online, I was empowered to break free from my partner’s once-imperishable chains. 

And though it was difficult at first, I’m now happier than ever. 

4) Seek professional help

Having said that, while it’s great to have a support system in place, for more severe cases, professional help can be a godsend. 

If you feel more comfortable taking this route, look for a therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma and emotional abuse. 

Dr. Karyl McBride, a licensed marriage and family therapist who has written extensively on narcissistic abuse has noted: “Working with a professional who understands narcissistic abuse can provide crucial support and validation. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can help survivors process their trauma.

5) Establish your boundaries

You’ve made it past some of the most difficult phases, but sustaining this new order will take dedication.

You may still care for the narcissist and might feel a longing for their presence from time to time, making the temptation to contact them difficult to resist. 

I assure you, this is a completely normal urge. So stay strong; don’t regress and throw away all progress. 

If you can, cut them off completely. Delete them from your socials, block their number, and in severe cases, change the locks. You deserve a fresh start. 

If you do have to get in touch with them for things like children or pets, remember to keep those boundaries firm. 

I know this can be tough, but don’t forget you are in no way obliged to give in to their demands. 

This sense of freedom might piss them off, but that’s when you know you’ve won.

6) Don’t overlook self-care 

From my experience, you will feel drained after your ordeal with a narcissist. 

But nonetheless, I can’t stress this enough: it’s essential to keep your physical, emotional, and mental health in tip-top shape. This will accelerate the healing process. 

Do things that make you feel good. Exercise, consuming nutrient-dense foods, and prioritizing adequate sleep all promote a healthy existence. 

Once you focus on yourself and notice progress, you’ll feel reinvigorated and ready to put things behind you. 

Take it from Dr. Kristin Neff, a trailblazing self-compassion researcher, who emphasizes the importance of self-care in the healing journey. 

She contends, “Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health is a vital part of the healing process. Be kind to yourself as you would be to a good friend going through a similar situation.”

When I broke up with the aforementioned narcissistic ex-girlfriend, the easiest options were to wallow in bed or go on self-destructive partying sprees. 

And while I did give myself some time to grieve, I eventually picked up the pieces by pursuing boxing. 

By boxing regularly, I was able to simultaneously release frustrations and dopamine. It gave me a feeling of balance and self-confidence. Before I knew it, I was over my ex. 

As a bonus, I got fit and felt great about myself.

Once you find the motivation to get going, trust that those endorphins will do their job. Before you know it, your perspective will shift almost completely, as it did with me. In fact, you’ll likely wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

7) Try mindfulness and meditation

Don’t knock it til you try it. Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help you stay in the present and grounded. 

They also help you emotionally regulate things, allowing you to identify and manage feelings without becoming overwhelmed.

By staying in the present moment, you effectively distance yourself from past traumas and future anxieties, reducing stress and negative feelings in the process.

This isn’t some pseudo-scientific psychobabble either. Mindfulness is becoming more and more medically relevant each day.

According to the University of Southern California’s School of social work, for instance, “research has increasingly bolstered mindfulness’s place in the field of psychotherapy, and fewer experts view it with skepticism. Investigators have shown how the practice can change structures in the brain, including areas associated with self-awareness and coping with emotion.”

“So much of the internal narrative around cravings is not being able to handle it,” says Nicholas Barr, the study’s head clinician and a postdoctoral scholar at USC. 

“What you get from mindfulness is the realization that you can deal with this, you can tolerate this.”

Furthermore, mindfulness and meditation cultivate self-compassion and restore your self-worth, ultimately countering the negative perceptions instilled by the abuser. 

8) Realize that healing can take time

Rome wasn’t built in a day. When creating something that lasts you have to commit to it for the long haul. 

So be patient with yourself. Great things aren’t created overnight. Healing from abuse is no different. 

You have to unlearn and deprogram yourself from the trauma. Recovery is far from a linear process. 

Some days you might make tremendous strides–and while you should definitely celebrate those wins, realize that other days might be far more difficult. 

It’s important to recognize that this is a normal part of the process and the road to rehabilitation isn’t always a smooth one.

9) Be willing to forgive

Here’s the thing: holding on to negative feelings like anger or hostility can derail your healing journey. Remember, forgiveness is in your interest, not theirs. 

Now I’m not saying you should continue to enable or excuse the narcissist’s behaviors, but once you start letting go of their venomous grip on you, you will inevitably feel a welcome sense of closure and relief. 

I know… the aftermath of an abusive relationship can make you feel powerless. You may even lose all motivation to love again. 

I’d like to suggest doing something different. It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, despite my initial skepticism. 

I’ve come to realize that the real path to love and intimacy should first come from within. 

As Rudá explains in this mind-blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way because we’re not taught how to love ourselves first. 

So, if you want to get over the narcissistic-inflicted wounds, I’d first recommend starting with yourself and taking Rudá’s incredible advice. 

Here’s a link to the free video once again

Final thoughts 

Guess what? The fact that you’re reading this now means you’ve taken steps to overcome a narcissist and are on the path to healing! This is a big deal. 

As humans, we’re naturally resilient creatures… you’re proving it. 

Keep fostering that growth–you’re not simply ‘getting over’ a narcissist, but also establishing a newfound understanding of your boundaries, value, and personal power. 

So the goal isn’t to forget the past but bounce back from it stronger than ever, with new lessons in tow. 

In a way, surviving narcissistic abuse could well be the catalyst for a major personal transformation. 

By getting rid of these toxic elements of your life, you’re one step closer to becoming your best self. I’d say that’s a pretty exciting prospect. 

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Justin Brown

Justin Brown is an entrepreneur and thought leader in personal development and digital media, with a foundation in education from The London School of Economics and The Australian National University. As the co-founder of Ideapod, The Vessel, and a director at Brown Brothers Media, Justin has spearheaded platforms that significantly contribute to personal and collective growth. His deep insights are shared on his YouTube channel, JustinBrownVids, offering a rich blend of guidance on living a meaningful and purposeful life.

The 10 types of people a confident woman will never allow in her life

11 old adages that will actually make a difference in your life