This final piece offers you my humble “take” on what others more experienced than I (see Resources below) have identified as 6 significant rest-stops along the spiral of healing. I offer one “Top Tip” per rest-stop.
1. Re-encounter Yourself ~ Most everyone who emerges from time around a narcissist looses something of themselves. No matter how long this contact with narcissism has been, there will be less of the essential, unapologetic, robust, connected-to-your-own-soul YOU now than there was before this contact. First job is to find that person once again.
Top Tip: Do The Artists Way. Julia Cameron’s 12-part process will help you discover you are a unique, worthwhile, creative being whose only job is to express yourself. This book is a life-saver!
2. Embrace reality ~ Question every assumption; examine every thought. Is this truth, or is this still crazy-talk? Come on back to the community of earthlings where you belong. Try listening to a reliable news source; go to the public library and watch normal people come and go; call a childhood friend and reminisce.
Top Tip from Blogger Lisa Arends (sent as a comment to my last post) I found it invaluable to have “reality anchors,” tangible reminders of reality that kept me anchored while I navigated through the world he created through his lies. My favorite? I kept a copy of his mugshot with an article about the bigamy in my purse for several months. One glance at that paper reminded me of who he really was and motivated me to keep fighting to get away. (Thanks Lisa!)
3. Set boundaries ~ It’s hard to be in relationship with someone who has no idea who they are or what they want. This is where boundaries come in: you get to say “I feel X and I need Y” and then let go. Just the fact of naming what you feel and need is a huge boundary-setting skill.
4. Cultivate reciprocal relationships ~ You’ve been giving, giving, giving – right? You need to discover that it’s OK to receive: To imagine you are worthwhile enough for someone to want to share with you. If you want the safest possible two-way friendships I’d recommend animals or small children. They are genetically engineered givers.
Top Tip (not scientifically tested, but from my experience, this Tip’s from me). Volunteer some time each week at your local Humane Society. For the gift of your time and presence, you’ll be rewarded with unconditional love from most of the four-footed brothers and sisters in the shelter. Lap up their love. Bask in it. Slowly make the transition to humans.
5. Integrate Your Past ~ It’s tempting to want to forget the past – especially if it now seems so false (Did my partner ever really love me? Was it all a sham?) But burying your past in an ugly bin in the basement will cause it to rot and smell. Putting it instead in a pleasing, open wooden-frame box, turning it over, splashing it with some fresh insights, tumbling it with compassion, mixing in some understanding and wisdom will deliver a deliciously usable compost.
Top Tip Write! You’ll find lots of people on the Internet who have turned their difficult pasts into fruitful books, blogs, and even full “recovery courses.”
6. Help Others ~ Once you’ve climbed back from the brink, re-calibrated your sense of “normal”, practiced setting boundaries and expressing feelings and needs, re-joined the larger community, made a few genuine friends and gained some perspective on your past, you’re ready for the fulfillment that comes from reaching out and helping someone else.
Top Tip Be inspired here
“Caveat emptor” ~ 3 Main Points
- Be slow to trust. There’s a lot of unhelpful information in print and online. Look for resources authored by professionals in the field of mental health. If you are considering a book, or reading an article on-line, read the brief author bio. Check to see if the author has an advanced degree from a reputable University. Are they working the field? Do they have a website and testimonials? Can you call them or email them if you want to? Not all information is equal.
- Free is good. The library is your friend. You can spend a small fortune on books and courses and consultations. You do not have to.
- Value a second opinion. Part of your “reality check” work here. If you feel drawn toward a book you want to buy, or someone you might want to consult with – run it by someone you know and trust. If your friend is suspicious, maybe wait a bit. Or seek a third opinion. The topic of narcissism has created a very “narcissistic” (i.e. exploitative) on-line environment and you don’t need to get burned.
That being said, there are lots of books you should be OK to review at your local library. Here is a short list. You can also go to Amazon.com and type “Narcissism” in the subject box for a longer list.
- Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, by Sandy Hotchkiss
- Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by Wendy Behary
- Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life by Linda Martinez-Lewi
- The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor Payson
In terms of on-line resources. You can trust articles posted on ~
www.psychologytoday.com (You can type “Narcissism” in the search box top right, or visit Topics and browse by Parenting, Divorce, Personality etc.).
Marc Hafkin also posted on this Blog – his web site seems worth reviewing.
One of my clients found this site, and I figured it might help others: http://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/
This seems helpful (if anyone has feedback feel free to post) http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/
And I follow Lessons From The End of a Marriage because I’m inspired by it’s author, Lisa Arends. Lisa’s been through what she describes as a “Tsunami Divorce” but has emerged with a terrific sense of self, a good job, a luscious pen and some piercingly clear insights.
For the other posts in this series see ~