If you’ve experienced the trauma of being in a relationship with a narcissist**, the most amazing gifts you can give yourself to heal cannot be bought, or wrapped. They are the gifts of restoring and maintaining your sense of feeling human, connecting to your life and self, your feelings and thoughts, among other things, with mindful awareness. Narcissism and psychopathology are severe thought disturbances that, unlike all other mental health disorders, pose risks of harm to others ranging from narcissistic abuse and domestic violence to Stockholm Syndrome and taking of another’s life.
1. You are a human being, and that’s a big deal!
The first gift is to recognize, above everything else, male or female, white or nonwhite, you are a human being. And that’s the biggest deal in town, at least the town called Earth! Being human means you are neurologically, biologically, emotionally, mentally, instinctively and more, designed to “operate” in accordance with amazing principles and laws that, like mathematical formulas, operate with precision. You don’t have to be aware of these principles to benefit from them, your subconscious mind – the operating system of your mind and body – is very much aware of them. Celebrate and discover and cultivate your universal miracle-making capacities as a human being. Revere them. See them operate in others. Be in awe. This enlarge the human capacity for compassion for yourself and others, and deepens your joy and awe and meaning to living among the most amazing creatures.
Simply put, if you’ve been around a narcissist, you’ve been talking to the wrong person about yourself, thoughts, feelings! They have likely gotten in your head to demoralize, dehumanize, in other words, make you feel more like they do inside, kinda not there, not human. The first step to taking back your thoughts about yourself is to remind yourself, throughout each day, to celebrate that were and still are human!
2. You are designed to feel good about yourself and life!
Your drive to feel good is connected to both your principle drive for physical survival, as well as your overarching drive to do more than physically survive, rather to find meaning and purpose. No human being finds happiness merely surviving; they have always found a way of thinking about themselves and what they do that increases their sense of purpose. As a human being, you have inborn striving to be loved, especially as an infant and small child, however, as you mature these strivings shift significantly to yearnings to matter in relation to your life and others, to bring love and feel your love contributes to life and others’ wellbeing in some way. The drive to feel good can trick and mislead however. What delights your senses can be a wonderful health boost, in cases where you experience an amazing work of art or music or a glorious sunset. But you must learn, often through painful experiences, to distinguish between cheap-thrill, toxic feel-goods that are addictive and harm versus feel-goods that nourish and sustain and support you to realize your goals and dreams. Pain is often a guide, a signal from your body to make some adjustment, and more often than not, this adjustment involves what you believe or tell yourself you (or others) have to have or do before you can feel okay or good or happy.
In a nut shell, narcissists act intentionally to make their partner feel bad about themselves, small, insignificant, dependent, confused, self-doubting, invisible, and the like. The second step to take back your mind and self is to remind yourself that you are wired, that is born, to yearn to feel good about yourself. Make the decision to observe your thoughts and shift and practice thoughts that inspire, motivate, empower you to live your best life, be a compassionate friend to yourself, and among other things, become an ever better version, stay curious!
3. You are wired to grow a wise inner-self, and as such, to be the observer (not a reactive judge!) of your life, inside and out.
You are much more than your actions or habits, or the beliefs or thoughts you think, or the feelings and emotions that thoughts and beliefs spark. You are the observer. As an observer, you grow your awareness and confidence in making optimal choices, thus wisdom. Once you know this, you own its power in present moments. As the observer of your experiences of life in and around, you have a powerful gift to mindfully regulate your emotions. You do so by remaining aware, gathering data, and using your ability to think reflectively at any moment, and connect this with your goals, end in mind, what you already know, plan, choose, and so on. This powerful ability to remain in observer mode regardless of circumstances around you allows your higher thinking brain to remain online, versus go offline when reactive thoughts (judgments that active irrational fears) activate your body’s survival system. In others words, you have a powerful capacity you can cultivate, and that is to consciously remain in observer mode, and replace harsh judgments, reactive or defensive thinking with thoughts that better serve you.
Truth be told, if you’ve lived or live with a narcissist, you’ve been instilled with some intense patterns of self-blame, self-doubt, and other unhelpful limiting thought patterns. Also, though the narcissist may deserve judgments, this is not a helpful to you in terms of your growth, peace of mind and remaining a healthy-emotional detachment from the narcissist’s thoughts, beliefs, endless lies and illusions (about himself, you and so on!). Make a decision to practice awareness and nonjudgmental observations of self and others. This will support you to make optimal choices, and to avoid getting unnecessarily triggered, activating your body’s survival system (sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system).
4. You are wired to be the choice maker, agent of your life.
Truth be told, you’ve always been in charge of your life, though you may not have been in charge of all or some of the circumstances. Your ability to choose also makes you the creator of your life and its direction and future. Your hard wired capacity to create and imagine how you want your life, how you want to show up in life, is one of the most miracle-making abilities humans are endowed with. When you understand this, you can proceed to cultivate your capacity to step into your agency, and consciously take and hold onto the reins. Only you can hold this reins. If you abdicate, and surrender them to another, it’s a disservice to yourself! (And the other.) It’s a disservice because no one can control another person. It’s totally an illusion — and it”s an illusion the narcissist has worked 24/7 to get you to believe.
As you know, the narcissist in your life has worked overtime to get you to mistrust your ability to think, make choices, and to surrender out of fear to serve his interests, never your own (apart from occasional illusions.) Be the agent of your life, learn to trust your ability to make choices, and to learn from making ones that were not optimal as well!
5. You are designed to grow and keep reaching for the stars.
You are hard-wired to grow and expand your capacities from the first breath to the last. And growth always involves (healthy) pain. Every goal you’ve realized was a result of effort, and that means discomfort. In every area in which you feel successful, at home, work, school or gym, you have used at least one powerful Life Principle: Use it or lose it. Nothing stands still, you are either moving the direction of growth and betterment, or atrophy and relapse. At the gym that means once you stop training or running, you start to lose the gains. The same applies to your mental and emotional growth and strengths. Struggling with challenges and vulnerabilities makes you ever stronger, wiser, better and more courageous. This is a very important Principle to keep in mind. How you respond to a mistake or failure can cause you to either avoid what is uncomfortable, on the one hand, or turn you into a champion who loves jumping into challenges. And it’s all about how you perceive events in and around you.
Speaking of growth, in case you didn’t notice, the narcissist you were in a relationship with refused to grow or change, and any mention of this, would result in gaslighting and another conversation from hell, so the speak. You are human. The reason he refused to listen to any of your reasoning or attempts to reach him is because he thought only “weak” persons grow. He’s lost, don’t waste your time trying to reason with someone that works with lies and illusions as a lifestyle. Keep growing your wisdom, stay curious, and keep reaching for the stars.
** The words “narcissist” or “narcissism” in this article refer to those persons that meet the criteria for either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or its more extreme and toxic version, antisocial personality disorder (APD or psychopathology).