He was incredibly nurturing, emotionally available and sensitive to my needs, everything I always dreamed of in a man. Unfortunately, when the courting phase came to an end and we settled into a committed relationship, things began to change drastically…..
He became emotionally unavailable, started drinking excessive alcohol (originally he told me he didn’t drink) and became extremely busy at work. There was extreme misalignment between his words and actions, and when I illuminated those discrepancies, somehow the responsibility was placed on me. As a highly sensitive person, an empath, and growing up with narcissistic family members, I now realize I was vulnerable to this kind of relationship.
The question for many—including myself—was how and why did i return to this relationship more than once? The truth is the challenge of being in relationship with a narcissist (family member, friend, spouse or romantic partner) is their true nature can be hidden for quite some time. They are very skilled at getting what they want through charm, deceit and manipulation (in my case it was deep spiritual and psychological jargon and a shared creative expression….after all I couldn’t imagine how someone I met at a personal/spiritual growth intensive and on a personal development path could engage in deceptive behavior!!??).
I’m a sensitive person and always want to help. Narcissists exploit and feed off this way of being. They will do anything to get their needs met. As the relationship progressed, I felt emotionally drained, disempowered and lost my sense of self. I continued to effort—being emotionally attached to a narcissist is quite the adventure—to make it work. He took advantage of my vulnerability and transparency.
Narcissists know what you want to hear, how to make you feel good, and how to say just the right things. In order to heal and break away, it is crucial to cultivate self-love, and a deeper connection with your body and intuitive knowing.
Towards the end of the relationship, instead of remaining obsessed and fixated on him, I turned toward myself and finally ended the relationship (which meant all forms of contact!). I dove deep into discovering the reasons why I chose him as a partner, instead of myself. I spent an extensive period of time taking professional classes, receiving personal sessions and reading books to educate myself.
You can develop your body mind connection, learn to trust yourself, establish healthy boundaries and deepen your intuitive knowing. I did…
I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned through my journey to either peak your curiosity (you might know a narcissist) and/or ease your pain and suffering:
Below are some signs of narcissistic abuse:
- Feeling crazy
- Symptoms of PTSD such as sleep difficulties, lack of joy, hope and meaning, hypervigilance, guilt, anxiety and
- Difficulty trusting and connecting with loved ones
- Significant loss of self-esteem
- Depression and at times suicidal ideation
- Increase in addictive behaviors– recovery from an abusive relationship can be very similar to withdrawal from drug addiction due to the biochemical bonds we may develop with our toxic partners (see more info below).
The psychological abuse, inconsistency and betrayal (“I thought you were someone else”) from a narcissist triggers our early attachment wounds and can create a lot of disruption in our ability to function in our lives and attach in a healthy way. We have two biological systems at odds: the attachment system and survival. The one we love is also a threat to our emotional, spiritual, psychological and sometimes physical well-being. It is crucial to work on several elements after this type of abuse. Here are a few suggestions:
- Trauma therapy
- Restoring self-love and self-esteem
- Working directly with restoring secure attachment-seek a professional (coach, therapist etc who understands narcissistic abuse and the importance on working with the attachment system).
- Meditate or Mindfulness practice
- No CONTACT and/or set a healthy boundary with the narcissist (no contact might be difficult in the case of a family member or someone you share children with)
Easy, peasy neuroscience
Oxytocin promotes attachment and trust and is released during sex, touch and orgasm. The narcissist tends to engage us emotionally and well, when you include sex it creates an intense strong sexual and emotional connection for us, but since narcissists usually lack empathy, they don’t share that bond
Dopamine: Drugs and pleasurable experiences trigger dopamine and create reward circuits in the brain. The salience theory of dopamine suggests that our brain releases dopamine not just for pleasurable events but to important ones that are linked to survival (which sucks for victims of abuse!). It is said that dopamine flows more readily when the rewards are given out on an unpredictable schedule rather than predictably after conditioned cues. (please visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bad-appetite/201205/bad-boys-bad-brains for more information). The inconsistent, incongruent behavior of the narcissist creates a strong chemical addiction! The combo of being on high alert from the abuse and the pleasure and ease from the wining and dining after the abuse triggers the production of this neurochemical and a biochemical bond to the narcissist.
Cortisol and Adrenaline: the rollercoaster ride with the narcissist produces these stress hormones. The narcissist can create an “adrenaline junkie” out of their victims. We can experience significant withdrawal when we distance from the abuser. Please visit http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2013/03/02/how-to-overcome-adrenaline-addiction-tips-from-a-former-addict/ for more information on adrenaline addiction.
I personally know how devastating and crippling narcissistic abuse is. Self love and working on our own woundings is the gift of narcissistic abuse. The narcissist is the messenger, albeit a narly one, that ultimately leads you back to your beauty and radiance as a woman. Please remember you are not alone as a survivor. I can help you…..
See below for more general information on general abuse:
Early treatment for abuse gives a child the best chance for recovery. It can repair attachment wounds and supports a healthy, resilient nervous system.
The first step is to provide a safe environment to prevent further harm. The sooner this happens, the better the child’s chance for recovery. Counseling treatment for abuse is always recommended.
The focus of the treatment for abuse is on developing a healthy nervous system (trauma creates dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system), healthy attachment and an internal sense of safety.
Treatment for abuse caused by parents or caregivers
Parents or caregivers who have abused also need treatment. The type of treatment depends on the specific abuse that occurred. Some folks need to learn more about good parenting while others may need treatment for other more serious problems, such their own history of traumas, drug problems, depression, mental health problems, low self-esteem, violent behavior.
Abuse / Survivors of Abuse
Abuse—physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional —can leave psychological wounds that are harder to heal than bodily injuries. Intense, negative feelings may plague the survivor, leaving them struggling to cope and be happy in life. Anxiety, hopelessness, fear, depression and trust issues are common.
All types of abuse are painful and can cause psychological distress and physiological imbalances. Often several types of abuse occur concurrently (ie: sexual , emotional, physical) The abuse can occur within any relationship, familial, professional, social, even between strangers. Many forms of abuse are really the abuse of power and control and manipulation. They often are expressed by criticism, coercion, humiliation and threats.
In intimate relationships the psychological abuse is most often a precursor to physical abuse.
While abuse in any form can have a negative impact on an individual’s life, significant nervous system dysregulation and emotional or psychological problems do not necessarily result from every case of abuse. The severity of repercussions can vary depending on many factors, such as how well the victim was associated with the abuser, the victim’s history of abuse, support system, the reslliency of the nervous system, coping skills, age and whether the abuse was recognized or dismissed by the friends and family of the abused.
Treatment for abuse can help a person express and process difficult emotions, restore balance in the autonomic nervous system, repair attachment wounds, earn to trust again, instill hope, regain a spiritual connection and faith in the inherent goodness of all of life.