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The path of spiritual healing from narcissistic abuse is not an easy road to take, yet it is essential to rebuild your life. It is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of resilience and personal grit to do the deep healing work that is required to truly heal after narcissistic abuse.
In this article we’ll cover:
* The basic tenets and spirit of what a narcissist is
* What the symptoms of narcissistic abuse are
* The aftermath of narcissistic abuse
* The healing journey required to heal from narcissistic abuse
If you are someone who is struggling to heal after narcissistic abuse, you may want to seek narcissistic abuse therapy online to support your spiritual healing journey. Having someone that can navigate the emotionally challenging journey of healing your emotional and physical body after narcissistic abuse is absolutely invaluable. It can be a long, slow path to healing — yet healing is possible with a supportive, trauma-informed healer or therapist.
What is the Narcissistic Spirit?
Narcissism is often referred to as the Jezebel spirit which essentially means that a person with a jezebel spirit will lie, cheat, steal, and use cunning and deception to get their way. They tend to operate in very subtle ways that make it difficult to detect that they are in fact betraying the people they are engaging with.
The most dangerous of narcissists are the covert narcissists because they have perfected the art of coming off as ‘Mr. or Mrs. Nice Guy.” You can watch my video Five Signs You Are Dealing With a Covert Narcissist to understand more. They are very gracious outwardly to everyone but when they are behind closed doors they can make life a living hell for their main target of their narcissistic abuse as they siphon off that person’s energy to meet their daily need for ‘narcissistic supply.’ Overt narcissists are equally as damaging to your self-worth but they are much easier to spot.
Narcissistic supply refers to the energy, attention and focus their love partner gives them (or anyone whom they go to for attention). Narcissists will tend to have an entire cadre of people that they get their narcissistic supply from, but there is usually a main person that will give them a constant stream of attention. It is this primary person that can end up completely depleted and demoralized once the narcissist decides to discard them to seek a new supply. The discard phase of narcissism typically happens once the primary partner begins to see the narcissist for who they are and are no longer easily manipulated by the narcissist.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse: The Aftermath
What are the symptoms of narcissistic abuse?
1. Walking of Egg Shells
If you grew up in a narcissistic household you know exactly what ‘walking on eggshells’ means. You walk around in a perpetual state of worrying about everything you say and are trying to make sure you don’t set off your narcissistic parent or sibling. This puts your nervous system in a 24/7 loop of hypersensitivity, always looking for the slightest sign that things might go off the rail at any moment. This is very unhealthy for your body if you remain in this state long-term because it will deplete your adrenals and immune system.
2. Self-Loathing & Self Hatred
Being in a relationship or family dynamic with a narcissist will take a toll on your self-worth and self-esteem from the constant onslaught of insults and negative put-downs about your body, intelligence, self-worth, etc. Feelings of self-loathing and self-hatred can go unacknowledged for a long period of time. This is because your subconscious mind’s defense mechanism is to bury these feelings as deeply as possible as to try and avoid thinking or feeling those negative emotions.
3. Anxiety & Depression
When you are in a long-term connection with a narcissist it will ultimately lead to anxiety and depression. Being on the never-ending receiving line of emotional, mental and psychological abuse takes its toll on a person. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can lead to deep depression.
4. Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn
The fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses are the four common coping mechanisms to narcissistic abuse. Depending upon your circumstances and family upbringing you will gravitate to one or two more than the others or have some combination of all four of these depending upon the person or trigger you are dealing with.
Fight Response: triggers an aggressiveness to go after anyone you feel threatens you
Flight Response: triggers you to move away from and escape your present danger
Freeze Response: triggers to you freeze up and become unable to move, speak or act
Fawn Response: triggers an immediate need to pacify and please the aggressor
5. Constantly Apologizing
A hallmark symptom that you have grown up in a narcissistic household or are in a long-term relationship with a narcissist is your tendency to over-apologize for everything. You have been indoctrinated to believe everything is your fault. Your response in any situation is, “I’m sorry” as you immediately think “It must be my fault” because you have been made to believe that by the people around you. The first step in learning to heal your relationship with yourself and your self-worth is to stop apologizing for everything.
6. Filled with Self-Doubt
Anyone who has been a victim of long-term narcissistic abuse struggles with strong feelings of self-doubt. They second guess their self-worth and value. They struggle with making decisions and seek constant third party validation to support their decisions. Rebuilding your belief in self so that you can learn to be more decisive is of the utmost importance on healing after narcissistic abuse.
7. Feelings of loneliness
If you were in a long-term relationship with a narcissist they may have isolated you from family and friends. With your intimate relationship being a toxic influence that keeps you in a perpetual state of anxiety you remain disconnected from your emotional core which can make connecting with others more and more difficult. This disconnection can trigger feelings of deep loneliness.
8. Self Isolation
Self isolation can become a coping mechanism when you are struggling with anxiety and depression. You can erroneously feel that your safest place is to stay in your room or home. Venturing out can feel more and more difficult because your nerves are raw and you feel deeply vulnerable and incapable of trusting people. When you have been emotionally and mentally abused your sense of trust becomes destroyed. You have a hard time trusting people – not just romantic partners, but also family and friends. Re-establishing your relationships with friends and family is vitally important as you take the path of healing after a toxic narcissistic relationship or marriage.
The Healing Journey
1. Forgive Yourself
The first and most important step in your spiritual healing after narcissistic abuse is for you to forgive yourself. You must not beat yourself up for having stayed too long or that you allowed the abuse to happen in the first place. The reality is that you were simply modeling the behavior you saw as a child. Now that you realize it is unhealthy and toxic you will strive to do better. Self forgiveness is the first step in a long road of healing and it is absolutely essential.
2. Own Your Part
Once you have forgiven yourself the next step you must take is to take accountability for your part. You have to acknowledge that you may have been an overgiver (a.k.a co-dependent). If you grew up in a narcissistic home you learned from a young age that you must ‘earn your love’ that is not something that was given freely and unconditionally so you learned that you must constantly be doing things to make sure that you would have that continued source of love. This is codependency. Overgiving is not love. It is a dysfunctional coping mechanism to manipulate someone to give you the love you crave.
3. Identify Your Patterns
The next thing you must do is to identify your core patterns that you have created and recreated in your intimate relationships, family dynamics and friendships. The only way to bring about real transformation is to notice your patterns and then consciously decide to release yourself from those unconscious patterns and commit to creating healthy relationships in all areas of your life.
4. Embrace Energy Work to Release the Trauma From Your Body
Making the decision to embrace energy healing for trauma or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or spiritual healing services to release the trauma that has been locked into your body and nervous system is probably one of the most profound decisions you will ever make. For those seeking energy healing in New York or New Jersey feel free to connect — I would love to support your healing from narcissistic trauma.
The trauma that you have experienced becomes locked into the body and that trauma is what keeps you in a state of prolonged anxiety and what causes your triggers. Neutralizing your traumatic experiences is of the utmost importance.
5. Soothe Your Sympathetic Nervous System
When you have lived in a prolonged state of fight/flight your sympathetic nervous system can become switched on 24/7. This creates a highly toxic state in your body and it begins to overproduce adrenaline and cortisol which can overburden your liver, kidneys and lymph system and will ultimately screw up your digestion and weaken your immune system. It is critical that you embrace protocols that will enable you to turn off that fight/flight response to allow your body to organically cycle back into periods of rest and digest. One of the best ways I found to do this was by using a near infrared light sauna. It is one of my greatest self-indulgences and is deeply healing. It had a profound effect on my body and allowed me to finally bring my body back into balance.
6. Establish Solid Self-Care Routines
For many after suffering years of emotional, physical, or mental abuse at the hands of a narcissist means that you have left yourself deeply uncared for. Embracing a set of daily rituals and protocols of self-care is incredibly important. It can include anything from yoga, meditation, and prayer to a daily walk, taking a knitting class, or joining a local choir. The idea is that you want to embrace things that nourish you and bring joy to your heart and peace to your soul. The most important idea here is that self-care equals self-love. You need and deserve to pour your loving cup back into yourself after years of pouring your love into your past lover, family or friends. And, remember you can’t pour from an empty cup, you must fill yourself up first if you want anything to give to others.
7.Forgive Them (If and When You’re Ready)
The next step on your journey is forgiveness (if and when you are ready). This can be difficult because we want to hold onto our anger, yet it is our anger that keeps us in a prison and keeps us from being able to move forward and completely heal. And, anger will physically make you sick.
One of the best things I have ever read on forgiveness came from Rabbi Harold S. Kushner…
“Forgiveness is not a matter of exonerating people who have hurt you. They may not deserve exoneration. Forgiveness means cleansing your soul of the bitterness of ‘what might have been,’ ‘what should have been,’ and ‘what didn’t have to happen.’ Someone has defined forgiveness as ‘giving up all hope of having had a better past.’ What’s past is past and there is little to be gained by dwelling on it. There are perhaps no sadder people than the men and women who have a grievance against the world because of something that happened years ago and have let that memory sour their view of life ever since.”
8. Create Healthy Boundaries
Learning how to create healthy boundaries can be one of the most challenging things for someone who grew up in a household where your boundaries were violated every day as the normal course of your life. You probably don’t even know what a healthy boundary looks like. Yet, it is absolutely critical that you learn and start creating them. One of the first things to do is to learn how to say “no” for many victims of narcissistic abuse. They have been trained to put their needs last and perpetually do things that don’t work for them because they are afraid that they will lose that person’s love. Learning to speak up for yourself and advocate for your needs is essential in the spiritual healing journey after narcissistic abuse. You will more than likely get pushback from those around you who have benefited from your lack of boundaries, yet you must push forward and put them up regardless. Healthy boundaries are the foundation of healthy relationships.
Create a New, Healthier Vision for Your Life
Creating a new vision for your life is of paramount importance. Having that vision will act as a magnet that will pull you through the healing process. As the bible says “without a vision, ye shall perish.” Having a powerful, positive, and healthy vision of your future will provide the fuel you need to do the work to heal after narcissistic abuse. I cannot stress how important having a positive vision of the future is. Without a hope of a better future, it is difficult to find the motivation to make the changes that you need to make to heal and grow from this past toxic relationship. I encourage you to get clear on this positive future vision to set yourself up for a powerful, positive and transformational healing journey.
-Frequently Asked Questions
So what are some of the most common questions that come up with respect to healing after narcissistic abuse? Let’s get into them now…
What are the long-term consequences to your brain after narcissistic abuse?
What has come to the forefront on this issue is that long-term narcissistic abuse can cause both PTSD and CPTSD which sadly results in brain damage negatively impacting the person’s hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, as noted by PsychCentral.com.[2}
While science has proven that victims of repeated long-term abuse have diminished memory, unclear thinking and decision making skills, and impaired learning, the victims themselves are completely unaware of this and simply beat themselves up for the challenges they experience from these conditions which negatively impact their self-worth, self-esteem, career, finances, and interpersonal relationships. Healing after narcissistic abuse is a process of learning to remember who you are again.
What specific damage does it cause to the brain?
Sadly, over time someone who has been the victim of long-term narcissistic abuse will find that their hippocampus has shrunk in size. In layman’s terms this means that the person’s short and long-term memory and learning ability will become dramatically impaired while simultaneously having their amygdala enlarged — which is the storehouse for your primal emotions of fear, grief, guilt, envy, and shame.
In a recent study conducted in a joint study between the University of New Orleans and Stanford University , they were able to prove that patients with the highest cortisol levels and most severe symptoms of PTSD experienced the greatest decrease in the size of their hippocampus, thus the more time you spend in an abusive situation the more severely your hippocampus will shrink as a result.
1. The Overactive Amygdala
When you live with a narcissist you will find that you are constantly walking on eggshells which triggers your amygdala. Your body goes into a hypervigilant state always scanning the environment for threats to your safety and survival. You constantly monitor your behavior to make sure that you don’t do anything that could possibly trigger your partner, parent, sibling, boss, and etc. Living in a prolonged state with your fight/flight response turned on severely depletes your body’s reserves
2. The Prefrontal Cortex
How is your prefrontal cortex impacted by narcissistic abuse? Well, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for helping you with planning – it helps you to set and achieve your goals. It also contributes to a number of different executive functions such as:
⇢ The ability to focus your attention on a given subject matter or task
⇢ Assists you in understanding the connection between your actions and the corresponding consequences
⇢ Helps you to effectively manage your impulse control responses
⇢ Enables you to plan accordingly to support your dreams and goals
The prefrontal cortex is impacted by extremes such as excessive anger, sadness, anxiety, despair. This excess stress placed upon your brain results in diminished capacity for mental functioning.
Can brain damage from narcissistic abuse be reversed?
The human body is truly miraculous. While serious damage can result from long-term emotional and physical trauma, thankfully the brain does have the capacity to rejuvenate itself.
Neuroplasticity is the key to healing and recovery after narcissistic abuse. Science has now been able to prove the hippocampus is capable of neurogenesis (the ability to regrow itself). Effective protocols to promote neurogenesis include EMDR, guided meditation, and EFT.
EMDR which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a mental health modality that helps victims of PTSD to heal and recover after traumatic abuse and deeply traumatic experiences. EMDR has been shown to create neuroanatomical changes in subjects with PTSD who sought treatment with EMDR. A standard series of sessions is usually to see a practitioner at least 2 times per week for a period of between 6-12 weeks
2. Guided Meditation
Harvard University recently conducted a study on the use of guided meditation to help regrow one’s brain matter. What they discovered was that if participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day engaging in mindfulness practices and guided visualization they were able to generate a significant increase in the density of their hippocampus and the amygdala. Once again neuroplasticity is the hero of the day.
3. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique is a powerful, safe, and effective healing modality for those struggling with PTSD. EFT accesses the meridian points in the human body, discovered through the ancient art of Chinese Medicine to harness the brain’s ability to heal and recover from trauma. The tapping process will organically stimulate your amygdala, which as we discussed above is the ‘fight or flight’ part of the brain) and it will allow it to shut off that response and enable the participant to begin to relax and calm down.