Step 2: Overcoming the Shock

Reading about Narcissistic Personality Disorder is only one piece of the puzzle and nowhere near the beginning of the journey.  We cycle through so many emotions.  This was an individual whom we believed we loved dearly, and who we thought loved us just as intensely.

There are certain dynamics involved with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder abuse relationship and the reality is that as a result of this disorder, the Narcissist is unable to love, attach or feel empathy.  Narcissists as it is assumed and hopefully understood by now, suffer voids and are not in tune with their true selves.  They are fragmented, empty walking voids/shells of people.  Because of this, a narcissist is constantly in search of a host to feed off of.  This is why victims cannot blame themselves despite all that the narcissist projected.  Victims were targeted…this individual suffers from an incurable Axis II Cluster B Personality disorder, that even leaves the therapists throwing their hands up.  This factoid trumps ANYthing you believe you might have done to ‘deserve’ this – drop that thought immediately.

At their core, narcissists suffer from an extreme amount of low self-esteem, self loathing, insecurity, amongst a slew of other very deep dark emotions – this is at every Narcissists core.  A narcissist it is said can only feel two emotions:  FEAR and RAGE.  A narcissist does his best to conceal this ‘deep dark secret’ and so whenever they fear that the mask is about to be ripped off, they have to fight in order to ‘protect’ the illusion of what they perceive to be that image.  It is a very complex thing to understand.  Basically anything a narcissist does that can be considered hostile or abusive is a defense mechanism, but don’t be fooled – there is nothing you can do to help him/her.  You have to detach from this relationship or it will be your complete and utter destruction.

There are some who ‘claim’ you can have a relationship with a narcissist; and that might be true; however, you have to be willing to sacrifice anything and everything you hold near and dear, you must be willing to forfeit any needs you may have, you must be willing to be the target of his projections, to put it simply, you must be a willing glutton for punishment and a ‘worthy’ doormat for however long the relationship lasts.  It is not wise to subscribe to any idea that somehow you might be able to make such a relationship work.  You will in time if you haven’t already suffer such depletion that you will lose your own identity, your own core, you will become enmeshed in a vicious cycle…it will eventually become a slow emotional, mental and spiritual death and in the severest of cases, can terminate with actual death of the victim (suicide or domestic violence that turns fatal).  I know of one person who is married to a Narcissist 40+ years, they are unaware that their partner is a narcissist; however, I can tell you – it is not a pretty sight.  I believe this individual is trauma bonded, in bondage where daily misery is a lifestyle.

Recovery and overcoming the shock that you have been involved in an NPD abuse relationship is a process that takes a long time.  If one is to fully recover, this is not a case where we attempt to put a band-aid over a bullet hole.  We’ve all heard the cliché:  “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone (else).  Not in this case – NOT AT ALL.  There are several reasons for this.

  • If you are recently in the throes of coming to terms that you have been involved in this type of relationship, the damage to your mind, your heart and your soul must be repaired first.  This was a subtle and stealth attack on your mind, and in some cases may even have been a physical attack to your body.  That is a violation.  Many in the early stages of recovery are in trauma whether a therapist is savvy enough to figure it out or not.  Trauma by definition cannot be healed, but it can be managed; however, it will be important that you address these issues adequately, as with trauma, triggers are for life which means, that if you are involved with someone else and they inadvertently step on a trigger even if it is without intention, you may very well end up reacting, and with Trauma come very intense emotions…aside from pain and sadness, anger and rage are also culprits – and so it is only fair to yourself and another that these issues are resolved, and that you have them managed and under control so that you don’t end up harming someone else inadvertently.
  • While some may believe that hitting the sheets with someone else in a ‘fling’ and that “Friends With Benefits” relationships harm no one as long as it’s between two consenting adults – nothing could be further from the truth if you are a woman, because as women, we secrete the hormone oxytocin which is the bonding chemical, so it doesn’t matter what you think you can program your mind to say – your body will be reacting biologically, and you will bond with that person whether you like it or not, and it is quite possible that even with the best intentions of just kicking the sheets a bit, you will get hooked.  If under such pretenses, your ‘knocking boots’ partner had nothing more in mind, it will not help your self-esteem to once again be unceremoniously dumped when he decides he’s had enough fun and is ready to settle down with whom he considers “Marriage” or “Long Term Committed Shacking Up” material.  Just.Don’t.Do.It.  Heal.  Once you have your wits about you then you decide what works best for you; however, in this vulnerable state – such activity is ill-advised unless you envision yourself making NARCS a part of your relationship career.  History will repeat itself until you do the work, clean out your closet and take the journey.

Overcoming the shock of all you’ve learned about NPD and what you thought was a loving relationship and the coming to terms that this was all an illusion is somewhat likened to the grief process.  It is a death.  It is the shattering of illusion, a dream and even our beliefs about humanity.  Frankly, most people never thought that such ‘evil’ could exist.  While evil seems like a very powerful word, and there is perhaps a push-pull behind the ethical considerations of labeling someone who is suffering from an illness as ‘evil’ the fact of the matter is, that during the early stages, you must detach from any sense of empathy, compassion or pity for the abuser until you are healed, as to do so may place you at risk of falling right back into the trap.  It is dangerous.  You do not have to hate – if you can get to indifference, that is a good place to be; however, right now for YOUR recovery, it is best to put any feelings or thoughts about how you wish to resolve this in terms of forgiveness or indifference on the back burner.  The only focus you need to have in your arsenal right now is detachment and cessation of all contact.  It is for your own survival and mental health that this is being suggested.  There will come a time when you can address those concerns, but the first steps are actually getting over the shock, and when in shock it is a fight or flight response.  We have to fight and we have to get ourselves back to a place of sanity and so the only focus right now has to be on the self.  The narcissist did not attach, love or have empathy for you because he/she can’t.  They will keep on doing what they do, regardless if you forgive them or not, the first part is coming to terms…and if any immediate forgiveness is to be doled out, it has to be for the self first.  It is okay to be selfish…you have to heal.  You are not dealing with a normal person, they will not provide closure for you – that will have to be done independently of the offender but for right now, just shelve how you will label the conclusion of this journey, simply focus on you…arriving at forgiveness of self takes time, because we feel embarrassment and shame for having been so naive; however, we cannot know what we haven’t been taught so simply be loving, kind, patient and understanding with yourself.

There are stages and steps in the recovery process, and they fluctuate.  If you think raging hormones are bad, you’re in for quite a ride.  Elizabeth Kubler Ross author of “On Death and Dying” discusses Five Stages of Grief.  While her original work was targeted to meet the needs of those dealing with Death and Dying, it is my opinion they also could apply to any grief process, especially dealing with the ending of an NPD Abuse relationship.  The Five stages of grief are described in part as follows (Courtesy of Wiki):

Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual.

In an NPD Abuse Relationship, the realization that you’ve been involved and have given your heart, soul, body and mind to someone who did a rather stellar job in ‘acting’ and feigning love can be traumatic.  We have shared our thoughts, our dreams, our plans, given of our bodies, and shared many things that we generally keep guarded.  We shared intimacy, our secrets, our doubts, our fears, we let someone into our soul, our spirit, our minds…it would be abnormal not to have a reaction of shock to discover that someone could so convincingly invade our most intimate spaces, and that what seemed so real, so genuine, so ‘solid’ was nothing more but a sham.  This was in a sense a psychological rape, and like most rape victims, while we do not have any legal claim or ability to cite force…this was a relationship based on fraud and coercion and therefore, it is equal to rape.  Sex without consent is rape – whether or legal system cares to acknowledge that or not, is for healing purposes irrelevant.  That is more or less on of the major wounds we’re facing – we were emotionally, mentally and physically violated.  It is almost impossible to own that someone we thought we knew, understood and loved could be so callous, cold, indifferent and sadistic.  Denial and Cognitive Dissonance work against us.

*For more on Cognitive Dissonance click HERE

Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”

Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue.

Bargaining — Maybe they’re not a narc…maybe their Borderline…that has a better chance at cure…maybe I’ll bring this to their attention, then we can get help, then everything will be okay….

Depression — Victim is rocking back and forth sucking their thumb, unable to function, it’s the bottom of the bottom of the rabbit hole. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.  The victim at this time should feel free to get all their feelings out and encouraged to share rather than bottle it up inside.  Some may elect to try antidepressants to lift the mood; however, it will still be important for the victim to understand that this is all part of the stages of grief in this case healing from an NPD abuse relationship and it will take time for the mood to lift.  Feelings of sadness and despair are natural and normal given what has transpired.

Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can fight it!  So I got duped. I’m not the first, I won’t be the last…life goes on – and now that I take a look around, it’s a heck of a lot better!”

Kübler-Ross added that it’s important to note that these stages are not meant to be complete or chronological. Not everyone who experiences a life-altering event feels all five of the responses nor will everyone who does experience them do so in the order in which they are written. Reactions to loss are as unique as the person experiencing them.  Not everyone goes through all of the steps or goes through them in a linear fashion. Some steps may be bypassed entirely, others may be experienced in a different order, some may be re-experienced again and again and some may get stuck in one.

Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to people suffering from terminal illness, later to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom). This may also include significant life events such as the death of a loved one, major rejection, end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, change in office environment, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well many tragedies and disasters.

Kübler-Ross claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two. Often, people will experience several stages in a “roller coaster” effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it.[2] Women are more likely than men to experience all five stages.[2] (Wikipedia)

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