Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

Being in a relationship with a Narcissist — whether as a friend, co-worker, family member, date, or intimate relationship — can be one of the most difficult and painful relationships to navigate.  While we all have legitimate needs for validation, someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) takes it to a whole other, destructive, level.

In order to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse, we first need to become more aware of what’s really going on.


1. Self-Awareness:  Increase Awareness of NPD and Cycle of Abuse

What distinguishes between healthy narcissism, unhealthy narcissism and severe narcissism?:

Healthy Narcissism:

  • We all have healthy narcissistic needs for love and validation so having healthy narcissism means we have a strong sense of self, can self-reflect and take personal responsibility for our mistakes.  We can still fully empathize with others.

Unhealthy Narcissism:

  • A Narcissist doesn’t experience a separate self in the way that others do. They view others as an extension of themselves, like you might view your arm or leg. They can only understand others by seeing them as extensions of themselves so when others act like separate individuals, outside of the control of the narcissist, it can be very disconcerting and upsetting to them.
  • Along the narcissism continuum an “Unhealthy Narcissist” does mostly have an intact sense of self but their self-esteem is pretty low, they may have difficulty reciprocating in relationships, they might be so self-absorbed that it takes concentration and effort for them to empathize with others, and they can have difficulty seeing their own strengths.

Severe Narcissism:

  • Severe Narcissists, worship themselves and have excessive self-absorption.  This is really about protecting themselves against underlying profound insecurities that only a rare few get to see.
  • They believe they are better than other people and fantasize about having lots of power, intelligence, and brilliance.
  • Exaggerate their own achievements and take credit for others
  • Expect constant admiration and praise (put selves in situations where one up & compete)
  • Believe they are special/gifted people and can only interact with other special people
  • Do not have empathy for others but require excessive amounts of empathy from others
  • Expect others to go along with their plans immediately, no questions asked
  • Take advantage of other people but if others do the same in return, they are cut off fast
  • Express disdain for people they feel are inferior to them
  • Believe other people are jealous of them, all the time
  • Believe other people are as focused on them as much as they are focused on themselves
  • Cannot sustain healthy reciprocal relationships
  • Set very unrealistic goals for themselves that are never accomplished
  • Exponential more sensitive to how they are treated than how they treat others
  • Deep down inside, they are deeply insecure even though externally they appear extremely confident

Narcissism Continuum

2. Self-Validation:  Provide Validation for Yourself

  • Acknowledge and honor your own feelings, beliefs, choices and perspectives
  • Express your feelings, vulnerabilities and truth with a trustworthy person
  • Be compassionate with yourself about how you’ve gotten hooked
  • Get to know and appreciate your own limits and boundaries

3. Self-Empowerment:  Empower yourself

  • Assert healthier boundaries for yourself with others (especially with the Narcissist)
  • Practice new ways of being in relationships while empathizing with yourself more
  • Change social contracts and fair-fighting agreements as necessary
  • Use mindfulness and compassion to live a fuller life in the present moment
  • Accept narcissists inability to reciprocate emotional support and let go of trying to convince them to be someone they’re not

Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

Recognize where you’re at in the Cycle of Abuse:


Listen to a recent conversation I had with my radio/podcast co-host, Heather Dawn, about Dating a Narcissist:

How to leave a Narcissist:

  • Assess for dangerousness of your and others’ safety
  • Stop/reduce the narcissist’s supply of validation if safe enough to do so
  • Take the opportunity to leave when they threaten to abandon you
  • Stand firm with your boundaries
  • Don’t take the bate they offer
  • Don’t forget how awful they can be, even when they’re charming you to come back
  • Understand what crumb love is and enhance your own self-worth without them
  • On-line support groups
  • Read various materials to understand them/you better
  • Get to know why you’re attracted to them if you have a pattern of being with NPD’s


2 thoughts on “Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

  1. I was the perfect match for my narcissistic abuser because I came into the relationship already spring-loaded to believe that anything that went wrong was my fault. I consider it a true miracle that I was able to summon the strength to leave the relationship once and for all. It took three or four attempts because the narcissist was so persuasive and I mistook his need for narcissistic supply as love for me. Holy smokes! Thank you James and Heather, for sharing your expertise on this difficult topic.

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