The Missing Piece on Healing from Narcissists

There are a lot of helpful books and programmes out there on understanding narcissists. You can spend years in therapy talking about them and wondering why they did what they did and how they impacted you.

But the missing piece is this: how does all this relate to you?

At first, it’s helpful to focus on the narcissists in your life, label their behaviour and try to understand it a little.

Yet, ultimately, that is not what will make you heal.

You can do years of work that way and only move a few inches down your own healing path… because you’re still making everything about them.

And that’s what narcissists want, and that’s what you’re still complicit in when you focus so much on trying to figure out how and why they hurt you so much.

Your brain will go why why why? I don’t understand! How can they do this to me! How can they do this to others!

And meanwhile, your focus is not where you have actual power. It’s not focused on yourself, your own patterns, and on understanding how your own behaviour, (subconscious) beliefs and assumptions are complimentary to those of a narcissist.

As long as you make a perfect pair of opposites attract, nothing will really change.

When you are trying to figure out how to “protect yourself from” narcissists you’re still making it all about them.

You experience them as “doing things” to you, but you lack the insight into how your own way of being is enabling this. (Not because you want to, but because nobody showed you how to see your part of the puzzle and how this is feeding into the kind of dynamic that narcissists love).

When you focus on protecting yourself, you’re looking for some kind of barrier, some kind of solution to put between yourself and the narcissist. This wall may involve trying to ignore your own hurt feelings, trying harder, and telling yourself that “you’ve got this and you can make it work”. The wall may involve switching into a state where you feel very little and drift along on auto-pilot. Or you keep yourself upbeat with lots of positive affirmations.

Yet, it doesn’t really matter how high a wall you build (and how much you try to make this work by persisting with kindness), if you are the kind of person they have an interest in, they will find a way to jump over the wall (and hit you in your face).

When you try to protect yourself and build a wall, you’re focusing outwards. You are not looking at your own views, assumptions and behaviours. Not really. You may think you are, but it’s always the same loop, the loop that this is somehow your fault and/or responsibility. That you have to find a way to be o.k. with it all and keep going. That surely love will win the day! (Even if that means being chronically unkind and unloving to yourself in the process).

Yet, despite all the painful, repetitive trying, what is happening inside of you -beneath the surface – is ultimately what is giving narcissists power over you. And refusing to look at that, is what makes you powerless. You don’t need a wall, you need deeper, guided, loving, introspection. (Which is definitely not the same as beating yourself up, telling yourself you are wrong, or making the whole relationship dynamic your responsibility).

So the only thing really worth looking is at how you can change.

As long as you do not understand why you are so attractive to narcissists, and how you are letting them get away with things, they will keep “attacking” you.

It turns into a mad sci-fi war of good versus evil. Not because it truly is that black and white, but because you’re both digging in your heels on opposite sides of the empathy spectrum.

When you persist at being the “good one” who is unfairly attacked, you fail to see how you are making it easy for narcissists to get on your nerves.

Yes, narcissists have a huge fake persona but your own “good person” effort isn’t 100% honest either.

Being too good, and nice all the time, is ultimately also a persona. Part of the problem is that you’ve put so much pressure on yourself to be the good one all the time, who forgives and understands, that you’ve lost sight of some other -very helpful- sides to your personality. And it’s wearing you out.

It’s wearing you out because this is not your true self. Yet, you definitely don’t want to be like a narcissist, so anything that vaguely smells of them is something you adamantly refuse to embrace in yourself at all.

So – over time – you’ve turned yourself into the exact opposite of a narcissist. There, you did it! You’re definitely not a narcissist! But this extreme way of not being like them comes with other problems. It takes you away from being yourself because now the filter you’ve created internally, for whether you are allowed to feel or be or do something is “is this something a narcissist might do?”. And if the answer is yes, you suppress it and cover it up with being the nice person yet again, even if it almost kills you.

What this means is that you’ve decided in your head who you are supposed to be, and you’ve learned to squash the impulses that contradict that. So you don’t act based on how you truly feel first, you act based on how you’ve decided you’re supposed to feel.

And – the irony – it still makes them the center of your world. Because now their behaviour is dictating what you are and aren’t allowed to do and be. (Because whatever they are – you’ve created a rule that says you have to be the opposite).

So, you can see that the narcisisst is being a “trying to look all perfect” persona in their own way. Yet, the truth is, in your own way, you’re also trying to be “good” beyond what is actually true and possible for you.

And then it turns into a war between personas, with both sides trying to look beneath the other person’s mask. Both sides trying to rip it off and say: “look at you, the real you, it was all fake”.

If you enjoy that (and a narcissist enjoys the drama for sure – so they’ll keep it going, no problem!) then have at it! Let them pull your hair while you lovingly brush theirs. Try to talk their mask off while they hold a lit match close to your face. Try to reasonably and kindly win the argument over who is right and who is wrong about everything.

But if all that struggle is wearing you out, then how about ending the fight not by forgiving them (time and time again) but by learning how to take your focus off of them instead?

How about putting all the “who is doing what and why” aside and looking beneath your own mask?

What is it inside of you, that is keeping you locked in this painful dynamic?

It’s not as scary as you fear, I promise.

You will not discover that you are secretly a narcissist.

You’ll find some justified rage and hatred yes, but those are extremely helpful emotions that will help ground, energise you and see you through.

It’s time to focus less on how they are inauthentic, and more on how you are not allowing yourself to be fully you, warts and all.

It will lessen their interest in you. It will help you see things for what they are and stand up for yourself in a new way.

Learn how here.

I’m not saying narcissists are nice people. Not at all. I’m not saying that your hurt is unjustified. I am saying that if you keep getting locked into painful relationship dynamics with narcissists, then it’s time to look deeper.

Yes, they are abusive. Yes, they twist reality. Yes, they get a kick out of taking others down. Yet if you want to break free from the grip they have on your life, then you need to look inside, at how some of your own “but I have to be this way at all costs even if it kills me” attidudes*… are killing you.

Killing your energy. Killing your enthusiasm. Killing your faith in humanity.

And it’s o.k. to redefine who you will let yourself be. So you can still be a good person, but suffer a whole lot less.

This is not a one-time adjustment.

This means you become more authentic. More of who you truly are because you start looking not just at your “ideal self” but also at your “sustainable self”, the part of you that has needs and that will – through pain – remind you that you are human, and you have limits as to what you can put up with.

Being more human (and less of an idealistic super-person) is a good thing, it actually makes you more compassionate because it makes you more real.

It means you develop the muscle to face facts and deal with disappointment. It means you keep building better ways to move forward, ways which inspire others. (Because if you keep throwing yourself against the wall trying to prove something about love, other people will see how it’s hurting you and not copy you. Which makes sense on their part, right? I mean, why would they?)


*Did I just write attiDUDES? I guess I did. And they are dudes, in a way. They are too cool for school, their pants are riding way too low, and it’s – all in all – time for them to grow up. Which they definitely don’t want to do! Because they are dudes, and being a dude is cool. But it’s not cool if it means you keep getting hurt. Jamie keeps getting high and telling himself things will work out. Dan is avoiding thinking about his future in any way and spends all his time surfing, and Didier is so proud of his French-American accent that, well, it’s just annoying, and not sexy like he keeps telling himself. Also, Didier, quit the scarf! Just kidding Didier! You can keep the scarf if you love it, but you do need to stop stuffing your feelings with french cheese.


P.S. thanks to everyone who is sending me writing chocolate!

A Light-Hearted Guide to Narcissists
First aid reading if you're struggling with narcissists or maybe-narcissists
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