Mod 1: Exercises

There are some very practical activities in which you can engage to help reduce your stress and encourage your emotional recovery from narcissistic abuse. We will talk about many possible approaches throughout the Lucy Rising program. No reason to wait, let’s discuss a few!

Exercise 1: Journaling

I found keeping a journal to be a great way to organize my thoughts, firm up my beliefs, and process negative emotions in the early months of my recovery from my narc dad.

The exact medium you use for journaling is up to you. It can be everything from a fancy blank book you buy at a bookstore to a note pad to a Word document. Write every day or just whenever you feel in the mood.

Here are some ideas for journaling to inspire you:

1. As previously discussed, take a list of narc traits from this website or another resource, and write down anecdotes that demonstrate your narcissist’s fitting each trait. Reference it and add to it whenever self-doubt creeps in.

2. Write a letter to your narc—don’t send it of course, that’s pointless—venting your emotions and expressing everything you wish you could say to him or her.

3. Make a gratitude list, noting every day something you observed that made you happy, a sign of your healing, an example of someone being kind, something you did that you’re proud of, etc.

4. Write a little story in which an imaginary friend (a fictional character, a favorite celebrity, an old friend from your youth, etc.) talks with you and comforts you about your situation. Picture what that person would say to be of help, and listen to them!

5. Express whatever you are feeling today—just let yourself vent. Then reread what you’ve written with an accepting, non-critical, calm and curious view. Learn what you can about what issues are causing you the most struggle, and give those a little extra attention.

Exercise 2: Mindfulness

When I broke with my dad, I went through some very rough emotions, particularly anxiety and fear. For a long while I was in frequent panic mode—not a pleasant way to live at all. After a few months I heard that one way to cope with such issues is mindfulness, so I gave it a try and it helped tremendously.

You’ve probably had the experience of making a drive that you have done many times—for example, to your place of employment—and finding suddenly you’ve gone a mile or two without even noticing what was going on around you on the road. “Lost in thought” is one way to describe this. Think about how during such a time, the reality your senses were perceiving—the song on the radio, the cars and landscape outside the windows, the feel of the steering wheel in your hands—all these things might as well not have existed. That was reality, but your conscious mind, your awareness, was 100% engaged inside your head with your thoughts.

Your thoughts had no tangibility, no objective reality. And yet, they were what mattered, what engaged and affected you, not your driving experience.

Mindfulness practice teaches you to be aware of the processes of the mind. It trains your consciousness not only to notice more frequently where your attention is directed, but also gives you more control over where you direct it, turning it from your thoughts to what is really happening.

An anecdote about mindfulness

I’ll illustrate by sharing one of my first experiences with using mindfulness. I was sitting on my living room couch, with my cat Cody, watching TV. I did not feel good. In fact, I was clenched and shaking all over. I was not enjoying the TV show, or the presence of my beloved cat. I was thinking about how my angry father could call me at any time and tell me I was a terrible person. I was imagining him sneaking over in the night to my house and setting it on fire, or breaking in and killing my cat.

All of a sudden my head got clear enough that I noticed how my physical body was feeling. I examined the tension, the trembling, and I realized this was a recognizable emotion, and that emotion was fear.  “I’m terrified,” I thought in amazement. I saw that I was just as terrified as if I were in mortal peril from some threat being physically in my living room. I took note then of the fact that I had been sitting there, with no self-awareness, consumed by the nightmare images of violent punishment from my dad.

Examining the physical sensations I was feeling—being in my body mindfully—gave me the awareness of what precisely was going on with me.

Next I reminded myself of what was the actual reality I experienced in that moment. I was safe in my house. No one there was upset with me, nor was there any real and present danger whatsoever. The task in which I was engaged was “relaxing in front of the TV.” My cat was by my side, happy to cuddle and purr for me with love. My dear husband was upstairs, ready at any moment to provide whatever I needed.

This was not actually a circumstance in which being terrified was fitting. I put together that I was emotionally and physically reacting to phantom, unreal thoughts, not reality.

So, I took some deep breaths and let the scary imaginings go. I focused instead on the feeling of the couch supporting me, my cat’s warm fur under my hand, the familiar, comfortable sights, sounds, and smells of my house. And after a little while, my emotions and body responded, stimulated by the safe reality around me, rather than the threats of my thoughts.

Once the troubled emotions waned, I could see more clearly that my fears were largely absurd. My dad was not going to burn down my house or kill my cat. He might call me and yell at me, but what real meaning did his words have for me anymore? If he did, I would probably feel really bad for awhile, but then those feelings would pass. I trusted myself to find a way to recover from such an encounter. And meanwhile, it might never even happen, so why suffer as if it already was happening?

This is how mindfulness works.

So, grab a raisin – or other tidbit

In Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, the first exercise in the program involves eating a raisin mindfully. You can do this exercise right now, and if you don’t have a raisin, find any other small treat: a grape, a piece of chocolate, a bit of cheese, an olive.

  • Sit in a quiet place.
  • Take a close look at your treat: examine the color, shape, visual texture.
  • Smell your treat: does it smell salty, sweet, bitter? Does the smell make you hungry, cause you to salivate, remind you of any experiences?
  • Eat your treat, and chew it slowly. Feel the texture in your mouth, the way it breaks to bits, or melts.
  • Listen to the sound of yourself eating it.
  • Savor the flavor. Focus all your attention on the taste, thinking of nothing else.

You have now fully experienced that little bit of food, and while you were eating it, you were totally “in the moment.” That’s mindful eating. Did you notice how much more you enjoyed the experience of eating? Imagine if we ate all our food this way. You know how meals usually go: you can suddenly notice you finished off the last three fries without even tasting them!

This is true about everything in life. Wherever we direct our awareness, that’s what we experience. If we learn to control our awareness, we learn to control our experience of life.

So the next time you happen to notice that you are feeling bad, sad, worried, guilty, whatever, take a moment to bring your attention back to what you’re actually doing. I have a little mantra for this, based on the title of a wonderful Broadway show, “Now. Here. This.”

Stop your thoughts and tell them: now, here, this.

Recommended reading on this subject is the brilliant The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle, which explains mindfulness better than I ever could. It’s a book that has changed hundreds of thousands of lives. Google “mindfulness” and you will find a treasure trove of articles, videos, and books.

Exercise 3: The Body Scan

In my sitting-on-the-couch anecdote, I mentioned that I noticed the sensations happening in my body, and this helped me get a grasp on the specific emotions that were affecting me.

The first formal meditation I recommend you try is the body scan. That’s because it can be very enlightening in this way. The other big benefit of the body scan is that it is grounding. That New-Agey term just means the quality of helping you get back to what is really happening, your current now-here-this—so you can regain your emotional stability.

So, our Mod 1 Meditation will guide you through a ten minute body scan, giving you a great tool to counteract your feelings of confusion and provide you with a way to relax and feel more in control and at ease. As soon as you have a private moment, I hope you’ll don your headphones and join me as I show you the way. Plus, you’ll get to hear the sound of my voice, a treat I’m sure you’ve been longing to experience…wink!

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