Mod 4: Concepts for healing


In the Knowledge section we talked about how narcissistic abuse re-wires your brain so that it doesn’t respond to negative emotional stimuli the way it was designed to. Happily, with understanding and practice you can restore yourself to the way your heart and mind were designed to work together. Here are three basic ideas to practice:

1. Re-learn how to perceive your own feelings.

Abuse can make us numb to our emotional responses. It can cause us to think one feeling is really another. For example, the uncomfortable feeling you have when a narc demands sex and you don’t want to give it can be reinterpreted (with help from the narcissist’s accusations) that you are frigid and a bad lover. You should be feeling put upon, angry, misunderstood and resentful. But instead you feel ashamed, guilty, and that you must set aside your wants and provide the sex.

One helpful thing that comes from doing the Body Scan Meditation you learned in Mod 1 is that it can put you in better touch with your physical body. And your body doesn’t lie. Physical sensations of emotions are always the same, regardless of how the mind interprets them. Remember my anecdote about sitting on the couch with my cat, fretting over my dad? I thought my emotion was worry, but in fact it was fear. I discovered this by letting myself fully experience the sensations in my body and really asking myself what I felt.

The discovery that I was afraid led me to see how I had been trained to be too afraid to disobey. It helped me understand what had been done to me and see that there was a way to undo it.

Whenever you feel an unpleasant emotion, stop and be aware of your body. Try to find out honestly what that feeling is.

By the way, you may find that emotions you have labeled as “love” and “missing him” are not actually those things at all. See if they aren’t actually feelings of panic or worry. See if they aren’t actually fear that you will never be able to succeed at doing what your narc trained you to do: please him. And see if you haven’t substituted “yielding to his abuse” for the act of actually loving him. Narc abuse totally perverts what love is, both in the abuser and the victim.

2. Override your brain’s knee-jerk response to emotion.

As we’ve discussed, you’ve been trained to respond to unpleasant feelings by focusing on appeasing your narc. But humans aren’t programmed machines or trained seals. They do have the ability to use reason to override the conditioned response.

If what you’re feeling is fear, consider other options available to you besides the act of appeasement. Don’t let the physical sensations of the emotion dictate reality to you. Look at actual reality. Are you in any danger? Does your narc’s opinion of you matter one bit to you or your happiness now? Don’t let yourself imagine chains that aren’t there.

Consider too other emotions that you could allow yourself to feel. The normal, healthy responses to your situation are probably things like this: anger, resentment, self-confidence, self-compassion.

3. Consider a fresh perspective.

You might want to try stepping out of your life for a moment. Imagine what has happened to you occurring instead in the life of a good friend. Imagine yourself observing him or her being abused in the same ways you have been. Think how you would feel about that situation, what emotions you would experience watching it. If you have children, picture them in your place. Then ask yourself, why not respond to your abuse the same way you would if it were happening to someone else?

As you perform these steps, I’m hoping you will find in your buried emotions some good old-fashioned and appropriate fury.

How to deal with negative emotions as positively as possible

There a basic, immutable principle at play here:

If you try to stifle emotions, they will have their way with you in some fashion that will be far less under your control than if you allow them to happen and pass away naturally.

So give your anger full due, don’t ignore it. Treat it like a wild horse that needs to have free reign to tear around the corral awhile before it can be tamed. But after it’s spent, don’t cling to your anger. Don’t hold it with you any longer than it needs to in order to run its course.

It truly is unhealthy to focus too much on your negative emotions. Not only is it psychologically taxing to be negative all the time, but feelings like this have physical repercussions. The tension that accompanies such emotions is physical stress that takes its toll on your nervous system, your cardiovascular system, your digestive system, etc. And the brain chemicals released are likewise toxic to your body.

Emotions you allow yourself to feel, and then release, will cause the absolute minimum amount of damage to you. That’s what you’re going for. Attend to what you’re feeling, honor it until it is ready to pass, then let it go. Don’t let it tell you any stories about who you are, or what you should think and do. The time for assessing reality is after the emotion has cleared.

Practicing self-preservation

When you are a codependent, highly sensitive person (or someone with traits in common with us folks), watching out for your own concerns is not your first priority. Let’s compare the priorities of a narc abuse victim with codependent tendencies versus a mentally healthy person:

Narc Victim
1. Meet needs of narcissist
2. Meet needs of other individuals involved
3. Meet needs of self if it’s okay with everyone else
Healthy Person
1. Meet needs of self
2. Meet needs of others, adjusting meeting needs of self if necessary for well-being of all

Now would be a great time to have a little sit-down with yourself. Embrace the importance of attending to your own needs. You don’t have to be selfish about it, or do it at the expense of others. But take note of the fact that only if your needs are being met, can you meet your full potential as a loving, strong person. This is actually the most direct way to help others. When you neglect yourself, you cripple yourself. You render yourself barely able to get through the day in one piece, much less have the energy to make the lives of others better.

The next time your needs come into conflict with someone else’s, don’t fall back on your instinct to yield to them. Reflect for a moment. Is this a time when it’s important to put yourself first? Is there some way to compromise? Ask yourself these questions before choosing your next action.

And place a higher priority on your needs in general. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, spending enough time doing things you enjoy, indulging in little comforts like bubble baths, watching your favorite movie, hanging out with people who treat you well, etc. Watch and see if this doesn’t make you more helpful to the universe than you were when you put your own needs last!

Learning to say no

Your aversion to saying no is probably something your narc noticed about you when you first became acquainted (or taught you if they are your parent). Few people enjoy conflict and those who do can be a real pain. That said, conflict is a part of life, and dodging it means dodging life.

Think of some examples in your past when your narc or others asked you to do something that made you feel uncomfortable or bad. Did you say yes because doing so was the right thing to do in those circumstances? Or because you had been trained to ignore your resistance and place no value upon it?

More often than not, when you feel resistance—the wish to say no—there is a valid reason for this. And even if the reason isn’t valid, you have the right to decide if it is or not.

Let’s say you’re at an amusement park with someone who loves rides. You, on the other hand, hate rides. (By the way, many HSPs hate rides, because their more sensitive sensory perception makes the ride way too stimulating.) Your companion insists the roller coaster will be fun, and suggests you really need to try it.

Should you say no?

I’ll put it to you this way: You need to make this choice based on your own feelings and thoughts, and not let your companion have any say over what you decide. If you see value to being a bit adventurous and would like to take the risk in case the ride might be fun after all, then say yes. If you can’t come up with any good reason to go on the coaster, say no.

The mere fact that you “don’t feel like it” is a perfectly valid reason.

In fact, you could probably use some practicing saying no simply because you don’t feel like it. Trust me, the people around you are doing that all the time.

These are all great exercises for you, and I’ll offer a couple more in the official Exercises section….

Copyright © Lucy Rising