Ask 100 people what happiness looks like, and you’ll probably get 100 very different answers. We might not even realize when we’ve veered off our intended courses until long after we began pushing through the sidetracking ruts. I spent about a dozen years of my life walking around in a dream. It was a pretty dream—when the nightmares didn’t creep in—too good to be true, really.
I look back on those years, and all the red flags seem so obvious now. I realized only after we’d been detached long enough for hindsight to firmly take hold how truly toxic our bond had been to every aspect of my being. I’d merely deluded myself into believing I was happy; in reality, the relationship had slowly eroded my soul, and I’d become a mere shell of a person in the process.
A Sickness of Body, Mind and Spirit
It’s with no exaggeration that I say the most harmful influence I ever fell victim to wasn’t a drug, but a man. He swept me off my feet before I had the chance to see what was coming, and he had me wrapped around his little finger before I could see him for what he truly was—a classic narcissist.
The man who portrayed himself as worldly, capable and eclectic was nothing more than a skilled actor. He knew a lot about everything but was a master of nothing. A baffler. A magician. A player.
Just as badly, he built me up onto a pedestal and raised it unnaturally high, pulling me into his deluded little bubble, infecting me with his twisted views and entitled approaches. By the end, I had grown into something that was no better than he was, my heart hardened and my soul twisted into a mirror of his image. I’d allowed a human sickness to infiltrate and corrupt me, and the transformation had left me both physically and mentally ill.
And once that high pedestal came crashing down, the fall was painfully hard.
Fighting the Infection
Removing the narcissist’s influence is a process, one that takes time. Think of it much like with clearing out an infection; healing usually doesn’t occur overnight, and it requires rest and other elements to facilitate. We can repair the damage we’ve sustained, but we must be patient with ourselves in the process.
To begin, it’s important first to acknowledge that the person’s influence has had a direct personal effect, which requires a hint of humility. We made a mistake; we allowed ourselves to be taken in and reshaped by a trickster. Now, it’s time to mold ourselves back into our intended image—only as new and improved versions. We’ve learned from our bad choices; time now to move forward.
Keep in mind:
- Narcissists are master manipulators, and they can leave their victims confused and unsure of themselves. If your self-esteem or sense of identity tanked throughout the course of your relationship, you’re not alone.
- Take solace in knowing that your fire might have reduced to a cinder, but it’s still there. As long as you’re still alive, it’s still there. It might take time to rekindle, so feed your spirit gently. Your passions will spark again.
- Gain as much distance as you can and cut off all interactions when feasible. If kids are involved, keep your personal contact as minimal as possible; keep it cordial and with as little face-to-face communication as you can manage. It’s important to eliminate their influence over you.
- Don’t engage. No matter what they do to try to reel you back in to play more head games, don’t fuel them with a reaction. They want to see you crash and burn. It feeds their demons.
- Find strength in gratitude and forgiveness. Make lists if you need to. These will be among the cornerstones of your healing.
- Accept your own faults and mistakes. Remember, if you were with a narcissist long enough, their traits will have begun to rub off on you. Humble yourself. Reject whatever tendencies of theirs that had taken root in you, so you can shed what remains of them and regrow into someone strong and stable.
- A growth mindset will enable you to flourish despite all that might continue to hinder you. Look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and move more effectively toward your goals. Look forward, look within and look at the bigger picture in all possible situations. Seek solutions instead of feeding more problems.
- Consider the narcissist with pity: That sliver of chaos you experienced while you were with them was likely a sample of their entire life experience. Don’t waste another ounce of your energy on anger; they’re not worth it. Simply feel sorry for them and move on with your life.
Surviving a narcissistic relationship isn’t easy, especially when leaving may make sufferers feel even more unsafe. Regardless of whether the offender is a significant other, parent, sibling or child, the damage is the same. And no matter what other circumstances are involved, stepping outside their bubble can take some work, a lot of courage and a strong will. However, through the course of some hefty growing pains, difficult realizations and a bit of soul searching, you might just become someone even stronger and happier than you ever realized you were capable of being.