Dealing with Narcissism & Abuse: Finding Healing Within

When I first began the process of determining I wanted a divorce, my resources focused on understanding my ex’s behavior and why I had gone from a confident, independent, secure, internally peaceful individual – to self-doubting, frustrated, angry individual.

One of the marriage counselors asked me “what is your bottom line?  How much will you put up with before you leave?”  When I said “I don’t know”.  She said “You need to ask yourself this question”.

It’s a boundary question, but I didn’t realize that then.

A critical resource for me at the time was the book  “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay”.  It has a list of relationship characteristics to evaluate staying in the relationship.  At this time, I looked at those characteristics.  Eventually, I began to understand that the behaviors that I dealt with were emotionally abusive.

Both my daughter’s therapist and the coparenting coordinator advised me that I needed to be more assertive and have stronger boundaries with someone like my ex.  I looked up articles on “assertiveness training”.  I read the book “Boundaries” by Henry Thompson Cloud.  Since I was raised by respectful, loving parents – I took these invisible boundaries for granted.  Interestingly, my ex would tell me that my parents were WRONG for not being in my business and directing the minute details of my life.  After hearing this enough, I had actually (momentarily) began to doubt that my parents respectful behavior (like never opening mail they received in my name), was neglectful as he described.  After reading books like “boundaries” and other books on emotional abuse, I realized that I was actually raised correctly, and that he was pushing me to believe that these were not good behaviors when in fact they were.

My first focus was on understanding that type of behavior and learning how to deal with it and remain confident in myself.  It was difficult, as my ex labeled me the “overprotective parent” and took good behaviors and described them as ridiculous (e.g. ‘it’s stupid of you to wash your hands or our kids’ hands before you eat.  You’re just being ridiculous”.  Heck, now that I think of it, I was the poster child of “ridiculous”. I learned that the anger that I felt and bottled up inside was really a ‘warning sign’ that I should have been paying attention to.  “Anger” is a common emotional reaction when we let others invade our personal boundaries.  I had, for years, been letting my ex break down my boundaries and run over those things that were important to me.  While I stood up for myself in some cases, I didn’t in other instances.

Fast forward to years later…  my focus eventually has turned even more full circle.  Why did I allow someone with behaviors like this into my life?  What did I need to learn from it?  What internal aspects of me did I need to heal so that I could move forward with re-finding me, re-building my life as I knew it, and avoid getting into another relationship?

When I say this stuff – I want to be so careful as to never excuse abusive behavior.  Whether it’s coming from someone who has a narcissistic or other personality disorder, or it’s coming from the non-pathological partner (me or others), abusive behavior is never acceptable.  Every person is always responsible for their own behavior, no matter what happens to us.

One of the best days for me was when I did a Theta Healing session.   Theta Healing practitioners help us to look within at the beliefs that we carry in our physical, energetic body.  We can then realize what beliefs we are still using in our lives and release those that aren’t serving us anymore.   While I have personally stopped going to traditional “Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy”, I have still used Theta Healing to continue to look within and see what I may be doing to contribute to the situation and what I need to fix to find internal peace.  Now – CBT, or traditional therapy methods, are similar in that a therapist helps you to challenge your thinking and find the solution within to your problems.  However, in my opinion, it’s a much slower process, and relies more on the therapist to be able to cognitively bring out those thinking patterns.  Theta looks to our bodies and our energy to reveal to us those thought patterns that we may not even realize we are carrying with us, and then lets us look at whether we need to keep those in our lives.

One of my biggest “ah-ha’s” was the realization that there was a pattern of abusive people in my life going way back to elementary school – and that I let each of these impact me rather than drawing a boundary on their behavior and blocking it out.  It’s wonderfully liberating to know that I don’t have to let this behavior impact me, and that I can know how to recognize it and decide that it doesn’t bother me or impact me.

One of my favorite phrases comes from the book “The Collected Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn”.  The book is more likely to be found in the ‘spiritual’ section of the bookstore – but don’t let that deter you if you have traditional religious viewpoints.  She does a wonderful job of using the Bible to show us lessons in life.   The phrase that I love is “So we see man’s work is ever with himself“.

So now – I still try to understand my ex’s behavior, how to deal with it, and most importantly – how my children have to deal with it and the impact on them.   At the same time, though, I try to spend equally as much time looking within at how to strengthen myself and what to do to move forward in my life.  I also focus on what I want my life to be like in the future and what I need to do today to get me there.  It’s a very empowering and uplifting approach, which helps me garner strength in times where I feel limited in what I can do for my children.


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