The First Three Steps of Recovery from Narcissistic Personality Disorder Abuse

As moderators, we get mail from members from time to time with suggestions for improvement. Each of us has different needs and different ways of processing. Certainly, during this time of isolation where we feel no one understands, we have to also have a “social time” or a fun time to joke and share “horror stories” however, the main goal is healing.

In "The Path Forward Surviving a Narcissist," Lisa E. Scott outlines Six Steps to recovering from a Narcissist. The first three in my estimation are the most important in terms of laying the foundation for your healing and the ones you must take seriously as when you get to four through six, you are transitioning more into your personal growth and development; however, if you are to succeed in the last steps, you have to master the first three – there is no shortcut – it takes TIME.

The First Step “Understand It” means that you take the time to read and research, you seek reputable sources, you don’t go by what Jane Doe says on Forum X but you go to primary sources in order to learn exactly what Narcissism is. Many of the Personality Disorders overlap and are said to be equally harmful so that is a good pointer to keep in mind. For example, Borderlines are very difficult to deal with as well because of their high level of narcissistic TRAITS but in my opinion, what we call them does not matter, our objective is to heal. If they were damaging to our psyche, we owe it to ourselves to learn the facts and begin to try to own them. Many of us in the throes of fighting cognitive dissonance wish to think that somehow we “were special” or the disordered one was the exception to the rule. If you are here on the forum, more than likely you’ve been abused. That’s the bottom line. If you find the stories resonating with you – that is a signal that something was awry and not healthy for you. BUT the control and the power is now yours to decide what you are going to do about it.

Reading the material is very difficult and stressful. It is hard to imagine that we’ve been victimized by someone that we loved and trusted; however, the quicker you decide to accept the facts, the quicker you can get on with the business of healing. Reading and following the steps in order is important because venting for the sake of venting is a moot point. Until you understand the dynamics involved NOTHING WILL CLICK and you will keep on being stuck in the loop asking the same questions 19 different ways. Moreover, it is possible someone else has already asked that question, so it is also helpful to read the forum and perhaps contribute your thoughts, ideas, insights and queries under the same thread if someone has already addressed your question within the past few days as there is such a thing as information overload and if you are really into the process then reading what others have shared as well is of equal value…this goes for what other’s have asked as well. Certainly I’m not suggesting going back in the archives to 2009; however, browsing the forum for topics posted within the last week, your commenting on a topic will bump it up and bring it current. Some have expressed that sometimes they don’t feel that anyone is responding – I suspect this may be due to the fact that perhaps the question has already been asked in a recent thread in a similar fashion and given we are all in a state of depletion in the early stages, sometimes it’s just a matter of “advice” fatigue.

The Second Step: “Get it Out” is essentially what it says…you vent, you purge, you express your anger you communicate connections you’ve made with your research and you share with others comments and insight that you have based upon what you’ve learned. Why you think you’re having a problem with cognitive dissonance, what you think is holding you back, what you think might work to help lessen the cognitive dissonance, things you’ve tried, things you’ve read and of course, sharing information and articles. Revisiting how great the sex was while a release for you is also a means of picking at the wounds. That is not to say the forum is sexually repressed – but if healing and processing is the goal, unless you read somewhere that they like certain things and you are connecting something to what you’ve read…86 comments on the best sex ever is not exactly moving forward BUT it is ruminating on the past – something that contributes to obsessive thoughts and serves to bring us DOWN. While I acknowledge sex is great with or without a disordered individual, or maybe your experience was it was lousy? What does thinking about it and talking about it do other than bring you back into the past and feeling worse because now there is no action? There are things we can do to take our minds to a higher place, but we have to want to do that. We have to decide if we want to move forward or stay stuck on the loop. I believe the choices we make will help determine how long or how short our recovery is. Either way I still do believe the baseline is 18 months – but for some much longer. The reasons will vary.

Finally in step three we go NC. Some members join the board NC and assume they are at step four. If you haven’t done the work with research, processing, getting it out and understanding what you’ve been exposed to, if you are still in shock or a state of cognitive dissonance, you need to work more with your peers on steps 1-3 with similar individuals who are processing on the same level as you. Those with more time under their belts have a genuine desire to help and as always you can use both boards; however, the focus more in the later stages are geared towards discussion of growth and moving past the trauma and if you haven’t processed your own trauma, I think it serves as a detriment. It’s like trying to ride a bike without the assistance of training wheels when you’ve never been on a bike. Can it happen, sure it can but I think the lack of doing the work will actually hold you back because you will vacillate more simply because you don’t have the basic foundation and the core knowledge under your belt. Just because you decided yesterday to go NC does not mean you’re ready to move to stage four. You still need to give it some time to determine if you can stick to it. I think transition to stage four should not take place until a month has passed where you can say, “I’m not going back – I’m not breaking NC I have no desire to talk to him” although when finally going NC it is fine to start dipping your toes into the Stages 4-6 forum. Please note: I am not suggesting isolating yourselves from 4-6 when in the early stages because reading about others further along also serves to motivate you and demonstrates that the process has worked and others have gotten past the early stages and are progressing. That’s validation for you that you will get there…but the focus needs to be on “self” and where you’re at. Just because you’re hanging with the vets doesn’t mean you own it for yourself. Owning it takes so darn long…it is agonizing…I’ve been there but I can say, I am glad that I was patient with myself and gave myself permission without pressure. This is one thing you can’t control you are at the mercy of time and giving the process time to work for you.

That’s just my take on recovery. When I first started the forums were not divided as they are now; however, the primary reason why they were divided was to serve the two MAIN stages of recovery, getting past the Cognitive Dissonance and dealing with some of the trauma. Equally, those further along sometimes don’t want to regress to “early stage” issues they want to move further along the path. Again, it is always fine to contribute and comment, but having worked the steps, and feeling more or less healed in less than a year, I thought I could shed some light on how best to optimize the resources of the forum.