Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be a long and difficult journey. It can be especially hard to rebuild your self-worth after an emotionally abusive relationship. Narcissistic abuse can leave deep scars, causing emotional trauma that can affect your self-esteem, world-view, and sense of self and agency. It is important to seek help from a trauma therapist who can provide guidance and support throughout the healing process. In this blog post, we will explore the effects of narcissistic abuse, provide tips for overcoming it, and offer advice on how to reclaim your self-worth.

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse From the Perspective of a Trauma Therapist

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional manipulation and control that can have devastating effects on the victim's mental and emotional well-being. It occurs when an individual with narcissistic traits uses tactics such as gaslighting, belittling, and demeaning behavior to exert power and control over their partner or loved one.

To truly understand narcissistic abuse, it is important to recognize that it is not a normal or healthy dynamic in a relationship. Unlike other types of abuse where physical violence is prevalent, narcissistic abuse is often more subtle and insidious, making it difficult for victims to recognize and address.

If you suspect you may have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, seeking the support of a trauma therapist can be incredibly beneficial. They can provide you with a safe space to explore your experiences, validate your feelings, and help you navigate the healing process.

By understanding the dynamics of narcissistic abuse, victims can begin to make sense of their experiences and the effects it has had on their self-worth and sense of self. It is crucial to remember that narcissistic abuse is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person, but rather a result of the abuser's own insecurities and need for control.

Reclaiming your self-worth after narcissistic abuse is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and support. By understanding the nature of narcissistic abuse and seeking professional help, you can begin the process of healing and rebuilding a healthy and loving relationship with yourself.

The Effects of Narcissistic Abuse on Self-Esteem

Narcissistic abuse can have a profound impact on a person's self-esteem. When trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, the victim is constantly subjected to manipulation, gaslighting, and belittlement. Over time, these tactics erode their self-worth and leave them feeling powerless and inadequate.

One of the key ways in which narcissistic abuse affects self-esteem is by instilling a deep sense of shame and self-doubt. The victim may internalize the abuser's criticisms and begin to believe that they are inherently flawed or unworthy. This can lead to a constant need for validation and approval from others, as well as a persistent fear of making mistakes or being rejected.

Furthermore, narcissistic abuse often leaves the victim feeling isolated and disconnected from their own needs and desires. They may have been conditioned to prioritize the needs and wants of the abuser, neglecting their own in the process. This can result in a loss of identity and a profound sense of emptiness.

Recovering from the effects of narcissistic abuse requires a multi-faceted approach. Seeking support from a trauma therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse can be incredibly helpful. Through therapy, victims can begin to unpack the trauma, gain insight into the abusive dynamics, and rebuild their self-esteem.

Additionally, engaging in self-care practices, setting healthy boundaries, and surrounding oneself with supportive and understanding individuals can also aid in the healing process. Reclaiming self-worth after narcissistic abuse is a journey, but with time and the right resources, it is possible to regain a sense of confidence and agency.

How Narcissistic Abuse Distorts Your World-View

Narcissistic abuse has a profound impact on how survivors perceive the world around them. It distorts their world-view in insidious ways, leaving them feeling confused, invalidated, and constantly on edge. The manipulation tactics used by narcissists can create a distorted reality for their victims, causing them to question their own sanity and judgment.

One of the ways narcissistic abuse distorts a survivor's world-view is by eroding their sense of trust. After being subjected to constant gaslighting and manipulation, survivors may struggle to trust their own instincts and perceptions. They may become hyper-vigilant, constantly second-guessing themselves and their interpretations of events.

Furthermore, narcissistic abuse can leave survivors with a distorted sense of self. The constant belittling, devaluation, and invalidation can erode their self-worth and self-esteem. They may start to internalize the narcissist's negative view of them, believing that they are unworthy, inadequate, or unlovable. This distorted self-image can permeate every aspect of their lives, leading to feelings of worthlessness and despair.

Additionally, narcissistic abuse can skew a survivor's perception of relationships and love. The manipulative tactics used by narcissists can leave survivors feeling wary and distrustful of others. They may struggle to form healthy and genuine connections, always fearing that they will be taken advantage of or hurt.

It is crucial for survivors to seek support from a trauma therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse. These professionals can help survivors unpack the trauma they have experienced and reframe their world-view. Through therapy, survivors can gain insight into the tactics used by narcissists and begin to heal from the distorted reality they have been subjected to. With time, patience, and support, survivors can regain a more accurate and empowering world-view.

Rebuilding Your Sense of Self and Agency

After enduring narcissistic abuse, it is crucial to rebuild your sense of self and agency. This process can be challenging and may require the support of a trauma therapist or counselor who specializes in narcissistic abuse. They can help you navigate through the layers of manipulation and regain a solid foundation of self-worth.

One important aspect of rebuilding your sense of self is reconnecting with your own needs and desires. Narcissistic abuseoften leaves survivors feeling disconnected from their true selves, as they have been conditioned to prioritize the needs and wants of their abuser. By rediscovering your own passions and interests, you can begin to rebuild a sense of identity that is independent from the abuse.

Furthermore, it is essential to surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and loved ones who validate your experiences and provide a safe space for healing. Connecting with others who have experienced narcissistic abuse can also be empowering, as it allows you to share your story and gain insights from those who truly understand.

Reclaiming your agency involves setting boundaries and prioritizing your own well-being. This may require learning to say no, asserting your needs, and practicing self-care. Engaging in activities that make you feel confident and empowered can also contribute to rebuilding your sense of agency.

Remember, healing from narcissistic abuse is a journey, and it takes time and patience. By seeking professional help, reconnecting with yourself, and cultivating a supportive community, you can reclaim your sense of self-worth and live a fulfilling life free from the grip of narcissistic abuse.

Trauma Therapist Tips for Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse

Recovering from narcissistic abuse is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and a commitment to healing. Here are some essential tips to help you overcome the effects of narcissistic abuse and reclaim your self-worth:

1. Educate Yourself: Learn about narcissistic abuse and its tactics. Understanding the dynamics of the relationship will help you gain clarity and perspective on the abuse you experienced.

2. Seek Support: Reach out to a trusted support system that believes and validates your experiences. Surrounding yourself with empathetic and understanding individuals will help you rebuild your self-esteem and challenge any self-blame or doubt.

3. Set Boundaries: Establishing and enforcing healthy boundaries is crucial in recovering from narcissistic abuse. Learn to recognize red flags and protect yourself from further harm.

4. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote healing and self-love. Engage in activities that bring you joy, whether it's journaling, painting, exercising, or meditating. Remember, self-care is not selfish but a necessary step in your healing journey.

5. Consider Therapy: Working with a trauma therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse can provide invaluable guidance and support. They can help you process the trauma, heal emotional wounds, and develop healthier relationship patterns.

6. Find Resources: If you are still in an abusive situation, reach out to local domestic violence organizations or helplines for support and resources. If you live on Long Island VIBS is a great resource for anyone in a domestic violence situation and they are entirely free! They can provide you with safety plans and information on legal options.

Remember, overcoming narcissistic abuse takes time and patience. Be gentle with yourself and celebrate even the smallest victories along the way. You deserve to heal and reclaim your self-worth.

Sending Love & Light,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

A traumatic event is an occurrence that overwhelms our stress response system. When we endure trauma from someone close to us we can develop a trauma bond, especially when we experience trauma repeatedly by an attachment figure. A trauma bond occurs when the abused develops sympathy or affection towards their abuser. This can happen over any time period and rarely, if ever, develops into a healthy relationship. A trauma bond can cause the abused to experience guilt, confusion and self-judgment when analyzing their feelings towards their abuser, however this type of bond, while unhealthy, can originate from a protective place in the abused person.

How Trauma Bonding Occurs from Our Fight, Flight Or Freeze Response

Our brains have a survival response system, often referred to as the “Fight, Flight or Freeze” response. The body can activate this response system if our brains detect danger and turn on different pathways to get us out of the dangerous situation safely. This is the same response system that is responsible for the increase in adrenaline we experience after we hear an unexpected loud noise or are startled. It is our “Fight, Flight or Freeze” response system has allowed our species to survive for as long as we have and it is this system that becomes activated when we experience trauma. 

Survivors who endure abuse from their loved ones, especially their parents as children or their partners as adults, go through an extremely complicated process to try to make sense of their relationship with the abuser. In an effort to allow the survivor to be able to function with their abuser the brain may turn on protective defense mechanisms in the form of dissociation, forgetting or minimizing abuse or even to take responsibility if the abuse with an attachment figure. For example, it would be extremely difficult for a child to function with the knowledge that they have to rely on the same person who is mistreating them so the brain may “try to make sense” of the abuse by using one of the above tactics to allow the child to still function with their abuser day to day. This is not the say that abuse is therefore alright. It is not and no one deserves to be mistreated or abused. 

What This Does Not Say About The Survivor

  1. That the abuse did not happen.
  2. That they want the abuse to happen.
  3. That they deserve abuse.
  4. That there is something “wrong” with them.

What This Means

Forming a trauma bond with an abuser does not mean there is something wrong with the survivor but rather speaks to the survivor’s ability to survive in a dangerous, unpredictable environment. No one deserves to be in a dangerous, unstable relationship or environment. If you feel you may have this type of attachment to a person who has made you feel unsafe, please call our office to work through your emotions related to trauma bonding to enhance self-compassion and secure safety for current and future relationships. 

By Marissa Ahern, LMSW

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. Our subconscious taps into those important memories but they are not contained- meaning they tend to spill out everything related to the traumatic event. For many individuals, this experience can be just as terrifying as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire. I once had a patient who would have flashbacks around flower shops, as the overwhelming smell of flowers would bring him back to his sister’s funeral.  

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but with practice there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are in a safe place and having a flashback. Use that self-talk and tell yourself, as many times as necessary, that these are only memories until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense is causing the flashback use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you. See more here on mindfulness tips.

3. Breathe

Fear and panic causes our breathing to become shallow and erratic. Shallow our erratic breathing exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay. One of my favorite breathing tricks is to trace one hand with the opposite. When you go up a finger breathe in, then breathe out as you trace back to the palm of you hand. Repeat till you are calm and your breathing is regular. 

4. Honor the Experience

No one wants to remember their trauma, let’s face it it’s not an easy experience and I understand you want to move on and forget it NOW. However, our bodies and our minds need time to process what has happened. It’s normal, expected, and honestly needed to experience a full range of emotions. Honor your experience and yourself for making it through and surviving.

5. Find Support

Going through trauma alone is not really advisable. I understand there may be feelings of shame, guilt, fear that are preventing you from feeling comfortable opening up. However, it is important for you to have supports 

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your to help you through this process. Opening up to trusted loved ones can allow for them to help you work through flashbacks and process what has happened. You may also want to open up to a mental health professional to gain a deeper understanding of what is happening to you, how to cope with flashbacks and triggers and work through those difficult memories and emotions. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, we would be happy to discuss how we may be able to help.

Stay Shining,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

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