Dear Aunt Alex,
In my head, I know that my narcissist ex will never love me. Why can I still not get him out of my head? I just don’t know how to move on. Knowing he hurts me isn’t enough. any ideas please? I haven’t been out in two months and am suffering.
Oh, Sweetie. ::hugs:: This is the whole reason The Army has a base camp on the Internet: The devaluation hurts so bad. It’s confusing and devastating and dismissive, and feels like you’re being abandoned and thrown away. There is nothing festive about that.
The psychiatrists in cheesy movies say, “Tell me about your parents,” and it’s funny because it’s cliche’ and feels useless. But it turns out the parents are a superb place to start. The first cut is the deepest, and the kids of narcissists have a primal, very early punch to their boundaries that most other people don’t. When a child is ignored and gaslighted by a screwed-up toad parent, it feels confusing and devastating and dismissive, and feels like abandonment.
The boundaries get distorted by the tiny, tender psyche so that the poor kid can survive, and the longing for healthy care and bonding is never forgotten.
Let’s be perfectly clear: These adult children do not, do NOT, deliberately seek out narcissists so that they can replay the childhood abuse and “fix” it. That victim-blaming, offensive theory can’t die soon enough for Aunt Alex. The adult children are more vulnerable to these buttholes because the boundaries are pretzel-twistied. The narcissist parent punched a hole in the boundaries and that hole remains, and the future toads in her life smell that vulnerability from a mile away. And those future narcissists stomp, waddle and slither through that hole in her boundaries and munch away freely on her heart and soul.
Now Missy, before Auntie Alex gets quicksanded by her own metaphors, let’s talk about your moving on, and let’s start here: Either you had a narcissist for a parent, or you didn’t. But the process of moving on and getting him out of your head is essentially the same.
It’s going to take time. Your heart doesn’t have an on/off switch. Your affection doesn’t have an “uninstall” feature. Just like a broken ankle or a case of mono needs time to heal, so does the damage caused by the narcissist. It runs deep, and it takes more than two months to heal because it’s not superficial and trivial, it’s about betrayal and love and being told you’re a loser and it’s all your fault. This stuff is A Big Deal. So, step one: Forgive yourself for being a normal, healthy human being who’s been through a trauma.
Forgive yourself for being kind and vulnerable and emotionally generous and loving. What happened isn’t your fault. It’s his.
Step two: Get mad. He killed your hope. He lied. He manipulated. He tried to stomp down your self-worth so he could feel better about himself. He did all of this on purpose, and he doesn’t care that you’re hurt. He’s hurt others before you, and he’ll hurt others after you. He’s like an opportunistic mosquito: If he’s shooed off of one host, he moves to another. And then maybe goes back to suck off the first host again. He doesn’t care who he’s sucking at the moment. He just wants blood. And he’ll suck off of hosts for as long as he lives. Those damaged boundaries make you feel at least partially responsible for the failed bonding in the relationship, but you’re not. He is. He fucked the whole thing up. He wasted your time and your effort, he devalued your love and your appeal, and he insulted and used you and continues to take up real estate in your head. Ask yourself: Why aren’t you furious? If someone treated your child or your sister like this, would you be sad, or murderous? YOU GOTTA GET MAD BEFORE YOU CAN GET OVER IT.
Step three: Clear your head (Man, those yoga mindfulness meditation people have got this down pat), and replace the gross, useless thoughts of the narcissist with MUCH more pleasant things (which is pretty much anything). No one can just “stop” thinking about something that’s been grinding at them for years. It leaves a void in your head, and the old, familiar thoughts rush in to fill the space. What do you love?
If you say, “I tried to go out, to do things, to pick up a paintbrush or write a card to someone, and I just can’t,” that’s your mild, understandable depression lying to you. You can; the mild depression just doesn’t want to because it wants to be, well, depressed. It wants you to be uncomfortable so that you’ll try harder to bond with the narcissist, because depression isn’t very smart. It’s primal and only knows how to “feel”. You most certainly can start folding real, sweet, enriching things into your day, and getting over that feeling of weakness, getting over that “failure barrier”, is going to take practice. You have to force yourself to do it the first couple of times, and once you see how doable it is and how much better you feel, it’ll get easier and easier. For those first couple of times, you have to force yourself to get up, clean up, get out, and DO. GIVE your brain other things to think about. Those fresh thoughts and feelings aren’t going to plant themselves in there all by themselves.
You’re doing just fine, Sweetie. This is how it’s done, with doubt and discomfort and reaching out; it feels futile, but you’re doing beautifully. Keep up the good work, stay away from the toads, and you’ll have a bright, fulfilling future.