Covert narcissistic abuse can break down and deplete a person on every level. Healing from this type of abuse is often a process that requires a holistic approach addressing the body, soul, mind, and spirit. Though there is no exact formula to heal, there are generally a few key aspects that can assist a victim on the journey of surviving to thriving after narcissistic abuse.
A few questions I often get asked from victims of narcissistic abuse are:
- How do I heal from the trauma of abuse?
- How do I heal while still actively being abused?
- Will I ever feel like myself again?
- I thought I’ve come so far in my healing, so why am I spiraling down once again?
Though every person’s healing journey may look different, below are 7 keys to things to understand in order to shift from surviving to thriving after narcissistic abuse.
7 Keys to Shift from Surviving to Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse
1. Healing is Subjective
The impact and effect of a person’s life experience on the body, soul, mind, and spirit cannot be denied. Loving experiences promote mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and create the ability to form healthy attachments. Healthy attachments in turn, usually create a sense of well-being and safety. Likewise, abusive experiences can deteriorate mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and undermine the ability to form healthy attachments. Unhealthy attachments in turn, often destroy a sense of well-being and safety. In order to heal the effects of narcissistic abuse, it’s paramount that a holistic approach is taken that addresses every part of a person.
A Few Things That Can Impact Healing:
- Family background
- Attachment style
- Life experiences
- Core wounding
Other Things That Can Impact Healing:
- A healthy network of support or a lack of support
- Access to or a lack of resources
- Access to or a lack of finances
It’s important to recognize that healing is subjective and the approach to healing often looks different for everyone. Just as every person and their experience is unique, so too the process to heal from narcissistic abuse is also unique.
2. Healing Is a Journey
Healing is often more of an ongoing journey and less of a race. It is usually filled with many twists and turns and ups and downs. Sometimes a victim may feel as though they are making progress only to experience an emotional trigger or flashback that sends them spiraling, questioning if they have made any healing progress at all.
Emotional triggers are a normal part of the healing journey. They are often a great compass, uncovering the next layer of healing. Experiencing a trigger or flashback doesn’t mean a victim isn’t healing. It’s actually a great sign that a victim’s heart is thawing and feeling is returning once again to the shattered, frozen places of pain that have been locked deep inside. Feeling pain doesn’t usually feel good but is normal and necessary in order to fully process and heal.
Things to Consider About the Healing Journey:
- Healing requires patience.
- Healing is not a one-time event.
- Healing is not a sprint.
- There is no specific formula to heal.
- Sometimes healing is making rest a priority.
- Sometimes healing is being proactive.
- Emotional triggers are not a sign of regression.
- Flashbacks can help unlock traumatic memories and usher in healing.
It’s important for a victim of narcissistic abuse to know the season they are in. Whether it’s a time to rest or whether it’s a time to be active in their journey. This often can protect from feelings of shame or unhelpful pressure to be “further along” than what is realistic. Healing takes time and God is not impatient with your pain.
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”
– Psalm 3:3 NKJV
3. Assigning Purpose to Pain
Everyone has a story. Unique experiences often shape this story, coloring perspectives, and views. Whether consciously or unconsciously, this story often plays out every day through choices and behaviors. When trauma enters the story, it will usually either confirm the story or will cause a shattering that can skew the story. It’s important for a victim of abuse to assign purpose to pain or pain may assign a purpose itself. Usually, this results in even more pain.
Childbirth is often rife with pain but it’s pain with a purpose. It’s pain that is ushering the gift of new life! Women are often taught in childbirth classes to lean into the pain of birth and are equipped with skills to assist the birthing process. Just as with childbirth, leaning into the pain, assigning purpose to it, and learning skills to assist the healing process can produce a gift of new life within a victim. It’s important to recognize that pain does not have to be the end of the story. It can actually be harnessed as the fuel for an even greater story.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God”
– Romans 8:28 NKJV
* Please note, I am not referring to the pain of staying in an abusive marriage. I am referring to pain that can surface in the midst of the healing journey. God is not the author of pain and He does not delight in your suffering.
4. Healing the Body
Just as physical and sexual abuse have obvious physical signs and effects so too, psychological abuse has physical effects. The only difference is that physical abuse is instantly evident, where as psychological abuse can take years or even decades to become evident. Every type of abuse is not physical, though all abuse has damaging physical ramifications. Besides physical ramifications, victims of narcissistic abuse often develop C-PTSD due to chronic abuse and trauma. C-PTSD can develop simply from repeated trauma so great, that it overwhelmed the capacity humans were created to sustain.
Some Short-Term Effects of Psychological Abuse Are:
- Headaches, body aches, and muscle spasms
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares
- Depression, anxiety, and digestive issues
- Brain fog and memory issues
- Weight gain or weight loss
Some Long-Term Effects of Psychological Abuse Are:
- Cancer, autoimmune issues, and thyroid disorders
- Cognitive issues, brain fog, and memory trouble
- Digestive and sleep issues
There are many different approaches to healing C-PTSD. Some victims may opt for EMDR, counseling, and medicine. Others may opt for a naturopathic doctor who treats nutritional and hormonal deficiencies. Others may opt for support through alternative treatments such as massage, gentle detoxes, dietary changes, and other methods. It’s important for victims to not only get the support they need but to get the support that they choose as best for them.
Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.”
– Proverbs 3:7-8 ESV
Sometimes departing from evil can look like setting healthy boundaries and refusing to allow evil in your life so that your health and strength may be restored.
5. Healing the Soul
The soul is often referred to as the “seat of our emotions” or the “heart” of a person. Narcissistic abuse can deeply shatter a person’s heart. Though it’s often not visible on the outside, it often causes great damage on the inside. A broken heart isn’t relegated to just one aspect of a person’s life but often affects every area of their life.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
– Proverbs 4:23
Because a victim of narcissistic abuse has experienced deep wounding through relationship, they can often struggle to open up and experience healing through healthy relationships. Healing often doesn’t happen in isolation though. This saying rings true, though scary for a victim of narcissistic abuse. “We are wounded in relationships and we heal in relationships.” While there can be a time of separation when it’s necessary for a victim to establish a sense of safety, there is often a time where healing will require connecting with safe and healthy people in order to enter into a new level of healing. Healing a broken heart is imperative to shift from surviving to thriving.
He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.”
– Psalm 147:3-6
6. Healing the Mind
Narcissistic abuse can cause a fog to settle over a victim’s mind. Chronic gaslighting and unceasing lies, along with other toxic dynamics can make it extremely difficult for a victim to see clearly. The dark haze of abuse can blur truth so much that a victim may not even know which way is up or which way is down. It can almost be a herculean effort to not only try to make sense of the abuse they are experiencing, but to also sort through what is actually true in their life.
Gaslighting from their abuser plus the confusion of chaos and pain can easily cause lies to take root within a victim’s mind. It’s been said, “Those who are deceived usually don’t know that they are. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be deceived!” It often takes time for deception to be uncovered and for lies to come to the surface and unravel. It’s not something that can be forced and often happens organically.
As lies begin to surface, it’s important for a victim to uproot the lies and begin to plant truth in those places. It often takes time for new mindsets to take root and begin to grow. Faithfully watering the seeds of truth over time, will cause flourishing life to grow.
7. Healing the Spirit
Trauma can disconnect a victim of abuse from the ability to live a life of passion and purpose. Trauma can wreak havoc on a victim’s walk with God. It can cloud the eyes of their spirit and steal their vision. Trauma can force a victim to live according to the demands of pain versus intentionally carving out a life of peace, dictated by values.
A person’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can survive a broken spirit?”
– Proverbs 18:14 CSB
How then can a victim of abuse heal the shattering of their spirit, especially when there has been spiritual abuse? The oil of intimacy with Jesus. In biblical times, wineskins were used to carry wine. An unprepared wineskin was hard, brittle, and would easily crack. In order to contain new wine, a new wineskin first had to be softened by working oil into the skin, making it pliable. Just as wine is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, our spirit is symbolic of a wineskin meant to carry God’s presence. A victim can often find healing for their spirit by allowing the oil of intimacy, which is spending time in God’s presence, to minister deeply to them. God’s presence heals trauma and can reconnect a victim of abuse to a sense of passion and purpose in their life.
In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
– Psalm 116:11 NKJV
From Surviving to Thriving
An abusive relationship can break down and deplete a person on every level. Healing is a journey that often requires a victim to address their body, soul, mind, and spirit but there is hope! You can heal and not only survive but thrive after narcissistic abuse.
So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.”
– Romans 8:28 TPT
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Esther Company