By Dr. Perry, PhD
“Here is a new car, a new iPhone. We buy. We discard. We buy again. In recent years, we’ve been doing it faster.” ~Arlie Russell Hochschild
So here you are, in the middle of the aftermath and wreckage. You have been left behind by a cold-hearted narcissist who once intoxicated you with love and admiration. You most likely are feeling confused, hurt, overwhelmed and angry. You bought into the love bombing. You sacrificed life and limb for this relationship. You fell for the elaborately executed scheme of your narcissistic wounder. And still, you may be unsure if you are making the right decision to leave this person behind. The discard stage is the period where the narcissist has idealized, devalued and is now in the process of discarding or throwing you away. This stage of the narcissistic cycle can be a painful reality check for anyone on the receiving end. However, it is also an opportunity to reclaim, revive and rebuild yourself.
Here are 7 important steps to take if you are currently being “thrown away” by a narcissist.
1. Set boundaries
Patients of mine may struggle with going no contact even though that is often my first recommendation. It is important to set boundaries with the narcissist even if that means going no contact for 30 or 60 days. After 30 or 60 days of no contact, it is likely that the narcissist will move on or you will begin to see more clearly the damage that has occurred as a result of the dysfunctional relationship. It is critical to know that even if the narcissist has discarded you, it is not uncommon that they will return shortly after to make sure you are still “hooked.” Let friends and family know that you are attempting to keep your distance from the narcissist and ask them to help you stay accountable. Never attempt to do this alone. The weaponry of the narcissist is calculated and cunning. You can easily fall back into the grips of the narcissist if you are not careful and assertive.
2. Educate yourself
There are many informative books on narcissism and the impact narcissistic abuse can have on an individual. Because we have become more aware of narcissistic abuse as a society, extensive information can be found online through blogs and YouTube videos created by professionals and those who have been narcissistically abused. It is important to know that just because you are in the midst of being discarded, this does not mean that this is the end. Hoovering is a strategy used by narcissists in order to “suck” their victims back into a relationship with them. Hoovering is often done after the silent treatment is given or the victim has left them. It is a technique named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner and can last days, weeks, months or years. Do as much research as you can to gain insight into the many tricks used by narcissists.
3. Start focusing on you
It is likely that you have spent much of your time and energy putting the narcissist first. Now that you are in the discard stage it is important to take this time to focus on yourself. This may be difficult at first because you may feel absolutely vampired by the narcissist to the degree that even your sense of self has diminished. Take a moment to reflect on the things that you once did that brought you joy. Maybe it was a yoga class, getting a massage, going for walks or taking trips to see nature’s beauty. Whatever it was, make a mental note here and now to bring these happiness promoting activities back into your life. This may be difficult at first but don’t give up. It is absolutely necessary to begin putting yourself first either again or for the first time in your life.
4. Seek support from family, friends and a professional
Family and friends can provide a valuable support system to help you stay accountable for not going back to the narcissist. A professional can help ensure that you will not repeat the pattern. In my practice, I specialize in helping individuals recognize how past wounds, often from childhood, lead to the encoding of negative core beliefs such as, “I am not good enough,” “I don’t matter” and “I am not important enough to come first.” These negative core beliefs can easily become vulnerabilities to the calculated narcissist. The narcissist can often quickly and easily identify your negative core beliefs and begin to “feed” you in those areas. You may feel seen, heard and understood for the first time in your life by the narcissist who is simply using these vulnerabilities to manipulate you to do their bidding. By having a deep understanding of what your negative core beliefs are and when and why they developed, you will be able to more easily recognize when a person is attempting to use them against you.
5. Connect the dots
This is the “Let’s take a good look at myself” step. If you are honest with yourself, would you say that you have dabbled with narcissists before? It is not uncommon for there to be a love addiction on the part of the abused. For no fault of your own, you may have learned at an early age that this type of relationship is normal. If a person is raised by a narcissistic parent it is common for there to be a passing of the torch so to speak. The new narcissistic partner simply takes on the role of the parent in a repeated pattern of narcissistic wounding. For the abused, it is something that just makes sense. It’s time for a change. It’s time to make sure this never happens again.
6. Resist self-blame
This is not your fault. Just because you have good intentions for others does not mean they have good intentions for you. One of the most common traits of a narcissistic relationship is gaslighting. Gaslighting means to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. This includes manipulating you into thinking all of this is your fault. Chances are high that your narcissistic wounder made you believe that you are to blame for many of the dysfunctional aspects of the relationship. The truth is that you were most likely trained from day one to take on a great amount of guilt and shame in the relationship. Resist the temptation to blame yourself for the shortcomings of the relationship. This is a pivotal time of your life… a time to begin again.
7. Be patient
A patient once came into my office and said, “Heal me now.” It is important to keep your expectations realistic as you begin your healing journey. Physical wounds do not heal instantly and nor do emotional wounds. But, they do heal. I cannot emphasize how important it is to eagerly seek out and discover why/how you found yourself in the relationship with the narcissist. The last thing we want is for this to happen all over again a year or two from now. Don’t rest (not literally) until you discover these answers that are within you.
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