There has been a lot written about how the narcissist hooks you through your childhood trauma and makes you addicted to him or her through the love bombing and flattery of the initial pedestal phase.
A lot of the healing advice is therefore focused on your healing of your inner trauma and releasing the painful emotions triggered by the narcissist.
I have had a lot of great results with this approach, but I think that something is missing.
I want to share with you what I have learned on my recovery journey.
Missing the narcissist
The story goes like this: It has been a while since the narcissist discarded you or perhaps since you yourself decided to go no contact after establishing that you had been with a narcissist.
Sometimes, several weeks pass and you only feel anger at the memory of the narcissist and how he treated you. But then, suddenly, something happens, you don’t know what that is – you start missing them again. A thought enters your mind that you might never see them again – never, until the end of your life. And suddenly, you feel this deep desperate sadness flooding you. That’s not right, you think. Haven’t we been through so much together? It can’t end like this … You start worrying – are they OK? Is everything fine with them? What if they had an accident? You just really don’t understand why you should not ever be in touch with them again.
You break your resolution not to contact the narcissist ever again. But all you get is another dose of invalidating abuse: they can’t be bothered to talk to you, they think you are unhealthy, maybe they don’t respond to you at all, continuing their silent treatment with its crisp and clear message – you mean nothing to me.
Why on Earth can’t you just close the door behind this? Even your therapist tells you that the guy is a dickhead. Why do you still long for that peaceful friendly closure?
Why the hell are you still missing them?
Those of you who follow me regularly know that my emotional attachment to the narcissist ended after he reported me to police for harassment for my attempts to communicate with him. It ended after I discovered the extent of his mind-games, the fact that he had hacked my Skype account when we were still in a relationship.
These two shocks caused a very intense psychological reaction in me. It felt as if my entire reality was turned upside down.
This was the man that had spent more than three years of my life telling me how much he loved me, adored me, and worshipped me (yes, we all now know that narcissists do that).
I felt like a character in a very bad movie.
It was as if someone hit me over the head with a baseball bat. But the shock somehow strangely forced a stream of powerful memories out of my unconscious and subconscious into my conscious mind.
Most of these memories were from the first year of my relationship, or better say entanglement, with the narcissist. I felt virtually flooded with images of the good old days, of the highs of the honeymoon period, when I believed that a relationship could not get any better. Those were the days when I was so certain I met my Mr Right (little did I know at that time that Mr. Right was in fact a Mr. False Self).
It all felt so real and genuine back then – back then when I knew nothing about narcissistic mirroring and all the subtle manipulation techniques that narcissists spend their lives perfecting.
I cried deeply over those memories – but something interesting happened – once I was able to consciously access those memories, the powerful feelings of missing the narcissist and wanting to contact him went away.
The power of the subconscious
Let’s have a closer look at what happened here. Those memories of the great times from the height of the pedestal period – I supressed them and dissociated from them during the devaluation and discard phase. At that time, it would have been too painful for me to own them. It would have been too painful to remember those highs that I had experienced with that awesome person that I believed the narcissist was and hold them right next to the devaluing jerk I was seeing now.
But because I supressed those memories, they didn’t go away. I was not able to process them. They stayed in my mind, buried somewhere.
This is nothing new. Already Freud found that supressed memories have an unbelievable power over us. And so, those suppressed memories had a grip on me.
I would feel great for weeks, thinking that I am well over the narcissist, feeling nothing but disgust for him. And then, suddenly, something would happen that would bring one of those memories to the surface. I would start missing the narcissist – the perfect loving awesome prince charming, the closeness, the connection.
During these moments, I would have an urge to contact him. Not to get back with him. I was well over that. I just thought that a relationship like that should not end in this weird toxic way. My mind was holding onto those memories but I wasn’t consciously aware of that.
In my case, one of the reasons why those memories were so powerful was the fact that I met the narcissist during a very transitional period in my life and I experienced even more transitions during the first two years of my relationship with him. It was my first year abroad, he was my first boyfriend from another culture than my own, we moved to London together – everything was new, scary and exciting.
The novelty and excitement of all those experiences imprinted themselves into my memory. He was my companion during those days and therefore my mind assigned him special significance.
How to defuse the power of subconscious memories
So how do you liberate yourself from the grip of those suppressed memories? How do you make those memories fade away? How do you get rid of the powerful emotional upheavals they cause? How do you make those feelings of missing the narcissist go away? How do you stop wanting to make peace with him or her?
In the months after the first surge of flashbacks following the initial shock, I kept experiencing regular flashbacks. It would be happening with lower frequency and lower intensity but still – suddenly an image would emerge from the depths of my mind, I would see the narcissist, as sweet as he used to be when I was still a high value supply. I would again feel the sadness rising. I would again feel the disbelief about the whole situation. I would again struggle to reconcile the memory of the past with the reality of the present time.
So I started experimenting. I found that if I stopped trying to supress those memories and allowed them to enter my consciousness together with all the feelings they were triggering, I could start owning them. When they were in the subconscious, they owned me.
Every time when I would have this powerful image of the narcissist arising from my memory, the perfect prince charming emerging in front of my mind’s eye, I would allow myself to remember how strongly I felt about him. Those were beautiful moments. It all felt so real.
AND THEN I WOULD STOP AND ASK MYSELF:
The man that I miss, the man I thought he was in those beautiful moments, would this man report me to police for harassment? Would he refuse to talk to me when I started asking difficult questions? Would he tell me all those toxic poisonous things he told me? Would he treat me like the worst nuisance? A piece of garbage? NO HE WOULDN’T!
The man I miss is the man I thought was the love of my life – would such a man drop me like an old piece of garbage? Would he lose interest in me out of the blue? NO HE WOULDN’T!
You essentially use your cognitive abilities to understand that your emotions, those strong feelings, don’t belong to the narcissist. The man you miss is not the toxic evil character that you see now. It’s the false self. Snd you gradually develop the understanding that the great guy really was false.
In the next step, as you keep experiencing powerful flashbacks of those super-romantic moments with the narcissist – you again use your knowledge of the narcissistic personality disorder to make peace with those flashbacks.
It’s OK for you to feel so strong about those flashbacks. The narcissist was mirroring you. He showed you what you want in a relationship. He showed you how you want to be treated. You may still want those things. There is nothing wrong about it (as long as you have your codependent tendencies in check, if you don’t have your codependent tendencies in check and expect a relationship to make up for your own inability to make yourself happy, then you are heading for another narcissist). But with the narcissist, it was as if you were watching it in a movie. It was not real.
Have you ever watched a romantic movie? I bet you did! Do you remember how that made you feel? It works on the exact same principle with the narcissist. Pure make-believe.
Hopefully, you have now learned your lessons. Hopefully, you have worked on your inner traumas, you learned how to spot a narcissist, you are no longer vulnerable to flattery, love bombing and manipulation. You can make yourself happy and feel worthy without needing constant outside validation (read Six top reasons why you fell for a narcissist).
That means that next time, you will want to experience these beautiful things with someone real. It doesn’t matter that it was the narcissist who showed you that. You could have as well seen in in a romantic comedy, or while watching the latest royal wedding.
So don’t worry about it. It’s OK to long for those things. The only thing you need to do is to remember that the narcissist was just playing a role. He was mirroring your needs. There is nothing wrong with your needs.
Next time you start experiencing flashbacks and the feelings of missing the narcissist, instead of trying to distract yourself, do the exact opposite.
Sit down, close your eyes and allow all those images to come forward. Virtually invite all those images to come forward. Allow the feelings to rise in your body. You feel as if you were there again. It’s beautiful.
AND THEN STOP AND ASK YOURSELF: The man that I love, would he treat me in those horrendous ways that I have been experiencing from the narcissist lately? Meditate about this for as long as you need until you dissociate those powerful feelings from the narcissist. You miss the concept of the love of your life – but guess what? Maybe you haven’t met that person yet. For sure, the narcissist was not IT because, as we said – the love of your life would not treat you like garbage.
If you still feel puzzled by those beautiful super-romantic memories and the contrast with how the relationship developed, continue with the exercise – accept that these are things you want to experience in a relationship. The narcissist nailed it. He showed you exactly what you want. But you know what? How many film-makers have made you feel this way as well? The difference is that when you are watching a romantic comedy, you know that you are watching a romantic comedy. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you think you are living your fairy-tale only for it to turn into a horror movie.
Examine your relationship desires and make sure they are not codependent. I am not going into this since there are other authors, such as Margaret Paul or Melanie Tonia Evans dealing with this aspect excellently.
Buy Margaret Paul’s Inner Bonding from Amazon US by clicking the image above. The book is a great tool for understanding and tackling codependency. Since you got yourself into a relationship with a narcissist, you are most likely codependent. You can buy the book from Amazon UK by clicking this link
Those codependent desires, you clearly want to heal and address, or else you end up in a relationship with another narcissist in the future.
But then there are the legitimate desires. The narcissists mirrored those as well. And you have to remember that it is absolutely OK for you to have them. You just have to make sure that next time you make them manifest with someone real.
In my next article I will tell you about the attachment to the false self and how the hope of its return keeps you stuck.
The work of Melanie Tonia Evans is quite helpful in tackling your inner trauma and codependent tendencies. Buy her book from Amazon US by clicking the image above or from Amazon UK by clicking this link