The stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse can be viewed in two different ways. The first is four stages, or levels, which are based on time/distance from the narcissist as well as on actions-things you need to do to leave the narcissist.
The second is based on the stages you will go through with your feelings as you leave the narcissistic relationship behind.
“Narcissism is an evil that masquerades as good. Like a Pied Piper this master illusionist can lead you to Hell all while making you feel flattered to be chosen to go there. Only when you wake up in Hell do you realize the real evil that existed in his fluted song. By then it’s too late; not only have you fallen victim, but most likely you have paid for the flute, as well.” ~Tigress Luv
Levels of Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse
It has just dawned on you that you’ve been in a relationship with someone who has the traits of a narcissist. You may or may not have left the relationship but are clearly intending to.
You have gone to a therapist or a recovery group to get support in leaving and coping with your current situation. You are probably in a lot of pain but at this point you just want some relief from the toxic interactions and abuse.
The therapist or support group should provide you with lists of contacts– help organizations, law enforcement agencies, other women in similar situations, domestic violence shelters, and victims’ support groups both online and in your city. Seek to learn everything you can about narcissism. Knowledge will empower you as well as reduce your sense of isolation and worthlessness.
Education is a very important tool in the recovery process. You need to become aware of the prevalence and nature of violence perpetrated by narcissists, stalking, warning signs and red flags, legal rights/procedures if needed, as well as coping strategies.
You are out of the relationship and have truly ended it. It has been less than three months since the relationship ended. You have cut off all possible contact with the ex including Email, Instant Messaging, Phone, Letters, and Third-Party Communication. (This is essential).
The only exception is if you have children. If you have children you have set up some kind of third party mediation to handle all business. You are still in a lot of pain but feel you are making some progress.
You have had no contact with the narcissist for at least six months. You have regained some degree of sanity and feel you are back in control of your life. You may have weak moments and difficult days but feel you are progressing It is important to stick with counseling or the support group to help you through the difficult days..
You have had no contact with the narcissistic personality for at least a year. Your life has moved on and you are feeling so much stronger than you did when you first started.
Stages of Recovery- Feelings
1) The Roadkill Stage
The first stage is when you hit bottom due to your experience with a Narcissist. You are exhausted from the constant turmoil, lies and abuse. You are tired of walking on eggshells, living in fear of setting off his rage and abuse.
2) The Realization Stage
This is when your questions begin to get answered and you now have a name for what you have been dealing with all this time. You begin to research everything you can find on Narcissism. Although you feel better that you know, the sense of betrayal begins to painfully sink in. Unfortunately, you start to feel angry at yourself for letting it go on for so long.
3) The Anger Stage
The full impact of what you went through hits home and all hell breaks loose! You are angry at the narcissist but also at yourself. Anger is uncomfortable, but it is a necessary step towards healing. At first, it feels like an erupting volcano but then it decreases and you can focus on how to get through.
4) Taking Affirmative Action Stage
This is when you begin to effectively focus your new-found knowledge on making life decisions. This is also when you begin to learn- and practice- techniques on how to protect yourself from the Narcissist. This is the stage where you may decide on divorce, relocating, changing jobs, or other lifestyle changes.
This is a time of great upheaval because the Narcissist knows that the “gig is up” The Narcissist will fight you tooth and nail to win. This is a crucial stage in healing because it is at this stage that the Narcissist will also try to “put on the charm” in an attempt to return things to how they were. However, when the charm doesn’t work, the Narcissist can be very vicious at this stage.
5) The Fall-Out Stage
At this stage, you become more comfortable in your knowledge of how to deal with the Narcissist. It is where you begin to forgive yourself and begin to feel better about yourself and your abilities.
You are actively planning your future, getting to know “you” again, and you notice how much better you feel, physically and emotionally, out of the presence of the Narcissist. Although you begin to get your confidence back, you may still experience the waves of the prior stages; it seems to come in cycles, but these will diminish in intensity over time.
6) The Mirroring Stage
Not everyone goes through this stage, it is a personal decision. This is when you mirror the Narcissist’s behavior back at them, effectively scaring them off. It allows some people to siphon off the anger and project it back to the person who caused it. It is quite effective in scaring off the Narcissist, but sometimes it takes many sessions of “mirroring” before the stubborn Narcissist finally “gets it”.
Unfortunately for many victims, many Narcissists aren’t willing to accept that it is over(if they don’t “win”) and continually try to get back under the victim’s skin using guilt, fear, pity, threats, violence, and financial abuse. Some Narcissists keep coming back seeking more narcissistic supply. DO NOT, under any circumstances, give the Narcissist any narcissistic supply!
7) Realization and Apathy
Once you effectively block all means of communication with the Narcissist, protect yourself from them, gain knowledge and confidence in yourself, you then reach a stage of realization that there was nothing you could have done to prevent the nightmare that you just lived through.
You start looking for working toward your new future and close the door on the Narcissist. The most effective way to do this is with apathy. Apathy works. It requires very little work on your part. If the narcissist is still trying to keep you engaged, you simply don’t display any outward emotions toward the Narcissist.
They want to be able to evoke an emotional response from you. If they can’t make you love them, they will try to make you hate them. If you don’t give them anything, eventually, they will move on to the next victim as they have to get their narcissistic supply “fix”. This stage can take some time because as we know, the Narcissist does not give up on precious supply sources easily.