People often wonder why the fallout of narcissistic abuse feels so much worse than a regular break up. The reality is, it is different because the victim is crushed and collapsed by the end of the relationship.
Many factors affect our ability to heal, including: physical health, stage of life, personality, childhood experience, self-compassion, financial status, intellect, confidence, life experiences, relationship with parents, genetic predisposition and occupation.
Understanding what has caused these thoughts, feelings and behaviors will help facilitate healing. For example, you might ask yourself, “Why can’t I sleep? Why can’t I get over it? Why can’t I focus?”
In the aftermath of pathological relationships (including Borderline, Narcissistic, Anti-Social and Psychopathic) the victims have suffered with individuals who been unable to be consistently loving or safe. The relationship was painful, chaotic and dramatic. Victims have been exposed to manipulation, control, violence, deception, betrayal, gaslighting, silent treatment/ignoring, extreme inconsistencies, immaturity, contradictions in behavior, pouting, taunting, keeping a collection of ex-partner’s, blame-shifting, control, exploitation, attention draining, minimizing faults and a competitive “must win” attitude.
These kinds of relationships change your brain as a result of exposure to the harsh, unchanging pathology of the other person. Stress and trauma changes neurobiology. The brain suffers and operates in crisis mode. Oftentimes, victims will become physical ill.
In abusive relationships, the abuse overworks the pain and stress response. Abusive partners create an environment of instability and their behavior causes pain and stress. Psychological coping gets worn down during the relationship and the victim’s regulation abilities and inner strengths are often targets for abusive partners.
Stress systems are activated during the relationship and stress hormones are already constantly flowing on a daily basis – causing constant fight/flight/freeze response.
If the stress response system is constantly "on" for a period of years, it makes it even harder to recover. The regulating areas of the brain have a much harder time regulating. This is when the deep-seated feeling of “not good enough” begins to develop.
Criticism, hostility, contempt and hatred causes the pain system to activate repeatedly and it changes the way it works so that the protection system no longer works.
Recovery from pathological relationships is possible, but requires a specialized treatment approach to therapy. Contact me me for more information.