In Greek mythology, Pandora is the first woman created and given, among other gifts from the gods who created her, a jar containing all the evils of the world. Curious, she opens the jar and inadvertently lets the evils escape, leaving only hope remaining at the bottom of the jar before she manages to close it again.
Pandora is a scapegoat, set up to be blamed for all that is ill or wicked while the gods who planted the jar of evil on her and to whom she owes her very existence wash their hands of culpability. Similarly, narcissistic abuse survivors are saddled with toxic shame “gifted” to us by the narcissist that we obediently if not gratefully bottle up and tuck away deep in the dark recesses of ourselves out of sight and mind where it continues to linger, poisoning us, long after the narcissist no longer does. We don’t acknowledge this growing reservoir of pain deep within our being much like the narcissist fails to acknowledge us and for much the same reason: to do so would undo the comfortable illusion, the lie we’ve invested in and grown accustomed to.
But the pain will not be denied. It takes the taste out of life. Bleaches the colors. Numbs the ecstasy of awe. The sheer weight of it drags on us, leaving us spent before we even begin. No, for there to be any hope of recovery then the pain cannot be ignored. It must be freed in order to be free of it. Pandora’s jar must be emptied.
What follows are lessons I’ve learned (and am learning still) for opening, emptying and refilling with renewed life this metaphorical jar of evils, the heirloom I inherited from Family. It’s by no means exhaustive. While I find an uncanny degree of overlap between mine and other narcissistic survivor stories, not everything that works for me in my situation will necessarily work anyone else. When in doubt, listen to your instincts no matter what else you hear.
Starve The Beast
The narcissist is a predator and we are the prey, hunted or raised, held captive and fed upon. We may not yet realize this but we know that something is wrong. That we feel bad in the presence of this person. We’re too weak and confused to fix anyone, much less ourselves so our first priority must be to escape, retreat, to get as far away from the source of dread we feel in our lives and keep the hungry narcissist at bay.
We have the right to have nothing to do with anyone we don’t want to, regardless of our reasons. This may not always be practical, or even possible. And, as with any decision, there are consequences that must be considered along with the benefits. But I think going no contact with anything that threatens our health, our very lives, is a no-brainer.
Some of us precede a decision to go no contact with a letter to the narcissist laying out our reasons for doing so. I’ve written many such letters to Mother, always open-ended as I obsessively try to perfect my communicated thoughts and feelings so as to avoid any possible misinterpretation until exhaustion inevitably sets in, I realize that my efforts are for nothing, that she just won’t get it no matter how precise my language is, I surrender to defeat yet again and another of these uncompleted messages is never sent. It’s probably better that they were never received. Denying the narcissist any information that they will use against us is why we’re going no contact.
Not Empathizing With The Narcissist IS Empathizing With The Narcissist
We may feel that we’re being unfair to the narcissist. After all, we would be hurt and confused if someone we cared about suddenly vanished from our lives. This empathy is what distinguishes us from the narcissist; they don’t empathize and so it’s impossible for them to actually care for us. And we’re not withdrawing to punish them but to remove ourselves from continued punishment. But this is not a distinction the narcissist is capable of discerning for themselves. They will behave as though we are punishing them regardless of our efforts to clarify to the contrary because it’s what they would do and they will react with the pain and confusion we wish to spare them of as we do of ourselves.
The narcissist will be angry when they discover one of their sources of supply is gone as though they’ve been stolen from, violated. As though we had no right to leave them. How dare we do this to them after everything they’ve done for us, will be the general thrust of their accusations. The more vindictive narcissist will add, if they can’t have us then no one will. But every narcissist is like a child and we’re their toys they jealously covet and don’t want to share with the other children, even after the toy is old, broken or they’ve grown bored with it. They’d rather see us destroyed than imagine us thriving without them. And there is no depth that they will not sink to. We need to erect as many barriers between them and us as we can as quickly as we are able.
Cut The Losses
The narcissist will rally an army of flying monkeys (enablers of the narcissist) from people in our lives (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) who we do continue to maintain contact with which they use to restore contact through. Though manipulated and many times well-meaning, each one of these people has made a calculated choice to favor the narcissist’s interests over our own and are best cut from our lives along with the narcissist should they fail to respect us enough to give us the benefit of the doubt. These might be brainwashed people we’re very fond of but life is short, there are people who appreciate us for who we are right now and the sheer amount of time and energy it would take to properly deprogram these individuals is simply not worth the effort. It’s challenging enough to straighten our own shit out!
As their flying monkeys demonstrate, the narcissist will use anything as leverage against us. Inheritances or any other possessions are certainly no exception. If someone else can’t handle repossessing these things on our behalf then, if we can, it’s best to come to terms with the loss and let them go. Things can be replaced. Lives cannot.
If we must retain any measure of contact with the narcissist for some good reason then it should always be witnessed by if not through dispassionate third parties we’ve delegated to represent our interests on our behalf, such as attorneys or police officers. In a sense, we need our own flying monkeys to triangulate the narcissist. Third parties have no emotional connection with the narcissist, are less likely to be manipulated and act as a buffer, shielding us from the narcissist’s crazy-making and tantrums.
When we doubt our own perceptions in favor of the narcissist compelling us to do so, when their warped view we trust from them is incongruent with reality and they blame us for it inevitably failing us then we feel that we’re going crazy. Indeed, the narcissist convinces us (and others) that we’re crazy, we’re unstable, we’re bitter, that we have anger issues, are out of control, must be abusing drugs or dangerous. These are the pernicious effects of gaslighting and smear campaigning; for the narcissist to throw us off balance, convince us via vox populi that we really must be insane and then offer themselves up as the one we can trust to provide us the help and guidance we obviously need. An act of subterfuge, of domination masked as selfless compassion. So confident is this lie sold to us (and others) that we can forgive ourselves for buying into it.
To take back this confidence, this control, this power that was systematically stolen from us, we must unlearn what we have learned (to paraphrase Jedi Master Yoda) and relearn to trust in ourselves to accurately sense, weigh evidence and make fair judgments of ourselves, others and the world we make our way in.
Thanks to the internet, there are more and more people speaking out about narcissistic abuse who validate our own stories as ours theirs. We reverse the smear campaign, reminding each other that we’re not crazy, stupid or unworthy after all.
I discovered narcissism by searching on feelings I was having, symptoms that eventually led me to articles by the psychological community, blogs by abuse survivors and forums where survivors share and care for one another.
It needs to be noted that I found the narcissism survivor forums (including comment sections), in particular, to be infested with narcissistic trolls looking to get an easy fix like sharks in freshly chummed water or crocodiles at the rivers edge ready to snap on the first thirsty victim. All narcissists are victims of abuse but not all victims are narcissists and this distinction is not a clear cut either-or but rather is a matter of degree on a spectrum. Many of the same narcissistic abuse dynamics that many of us came from are replayed out in these forums. So beware opening up to seemingly well-meaning strangers who may, on a dime, turn around and capitalize on your vulnerability. People who can empathize, understand and appreciate that trust is earned. Those, like the narcissist, who do not, will behave like whiny victims when they think you’re depriving them of what they believe they’re entitled to. If something feels off, it is.
Also, there are similar forums for parents of estranged children who’ve gone no contact with them. These are extremely toxic, brutally triggering pity parties where narcissistic pathology is on full display and must be avoided.
I’ve come to find informative and validating many of the video blogs (vlogs) many abuse survivors (and narcissists themselves, in the case of Sam Vaknin) publish on YouTube. To see the expressions on another person’s face, the inflection in their voice, adds layers of more personal communication missing from the written word.
It’s important to be able to prove to ourselves that our experience is real. Wounds, or rather the memory of them, do fade with time and the narcissist depends on our forgetting which, to them, is the same as forgiveness. “It’s all in the past,” they like to say. “Just get over it.” “Move on.” The narcissist is loathe to acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part and so nothing ever gets resolved with them. As such, we must make the case to ourselves without them and for that we need evidence.
Keep everything the narcissist sends. Every voicemail, letter, email, text, instant message, social media, or whatever. Record any and every exchange with them you can. Every phone call, internet chat, video correspondence, meeting them in person, or whatever. This goes for all their flying monkeys as well who, in many cases, can be more abusive than the narcissist. If nothing else, the sheer risk that they may be exposed, humiliated and us vindicated can be an effective deterrent against the narcissist. But more importantly, evidence remains a tangible reminder of what they’ve done and therefore who they really are, not who they say they are.
The narcissist deprived us of acknowledgment. We need to be recognized as real people with real feelings, real thoughts, real experiences. Well meaning friends or family may sincerely want to help but may be unable to relate and become frustrated with us. Others (including the narcissist and their flying monkeys) may recommend that we get professional help. Even if they say so for self-serving reasons, this is good advice.
I resisted therapy for a long time, ashamed to ask for help on one hand (requesting help in Family makes one a burden and forever indebted so nobody does) and confident that I could help myself by myself (with misplaced “I’ll show them” bravado) on the other. I was wrong.
Professional help can come in many forms (counselors, life coaches, therapists, etc.) but ought to involve at least one other human being listening to us. The most effective will have experience treating or at least a curiosity and willingness to explore trauma, Cluster B personality disorders and be patient, gentle with us. Medications can be a compliment to this necessary human contact, not a substitute for it.
Again, if something feels off, it is. Just because somebody has a fancy degree proving that they can jump through hoops on command, it doesn’t mean that they can actually do what the framed piece of paper on their wall says. Not all professionals are helpful, some can damage us further. We must be discerning, trust our instincts. And a good therapist will encourage and empower us to do so.
I think of the psychotherapist I’ve been working with as a kind of guide helping me find paths through the mental mess that spews forth from me. They listen, acknowledge and provide feedback, constructive criticisms and suggestions. What I express is taken seriously rather than dismissed as the mad ravings of a sick mind.
Let Emotions Flow
In the narcissistic condition, we don’t have our own feelings. We feel what the narcissist needs us to feel for them. Dare we express some emotion they don’t like (and probably don’t understand), we are punished, accused of being selfish, smug, bitter, greedy, jealous or any other bad, morally reprehensible character flaw (notice these accusations are projections of what they actually feel), trained through negative reinforcement to be ashamed of and deny ourselves these feelings. We shut up and shut down.
But the feelings don’t go away. We become emotionally constipated with them and they fester, leaking out into our lives, manifesting in a myriad of destructive, seemingly mysterious behavioral and physical maladies. This too, the narcissist blames on us as weakness, selfishness, and we continue to comply with their demands, further compounding this problem until we can contain it no longer and we break. This too, the narcissist blames on us as being a problem that we’re deliberately visiting upon them with but, desperate and no longer capable of self-control much less compliance, we might do something terribly destructive to them, others or, more than likely, to ourselves.
The narcissist has left us an open wound in order to avoid narcissistic injury themselves. A wound that must be drained, unblocked, these “bad” feelings felt before we can begin to heal.
My emphatically non-professional, personal opinion is that antidepressants may treat symptoms but are generally not a long term solution. I was prescribed Paxil once, following an emotional breakdown after being snowed in with Father with almost zero privacy for several weeks, which left me numb (among other side effects). While antidepressants may be useful in talking ourselves down from the ledge long enough to find a solution, I don’t believe it’s possible to get through to the source of the pain unless we allow ourselves to feel it. And we can’t feel joy again if we don’t feel anything.
Guilt (negative self-evaluation) and shame (negative social evaluation) are emotions that, by themselves, are important for navigating social conventions. For instance, we learn that touching a very hot object hurts so we’re careful to avoid doing that in the future. Similarly, it should also hurt when we do something that results in the suffering of another. We presume that other people must be able to empathize like we do; however, the narcissist lacks the capability to internalize guilt or shame, much less make amends for unacknowledged wrong-doing, and so seek to absolve themselves of any discomfort directed at them by projecting these emotions outward through us and making us responsible for them. Of course, it is not within our power to actually fix the narcissist’s mistakes that we wrongly accept from them as our own and so this “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” feedback loop becomes toxic shame, a downward spiral of learned helplessness, fear and despair leading to our wits end.
When we’re triggered to feel guilt or shame, stop and explore the feeling. Did we actually do the thing we feel bad about? Can we resolve the thing we feel bad about? If either answer is no then we tell ourselves that it’s okay to let it go. Not our problem. We’re not bad. And we do this each time we’re triggered, gently reassuring ourselves.
I hold that betrayal is the gravest of all sins for it implies a conscious choice to wrong another. We were willfully deceived, exploited and abused by the narcissist to whom we entrusted our vulnerability, we were violated and that should piss us off!
Anger is energy, motivation to change what is wrong. I think of it as fire, capable of great destruction if allowed to burn amuck but a very powerful tool when harnessed for constructive ends. Like our escape and recovery.
There is a lot of social pressure to forgive others in Western society that is heavily influenced by the Christian tradition that stresses forgiveness, the idea being that we’re [seen as] better people for letting go of the resentments we hold towards someone who’s wronged us. However, failure to forgive is, in and of itself, often taken for an unforgivable offense. So forgiveness in this context is less about making us whole again than it is about obediently sacrificing ourselves for the needs of others.
It makes sense then that the narcissist would stress “forgive and forget” and why the mere word “forgiveness” is triggering for us. They come off looking like magnanimous victims and we look like disturbed abusers, only hurting ourselves by denying them and ourselves closure. Worse, we actually believe this too! After all, how can everyone else be wrong? Well, they can be.
Actual forgiveness is a not a unilateral act we’re expected to perform to magically fix everything. It’s a process, a negotiation between people to repair a damaged relationship wherein the wrongdoing is acknowledged, contrition is expressed, reparations are exchanged, changes are made to prevent the problem from recurring and trust is restored. Forgiveness requires time, effort, mutual respect and valuation from all parties involved. Moreover, it’s not guaranteed. We may have irreconcilable differences.
The narcissist does not apologize, is never remorseful, continues to abuse rather than any attempt to make amends, does not respect us, only values what we do for them and does nothing to earn our trust they act like they’re automatically entitled to it and revert to butthurt little children when we don’t promptly give it to them. They are a crime in progress that cannot be forgiven. We can learn to accept that, to forgive ourselves for being unable to fix someone else’s problems foisted upon us and move on.
Acceptance is also a process but it’s one we don’t need the narcissist for. It also requires our time and effort but also self-compassion and patience with ourselves, the objective being to move them out and take back our power. And when we do this, our perception of the narcissist is reduced to the pathetic, emotionally arrested, small, aging child they try so desperately to disguise and our feelings about them turn to pity.
Grieve The Loss
Grieving is a process by which we accept loss. We must grieve because it’s detrimental to hold something to be real that isn’t. Everything we denied, that we dismissed, everything we rationalized to make ourselves believe the narcissist and our relationship with them was what we wanted them to be is a delusion. No amount of wishful thinking will ever make the pretty lies true. We only suffer for them. To free ourselves of this suffering, this fantasy must die. And we must mourn its passing.
Externalize The Pain
It’s not enough to acknowledge our bad feelings. We must draw the poison outside of ourselves in a tangible, experiential, symbolic act of creation. The pain is going to manifest in our lives one way or another so we do well to exercise our choice in the matter.
How we do this will vary from one person to another — dancers dance, writers write, painters paint, any medium will do — but it’ll be an expression that we can reflect on and empathize with ourselves through. I illustrate and began journaling again (I used to in high school and college), this blog being a bit of both. Other survivors record themselves talking about their experiences.
Outside of the narcissistic dynamic, we gain a different perspective of it than we had on the inside. Similarly, when we’ve externalized the pain, we also gain a different perspective on it than when we’d internalized it. I had the unfortunate experience of suffering a kidney stone once. Outside my body it was little more than grain of sand but, inside me, that tiny thing was the cause of immense pain. Flush it out.
Replenish The Self
The narcissist does not care about us and with them cut from our lives we can no longer rationalize continuing to self-sabotage for them. We must learn to care for ourselves and to accept caring from ourselves as well as others. Not only catching ourselves but lifting ourselves back up again is difficult but rewarding work. There are no shortcuts.
As we are restored, the narcissist’s enablers will reveal themselves, call us selfish, mock us, act as though we are hurting them, anything to tear us down and put us back in that place where they want us to remain. But their suffering is not our responsibility. Ours is.
The more we come to rediscover and empower ourselves, the less other opinions of us matter.
Restore The Temple
Enduring a narcissist leaves us exhausted and deregulated overall. We end up confused not just mentally and emotionally but physically as well. Our seemingly distinctive systems are all connected. As one goes, the others follow.
When we’re depressed, we don’t want to move but move we must. Physical exercise is a fantastic way to help regulate a lot of systems, promoting more restful sleep, improved digestion, encourages better dietary decisions and eating habits and rewards us with the release of relaxing endorphins that feel good. Activities that we can do safely (listen to your body!) and keeps us regularly engaged makes a noticeable difference in elevating our overall mood and energy. And we look more rejuvenated and attractive as a pleasant side effect.
Put good in, get good out. Better fuel results in better performance and better feelings. A nutritious, balanced diet comprised of whole foods that we can pronounce the ingredients of (or are ingredients themselves) is usually best. There’s no one diet fits all. Everyone is at least a little different.
Probiotics make a big difference! There is ongoing research on what’s called the gut-brain connection. Our bodies are essentially macrocosms teaming with microorganisms (our microbiome) that perform all manner of vital functions for us so that they themselves may live. I think of them as my people. The stress visited upon us by the narcissist and crappy food-like things we’ve been ingesting has decimated our people, leaving many functions understaffed to the point of disrepair, leaving us weakened, vulnerable to attack and we suffer for it. Mentally and physically. Probiotics, which can be found in many foods or supplements, feed our people, make them (and us by extension) strong again, get our systems running properly and regulate our mood.
Rest when we are tired. Recharge and refresh ourselves. All those long days and all-nighters we pulled to “get it done” is crap. Quality sleep is so important. Far from being lazy, even a short nap, just resting our eyes, helps us feel better, think better and be more productive in our awake time.
The narcissist traumatized us, programmed us to serve them. We spent so much time stressing over their wants, feelings, words and actions that we continue to ruminate over them (and every other sort of what-if scenario) in their absence. I developed perfectionist tendencies, exhaustively striving to avoid causing disappointment or incur criticism of which I would internalize as a personal moral failing or character flaw — not only with the narcissist but in every facet of my life. Emotional flashbacks are easily triggered in us, especially when we first embark on our recovery and the wounds are still fresh.
We need to take time out for ourselves to stop. Be silent. Be still. Listen. Acknowledge our anxieties and brain chatter mulling them minutia of our daily lives and let them go. Whatever wants out, let it go. Relax. Breath in. Breath out. Let ourselves become calm. Be content.
Counting backwards, in particular, seems to help me to interrupt the spin in my head. Spiritual traditions make use of rosary, mala beads, chanting, dancing or some other ritual in their prayers and meditations to achieve a repetitious rhythm that lulls the noise of our conscious mind.
Tune Up The Bullshit Detector
One of the reasons the narcissist chose to exploit us is that we didn’t know any better. We took for granted that most other people were decent, reasonable human beings like ourselves, even when faced with evidence to the contrary. So let’s know better.
Now that we no longer permit the narcissist to poison our mind, we begin to accept that they are wrong (about us, about everything) and we must learn to discern how they are wrong. When we feel that something is wrong, our mind parses out what that something is. And to get better, sharper, faster, it requires exercise just like our body does.
Puzzles are a great way for our mental faculties to play. Mathematics, games, learning a new language, debating a position, any sort of problem solving that requires logic to achieve a goal. Puzzles can be exhausting, frustrating – sort of like the narcissist. But they don’t punish us when we need to step back from them from time to time and they are also an opportunity to learn patience and practice kindness towards ourselves.
Ofttimes, we find ourselves unable to figure out what the problem is, much less how to begin to solve it. The narcissist kept us in a fog of confusion and self-doubt and howled at us for being so judgmental whenever we attempted to get our bearings back from them. Critical thinking (exercising judgment) cuts through the murk and discerns the problem from it. Studying philosophy and educating ourselves on logic, fallacies to catch and what differentiates arguments is essential for giving context to and deconstructing what people are actually saying, separating the truth from the lie. And the more we learn, the sharper our wits, the more transparent, cartoonish the narcissist’s lies become to us.
Change The Environment
We were merely a prop in a set staged by the narcissist to frame their spotlight. As this thing with a role, we have a tendency to recreate a similar set with similar players acting out similar scenes for ourselves in which we feel we belong but that are as destructive if not more so than the dynamic with the narcissist we cut from our lives. This behavior is best untangled with the help of a professional; however in the meantime, changing up the scenery is very therapeutic in and of itself.
Putting as much distance between the narcissist and ourselves is an important part of no contact. Land and sea become effective barriers. A new place presents us a kind of fresh start with new opportunities. Even if it’s only temporary. A simple bookstore getaway or walk in the park can do wonders.
We are social animals and connecting with others is important for our well being, building self-esteem and confidence. Learning to trust — and, as importantly, whom not to trust — isn’t easy but most people are decent and appreciate that we’re all in this human experience together. Remember that the few bad actors (including, perhaps especially, the narcissist) we encounter aren’t representative of everyone. It’s said that the most difficult people are among our most valuable teachers. Get rid of them, of course, but keep the lessons we take away from them, become better people ourselves for it and be open to letting better people like us into our lives.
Practice Saying No
I was raised to learn, wrongly, that refusal was equivalent to rejection, that rejection wasn’t fair and if it wasn’t fair then I had no right, that I was being hurtful. So I became a people pleaser who felt ashamed to disappoint anyone. And I, in turn, projected this warped value system onto others and I was, indeed, hurt when they rejected me and, indeed, felt it wasn’t fair of them to do so.
But we do have the right to say no, it is fair and how we feel about it is our responsibility. Normal, healthy people respect our rights as they do their own. People who don’t, like the narcissist, are under the delusion that they have the right to exploit us and want to punish us when we deny them.
Saying no is setting a boundary and the first new boundary we set for ourselves was going no contact with the narcissist. Now away from their sucking influence, regaining strength, empowered with the knowledge of our rediscovered selves and other philosophical systems, we’re in a better position to test our limits and those of others’. To define who we are, what works for us and what we are and aren’t willing to do.
Laughter is good medicine. It’s like an involuntary response to our brain being tickled. Comedy relief is incorporated into stories to take that dour edge off of too much intensity, making serious subjects more palatable for audiences. So it is in life as well. A healthy sense of humor helps us not take ourselves to seriously, strengthens social bonds and keeps events in perspective so we don’t make mountains of molehills.
Moreover, the narcissist hates laughter. Sure, they can seem charming and good natured enough when they’re the center of attention but, unable to empathize, they cannot enjoy anyone else having a good time without them. And they hate being dismissed with laughter. React any other way to their behavior — anger, sadness, adoration, etc. — and it’s all the same sweet nectar of narcissistic supply to them but laugh at them and they completely lose their shit. There is nothing inside them to cope with it whatsoever. They can’t use it internally, they can’t project it outwards, whatever carefully crafted persona they’re fronting comes undone in stunning relief and they flee or rally whatever flying monkeys are on hand to protect them.
Not that we want to necessarily be received as taunting the narcissist as their craven, vindictive lust for revenge without regard for even themselves is, at the very least, a pain in the ass and potentially dangerous for us and anyone else that might have anything to do with us. A wounded but energetic narcissist is a kamikaze suicide bomber, a terminator that will not stop until we are annihilated. Remember, the narcissist is essentially an angry child we cannot reason with and that only understands force. No contact is always best.
But now that we’re no contact with the narcissist, give them and their enablers silly names when they turn up in our thoughts — and they do. One of the vloggers I follow on YouTube, Ollie Matthews, calls his narcissistic father and mother Meatnormous and Drunky The Fuck Clown, respectively (though obviously not respectfully). Ridiculous names like these diminish the narcissist and their influence in our minds because it would be absurd for us to take people with such names seriously. We might feel bad if our mother tells us we’re a piece of shit but not so much when some severely damaged woman called Drunky says it.
The one thing the narcissist gave us was a role with a sense of purpose. Their purpose. Now, without them, we are unmoored, drifting free without destination. Without a story. It’s disconcerting enough that we sometimes find ourselves actually entertaining a return to the narcissist and the narrative they’ve scripted for us. This is a very bad idea, not least of which because they’ll redouble their abuse to punish our insurrection, escalate their controlling behavior to quell any further disobedience and their sense of entitlement and invincibility will swell upon being vindicated by our groveling return to them. It’s all bad! So let’s be patient and kind with ourselves. Healing doesn’t happen overnight.
Our story emerges from our recovery. As we clear out badness and move in goodness, our passion and purpose finds us. Let it happen. Take the risk. Follow the mystery. Embrace the unknown. Failing is just another word for learning. And we’ve learned that we can survive the worst so there’s no reason not aspire to the best. We may not reach all our goals but we certainly won’t if we never try and amazing things we could’ve never imagined for ourselves occur along the path we carve out of this life.
I don’t think survivors of narcissistic abuse completely recover from it. Folks with long dead narcissistic parents still struggle to overcome the long lingering effects. It shapes us the way it’s shaped them. The best thing we can probably realistically hope for is to be aware, turn this badness into something good and not pass it on to future generations.