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Healing from Narcissistic or Emotional Abuse: A Journey to Rediscovery and Resilience

Healing from Narcissistic or Emotional Abuse: A Journey to Rediscovery and Resilience

Abuse, whether labeled as narcissistic or emotional, can leave deep, lasting scars on your self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and overall mental well-being. Many people who have experienced this may feel lost, confused, and question their own reality. If you are reading this and wondering if you have gone through narcissistic or emotional abuse or are looking for help to heal from a harmful or unhealthy relationship. I want you to know that you’re not alone, and there is a path to finding healing and rediscovery.

 

What is Narcissistic or Emotional Abuse?

Narcissistic and emotional abuse are types of emotional manipulation that involve behaviors like gaslighting, where a person makes you doubt your own perceptions and reality. This kind of abuse can occur in any relationship, including those with parents, siblings, children, partners, and even friends. Over time, this can wear away your confidence and leave you feeling isolated and unsure of yourself. Some common signs of narcissistic or emotional abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Gaslighting: Making you question your reality, memories, and perceptions.
  • Manipulation: Using guilt, shame, and fear to establish control.
  • Isolation: Cutting you off from friends, family, and support systems.
  • Blaming: Making you feel responsible for their problems or emotional state.
  • Constant Criticism and Devaluation: Belittling you and making you feel worthless.
  • Minimizing or Dismissing Your Feelings: Making light of your feelings, needs, or concerns.
  • Love Bombing and Withdrawal: Alternating between excessive praise and affection and sudden withdrawal or silent treatment.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’re wondering whether you’ve experienced narcissistic or emotional abuse, here are some questions to help you reflect:

  1. Do you often feel confused about your relationship and question your own reality?
  2. Have you felt isolated from friends and family since being with this person?
  3. Does this person frequently criticize or belittle you, making you feel worthless?
  4. Do you find yourself doubting your own memories and perceptions because this person tells you they are wrong?
  5. Do you experience extreme highs and lows in your relationship, with periods of intense affection followed by sudden withdrawal?
  6. Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting this person?
  7. Have you become dependent on this person’s approval and validation?

Recognizing these experiences is a helpful step towards healing. Remember, the label does not matter as much as acknowledging your experiences and their impact on your well-being.

 

The Impact of Narcissistic or Emotional Abuse

These effects can be profound and long-lasting. You may feel is if you are a shell of your former self, struggling with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and a pervasive sense of worthlessness. You might also find yourself questioning your own judgment or trust in yourself, feeling like you can never do anything right, and fearing that you are somehow to blame for what you endured.

 

The Journey to Healing

The path towards healing from narcissistic or emotional abuse is truly a journey, and it begins with acknowledging how you are feeling and honoring that you are deserving of love, care, kindness, and support. Here are some ways you can begin your healing process:

  1. Acknowledge and Validate Your Experience: A key step to healing is recognizing and acknowledging the abuse. Validate your experiences and understand that the abuse was not your fault. You are deserving of love, respect, and kindness.
  2. Seek a Supportive Community: Surround yourself with supportive and understanding people. This can include friends, family, support groups, and a therapist who focuses in narcissistic and emotional abuse recovery.
  3. Rebuild Your Self-Esteem: These experiences can often leave you feeling worthless and unworthy of love. Work on rebuilding your self-esteem by engaging in parts of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment, setting healthy boundaries, and practicing self-compassion.
  4. Reauthor Negative Beliefs: From these relationships you may have developed strong negative beliefs about yourself in your mind. Challenge these harmful beliefs and create ways to reauthor your story with empowering and compassionate beliefs about yourself.
  5. Establish and Build Your Personal Identity: Reconnect with who you are outside of this relationship. Discover your authenticity, passions, interests, and strengths. Build on this personal identity to create a stronger sense of self.
  6. Therapy: Working with a therapist who understands narcissistic and emotional abuse can be beneficial. Therapy provides a safe space to process your experiences, develop coping strategies, and work towards building strength and resilience. A significant part of healing involves understanding the inner layers of your experiences and how they have affected you.

 

If you are finding yourself more curious about whether you have been in or are currently in an emotionally and/or narcissistic abusive relationship, here are more resources to help:

 

  • Recommended book about identifying and healing from narcissistic abuse by Dr. Ramani Durvasula: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/710202/its-not-you-by-ramani-durvasula-phd/
  • Recommended YouTube Channel filled with educational videos surrounding emotional and narcissistic abuse provided by clinical psychologist, Ramani Durvasula, PhD who has extensive years of research and clinical experience with narcissistic abuse: https://www.youtube.com/@DoctorRamani
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline websiteis the official site of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, providing resources, support, and information for individuals experiencing domestic violence and emotional abuse. The site offers 24/7 confidential assistance through phone, online chat, and text services, helping users understand abuse, create safety plans, and connect with local resources.

Emergency Support Resources:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text TELLNOW to 85944
  • Clark County YWCA SafeChoice Hotline – 360-695-0501 or 1-800-695-0167

 

If you are seeking guidance in the areas of narcissistic or emotional abuse recovery, Ellen Bass, LMHCA, offers a compassionate and safe environment to explore these challenges and dedicated to helping you navigate your path to healing. Contact us to schedule an appointment!

 

The Power of Community in Trauma Survivorship

The Power of Community in Trauma Survivorship

Consistent across human history has been the importance of community. Safety in numbers against a predator, the sharing of resources, or simply holding space for one another are all integral to our survival. Yet, largely, our individualistic culture places emphasis on autonomy and independence. Self-care is a term used often within the context of therapy and trauma healing – and self-care is a necessary step – but often we are encouraged to lean into individual healing practices when what we need is to be reminded that we belong in the world around us.
 
 
Oftentimes we walk away from a traumatic experience with more barriers to accessing ourselves than ever before. We learn to mistrust ourselves and/or those around us; shame and guilt become the forefront of our self-talk; our emotions feel too dangerous to foray into. It is confusing to be told to access self for care when, commonly, self is difficult to find internally. Research tells us that connection to others leads to positive outcomes for trauma survivors (Goodman, Dutton, Vankos, & Weinfurt, 2005), and it tells us that even brief interactions with the world around (waving hello, for example) us are reliable mood-boosters (Santos, 2023).
 
So what does community care look like, and how can we engage in this type of inter-dependence on one another?
 

Community care at the micro level:

  1. Saying hello to a neighbor
  2. Meal prepping/cooking with a loved one
  3. Texting a friend
  4. Carpooling with a friend or colleague
  5. Checking in with your loved ones

 

 

 

Community care at the macro level:

  1. Participating in a community garden
  2. Community clothing swaps
  3. Group therapy spaces for processing and healing
  4. Volunteering for a cause you care about
  5. Community book clubs
  6. Participating in social activism
A reminder, too, that community care works when you receive care alongside providing it. Trauma recovery makes it difficult to remember that you, as much as your neighbor, are part of this community. Not every type of community care will be a fit for you, and that’s okay. Wherever you land, you are not alone. Healing takes place in the company of those who see and are seen by you.

From Pain to Power: The Narrative Trauma Therapy Experience

From Pain to Power: The Narrative Trauma Therapy Experience

In the journey of healing from trauma, the power of storytelling is often underestimated. Yet, within the realm of mental health counseling, narrative trauma therapy stands as a profound method for fostering healing and resilience. By harnessing the narrative of one’s experiences, this therapeutic approach offers a pathway towards understanding, processing, and ultimately transforming trauma’s impact on one’s life.

 

Understanding Narrative Trauma Therapy

At its core, narrative trauma therapy is rooted in the belief that our experiences are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves. Trauma, whether stemming from childhood adversities, abuse, or other distressing events, can often disrupt these narratives, leaving individuals feeling fragmented, powerless, and stuck in a cycle of pain.

Through narrative trauma therapy, clients are invited to explore their past experiences within a safe and supportive environment. Guided by a trained therapist, clients embark on a journey of self-discovery, gradually unraveling the threads of their personal narratives. By revisiting and reshaping these narratives, individuals can reclaim agency over their stories, ultimately fostering healing and empowerment.

 

What to Expect in Narrative Trauma Therapy

During narrative trauma therapy sessions, clients can expect a collaborative and client-centered approach. Therapists work alongside clients, providing compassionate guidance and support as they navigate their unique healing journey.

  1. Exploration of Personal Narratives: Clients are encouraged to explore and articulate their experiences, emotions, and beliefs within the context of their personal narratives. Through techniques such as storytelling, journaling, and guided reflection, individuals gain insight into the ways trauma has impacted their lives.
  2. Identification of Negative Thought Patterns: Within the narrative therapy framework, emphasis is placed on recognizing and challenging negative thought patterns perpetuated by trauma. By identifying and reframing these beliefs, clients can cultivate a more compassionate and empowering self-narrative.
  3. Integration and Meaning-Making: Through the process of storytelling and reflection, clients begin to integrate their experiences into a coherent narrative framework. This process facilitates meaning-making and enables individuals to construct new narratives that honor their resilience and strength.
  4. Skill-Building and Coping Strategies: Narrative trauma therapy equips clients with practical coping strategies and resilience-building techniques to navigate future challenges. By fostering a sense of agency and self-efficacy, individuals develop the skills necessary to cope with adversity and cultivate a sense of empowerment.

 

Who Can Benefit from Narrative Trauma Therapy?

Narrative trauma therapy is a versatile approach that can benefit individuals grappling with various forms of trauma, including:

  • Childhood Trauma Survivors: Adults who experienced adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction, can find healing through narrative trauma therapy.
  • Survivors of Abuse or Assault: Those who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as survivors of assault or violence, can benefit from exploring and reframing their narratives.
  • Individuals with PTSD: Narrative trauma therapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), offering a holistic approach to healing and recovery.

 

Changing Negative Thought Patterns

Narrative trauma therapy serves as a powerful tool for challenging and transforming negative thought patterns perpetuated by trauma. Here are some examples of negative thoughts that narrative trauma therapy can help change:

  1. “I’m to blame for what happened.”: Many trauma survivors grapple with feelings of guilt and self-blame. Narrative therapy helps individuals reframe these beliefs, recognizing that responsibility lies with the perpetrator, not the victim.
  2. “I’ll never be able to trust anyone again.”: Trauma can erode trust in others and the world at large. Through narrative therapy, individuals can explore their beliefs about trust, challenge distorted perceptions, and cultivate healthier relationship dynamics.
  3. “I’m broken beyond repair.”: Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are common among trauma survivors. Narrative trauma therapy emphasizes resilience and strength, helping individuals recognize their inherent worth and capacity for healing.

 

In conclusion, narrative trauma therapy offers a transformative approach to healing from trauma by harnessing the power of storytelling. Through exploration, reflection, and reframing, individuals can reclaim agency over their narratives, fostering resilience and empowerment in the face of adversity.

If you’re looking for a narrative therapy specialist, Nhu An Lam, LMHC and Ellen Bass, LMHCA are available to help! Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

 

Sources:

 

A Guide For Talking to Children About Remote Violence

A Guide For Talking to Children About Remote Violence

Children today are confronted with a baseline awareness of violence higher than most adults can imagine. “Remote violence” refers to exposure to highly violent images and stories, without experiencing the violence first-hand. In essence, this is the increasing awareness children hold that something could happen to them, even if it hasn’t yet. With monthly mass shooting drills in schools, awareness of police brutality against individuals and at peaceful demonstrations, and constant media coverage of physical and emotional violence, it’s nearly impossible for this to not reach a child in some way. It’s crucial that we find ways to talk about it to help them process, ask questions, and reaffirm our commitment to keeping them safe. There is no one right way to have this conversation, but keeping these three tenants in mind can help you create a framework to apply to the situation at hand. I’ve kept this purposefully simplistic; as much as I wish there were a script I could hand you, each conversation, each event, will demand a different response. It’s better to have a conversation, even if it doesn’t feel perfect to you so release the expectation that you’ll know exactly what to say, and focus your efforts on maintaining just these three principles:

 

  • Be developmentally appropriate
  • Be honest
  • Be regulated

 

Be developmentally appropriate: 

 

How you talk about events like this will vary widely based on the age and development of your child. A 3-year-old may not need to be told anything, whereas an 8-year-old will likely require a conversation.  Try to match the child’s level as closely as possible, and be prepared that they may have witnessed content or conversations what were not developmentally appropriate (overhearing adult conversations, hearing teachers at school, catching a news segment on the bus or seeing a newspaper on the street). Younger children may ask questions in an attempt to understand something outside their normal experience, while older children and teens may not need information or answers to questions as much as reminders of security and support. 

 

Be honest

 

You don’t need to have all the answers are tie things up perfectly, it’s an unrealistic goal that will leave you feeling like you’ve failed despite doing the best you can. In many ways, telling your child you don’t know something (when you truly don’t) helps them trust what you’re saying and offers an opportunity to seek that information together or process the uneasiness that comes with not knowing. Except in very young children, try to resist the urge to promise safety at all times, or to lie and come up with a reason why scary things won’t ever be part of their experience. Oftentimes children are aware that an adult can’t ensure this, and they’ll wonder what else you aren’t telling them. Instead, focus on the aspects of safety they do have- in you and other trusted adults, in the protocols and procedures of their school and other environments, community resiliency, training of those in positions of protection, etc. Kids need our honesty, but again, a developmentally appropriate version of that honesty. 

 

Be regulated

 

Out of the three, this is easily the most important. It can be incredibly difficult to manage your own distress while being present for your child. If you feel you aren’t in a place of emotional regulation, wait to have this discussion until you can. For younger children, seeing their parent highly distressed is confusing and scary. For older children, it can put them in a state of overwhelm or lead to a feeling of responsibility to care for their adult’s emotions. Neither of these options offer space to process their own emotions. When we talk about emotional regulation, we don’t mean you need to pretend everything is fine (they’d see through the inauthenticity in that fairly quickly!) This only means that you’re in a place to hold space for the child’s emotions, even when they get heavy. Letting them know you feel the gravity of what’s happened is good, letting that take precedence when they need you for support is what we try to avoid. It’s even ok to engage your child in the coping strategies you use to get to that place of regulation, it will help you be most present for them, and model healthy coping strategies they can use when they were overwhelmed. 

 


If you take one thing from reading this, please know that the specific words you choose in these conversations are significantly less important than how you show up in the conversation.  Remember, your goal in these conversations is not to take their fear and pain completely away, only to guide them through it in a way that helps them feel as safe and secure as possible as they navigate a world that can be both scary and beautiful. 

 

 

 

Teen Mental Health: Post-Pandemic Edition

Teen Mental Health: Post-Pandemic Edition

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had profound effects on the mental and emotional well-being of our society. Rates of mental health struggles have skyrocketed in response to experiences of isolation, grief and loss, economic hardship, safety fears, and increasing...

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones

Over the past several years, there have been numerous traumatic events making news all across the country. From incidents of mass violence to devastating natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of Americans have experienced or witnessed a disastrous or life-threatening event. In addition to tragedies such as these, anyone who has experienced a shocking or dangerous incident (such as a car accident, a robbery, an act of violence, or sexual abuse) is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that requires medical treatment. PTSD can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s life, from their marriage and family, to their friendships and career. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Trauma

Someone with PTSD have repeated, involuntary re-experiences of the event or intrusive thoughts about it. They may experience bad dreams or flashbacks. They’re also vulnerable to certain triggers that remind them of what happened, such as sounds or smells.

Angry Outbursts

Someone silently suffering from trauma may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. Feeling irritable, the sufferer may be prone to outbursts of anger that they can’t control. If you’ve noticed your loved one frequently losing control and lashing out in anger, this is a sign that they’re suffering emotionally and require treatment.

Withdrawal

People suffering from PTSD will avoid people and situations that are reminders of the situation. As the victim continues to isolate themselves, how their friends and family react to their withdrawal will likely further isolate them, causing additional emotional distress.

Numbing

It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to self-medicate, seeking an escape from high levels of stress and difficult emotions. Some may keep themselves so busy they don’t have time to think or feel. Others might numb with food or sleep. Others turn to drugs or alcohol, which leads to risk of addiction. The painful trademark of substance abuse is the growing need for more of the drug to produce the same high. If left untreated, as substance abuse grows, the abuse will turn to addiction and eventually dependence. This can have devastating effects on every facet of a person’s life.

 

If you’re concerned that a loved one is experiencing symptoms of trauma, the most important think you can do is encourage them to seek professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Assure them of your support throughout the process.

For additional guidance and recommendations from a licensed professional, call our office today. We have licensed counselors available to help with trauma processing, including counselors that use evidenced-based approaches such as EMDR and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Trauma.

6 Reasons Why Yoga Might Be the Missing Link in Your Mental Health Toolkit

6 Reasons Why Yoga Might Be the Missing Link in Your Mental Health Toolkit

We invited our friend, Eve Parker at Simply Yoga, to share this guest blog, which provides information about the positive impact of yoga on a person’s mental health and overall wellness.  After reading the article, if you’d like more information about Simply Yoga, we encourage you to visit their website to learn more about the work they’re doing in the Vancouver, WA community.

 

Yoga postures, breathwork, and meditation can support mental health – from daily stress, frustration, and sadness to clinical anxiety, depression, and trauma so that you, your loved ones, and those you serve can benefit from a holistic practice to feel better. Yoga can be a powerful adjunct to traditional mental health treatments like psychotherapy and medication, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for those interventions. 

 

  1. Yoga can help us find balance in our nervous systems. 

When our nervous systems get out of whack, we might find ourselves stuck too revved up (hyperarousal or fight-or-flight) or not able to get our engine going (hypoarousal or shut down). 

 

If we’re feeling too low energy, depleted, lethargic, sluggish, or depressed we can do certain movements, poses, and breathing techniques to increase our energy. Try yoga poses that are standing, backbends, side bends, and flowing, faster movements. Try breathing with a longer inhale and try turning the lights on brighter or putting energizing music on. Studio classes in this category might be Vinyasa or Hatha. 

 

If we’re feeling high energy, stressed, anxious, rushed, flighty, or irritable we can do different things to bring that energy down. Try seated poses or ones on the back, forward bends and twists at a slow pace or even held for a few minutes. Try making the exhale longer and dim the lights or put on calming music. Studio classes to look for include Yin, Restorative, and Gentle. 

 

  1. Yoga can improve brain functioning and overall daily functioning. 

When we moderate and calm our breathing, this sends signals to our brain to lower cortisol and adrenaline – two hormones present when we are stressed or anxious – slowing the heart rate, reducing blood pressure, improving sleep, and improving digestion. 

 

Yoga and other mindfulness practices help improve attention, memory, and emotional resilience. We spend a lot of time moving through the world without paying much attention to the details or embodying our own bodies. Mindfulness practice, or paying attention fully to the present moment and present experience without judging it, helps us become aware of what is really happening in the present moment. This helps us find response instead of reaction by taking a breath and reflecting on what is going on around us. 

 

  1. Yoga helps trauma survivors. 

Yoga has been found to be more effective than some more traditional talk therapies at supporting trauma survivors. Oftentimes when we experience a trauma that hits us hard, we might have feelings of dissociation like we don’t quite fit in our bodies or the world around us. Or we might feel like we are reliving events from the past. Yoga can help us bring ourselves back into our bodies and into the here and now. Grounding techniques in which we draw attention to our feet as we stand or our legs as we sit help us to feel present. We can practice this in our yoga postures and throughout the day.

 

  1. Yoga builds reconnection to the self and improves self-worth. 

Yoga can help us prioritize self-care, carving out that hour of time that is just for us so that we can go back to doing the awesome things that we do with more energy to give. As we gain flexibility, strength, and endurance to get through difficult classes, poses, and days, we might find ourselves feeling more confident not just on the mat but off it. We might even feel greater appreciation and acceptance of our bodies for being able to take us through yoga classes. 

 

As we gain more awareness of how our bodies feel when we practice yoga, we might start to prioritize other things that make us feel good in our bodies like improving sleep, eating healthfully, and putting down the stress of work, family, friends, and life when we prioritize self-care. 

 

  1. Yoga comes with a community. 

Whether you’re practicing with a video or in a studio, you’re practicing with others, a global community of people just like you, seeking wellness in their lives. Interconnectedness and compassion promote healing on all levels. When we breathe and move in unison with others, our nervous systems start to coregulate and attune to each other. In a society of so much running around and doing and trying to obtain, spending some time to be in harmony with others is crucial. For those who feel disconnected from self and others, coming to the studio and seeing the same familiar faces week to week can help build that missing support and connectedness. 

 

  1. Yoga might be the thing to make us feel more whole. 

The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit word “yuj” meaning “to yoke” or “union.” This union can mean many things, but for me it means bringing together all parts of the self that have been fragmented – the physical body and its sensations, the breath, the mind and its thoughts, the emotions, and the spirit or soul that makes each of us alive and vibrant and unique. When we move our bodies and breath together in unison, these elements start to come together and many people start to say they feel more aligned with themselves, more relaxed, more balanced, or like they’re coming home. 

 

 

We want you to have the best success on your yoga journey and we’re here to answer any questions you have. We would love to direct you to the perfect class for your needs, experience, and background. Please email us at Simply Yoga and we’ll get you started on your wellness journey. 

 

 

Simply Yoga is a non-profit yoga studio and wellness center in Salmon Creek WA offering classes in a variety of styles and times of the day to suit all needs and ages (we even have kids yoga classes!). Using a wide umbrella of mental health awareness, our mission is to implement mindfulness and movement practices that are inclusive to all populations and income levels, with an increased focus on programs available for our children, youth, and first responders. We offer several donation-based classes as well so you never need worry about whether you can afford to come. We want everybody to experience yoga. Find out more and sign up for a class at SimplyYogaCenter.org

Eve Parker, LICSW, RYT-200 is a mental health therapist and yoga instructor in Vancouver WA, bringing 7 years experience in the mental health field to her yoga and mindfulness teaching. She is dedicated to bridging the gap between therapies for mind and body to treat mental illness, addictions, and trauma from a holistic standpoint. Eve values cultivating a safe, trauma-informed space in which consent is paramount, making classes accessible to each student’s individual anatomy through empowering students to learn and listen to their bodies and through creative use of props and cues. You can find out more about her at EveParkerWellness.com.