Recovery from narcissist abuse is very difficult and can take years. The reality that narcissists often refuse to leave their victims alone means that the abuse is hard to escape even after the victim physically leaves. The fact that narcissists often round up flying monkeys to further abuse their targets can bring extra layers of ongoing abuse. The split from a narcissist is unlike a normal break-up. It is usually far more traumatic and dramatic. A narcissist’s target will usually be re-abused or re-victimized long after they leave the initial relationship. And…these survivors need our support to carry the emotional burden!
So, what are some ways you can help a friend or loved one who is escaping a relationship with a narcissist?
1. Listen: Listen, listen, listen…and listen some more. Many of us are so traumatized and haunted that we need to poor out dozens of stories for someone to validate reality and support us in trying to cope with what we’ve endured.
2. Be patient: Being supportive of an abuse survivor is a big job! Sometimes you might get tired of hearing about it, but on the survivor’s side, they might not be done sharing or needing someone to hear them. Take care of your needs, but please try to be patient and remember that trauma is not easy for us to process.
3. Include us: One good way for survivors to recover is to get back into life and building a new life. It’s easy for us to get depressed and stuck at home. Try to remember that, and include us in social activities with you. Sometimes, it’s wonderful therapy for us to get out and remember what was good about ourselves and our lives!
4. Honor our feelings: Anger, sadness, frustration…they are uncomfortable! But, they are also honest and real. We can’t just deny we feel them, or push them aside, nor should we. Help use put our feelings into words and process just what is going on.
5. Give us a dose of reality: In a nice way! It’s easy for us to get caught up with negative thoughts and beliefs that only perpetuate more sadness. Remind us when we are wrong and help us see that things aren’t all bad.
1. Compare: No one will react or heal the same way or on the same timeline.
2. Spy: It’s easy to wonder what the ex-abuser is doing. It’s toxic to find out. We already know how they are, so you don’t need to keep track for us. It will only keep us upset. Don’t enable us!
3. Let us wallow: It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut after abuse. Even when our heads understand everything and know it’s time to feel better, we still need to jump to the next level. Don’t push us, but do politely let us know when we are hurting our own recovery.
These are just a few ideas, and by no means everything that could help or hurt. The number one thing I can say is: surviving a narcissist is easiest when we have a really good emotional support system. Please give a shoulder and an ear to your friends who are hurting.
One thought on “Ways you can help an abuse survivor–and what not to do”
I’ve never heard the flying monkey term/example. When I was 2 sentences into reading this, it clicked: my 20 year old son ( who had just turned 18 when I finally got the guts up to let my x know I was done. No more) is a flying monkey. He believes everything his dad says because he is his dad and that’s just what you do. My x went from always telling my son to respect me and always make sure I was ok, to filling his head with lies ( obviously to distract my son from seeing why I finally did this) lies like: ” she has financially ruined us” She broke up the family” etc. he defiantly plays the victim to keep my son at his beck and call. He sent my son over to beg me not to use a lawyer for the divorce. Then it went to the next level. Next thing I know, instead of respecting me for being strong enough to get out and not live like that anymore, I got a very angry lecture from my son about how when HE gets married, it will be to someone who “won’t give up ” on him. My son told me he was bitter and resentful towards me, and that he can’t come over to see me when my daughter, who is younger, goes over for her visit once a week because “it’s the only time they can be a family anymore”. My son also told me that he feels guilty if my x is home by himself. When I remind him that his dad is a grown adult, he gets very angry & with me and says: “Pardon me for having empathy for someone!!!” ( ummm…. Where was that when his dad I would tear me down during one of my x’s hour long tangents?? He would just stand there and watch too scared to move much less say anything. When I remind him of these times, and ask why he never said anything like, ” don’t talk to her like that” or even something like, ” calm down, and re-think what you are saying” he has no answer. He just gets very frustrated and angry. I’m so afraid he will feel so trapped and guilty I don’t talk about any of it anymore. I’ve just had to accept the fact that my son truly believes that his dad is the victim).
It’s a losing battle. My son is just like me, so it makes sense that he was so easily sucked in and remains so loyal and protective.