Recovering from serious abuse, (especially the emotional abuse that comes from narcissists,) can be a long journey. You might feel better off and on, make some really great progress then get stuck for a while, back slide a few times, and more. But, it is possible to keep getting ahead. For me, the thing that held me back, (and still holds me back,) the most is that what happened to me was NOT FAIR!
This monstrous person said and did horrible things to me, but was never held accountable. While I suffered, he never had to pay for anything he did. It’s not fair and it’s not right…but I want it to be made right!
And yet when I told people what had happened to me, hoping that he would be held accountable and would finally see some consequences, I paid some more. He still didn’t get what he deserved, but I got bullied some more for being so “mean” as to tell people what happened and “trash” the abuser.
Now that is really, really NOT FAIR!
Unfortunately, when you focus on that and keep hoping for justice, you aren’t getting better. Sadly, there may never be justice, and if the narcissist does get what they deserve, you might never know it. I am sorry to say this is true. The situation will probably never be fair. The next best thing is that you can limit the damages and pain, by accepting that and moving along anyway.
One form of therapy that can help with the aftermath of abuse is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, also known as DBT. It is best known as a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, (which is not unusual in childhood abuse survivors,) but it’s also beneficial to pretty much everyone in therapy. One of the lessons that is taught in DBT is the idea of “radical acceptance.” The idea behind it is that you simply have to accept the reality that something isn’t fair. That doesn’t mean it’s okay that you were abused, but it means that you have to accept the way this world works. That is a tough pill to swallow when you’ve been dealing with a narcissist or a sociopath, but it is essential to your healing. By dwelling on the abuse and waiting for justice, you are letting the abuse continue to hurt you.
For me, I was not ready to accept this idea at first. I did not grasp it and really “get” it until I was several years out of the abusive marriage. I still healed quite a bit, but the fact that this was unfair would always bounce back and depress me. When I finally accepted what had happened for what it was, and accepted that there would be no justice, I was better able to focus on what I needed to do to move on. That was a huge step in my final healing process. I will probably always feel sad and even bitter if I dwell on what happened to me, but I am practicing acceptance every time those thoughts try to come back into my head and drag me backwards.
This article from Psychology Today is really good at explaining radical acceptance. It gives very wise advice that can bring peace to your life as you heal from narcissistic abuse, or even deal with any frustrations in a typical day.
Here is a good quote from that article:
Acceptance means you can turn your resistant, ruminating thoughts into accepting thoughts like, “I’m in this situation. I don’t approve of it. I don’t think it’s OK, but it is what it is and I can’t change that it happened.”
Another key DBT skill that is tied with radical acceptance is the idea of doing things effectively. Basically, this means that while something may be fair or unfair, sometimes you can hurt yourself more by fighting it. You have to move past trying to get things to be fair, and focus on doing what will actually improve the situation. This page about doing things effectively offers a good explanation. Here are two important quotes from that page:
The goal of this lesson is to focus on being effective — to focus on doing what works, rather than what is “right” versus “wrong” or “fair” versus “unfair.” Another way to think of it is as the opposite of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Does this mean I should always give in? Defiantly not. But I have to weigh the importance of the situation and determine whether it is worth my energy to prove “I am right and you are wrong.”
Not all of us are going to be ready to really embrace the ideas of radical acceptance and the importance of doing things effectively right away, but I am confident that they can help you get past dwelling on the abuse. They have been very important in helping me heal and move on! Sometimes it is really hard to accept that life is not the least bit fair, but it is essential to focus on enjoying life as much as possible no matter what.