How to Recover From Narcissistic Abuse

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narcissistic abuse

In this episode with Chelli Pumphrey, learn how to recover from narcissistic abuse and which red flags to look out for.

Chelli Pumphrey, MA, LPC is a licensed psychotherapist, globally recognized relationship coach, and author. With over twenty-seven years of clinical experience, she is known for her work with trauma, adult attachment, and narcissistic abuse recovery. Chelli is the author of Insight is 20/20: How To Trust Yourself To Protect Yourself From Narcissists, Bullies, & Toxic People.

In this episode of Last First Date Radio:

  • Why Chelli helps people recover from narcissistic abuse
  • How to define narcissistic abuse
  • Some of the red flags that identify whether a partner or potential partner could be a narcissist
  • Why it’s so hard for people to leave an abusive partner
  • What to do if you think you might be in a relationship with a narcissist

EP 492: Chelli Pumphrey – How to Recover From Narcissistic Abuse

How do you define narcissistic abuse?

A lot of people have traits of narcissistic disorders and others have diagnosable narcissistic disorder. Pathological love relationships was coined by Sandra Brown to define narcissistic abuse. Unless you’re a therapist, it’s not your job to diagnose. But, it’s good to look for the red flags of narcissists and to understand your own red flags.

A grandiose narcissist has a lack of empathy, is full of themself, thinks they’re smarter than others, and rules don’t apply to them. They’re often very charismatic and have a magnetic pull to them.

Covert narcissists lack empathy, think they’re superior to others, but act in passive/aggressive ways. They’re not the life of the party, but they think they’re better than others. 

What got you interested in helping people recover from narcissistic abuse?

I’ve dated several narcissists, even though I’m a therapist and can see it in my patients. I kept attracting these types, and I couldn’t understand why. After I married the love of my life and didn’t realize he was a covert narcissist, I started to do the work to identify narcissists early on so I wouldn’t do it again.

I realized that there are traits in our personality that attract a narcissist: High degree of conscientiousness, agreeableness, loyalty to a relationship, and willingness to overlook bad behaviors. Trauma sets in when you’re being gaslit and abused. 

Can you share some of the red flags people might look for to identify whether a partner or potential partner could be a narcissist?

In the beginning:

  • Relationship moves quickly. 
  • They idealize you.
  • You feel you’ve met your soulmate.
  • Love bombing.
  • They’re in touch constantly, which can be a subtle form of control.

As you move on in the relationship:

  • Mirroring everything you like, such as your language
  • Gaslighting, where they turn everything back on you and you begin to question your reality
  • Endless arguments which go from one topic to the next
  • Lack of empathy

The biggest red flag is cognitive dissonance. As you get to know the narcissist, you see the Jeckyl and Hyde personality. You have moments when you’re in love with them, and moments when you loathe them. It’s two opposing beliefs, which causes anxiety, but you continue to move forward in spite of the bad behavior. You need to get help in order to leave.

Over time, you start to get upset with yourself. I don’t believe my partner should cheat on me, yet I stay. With cognitive dissonance, there’s PTSD and trauma that builds. You need to know what trauma feels like in your body. Your body can become inflamed from relationships like this. You’ll feel awful. PTSD in this case, you remember the horrible things, but there are also intrusive thoughts that come up that you also love him. 

Why is it so hard for people to leave an abusive partner?

Your cognitive dissonance keeps you stuck in the relationship. The rational part of our brain shuts down when we experience the trauma of cognitive dissonance. Fear sets in, whether you feel isolated, don’t have money, or worry about the effect on your children. Reach out to a therapist who is trained in this field.

What are some tips for anyone who thinks they might be in a relationship with a narcissist?

If you’re questioning your relationship, keep a journal and write down everything you can about the relationship. Be safe with your journal. Record conversations safely, too. It helps you to see clearly over time how things progressed. Listen to and trust your body. Our bodies tell us so much about what’s going on and help guide us through. Check in with your five senses (listen to the exercise on the podcast).

Get help. Find a therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse.

Watch this episode on YouTube

Connect with Chelli

Listen to Chelli’s previous episode on Last First Date Radio here.

Please subscribe/rate and review the podcast here.

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