My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
To preserve one's mental health, one must abandon the narcissist. One must move on. Moving on is a process. It's not a decision. It's not an event.
First, one has to acknowledge and accept painful reality. Such acceptance is a volcanic, shattering, agonizing series of nibbling thoughts and strong resistances.
Once the battle is won and harsh and agonizing realities are assimilated, one can move on to the learning phase. The learning phase involves labelling, educating oneself.
We compare experiences. We digest. We have insights. Then we decide and we act. This is what it means to move on.
Having gathered sufficient emotional sustenance, knowledge, support and confidence, we face the battlefields of our relationships, but this time fortify and nurture.
This stage characterizes those who do not mourn but fight, do not grieve but replenish their self-esteem, do not hide but seek, do not freeze but move on.
And then, of course, there is grieving. Having been betrayed and abused, we naturally grieve. We grieve for the image we had of the traitor and the abuser, the image that was so fleeting and so wrong.
We mourn the damage we did to ourselves. We experience the fear of never being able to love or trust again. And we grieve this loss as well.
In one stroke we lost someone we trusted and even loved. We lost our trusting and loving selves and we lost the trust and love that we felt.
We may have lost our ability to trust and love. Can anything be worse than this compounded loss?
The emotional process of grieving has many phases.
At first, we are dumbfounded, shocked, inert, immobile and traumatized. We play dead to avoid our inner monsters. We are ossified in our pain, cast in the mold of our reticence and fears.
Then we feel enraged, indignant, rebellious and hateful. And following this phase, we accept. Then we cry. And then some of us learn to forgive and to pity.
And this is called healing.
All stages of grieving are absolutely necessary. And all of them are good for you. It is bad not to rage back, not to shame those who shamed you, to deny, to pretend, to evade, it is counterproductive.
But it is equally bad to get fixated on our rage. Permanent grieving is the perpetuation of our abuse by other means and by ourselves. By endlessly recreating our harrowing experiences, we unwillingly collaborate with our abuser to perpetuate his or her evil deeds and misconduct.
It is by moving on that we defeat our abuser, minimizing him and his importance in our lives. It is by loving and by trusting anew that we annul that which was done to us.
To forgive is never to forget, but to remember it's not necessarily to re-experience.
And this leads us to forgiving and forgetting.
Forgiving is an important capability. It does more for the forgiver than for the forgiven.
But it should not be a universal indiscriminate believer. It is legitimate not to forgive someone. It depends, of course, on the severity or duration of what was done to you.
In general, it is unwise and counterproductive to apply to life universal and immutable principles.
Life is too chaotic to succumb to rigid edicts and rules. Sentences which start with words I never or I always are not very credible and often lead to self-defeating, self-restricting and self-destructive behaviors.
Conflicts are an important and integral part of life. One should never seek them out, but when confronted with a conflict, one should never avoid it.
It is through conflicts and adversity, as much as through care and love, that we grow.
Human relationships are dynamic. We must assess our friendships, partnerships, even our marriages, periodically.
In and by itself, a common past is insufficient to sustain a healthy, nourishing, supportive, caring and compassionate future in a relationship.
Common memories are a necessity, but not a sufficient condition.
We must gain and regain our friendships on a daily basis. We must reassess and reassess our relationships on a daily basis.
Human relationships are a constant test of allegiance and empathy, a test which the narcissist so often flunks and fails it miserably.