How to Get the Narcissist Out of Your Head
Once you realize the narcissist is an abusive, self-centered, obnoxious, toxic jerk and you get out of the relationship (or while you’re trying to) you’ll realize something really horrifying. The narcissist is out of your life (or about to be), but you can’t get them out of your head!
You begin to think you’re going crazy, or that they’ve secretly implanted some sort of device in your head to make you think of them. You find yourself wondering what they’re doing, how they’re doing, who they’re seeing, if they’re stalking you, if they’ve forgotten about you, and as much as you might hate yourself for thinking it, you wonder if they “miss you.”
The crazy cycle starts when you start trying to “figure out” or “understand” or make sense of WHY YOU? Why couldn’t you change him/her? Why did he/she pick you? What could you have done differently? You obsess because you think you have to make sense of what happened before you can let it go. The thing is, it’s not logical. It’s not something you could have fixed. Narcissists are unfixable. They’re broken people. Just like Humpty-Dumpty – NO ONE CAN PUT THE NARCISSIST back together. So stop trying.
The good news is, if you’re thinking these things, you’re normal. Most people who flee a narcissist have those same thoughts. They become obsessed with thoughts of their former abuser or narcissist and can’t stop thinking about them. I’ve known people to drive by their ex’s house to “See if they were home,” or call and hang up just to hear their voice or their answering machine message. You’re having those feelings, thoughts and struggles because you’re probably co-dependent. Your focus is always on the welfare of others, not yourself. You probably don’t have good boundaries, and you don’t know how to function in a healthy relationship. You’re drawn to what you know best and for most co-dependents, what you know best is being treated like a doormat and being taken advantage of. You may have the narcissist out of your life, but now it’s time to get them out of your head.
Step one to solving any problem is identifying it. This means starting and keeping a journal. Every time you think about the narcissist, write it down. This is NOT an exercise for you to understand the narcissist, but for you to understand your thought process and needs. Write down:
- the date
- the time
- the thought
- where you are
- what you’re doing
- how you’re feeling.
- what you really need at that moment
4:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, work, getting ready to leave work and go to the grocery store to get dinner. Feeling anxious. Thought: I wonder what the Narcissist is doing for dinner?
What do I need?: I need to be needed, to cook for someone. I feel lonely.
Feel free to write more about how you feel, what you’re thinking. Try to find a pattern or times in your pre-narcissist days that you felt like you do now. Being able to identify who and what makes you think about the narcissist will help you figure out what you need to do to stop those feelings and thoughts.
To escape our own uncomfortable feelings co-dependents focus on other people’s feelings. By making or helping someone else feel better, we feel better. Our own discomfort and pain is never addressed, but we manage to stuff it down by helping others. Narcissists intuitively know this and are attracted to co-dependents because they are excellent sources of supply. The narcissist has a bottomless need to be stroked, loved, helped and paid attention to, and the co-dependent has an almost bottomless supply of love, attention and caretaking to give. The narcissist thrives on taking, the co-dependent thrives on giving. They’re a perfect match, until the codependent suddenly wakes up and realizes they have needs that aren’t being met. This usually happens when the narcissist becomes abusive, demanding, cruel or colder than usual. The charisma and laser focused attention of the early days are gone. Reality has set in and the co-dependent slowly begins to realize they are not appreciated, loved or all that they were told they were. Many leave, others are dumped. But however you get out, you still find that something inside you craves the act of caring for someone with such huge needs! This is NOT healthy. It’s YOUR disease (co-dependency) talking.
It’s hard to think that you love this person, were in love with them, and had good times with them, yet they’re also such a monster and so infuriating. But that’s the way narcissistic relationships work. They are dysfunctional, unhealthy and illogical. You can’t figure it out. You have to accept it, process what feeling you can, and move on.
If you let your thoughts keep recurring without any action to dismiss them, you will be just as miserable, maybe even more so, than when you were actively involved with the narcissist. The journal you keep helps you identify YOUR NEEDS and the triggers that make you think about the narcissist. Once you’ve kept the journal for 30 days or so, go back through it and see if you can spot the patterns. When do you think of the narcissist the most? What are you doing? What do you need at that time?
Secondly, narcissists pick victims who don’t have good, strong or healthy boundaries. Normal, healthy people do not give up their lives for another person for no reason. People have needs and healthy people get their needs met in healthy ways, ways that don’t hurt others and that don’t take advantage of others. For a narcissist, finding a co-dependent is like a bank robber finding an unlocked bank vault with no security. They can each take all they want without fear of someone stopping them.
If you want to get the narcissist out of your head, you have to define, set and enforce your boundaries. I suggest Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life. It’s excellent.
Work on setting boundaries at the same time you’re working on keeping your journal. After you begin to spot patterns in your life and triggers that make you think about the narcissist, start taking action to change those patterns. If you always met the narcissist for dinner on Friday after work, start meeting friends instead. Or go to a movie, take a class, join a gym and workout at that time. The idea is not to totally stop doing something on Friday after work, but to tweak your habit so that now it’s something good, something you look forward to. Instead of wondering what the narcissist is doing after work etc, etc, you’ll start thinking about your new friends, class, or activity. The idea is to eventually replace the thoughts of the narcissist with positive thoughts about new people and activities. The process of evicting the narcissist from your mind is different for everyone. It’s a matter of accepting the fact that there is no logical, rationale or reasonable explanation for why the narcissist did what they did. They’re broken, remember? They CAN NOT be fixed. So give it up. Work on YOU and your needs. Fix YOU and the rest will fall into place.
Until your wounded, hurting, insecure, co-dependent self heals you won’t be able to evict the narcissist. Either that, or you’ll find another narcissist because it feels familiar to be used. Nothing in your outer life changes until your inner life changes. It’s that simple. The “fixing, healing, curing work” has to be done on YOU, not someone else. Remind yourself of these things:
- YOU did nothing wrong
- Narcissists are not logical and you cannot figure them out
- There really was NOTHING you could do to help, heal, cure or change them
- The only person you can heal, help or change is yourself. If you can’t change yourself then what makes you think you can change anyone else?
- The only closure you can bring to the situation is what you give yourself. They will NEVER give you closure.
- You fell in love with, or got involved with an illusion, not a person. That’s why you can’t “fix it.” IT never existed except in your mind.
- You CAN heal yourself if you work on yourself
Finding a support group or working with a professional therapist can help you process your feelings and identify the wounded part of yourself that was attracted to the narcissist in the first place. Reading all you can about narcissism will help you understand that you are not crazy, not alone and not the first person on the planet to deal with these people. Once you understand how they operate and learn to spot the signs of a narcissist you’ll learn to avoid them and to not get involved. It takes time. It’s difficult, but it’s doable. You CAN DO IT. You just have to decide and start doing it…one step at a time.