Detachment is the process of letting go. It’s when we start to see things from a different perspective. When the fears and emotions that have paralyzed us, no longer have the same power and when we start to see things the way they really are and not the way we wish them to be.
If you’ve been involved with a Narcissist, you have likely been doubting what your senses have been telling you. You have invested so much and to walk away without a return on your investment seems unfathomable.
Our egos have an especially hard time processing the fact, that after everything we’ve said and done, all the hoops we’ve jumped through, all the sacrifices and all of the bad behavior that we have tolerated and still, we can’t get this person to love us and give us the relationship that we want.
It’s a lot simpler to accept the idea that there is something wrong with us, than to accept the idea that there are actually people out there that are incapable of love and intimacy.
I recently found out that a colleague of mine was colour blind. He cannot distinguish reds and greens. He went through his entire life believing that this is the way that the rest of us perceived the same environment.
One of my favourite pastimes is to hike through nature and I couldn’t image not being able to experience the rich emeralds of the forest, or the vibrant reds of the maple trees in the fall. His reality is outside of my awareness. Just because I can’t perceive what he perceives, does not change his reality.
It’s very difficult for us to comprehend that there are people out there that are ‘emotionally blind,’ that they do not have the same colours on their emotional pallet that the rest of us do, especially when we’ve been romantically involved with them and we have witnessed some tender moments.
My colour blind friend sees oranges instead of reds and your Narcissist feels something – but it’s not love, not the way you know it.
Once you can accept this – that your Narcissist will never truly love you, you have taken the first step on your way to letting go.
Stages of Detatchment
The first stage of detachment begins when you stop taking the blame for everything in your relationship and you start to realize that there is something wrong with the man that you’re involved with. It’s starting to dawn on you that your Narcissist will never be able to give you the relationship that you deserve. It doesn’t mean that you have stopped caring, but it means that the rose coloured glasses have come off and reality is starting to set in.
Stage two is ushered in when you notice that the hope you once felt and your desire to please, has been replace with anger and resentment. You still have feelings for your mate at this point, but you’re not so naïve anymore.
You will know that you are in stage two when:
- The lies you once wanted to hear, no longer have any effect on you.
- You stop responding to the manipulation tactics.
- You start to believe that you are deserving of better treatment.
- You start to fight back and there is a lot of conflict in your relationship.
- You start to feel better about yourself.
The third stage of detachment is all about you. You’ve been doing a lot of thinking and getting advice from your support group. You’ve started to feel stronger emotionally and you’re thinking about your needs and wants and what your life would be like sans Narcissist.
You know you’re in stage three when:
- The mere sight of your Narcissist turns your stomach.
- You realize that the love and obsession you once felt are gone.
- When he even remotely steps out of line you either don’t care or you go ballistic.
- You’ve started engaging in activities outside of the relationship. You’re spending more time with your friends, You’ve joined a yoga class or a gym.
- Every decision you make is in your best interest and you almost never consider your mates preferences.
- If you live together you’re starting to get your ducks in a row and you’re making preparations to end your relationship.
Stage four is simply ending the relationship. Your focus is entirely on you. You’ve physically moved away from your Narcissist, you’ve cut all contact and you feel really good about your decision. You realize in time you will forgive him and yourself, but right now, you want nothing to do with him.
Getting from stage one to four doesn’t happen overnight. Some people remain stuck in one stage or the other. There is a process that can help you move through the stages and its one I’ve used with great effectiveness:
- Once you start thinking along the lines of letting go – keep thinking those thoughts. What you feed grows, so keep feeding your self-esteem. Keep reminding yourself of how unhappy and how unfulfilled you have been in this relationship and of all the reasons why you should end it.
- Get out a paper and a pen and start writing down all of the things that you want to have, be and accomplish in your life. Write down the qualities you would like to have in a man and compare your list to your present reality. Get in the habit of putting yourself first and thinking about your goals and dreams.
- Take stock. Own your part in the relationship. While it is true that Narcissists are cunning and manipulative, understand that you have a share in the responsibility for what happened. You allowed it to happen and continue, when you should have walked long ago. Spend the necessary time in thought to truly get to the bottom of why you stayed, because if you don’t, you are bound to repeat the same mistake again.
- Start reading empowering and inspirational books that motivate you and give you strength.
- Listen to empowering music – Beyonce’s Irreplaceable and Best Thing I Never Had did the trick for me.
- Spend time with your girlfriends or family members that love and support you.
- Write a letter to your Narcissist and express all your anger, pain, frustration and anguish – get it all out – but don’t give it to him. It may sound dumb, but trust me it’s very therapeutic.
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Many people will tell you to distract yourself, but to truly heal, you must sit there with your pain and your fear and get comfortable with them. Mastery comes when you sit toe to toe with what hurts you the most and what you are most afraid of and you recognize that you are stronger than your pain and stronger than your fear.
“No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are rarely told to move closer, to just be there, to become familiar with fear. The advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves but by all means make it go away.” Pema Chodron author of When Things Fall Apart
The salient point here is that when you gain mastery over your pain and your fear you will find that part of you that is indestructible.
- Once you do this the fear and pain will pass through you in time. This is why I talk about getting comfortable with it, because if you repress it, try to escape from it, or you distract yourself from it, it will remain stuck inside of you, you won’t heal properly and you will find it manifesting elsewhere in your life.
- As your healing progresses, understand that you will have bad days. We all have that inner voice that always wants to lead us back to hurt. As I discussed in my blog, Self-Esteem: It Really Is A Choice, you are not that voice. You are the observer of that voice, but you can control it. If you find doubt creeping in or you feel yourself weakening, stop those thoughts immediately. It’s a lot easier to stop a thought at the beginning, than it is to stop it once it’s taken us to a painful place. Don’t allow doubt to creep in – stop it before it starts.
What to Expect When Ending Your Involvement with a Narcissist
If you are the one to end the relationship, you may at first see some upset in your Narcissist. They may seem emotional, needy and clingy. They may say and do exactly what they think you want hear. Don’t be fooled by this. These men are accomplished actors, at this point you have heard it all before and you have watched all of their promises go unfulfilled. They may seem hurt, but they are not hurting for you. Losing a major source of Narcissistic supply is a very stressful experience for a Narcissist. That’s all it is. Don’t fall for their crocodile tears.
If you both live in your house, give him a firm date on when he is expected to move out. Cohabitating with a Narcissist, you are trying to free yourself from, is like a recovering alcoholic moving into a bar. Don’t do it – it won’t work. Give him a date and if that date comes and goes and he’s still there, get the police involved and have him forcibly removed. You may be thinking, that’s so harsh I don’t want to do that – trust me you have probably threatened to kick him out so many times, he has stopped taking you seriously. Police are serious – he’ll get the message.
A Narcissist needs followers and the attention they bring, so you can expect to be bad mouthed and in the retelling to anyone that will listen, expect that he will spin it, so the story parleys you as the evil doer and our poor Narcissist as the victim.
Narcissists are vengeful creatures, so any way big or small that they can stick it to you, they will. Do not expect benevolence or understanding – Narcissists are incapable of this. Your leaving will cause Narcissistic Injury, so expect a tidal wave of negativity and drama to come your way. Hold your ground, ignore it and just ride the waves.
If you have made it clear that you are done, don’t expect him to be pining over you. When he has acquired a new target, expect that you will be dropped like a hot potato – don’t take it to heart – that’s the nature of the beast.
Don’t engage in the drama, become the ice queen – show no emotion, even if you’re dying inside. Show nothing. Let them know under no uncertain terms that it’s over – the supply has run out.
Hold firm to your decision and don’t respond to all the mudslinging and character assassination. All they want from you is some kind of reaction, good or bad – give them nothing. They will probably try to initiate contact at some point, it could be weeks, months even years – no contact is the only way to end a relationship, that never seems to end – remember once you have shut the door keep it firmly shut – and embrace a newer, healthier, Narcissist free chapter in your life.
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