Healing: A Self-Study
I think that little by little I'll be able to solve my problems and survive.
– Frida Kahlo
What is healing?
This is an easier question to answer when it is a broken leg, or a cut on your finger. It’s when the bone heals and you can walk on it again, or when the cut heals and you can use it again. Some people would punch that out a little further and say that healing is when you can run on the leg, or have full use of your hand again. Healing means something that is harmed, improves, and goes back to the way it was.
When it comes to heart, mind, soul, and spirit, healing means something different. Yes, it means that the part that is harmed improves, but I don’t know that it should go back to the way it was. To go back to the way it was, when it comes to toxic relationships, means to not understand the trauma bonded cycles, or to engage in self-blame. Healing means a shift in thinking, in energy, in self-concept.
I listened to a surgeon talk to my mother about her recovery after a major surgery. She said that her healing was not just focusing on the singular goal of getting back to how she was, but rather the thousands of small steps – like walking 10 steps to the bathroom, or standing up on her own, or getting out of bed by herself, or waking up with less pain – that was healing, it is a process, not a destination.
Healing from narcissistic abuse is an entirely different game. For many people, just the term “narcissistic abuse” is the first time their pain got a name. Folks healing from narcissistic abuse would seek out help in articles and content on “how to heal from a broken heart.” Healing from narcissistic abuse is a whole other level from an ordinary broken heart. Healing from narcissistic abuse is healing from a broken heart, yes, but also a confused psyche, a loss of self, a fractured reality, a shattered spirit.
There is no schedule to healing. It takes as long as it takes. And it’s not about the broken leg working again, it’s about a new normal. Healing means wisdom and a willingness to step away from toxic people even when others are clucking at you about second chances, it is about radical acceptance, and living with the painful realization that these patterns do not change, it is about learning about how narcissistic abuse works to push back on the constant rumination, it’s about finding meaning and purpose and learning to exhale again after years of walking on eggshells, it’s about no longer blaming yourself and asking if you are enough.
These are legacy issues, if you had a narcissistic parent, you were born into narcissistic abuse and it impacted you and limited you. Healing means rolling up to that child you once were and letting them know that child you was more than enough.
I hate to be a doomsayer, but some echoes of narcissistic abuse last a lifetime, they get internalized as core wounds, the broken leg that didn’t quite heal right. And we are reminded of Rumi who tells us that the wound is where the light enters us – healing is about not running away from those echoes, but instead to be taught by them. Healing requires community, and knowing you are not alone, and that will be part of this process as well. It’s a daily process, waking up each day and committing to taking one step further, learning how to walk again, and finally unleashing your authentic self.