In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus
Very recently, after a 200 m dragon boat races, one of my teammates stated that she felt she was unfit because after such a short race, she was feeling out of breath. Someone then told her that it was normal to be slightly out of breath because it was a very intense effort and that what really mattered was how quickly she recovered. Resilience is the same. It is not how low we fall but how quickly we recover.
Narcissistic abuse is particularly devastating and to recover from such a traumatic event requires a high level of resilience. Wen I was undergoing therapy, my therapist told me that I had a high emotional intelligence and that I was very resilient. I was surprised, when she said this, because I was completely broken at the time and unable to function properly. I did not believe her. I felt that I would never recover from the psychological harm that he had inflicted on me. However, a year later, I think that she was indeed right. Considering the extend of the abuse and the devastation that followed, I managed to recover fairly quickly and build up more resilience on the way.
Emotional intelligence (the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically) and resilience (the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties) make a good partnership. To have the capacity to recover quickly, you need to have the capacity to understand your own emotions as well as other people’s. Understanding is the key to recovery from Narcissistic Abuse. Once we comprehend what happened, then we can start healing.
Obviously the longer we stayed with a narcissist the lower our capacity to recover became and alongside that our emotional intelligence. After months or years of invalidation, it is hard to express our feelings and understand others. We tried for so long to ‘read’ our narcissistic partner and could make no sense of their behaviour that we ended up emotionally incapacitated. Therefore, clawing our way back to normality, a sense of peace and eventually happiness seems like an impossible task.
What makes a person more resilient than another?
Charlotte Style in her book Change Your Life With Positive Psychology, declares that resilient people are those who:
– Are optimistic
– Are hopeful and able to solve problems
– Believe in themselves but are not brimming with self-confidence
– Can self-regulate and use their emotions appropriately
– Are able to find benefit and meaning in adversity
– Use humour
– Have experience of a strong nurturing authority figure from childhood
– Use social support, are able to draw on friendships and family.
– Have a good toolbox of adaptive defences
– Are able to learn, forgive and move on.
Resilience is not just survival. Survival is what narcissists do. My ex-partner used to tell me that he was almost always in survival mode and as I understand now, narcissism was his coping mechanism. It is very unhealthy coping mechanism but for him it allowed him to survive the abandonment and abuse that he experienced as a child.
Resilience is about healthy coping and self-care. It is more than merely surviving. It is about thriving.
Charlotte Style says that to improve your resilience, you need to “build small coping skills that become brilliant stepping stones to cope with and bounce back from adversity.”
How can you grow your resilience?
Forgiving might be a way to start.
Can you divert your emotions in something creative such as painting, writing poetry or a blog? Writing this blog really helped me in my recovery.
Maybe you can meet your friends or family a bit more often.
Ashley from Mental Health @ Home recently wrote a post What is Resilience where she gives a few tips on how you can improve your resilience. Have a look at her post.
A year ago, I would never have thought that I could recover. But here I am, with a new hobby dragon boating, a new job (I have just been appointed senior tutor at work), and a whole bunch of new friends.
Life is looking good.