Repetition Compulsion

One of the key philosophies of Feeling is Healing is that fact that the natural state of our bodies is one of health and wholeness. Our bodies are always trying to give us opportunities to lead us back to that state.

When we experience some kind of traumatic event, it leaves an imprint in our nervous systems if it is not processed properly. Our bodies are always trying to find ways to resolve this. In terms of relational trauma, we will subconsciously seek out people who are similar to the person who originally caused the trauma. Subsciously, we want to replay the same scenario, but with a different result.  No matter how much cognitive awareness we have, the subconscious pull will magnetise us towards certain individuals and certain circumstances. This is known as repetition compulsion.

For example, if I grew up in an environment where everything that went wrong was labelled as being my fault, I am likely to be subconsciously drawn to relationships where I am treated this way by others. This won’t be an obvious or a conscious choice.  During recovery I have been able to see how these experiences, painful as they are, can be very useful in making us aware of wounds that we still need to heal.abusive relationships

For example, a few years ago I felt a strong pull towards a particular man.  After interacting with him for a while I could see certain behaviours that he displayed that matched those of my primary childhood caregivers.

The way I got myself out of this situation was by paying attention to my feelings and getting in touch with the immense pain that I felt when he did something that hurt me. By sitting with myself and processing the anger, distress, despair, sadness, fear, terror etc. that came up, I was able to scream, shake, rock and cry and release the trauma from my body. I also hugged myself to soothe my scared and lonely inner child. I also asked myself where this feeling had come from in my past.jealousy narcissist

I could see that the reasons this man was hurting me was due to his own unresolved pain from his own childhood.  This brought up a very strong urge in me to want to fix him so that he could then love me. It also showed me that I have a strong inner conviction that I need to believe that I have the ability to change someone in order to feel safe, even though I know cognitively that this is not possible. This is very common for people who have grown up in homes that were unsafe. Believing that one can change one’s own parents to make them love them is a very strong coping mechanism to survive an unsafe and inescapable environment. 

By this man triggering emotions in me that had been stuck in my body for many years, I was able to bring them up into my awareness, so that I could process them and release them from my body.

Obstacles in Recovery

When we start to recover after narcissistic abuse, there are some potential pitfalls that we need to protect ourselves from:

talking therapy

  1. Not all therapists understand narcissistic abuse. It may not be covered in their training in very much detail. When searching for a therapist, it is essential to ask them what their knowledge of narcissistic abuse and domestic abuse is. If you are invalidated by a therapist, this can causes secondary gaslighting, which can re-traumatise you (know as sanctuary trauma).
  2. Needing to get others to understand and to validate us: It is typical for narcissistic abuse survivors to be invalidated by those who do not understand narcissistic abuse. Although extremely painful at the time, this can force us to learn the essential lesson of how to validate ourselves.
  3. Putting others above us and believing others before our own truth.
  4. Trying to get validation from those who have an agenda not to see us, such as other narcissistic abusers.
  5. Allowing others to be the judge of us.  Not feeling entitled to ask for what we need.
  6. Dealing with symptoms, rather than the cause, and believing that recovery is possible without processing and releasing past traumas.
  7. Being told to forgive and forget.
  8. Being told it is wrong to judge.

Have you managed to break through barriers during recovery? I would love to hear from you in the comments.