Resources and Healing | Sandra Dennis, PhD.

In recovering from abandonment or betrayal, learning about destructive narcissism can help you heal. Naming this brand of emotional abuse opens the door out of denial into the facts of what has happened.

What a relief to realize you are not losing your mind.  Nor are you alone in this unhinging experience. It is not all your fault, after all.

It gives you back your ground to learn such charming, yet disordered personalities exist. Those who learned to survive by undermining and shaming others. These people pull you in with charm and attention, then begin to devalue, ignore, insult, and often discard you.

While you are caught in this web of gratification and hurt, pleasure and fear, you hardly see it. The slow-drip confusion and pain of emotional abuse breeds denial for self-protection.

Also, the  covert abuse, laced as it is with warmth and affection, keeps pulling you back in.  Their hot and cold, unpredictable behavior keeps you in a constant state of unease, anxious and insecure. Yet, you long for crumbs of warmth and affection from them to soothe your jangled nerves.

Learning about narcissism, you begin to understand how easily a biochemical “trauma bond” forms in these circumstances. How notoriously difficult these bonds of pain mixed with pleasure are to break. Most importantly, you see you will need help to recover.

Moving beyond focus on narcissism…to the heart

This is why learning about narcissism in betrayal recovery is vitally important to healing for many.  Eventually, however, in coming back from the dark hole of lost trust, we need to move beyond focus on the abuse.

Otherwise, it can become a barrier to the heart-opening that truly heals. For to recover from the soul loss, to restore trust in life and ourselves, we need the vast healing capacities of the heart.

Recognizing what happened to us helps us come out of the protective haze of denial to face  the broken heart.  Dropping into the heart opens the door to compassion, but at a price. Moving into the heart means feeling the pain of what has happened.

While this movement cannot be rushed, there—in the midst of our own brokenness—we make a startling discovery.  There waiting for us we find holiness, we find love:  Loving spiritual forces appear ready to help, to hold and to heal these deep wounds.

Brokenness does not feel like a place where holiness would want to dwell. Yet, as we feel into the griefs of the betrayal, we are bathed bit by bit in the warm outpourings of tenderness. Then, something even more surprising happens.

We begin to sense in our bones the suffering of the one who hurt us. As we soften, we see the bewildered, shamed, angry little one behind their manipulative, hurtful armor. Compassion flows as a miracle, freeing our hearts from the heaviness of harm.


“Love and the Mystery of Betrayal”—now available in print and ebook.

A powerful book that will serve many.—Tara Brach, PhD.

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal Book Cover

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