How to Get Your Stuff Back After a Narcissist Steals It
RETRIEVAL: Drop the paintbrush and don’t generalize
In our efforts to wrest some kind of life knowledge from the truly painful, we risk beginning to see people in broad strokes; ultimately, that vision will not serve us or you. The man who was in your life isn’t all men but one man. Yes, it’s good to read up on narcissism—try Dr. Craig Malkin’s Rethinking Narcissism which is excellent at explaining the spectrum and both healthy and unhealthy varieties or Dr. Joseph Burgo’s The Narcissist You Know which contains the various types—but it’s also important that you not end up seeing a narcissist on every corner. The truth is that people can be trusted more often than not. And not every man is a narcissist.
LOSS: Your trust in your perceptions and choices
The words I’ve heard come out of my own mouth and those of others who’ve encountered those high in narcissistic traits include: “Played for a fool, hoodwinked, utterly clueless and stupid” and more. It’s hard not to blame yourself especially since the clarity of 20/20 hindsight is absolutely staggering. How did you not see that he was playing on your neediness? Why did you make excuses for his lies and manipulations? How did you let him get away with stonewalling you every time you tried to talk? Why didn’t you push back when he put you down? Why did you keep falling for his charm?
Retrieval: Understand without self-blame
Realizing what you unwittingly brought to the party and understanding why you choose this man are key to making sure you don’t repeat history. The truth is that the narcissist looks for the woman he can woo and wow, as well as someone he can manage and intimidate. Doing a self-inventory of sorts—seeing how your own proclivities and insecurities contributed, understanding why you cut him slack when you shouldn’t have—can only stand you in good stead. These may not even be flaws, strictly speaking; for example, your own desire to make the marriage work may have blinded you to the fact that you couldn’t, or your own impulse to keep peace in the household may have facilitated your avoiding the talks you needed to have and the stands you needed to take. Strengthening what needs building up in you is a move forward.