Recapturing Your Zest for Life After Narcissistic Abuse
“Why don’t you get a hobby?” my husband suggested soon after I discovered narcissism. But I wasn’t interested in a stupid hobby! Narcissism was my hobby. Learning about it. Reading other survivor’s personal accounts. Comparing notes. Connecting the dots. Filling journal after journal with angry, tear-stained scrawl. Going to therapy. Creating my “Timeline of Abuse” spreadsheet to review for moral support during my nightly bouts of denial. Narcissism was my full-time-and-half-the-night obsession. I’d no time nor interest for bird-watching or whittling.
That paragraph described you too, didn’t it? Those first few years after discovering narcissism were busy ones. You had a whole lifetime to unravel and figure out. Memories to process. Tears to cry. Connections to make. Journals to write. Letters to write, tear up, write again. Blog posts to pound out. Facebook groups to join. Counseling appointments to keep. Restraining orders and divorce paperwork to file. Court cases to fight. A new home to find.
Narcissism recovery is a full-time job and an all-encompassing hobby.
But sooner or later, it gets better. I promise you, hand on heart, it does get better. It may take decades, but the horror won’t last forever. The anger will become a low rumble, rather than a deafening roar. The pain become a dull ache rather than a stinging, oozing, open, festering sore. The children will grow up and move on. Your nex will snag a new Supply Source. Your narcissistic parents will eventually die.
Along the way, you may find narcissism becomes a secondary subject in your life. Studying narcissism won’t take up every morsel of your energy and free time anymore. Suddenly, there’s a little bit left over.
And that’s when it happens. Like a child discovering the wonders and beauties of the world for the first time, you suddenly find yourself taking an interesting in life. Life. LIFE!!!
But you can’t rush it. Can’t force it. Nature (and healing) must run their course in their own sweet time. Recapturing your zest for life will happen organically, creeping up on you when you’re not looking.
What hobby did you enjoy prior to narcissistic abuse? Mine was studying Koine Greek, the language the Bible was written in. Suddenly, after a sabbatical of twenty years, guess what!? I’m studying Greek again and taking my sweet ass time.
Or maybe, you’ll discover new passions. Because the narcissists rarely allowed me out of the house after dark, I rarely saw the stars. Guess what!?! Now I’m outside every night, laptop balanced in one hand with the awesome Stellarium Sky Map software open and binoculars in the other, stargazing. How thrilling to identify Draco the Dragon or the Pleiads. Like an autostereogram, once you find a constellation in the night sky, you’ll always be able to find it again. You can’t unsee Orion!
Living with a narcissist is so exhausting, there’s no energy left for enjoying life. For too long, our hobbies were passive ones that, with the press of a button, helped us escape, veg out, forget. We drowned our pain in TV and movies.
But with recovery, comes more energy. And, unfortunately, hobbies do take a morsel of energy. The kind of energy we never had to spare before. The kind of energy we need to expend on something enjoyable lest we sit around and wax too philosophical, too “what is the meaning of life.” (I speak from experience!) The reward is well worth it.
Creativity is both an integral part of hobbies and a form of healing in itself. I’ve already written extensively about how creativity suffocates under narcissistic abuse and blossoms after our escape.
Creativity may be as simple as what I’m doing: spending hours tucked up in bed with gorgeous library books featuring photos of the Great Masters of the paintbrush. You can lose yourself in Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Jan Steen’s The Merry Family. Jacques-Louis David’s gruesome The Death of Marat or Rembrandt’s less gruesome Anatomy Lesson. You’ll be surprised how soothing and calming great art can be.
Or it may be picking up a sketch pad or a paintbrush and trying it out for yourself. Sketching the interesting folds in your curtains. The dog licking his nose. Trompe l’oeil bricks peeking through trompe l’oeil peeling paint in the corner of the room. Plein air impressionistic flora in the style of Monet. (HINT: Start simply or you’ll get discouraged. And don’t “grade” yourself. Don’t show anyone your sketchbook. Creativity is about the experience, not the finished product. Just enjoy the process and don’t worry about earning a spot in the Louvre.)
You may suddenly discover a passion for cooking French cuisine, styling yourself the next Escoffier. I would never have dared try a from-scratch Hollaindaise sauce under narcissist’s critical stare. The food definitely gets better when you want to cook instead of being made to cook.
When I escaped the narcissists, I wanted just two things: peace and life. So I adopted dogs — wiggly, snuffly, living things. (At the moment, they’re trying to open a ziploc bag to get at their treatsies. But it’s hard when you don’t have thumbs.) Cajoled sick philodendrons back to life. Filled my balcony with cabbage roses and tomato plants. Surround yourself with life and living things. They will be a balm to your wounded soul.
And music. Always music. Envelop yourself with music. Sing along (even if you’re wildly off key) to Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It when you’re angry at the narcs (yet again). Play the air-fiddle (or learn to play real fiddle) to Bluegrass and Celtic when you need cheering up. Brew a cup of tea and weep to French chansons when feel sentimental or need to cry. Play calming classical music in the background all the time. (I’m thinking, Bach, Handel and Michael Praetorius.) And watch lots and lots of comedy. Heaven knows we need all the good endorphins we can get!
Your returning zest for life is proof-positive that you’re healing. Oh, it takes a little time, a little effort. But indulging in life, discovering your passions and basking in this beautiful world we’ve been given are the reward for all your hard work at recovering from narcissistic abuse.
Thompson, L. (2017). Recapturing Your Zest for Life After Narcissistic Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2017/10/recapturing-your-zest-for-life-after-narcissistic-abuse/