Narcissistic abuse is a pervasive and damaging form of emotional manipulation that can have profound effects on survivors’ mental health and well-being. From overt to covert narcissism, various types of narcissistic behavior can leave individuals feeling depleted, isolated, and traumatized. However, there is hope for healing and recovery, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing the trauma associated with narcissistic abuse.

Types of Narcissism:

Before delving into narcissistic abuse and recovery, it’s essential to understand the different types of narcissism:

1. Overt Narcissism:
Characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy, overt narcissism is what most people associate with narcissistic personality traits. Individuals with overt narcissism may come across as arrogant, exploitative, and competitive, seeking constant praise and admiration from others.

2. Covert Narcissism:
In contrast to overt narcissism, covert narcissism is characterized by introversion, insecurity, and defensiveness. Individuals with covert narcissism may express low self-esteem and may be more prone to feelings of anxiety, depression, and shame.

3. Antagonistic Narcissism:
Antagonistic narcissism is a subtype of overt narcissism focused on rivalry and competition. Individuals with antagonistic narcissism may exhibit arrogance, exploitativeness, and a tendency to argue or take advantage of others.

4. Communal Narcissism:
A subtype of overt narcissism, communal narcissism is characterized by a strong desire for fairness and altruism. However, there may be a gap between beliefs and behaviors, with individuals exhibiting self-importance and a lack of genuine concern for others.

5. Malignant Narcissism:
Malignant narcissism represents a severe form of narcissism closely linked to overt traits. Individuals with malignant narcissism may display vindictiveness, sadism, aggression, and paranoia, often leading to legal trouble or substance use disorders.

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse:

At its core, narcissistic abuse is a cycle of manipulation, gaslighting, and emotional exploitation perpetuated by individuals with narcissistic personality traits. The narcissistic individual employs a variety of tactics to maintain control and dominance over their victim, including belittling, devaluing, and invalidating their feelings and experiences. They project a facade of grandiosity and superiority while preying upon the vulnerabilities of their victims, leaving them feeling powerless, unworthy, and trapped in a perpetual state of confusion and self-doubt.

Narcissistic abuse occurs when an individual with narcissistic traits manipulates and exploits others for their own gain. The abuse can take various forms, including physical, sexual, but mostly emotional manipulation, gaslighting, invalidation, and coercion. Survivors of narcissistic abuse often experience a range of adverse effects on their mental health, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, cognitive dissonance, executive functioning issues, and loss of self-worth.

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle:

The narcissistic abuse cycle typically involves idealization, devaluation, and discard phases. During the idealization phase, the narcissistic individual showers the victim with love, attention, and admiration, creating a sense of euphoria and validation. However, this phase is often short-lived, as the narcissist begins to devalue the victim through criticism, belittlement, and manipulation. Eventually, the narcissist may discard the victim or withdraw affection, leaving the victim feeling abandoned, confused, and emotionally devastated.

776381470The Gradual and Hidden Nature of Narcissistic Abuse:

One of the most challenging aspects of narcissistic abuse is its gradual and hidden nature. Abusers may start by showering their victims with love and attention, gradually escalating to criticism, manipulation, and emotional neglect. The abuse is often disguised as concern or constructive criticism, making it difficult for survivors to identify and escape the toxic dynamics of the relationship.

The Challenges of Recovery:

Recovering from narcissistic abuse is a difficult process. Survivors grapple with a myriad of emotions, including grief, anger, shame, and profound betrayal and confusion. They must navigate through the wreckage of their self-esteem and identity, rebuilding what has been systematically dismantled by the narcissistic abuse. Timely traditional therapeutic approaches, while invaluable, often struggle to penetrate the layers of trauma and self-doubt that have become deeply entrenched within the survivor’s psyche.

How EMDR Therapy Steps In:

EMDR therapy offers a ray of hope in the darkness of narcissistic abuse recovery, providing survivors with a unique and effective tool for healing. Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR targets the root of the trauma by accessing the brain’s natural healing mechanisms. Through a series of bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or taps, EMDR facilitates the reprocessing of traumatic memories, allowing survivors to confront and release the emotional pain and cognitive distortions that have kept them bound in the chains of abuse.

The Magic of EMDR:

In the safe and supportive environment of therapy, survivors embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and healing. As they engage in the EMDR process, painful memories and negative beliefs are brought to the surface, where they can be processed and reframed in a more adaptive and empowering light. With each session, the grip of the narcissist’s influence begins to loosen, and survivors reclaim ownership of their narrative and sense of self-worth.

Specific Ways EMDR Can Aid Narcissistic Abuse Recovery:

  • Uncovering Hidden Trauma: EMDR therapy helps survivors of narcissistic abuse uncover and process hidden trauma that may have been suppressed or minimized. By targeting distressing memories and negative beliefs associated with the abuse, EMDR enables individuals to confront and release the emotional pain they have been carrying.
  • Breaking the Cycle of Shame: Narcissistic abusers often instill a profound sense of shame and self-doubt in their victims. EMDR therapy helps survivors challenge and reframe negative beliefs about themselves, promoting self-compassion and self-acceptance.
  • Reclaiming Personal Power: Narcissistic abuse can leave survivors feeling powerless and helpless. EMDR therapy empowers individuals to reclaim their personal power by processing traumatic experiences and developing adaptive coping strategies. Through the reprocessing of traumatic material, survivors can regain a sense of agency and control over their lives.
  • Building Resilience and Self-Esteem: EMDR therapy strengthens resilience and self-esteem by promoting the integration of positive experiences and beliefs. Survivors learn to recognize their inherent worth and value, separate from the messages of their abusers.
  • Reducing Anxiety and Hypervigilance: Narcissistic abuse often leads to heightened anxiety and hypervigilance as survivors navigate the unpredictable and manipulative behaviors of their abusers. EMDR therapy helps individuals regulate their nervous system and reduce the physiological arousal associated with trauma, promoting a sense of safety and relaxation.
  • Trauma Reprocessing: EMDR therapy focuses on reprocessing traumatic memories through bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or taps. This process allows survivors to confront and reframe distressing memories, reducing their emotional intensity and power over time.
  • Challenging Negative Beliefs: EMDR helps survivors identify and challenge negative beliefs ingrained by the abuser. Through targeted interventions, such as cognitive restructuring during EMDR sessions, survivors can replace these damaging beliefs with more accurate and empowering ones.
  • Non-Verbal Processing: EMDR doesn’t solely rely on verbal communication, which is beneficial for survivors who struggle to articulate their experiences verbally. The use of bilateral stimulation provides an alternative pathway for processing trauma, allowing for deeper healing.
  • Structured Approach: EMDR therapy follows a structured eight-phase process, providing a clear roadmap for healing. This approach helps survivors feel more in control of their recovery journey and provides a sense of direction and progress.
  • Accessing Natural Healing Mechanisms: EMDR taps into the brain’s natural healing mechanisms, facilitating the integration of traumatic memories into existing neural networks. This allows for adaptive processing of the trauma, leading to lasting emotional healing and resilience.
  • Customized Treatment: EMDR therapy is highly adaptable and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each survivor. Therapists work collaboratively with clients to develop personalized treatment plans that address their specific experiences and challenges related to narcissistic abuse.
  • Promoting Self-Empowerment: By providing survivors with practical tools and strategies for healing, EMDR therapy promotes a sense of self-empowerment and agency. Survivors learn to trust in their ability to navigate their recovery journey and reclaim their sense of identity and worth.
  • Integration and Consolidation: EMDR helps survivors integrate and consolidate their healing experiences, allowing for long-term emotional growth and resilience. This integration process ensures that the insights gained and changes made during therapy become deeply ingrained in the survivor’s sense of self.
  • Holistic Healing: EMDR therapy takes a holistic approach to healing, addressing not only the symptoms of trauma but also the underlying emotional, cognitive, and relational aspects. By treating the whole person, EMDR therapy fosters comprehensive healing and a renewed sense of well-being.
  • Continued Support and Growth: EMDR therapy equips survivors with skills and resources they can continue to utilize beyond the therapy room. Whether facing triggers or navigating future challenges, survivors can draw upon the tools and insights gained during EMDR therapy to support ongoing growth and resilience.


Narcissistic abuse is a distressing journey, but with the help of EMDR therapy, survivors can find solace and healing. Healing can look different for everyone. By targeting the root of the trauma and accessing the brain’s natural healing mechanisms, EMDR offers a powerful and transformative path to recovery. So if you’re struggling to heal from narcissistic abuse, know that there is hope and help available with EMDR therapy.