Op-Ed: How to Leave a Narcissist (President)

Op-Ed: How to Leave a Narcissist (President)
Brandon Marshall
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As professionals in the divorce and mental-health fields, we help clients navigate their way out of abusive relationships with narcissists all the time. While the experience of abuse is uniquely personal, narcissists behave in predictable patterns that often include tantrums, demands and threats.

As a narcissist, Donald Trump lacks the tools to transition out of office with grace. Instead, he views his loss of power as a threat that he continues to meet with an onslaught of Twitter storming. Fortunately, the advice we offer to people extricating themselves from dangerous relationships can help us navigate our separation from Donald Trump.

The experience of leaving a narcissist varies greatly depending on the circumstances. For those who voted for Mr. Trump, only to become increasingly unhappy with his performance, the departure may very well feel like divorcing a partner with whom you were once in love. While Donald Trump was once charming, intoxicating and invigorating, you see now that his love extends only to himself. This realization gives rise to disappointment in the narcissist you loved, and in yourself for not seeing reality sooner.

For those who did not vote for Mr. Trump, the last four years may have felt more like growing up with a narcissistic parent, a relationship in which there was no choice. While you may have dreamt of Mr. Trump’s ouster, you now also have to address the effects of being involuntarily subjected to your relationship with him in the first place.

In their recent book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, authors Emily and Amelia Nagoski explain that our emotional cycles have a beginning, middle and end. They describe how we experience emotional burnout when we get stuck in the middle of a cycle, and clarify that removing the trigger(s) that started the cycle does not automatically complete it. If you have ever finished a big project or started a much-needed vacation only to become sick immediately thereafter, you have experienced this firsthand. Just as we cannot expect that the election of a new president will suddenly solve all the nation’s problems, the election alone will not provide us with all of the healing we require.

For this reason, we recommend the conscious practice of acceptance, the careful construction of boundaries, and the implementation of a self-care routine for all Americans as we leave Donald Trump.

In order to begin our healing journey, we must first accept that our narcissist-in-chief’s feelings are entirely beyond our control. Energy spent fretting about what Donald Trump should or could do differently is energy better spent elsewhere.

This is where boundaries come in. You now get to choose whether you will grant Donald Trump an audience. Clients who hire a divorce attorney to escape abuse often express joy and relief when they learn that they no longer have to engage with their abuser directly. While we can’t instruct Donald Trump to direct all of his vitriol through our collective counsel, we can choose not to mindlessly consume media. Turning down the volume on a narcissist and turning up the volume on the people and experiences right in front of you is the first step in a self-care routine that can get you to January 20, 2021, and beyond.

Our stress response causes us to fight, flee, or freeze. We fight by lashing out at others or lashing in at ourselves; we flee by losing ourselves in things that distract and numb us; and we freeze by holding our breath and our feelings inside. This keeps us stuck in the middle of the emotional cycle. Emotions are energy, and we need to move that energy. So cry, yell, move, and dive into creative expressions. When you do, you’ll likely find yourself starting to feel better about our breakup with Donald Trump.

It’s been a very tumultuous four years. To heal, limit your intake of Trump toxins, focus on the opportunities for human connection right in front of you, and get moving. In doing so, you will learn a truth that many of our clients come to appreciate over time: Life goes on after you leave a narcissist. It goes on in countless, beautiful, inspired ways. Your health, vitality and purpose are not inexorably tied to those who harmed you with their inability to empathize. And, through that lens, leaving a narcissist becomes a difficult but incredibly rewarding and liberating pursuit.

Chris Boeckx is a family law attorney, mediator and co-founder of Boeckx Law, LLC. Jenny Hecht, LCSW, is the founder and owner of Karuna Healing.

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