Suddenly, you don’t have feelings about it anymore.
You have to go to a location that reminds you of your exN (Narcissistic ex-partner, for those new to the lingo). Maybe it’s in your old neighborhood. Maybe it’s a restaurant you used to like together.
You think you’re going to be triggered. You think you’re going to suffer an onslaught of memories. You think you’re going to be terrified of bumping into the exN.
Instead… Nothing. It’s just a neighborhood/restaurant/place like any other. It’s a place you once lived near. It’s a restaurant you used to go to. That is all.
Or, maybe, you find yourself telling some of your stories to someone new in your life. You’ve told your stories before. You have the words memorized and your delivery is done in monotone because you try to distance yourself from the tale as much as you can whenever you have to tell it. You know which parts are going to be harder to tell, which parts will make you choke up a bit if you aren’t careful. You know them by heart just as well as you know the stories themselves.
Except, this time, the stories strike you anew and you see them through a new lens. When you tell them, you don’t feel the sickening fear of the incidents all over again like you used to.
Instead… you can’t stop laughing. The utter ridiculousness of the exN’s actions, words, behaviors have you in stitches. There are tears rolling down your face as you laugh instead of cry about all you’ve been through.
Yes, he really did move a Christmas tree into his bedroom because he couldn’t tolerate admitting it was somewhat reasonable for you to be a little frustrated that he had made you leave the house because he wanted to decorate it alone and then he had sat in the basement playing video games instead. Yes, he really did buy extra toothpaste and leave it in the spot where extra toothpaste goes, only to take it away just as the tube in the cabinet got low.
He really did all of those insanely petty, unbelievable things. Those things that you’ve been through, they really happened.
Some of them aren’t funny, though. Some of them will never be funny.
But all of them are in the past. You can think of them without feeling them. You can view them abstractly. You can recognize that the behaviors were expressions of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The exN’s actions had absolutely nothing to do with you, personally.
You understand now that people like this exist. People whose disordered thinking will cause them to harm those around them, to feed off of their sympathies while they systemically destroy everything a person holds dear, every kind thing a person might think about themselves.
You didn’t know this before. You didn’t believe in monsters.
You do now. You know they exist and that they’re out there. And they have problems, horrible personal problems that make them hurtful, spiteful beings, and that you can choose to never allow any of them to impact you ever again.
You find out you have developed an ability to recognize the monsters.
You have monster radar now. They cannot get to you. You have no patience with them. You have no desire to be kind or accommodating to behaviors that you don’t enjoy or admire. You are able to see clearly when someone doesn’t respect you or your boundaries. You have learned to keep people around you who are worthy of the bountiful gifts you have within you to give. You have learned how easy it is to cut people off who prove themselves otherwise.
You can now go to that neighborhood, to that restaurant, and understand full well that there’s some chance you’ll bump into the exN. You can not care.
You understand what might happen if you see them, or if they see you. They will either retreat or challenge. Once upon a time, if they ran from you it would have hurt horribly. Once upon a time, if they challenged you, tried to prove to themselves they still had power over you, insulted you, possibly hit you or threatened to do so, you would have been re-traumatized and it would have taken ages to get back to the level of healing you had been at previously.
You do not feel that way anymore. You’re not stupid; you’re unlikely to go alone into a situation where you might see them. But if they tried to frighten you, if they tried to assert their dominance like they used to, you wouldn’t care anymore.
You would see them for who they are; a scared, frightened, cowardly soul who is unable to confront the reality of their existence. You would be able to look at them and feel nothing as they posture.
You took the lessons you learned from that relationship and you built a new, better life. You took the naked bare remnants of your core self that you were left with after you finally were able to go no-contact and you built a new, stronger, more confident version of self on top of that wreckage.
And suddenly, one day, you look back on it all, and you don’t have feelings about it anymore. You don’t have the feelings of “during” that stayed with you for years. You’re left with the feelings of the present, and the full recognition that all that pain is in your past.
You realize you did it. You got out from under it. You made it through.