Victims of narcissistic abuse often ruminate about their narcissistic ex after the relationship has ended. This means that they are obsessively thinking about the abuse that they experienced and it can actually interfere with their normal mental functioning. It is really important to learn how to stop thinking about your narcissistic ex because rumination will prevent you from healing and rebuilding the best version of yourself.

To stop thinking about your narcissistic ex you have to re-educate yourself on the dynamics of a healthy relationship, escape the limitations that your narcissistic ex created so that you can become the best version of yourself, and you have to rebuild your self-esteem by setting achievable goals on a daily basis.

Those three steps are going to help you be comfortable with prioritizing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs and force you to acknowledge and accept the fact that you deserve a happier and healthier life. This article is going to guide you through how to stop thinking about your narcissistic ex and we’ve also created a short video below with a bunch of daily affirmations that you can use to help you build your self-esteem and stop thinking about your narcissistic ex.

A Short Video With 12 Affirmations That You Can Use to Stop Thinking About You Narcissistic Ex

Re-Educate Yourself on the Dynamics of a Healthy Relationship to Stop Thinking About Your Narcissistic Ex

One of the reasons that narcissistic relationships can last for months, years, and even decades, is cognitive dissonance. It is a theory that suggests that when we experience an inconsistency among belief, behavior, and information, it creates a lot of psychological tension and to ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements that is causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent. 

In narcissistic relationships cognitive dissonance is the justification, rationalization, and normalization of abuse. There are many different manipulative phases that lead a victim of narcissistic abuse into a state of cognitive dissonance that we spoke about in our article Can a Trauma Bond Become Healthy but we’re going to summarize them here. 

In the beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist gives their victim the information and shows them the behavior that the victim needs to develop a belief that they are in a happy, healthy, and secure relationship with the narcissist. 

To do this narcissists will use mirroring to absorb important information about the victim’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life. This is most commonly referred to as the love bombing phase and it is all about the narcissist becoming exactly who the victim needs them to be. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse talking about her relationship

With that being said, the love bombing phase doesn’t last forever. A survey we conducted among 220 survivors of narcissistic abuse in our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last we found that with narcissistic men the love bombing phase lasted five-and-a-half months and with narcissistic women it lasts three-and-a-half months. Once this phase ends, the narcissist will suddenly begin their abusive pursuit of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control.

This means that the information that the narcissist gave to the victim and the behavior that they showed to the victim changes, leaving them with only the belief that they’re in a happy, healthy, and secure relationship. This is the point in the narcissistic relationship where cognitive dissonance begins to kick in. 

The change in information and behavior forces victims of narcissistic abuse to choose between continuing to believe that they’re in happy, healthy, secure relationship with someone they believe is perfect and fills a void in their life or let go of the wish for things to be different by acknowledging and accepting that the person they put their trust in is actually a manipulative abuser. 

We covered this thoroughly in our articles What Comes After Love Bombing With a Narcissist but narcissists have a ton of different manipulative techniques that convince the vicitms that they’re in a happy, healthy, and secure relationship so they keep justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse. 

If you are justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing abuse for months, years, or even decades, it is going to severely corrupt your perception of a healthy relationship so by re-educating yourself in the dynamics of a healthy relationship you’re going to learn that they are built on respect, mutuality, empathy, compassion, compromises, and simply being yourself. 

This is going to help you stop thinking about your narcissistic ex because you’ll realize just how abusive they really are and that you owe it to yourself and the people who truly love you to heal and rebuild the best version of yourself. 

Escaping the Limitations That Your Narcissistic Ex Created Will Help You Stop Thinking About Them

To escape the limitations that your narcissistic ex created to keep you under their power and control you first have to understand where the limitations that they create comes from. It is believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.

This means that the primary caregivers aren’t able to mirror their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs so the child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to have a healthy cognitive development and a realistic sense of self.

This is a huge problem because it teaches the child to construct their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment. For example, a child of unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers constructing their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being a fantastic musician. 

This creates a sense of inadequacy, fear of abandonment, a sense of being unlovable and unwanted, a excessive need of validation, admiration, and reassurance, and a fear of one’s own vulnerabilities and insecurities because the neglect that they experience from their unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. 

A child having a poor sense of self

The problem is that these children have had very poor cognitive development so they’re incapable of regulating all of the negative emotions that they have about themselves. To protect their emotional stability they will just suppress all of their negative emotions beneath the sense of self that they construct from the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment.

The problem with this inadequate and immature approach to emotional regulation is that it makes their sense of self extremely fragile. Any form of authenticity has the potential to contradict their sense of self and trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions, this is called a narcissistic injury.

One of the ways that narcissists reduce the amount of narcissistic injuries that they get, is when the they project all of their negative emotions onto their victim. Meaning that their victim becomes a repository for all of their suppressed negative emotions. 

A simple example of this would be a narcissist feeling really insecure about their weight but instead of acknowledging that they’re overweight, they ridicule, mock, and punish their victim for being overweight even if they are in good shape.

This is called projection. It occurs when a narcissist takes aspects of their identity that they find unacceptable and projects or places them onto other people. Our article Why Do Narcissists Use Projection has a ton of information about this but the effect this has on victims of narcissistic abuse is what we’re going to focus on. 

Experiencing narcissistic abuse destroys the victim’s sense of self. They are forced to abandon their core values and neglect their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs on a daily basis. 

When this is combined with a narcissist’s incessant need to project all of their deeply rooted negative emotions onto the victim, it is very common for victims of narcissistic abuse to adopt the narcissist’s negative emotions as their own.

It’s for this reason that victims of narcissistic abuse often ruminate after they’ve left the narcissistic relationship. Their abuser’s condescending voice is still whispering into their ear and limiting the things that they can do.

To escape the limitations that a narcissist has placed on you, you should work really hard to rediscover what you want in life, put yourself in situations where you are forced to push your boundaries in a healthy way that allows you to redefine your limitations, and learn how to be truly happy with who you are as a person.

Everyone is going to have a different approach when trying to escape the limitations. A really good approach to this that we’ve heard from hundreds of survivors of narcissistic abuse is to do everything that the narcissist said that you couldn’t do so that you can practice managing your triggers.

I always got in trouble for using too many utensils while cooking. So now when I’m cooking I instinctively get anxious about the amount of utensils I use. So, my therapist would get me to do things like use ALL of the utensils when cooking to work on my triggers. – Brie Robertson, Survivor of 17 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Setting Achievable Goals on a Daily Basis Will Help You Stop Thinking About Your Narcissistic Ex

The most important thing that you have to remember when healing from narcissistic abuse is that it is a very long journey that requires you to have a lot of patience. You should expect to have a lot of questions that you want answered but it is important to remember that when it comes to narcissistic relationships, the answers, justice, revenge, and closure comes from within. 

What you need to do to get to where you want to be in life is focus on setting achievable goals on a daily basis. At first, your goals should be centered around your safety. What do you need to do to stay safe? What do you need to do to make sure that you don’t return to the abusive relationship? 

The reason that this is so important is because victims of narcissistic abuse are likely to experience a lot of self-doubt, self-blame, fear, guilt, and shame once their relationship with their narcissistic partner has ended. This is dangerous because narcissists feel entitled to having power and control over their victims even after the relationship has ended. 

A narcissistic ex yelling at his ex girlfriend through the phone

If a victim of narcissistic abuse were to prioritize laying a solid foundation that prevents them from falling back into the narcissistic abuse cycle, they’d be much less susceptible to the manipulation narcissists use to remain in power and control of their victims at all times. 

We highly recommend that you read our articles How to Deal With the Negative Emotions of Going No Contact With a Narcissist, Why Do I Still Love the Narcissist, and Can Narcissists Love for a ton of information that you need to help navigate the negative emotions that come from ending a relationship with a narcissist.

Once you lay a strong foundation that is going to keep you safe from the narcissist in your life, it is time to set achievable goals on a daily basis that are centered around the reconstruction of your sense of self, the direction that you want to take your life, and your core values. 

The abuse that you experienced was not your fault but it is your responsibility to chase the happier and healthier life that you desire. Find what makes you happy and aggressively pursue it every single chance that you get. Once you get comfortable with setting achievable goals on a daily basis, you’re going to begin to stop thinking about your narcissistic ex.

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

It’s very common to think about your narcissistic ex at the end of the relationship and it is very important that you stop thinking about them as quickly as possible. The quickest way to do this is by re-educating yourself on the dynamics of a healthy relationship, escaping the limitations that the narcissists created to keep you under their power and control, and setting achievable goals on a daily basis.

There’s a really good passage that victims of narcissistic abuse should be familiar with from a book named The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy where the boy is leading his horse through the woods and says, “I can’t see my way through.” The horse replies, “Can you see to take the next step?” The boy says, “Yes” and the horse says, “Just take that.”

That is what healing and rebuilding after narcissistic abuse is all about. It is a long journey that requires a lot of patience but if you focus on just taking one step after the other, you’re going to have a very successful healing journey.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Sarin, Sabina, and Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. “The dangers of dwelling: An examination of the relationship between rumination and consumptive coping in survivors of childhood sexual abuse.” Cognition and Emotion 24.1 (2010): 71-85.