A narcissist lives in a “grandiosity bubble,” which protects their self-worth from the shame of their own limitations and averageness. A “narcissistic collapse” occurs when this grandiosity bubble bursts.
When the grandiosity bubble bursts, the narcissist is confronted with the reality that they are not superior or special. This leads to a profound identity crisis, deep feelings of shame, and intense emotional turmoil.
This collapse can be a joy-sucking and emotionally draining event. As a narcissist, your self-worth is in shambles. You may lash out, withdraw, or even have symptoms similar to a major depressive episode.
The collapse may have been triggered by major life events or stressors like a job loss, a breakup, or public humiliation. It could be because of someone passing away who deeply cared for you.
Or, it was planned by a person to expose your insecurities and vulnerabilities for all to see, and force you into a breakdown.
But you can recover from this narcissistic collapse when your self-esteem is at its lowest, and you feel a bad self-loathing.
We bring you ten authentic strategies to come out stronger and improve your relationships with yourself and others.
How To Recover From Narcissistic Collapse: 10 Strategies
Your recovery may take some time and hard work. But you can have your sense of self-confidence and self-worth back in a more humane and pro-social way.
Here are 10 strategies to recover from your narcissistic collapse:
1. Recognize the signs of your collapse
First, recognize and accept that what’s happening to you is a narcissistic collapse and not just any mental breakdown.
A collapsed narcissist most often struggles with intense feelings of shame, guilt, regret, or worthlessness..
Some other signs of narcissistic collapse include: impulsive behavior, loudly talking to self, hostile blame and rage, increased irritability and sensitivity, stopping self-care and personal hygiene, verbal expressions of strong emotions like hate, and self-harm.
These emotions can be too overwhelming to let you think in a rational and organized way. So, writing down your thoughts about your current state are very helpful, though draining.
Give your chaotic mind some time to reflect on your emotions. Try to find out when was the first time they were triggered, and understand why they surfaced this time.
“Collapsed narcissist fails to secure narcissistic supply or even self-supply, and they lose all their Pathological Narcissistic Spaces. Narcissists then switch from one type to another (type inconstancy: cerebral-somatic and overt-covert) as a means to secure supply. When type reversion (this switching tactic) fails, it leads to narcissistic mortification, grandiosity bubbles, decompensation, and Borderline-like personality.
“These hysterical endeavors sometimes result in boom-bust cycles which involve, in the first stage, the formation of a Grandiosity Bubble, replete with self-supply. Long-term, this can lead to Binary Narcissism.
“If even these don’t restore supply, externally or internally, the narcissist opts for one of these solutions: The Delusional Narrative Solution, The Antisocial Solution, The Paranoid Schizoid Solution, The Paranoid Aggressive (Explosive) Solution, or The Masochistic Avoidant Solution.”– Professor Sam Vaknin (How Narcissist Experiences His Collapse)
You might label what you’re going through as “I recognize it is a state of collapse.”
This can give you a better grasp of your state of mind and begin to come to terms with your reality.
This lets you follow through with the self-awareness and introspection phases of your recovery journey.
2. Establish boundaries with others
One of the key steps in your recovery journey is setting up clear and firm boundaries. This means marking out a clear line between yourself and those who played a part in your narcissistic collapse.
Distancing yourself from people who triggered and insulted you is not an escapist mentality. It is building a secure fence that protects you from further emotional pain while you are still vulnerable.
Boundaries mean you’re declaring what behaviors of others you will accept and reject from now on.
Your boundaries also tell you that you have taken a proactive step toward your healing process.
Setting boundaries in relationships is actually taking care of your own mental health.
3. Practice self-awareness
Self-awareness means being present and honest with yourself about your own feelings and actions.
First, be brutally honest with yourself. Self-assess which behaviors hurt others. Accept truthfully how those actions made you feel safe or good, but they were wrong to do.
Self-reflection is a telescope to spot the dark aspects of your behavior.
Self-awareness helps you foresee your disturbing behaviors before you act them out. You learn to create a space between the stimulus and your response.
Actually, all of us should cultivate a habit of daily reflection on the parts of our behavior that are not socially healthy.
Self-introspection encourages you to be more authentic yet kind, allowing others to feel unattacked around you.
4. Treat yourself with self-compassion
Self-compassion involves practicing:
- Self-kindness (not being critical or judgmental of your mistakes and shortcomings),
- Common humanity (recognizing that every human has difficult moments), and
- Mindfulness (observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment).
Start by realizing that you deserve your own kindness and compassion. You are allowed to treat yourself with the same understanding and care that you would extend to a friend or loved one.
Your self-compassionate mindset can serve as a powerful antidote to negative self-talk. It helps you to be more accepting of your negative emotions, reducing your anxiety and depression.
It can help you build a more positive self-image and bounce back faster and stronger from setbacks and challenges.
So, make it a routine to treat yourself gently and kindly, as you would your best friend.
5. Reach out to supportive people
You don’t have to go through your recovery process all by yourself.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or even support groups.
Social connections are a major source of inspiration, helping us make positive changes, correct our course, and get out of emotional distress. They are your hammock as well as your sounding board.
Talking about your experiences with people who are supportive can help you form a strong network of understanding and support.
It’s not just about sharing your own story, but also about listening to others. Other people’s experiences and viewpoints can give you new insights and learnings.
Seek help from supportive friends, family, or support groups.
6. Focus on personal growth
Your recovery must involve growth and strength.
You want to recover into someone better than your old self.
You need dedicated time and committed effort to foster personal growth. Set aside a few hours every day, and a longer time on weekends.
Fill out your calendar in advance with fun activities. You could pick up a new hobby, master a new skill, travel to a new place, and build relationships with people with positive values.
These can gradually add to your overall sense of self-worth, helping you to create more balance and happiness in your life and work.
When you decide and commit to growing, you’re not just recovering, but also building resilience against the possibility of another narcissistic collapse.
So, make personal growth a priority, to bounce back stronger.
7. Grow empathy toward others
Growing empathy can be a transformative step in your healing process.
Empathy allows you to understand and appreciate the feelings of others.
Empathy helps you see past your own perspectives and interests, and control your narcissistic tendencies to manipulate others.
It can help you foster more pleasant relationships with others.
They accept you when they see you trying to relate to them without being selfish or exploitative. This reinforces your sense of belonging and meaningfulness in life.
With time, taking that extra effort o understand others can also gain a better understanding of yourself.
So, learn to cultivate empathy; it can be a powerful tool in your recovery from a narcissistic collapse.
8. Practice humility with all you meet
Keeping a humble attitude while letting go of your usual grandiosity can be a great tool in our healing kit.
Humility allows you to accept that you don’t always have the answers and that you are not always right. It opens you up to learn from others.
A modest attitude can help you break away from your habitual narcissistic tendencies and invite healthier relationships.
Humility also prompts self-reflection, letting you see areas for rectification and improvement.
So, embrace humility in your daily life, as we all should to make our social spheres more transparent and share-worthy.
9. Mindfulness & Self-Care Routine
A self-care and mindfulness routine are helpful practices to help recover from a narcissistic collapse.
Here is a simple self-care routine:
- Wake up and stretch. Take a few minutes to stretch your body and wake up your muscles. This will help you feel more refreshed and energized for the day ahead.
- Take a warm bath or shower. This can be a great way to relax and de-stress. You may add some essential oils or bath salts to your bath for an extra boost of relaxation.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity can be a beneficial way to prevent depression and to maintain both your physical and emotional well-being. Even a short walk or bike ride can make a positive difference.
- Eat healthy. Choose foods high in protein (fish, eggs, meat) and fiber (fruits, vegetables, nuts). Keep high-glycemic carbohydrates (sugar, white bread, white rice) away from your plate.
- Spend time in nature. Being in nature has several benefits for happiness. Take some time to go for a walk in the park, sit in your backyard, or even just look out the window at some trees.
- Do something you enjoy. Whether it’s reading, listening to music, or spending time with loved ones, make sure to do something that you enjoy each day. This will help you to relax and de-stress.
- Take some time for yourself. This may mean taking a bath, reading a book, or simply sitting in silence. Whatever you do, make sure to take some time for yourself each day to relax and recharge.
A self-care routine to take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Start small, be consistent, and get help if you need it.
Mindfulness is being fully present and engaged in the current moment. Being more mindful helps you understand your emotions and triggers and reactions better.
10. Seek professional help
There’s no shame in asking for help from a professional.
One of the most helpful things to do for your recovery is to seek help from a counselor who specializes in narcissism.
You can reach out to an experienced cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) therapist.
- They can give you valuable insights into your thought patterns and behaviors.
- They can help you interpret things differently and think and act your way out of your collapse.
- They can guide you on how to process your unresolved emotions and learn better ways to cope with your situation.
You also feel secure in opening up about your vulnerabilities with them, which is vital for your healing.
Here are the main points from Dr. Sam Vaknin’s Collapsed Narcissist in Therapy:
- Narcissists voluntarily do not seek therapy.
- Convincing a narcissist to go to therapy is challenging.
- The narcissist attending therapy requires extreme circumstances.
- Multiple aspects of the narcissist’s life (relationships, family, business, and reputation) must collapse for them to consider therapy.
- Narcissists attend therapy only when they have hit rock bottom.
- They attend therapy to fix their perception of malfunction.
- The therapist aims to reconstruct the narcissist’s life for increased functionality.
- Therapy helps narcissistic clients become more functional and less energy-consuming.
What Happens After A Narcissistic Collapse
After a narcissistic collapse, the narcissist might find themselves feeling exposed and vulnerable. They may experience feelings of being shattered, betrayed, rejected, and excluded.
It may seem that the confident, controlled persona they once presented to the world appears to have crumbled, revealing a person who is hurt and broken.
This collapse is often triggered by a big life event or a relationship ending, that breaks down their self-image.
In the worst of times, they may feel hopeless and helpless while trying to reconcile with their new reality.
What are the signs of a narcissistic collapse?
A narcissistic collapse can be recognized by telltale signs like extreme mood swings, erratic behavior, and a loss of self-esteem. They might act defensively, controllingly, or become suddenly prone to bouts of anger. There may also be a noticeable decrease in their usual self-confidence and an increased need for validation from others.
What are the stages of narcissistic collapse?
Collapse occurs when the narcissist’s carefully constructed facade crumbles, leaving them emotionally unstable and vulnerable. The stages of narcissistic collapse are similar to the DABDA grief response model:
Denial: The narcissist may deny that anything is wrong and refuse to acknowledge any criticism or negative feedback.
Anger: The narcissist may become angry and defensive when their behavior is questioned or criticized.
Bargaining: The narcissist may try to negotiate or make deals to avoid facing the consequences of their behavior.
Depression: The narcissist may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair when they realize that their behavior has led to negative consequences.
Acceptance: The narcissist may come to accept that their behavior has caused harm and take steps to change their behavior or seek help.
How long does the narcissistic collapse last?
The duration of a narcissistic collapse can vary greatly, depending on the individual and the severity of their condition. It is generally considered to be a temporary condition that can last for weeks or months. People in a narcissistic collapse pass through stages, somewhat akin to stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. So, the recovery process is often similar to how they might respond to a grief-provoking situation. It may require therapy or counseling to rebuild self-sufficiency while overcoming narcissistic tendencies.
What are the signs of a “covert” narcissistic collapse?
Covert narcissistic collapse, as opposed to the more overt variety, is harder to recognize. Signs might include increased social withdrawal, self-pity, and passive-aggressive behavior. They may also become more manipulative in an attempt to regain control of their self-image or seek validation through indirect means like playing the victim or guilt-tripping others.
What is the impact of a breakup on narcissistic collapse?
A breakup can significantly worsen a narcissistic collapse. Due to the loss of their primary source of validation and support, the narcissist’s self-esteem might rapidly decline. In some cases, this can lead to a crippling sense of rejection and despair, further intensifying the emotional turmoil of the collapse.
What role does silent treatment play in narcissistic collapse?
The silent treatment is a tool often used by narcissists in their collapse phase. It’s a type of emotional manipulation where the narcissist stops talking, showing affection, or giving attention to others. They do this in an attempt to regain control over their self-image and reassert their power. However, this tactic often backfires and worsens their emotional instability and pushes them closer to a complete collapse.
Can narcissists recover from a collapse?
Yes, recovery is possible for narcissists experiencing a collapse. However, the process can be challenging and requires commitment and effort to change deeply ingrained behaviors and thought patterns. It often involves professional therapy or counseling to address the root causes and teach new coping strategies to navigate future psychological challenges.
Here are the key takeaways on how to recover from a narcissistic collapse:
- Accept there’s a problem and that you need to change. Ponder your past actions and behaviors.
- Rebuild relationships with friends and family. Have open talks with them and listen to their advice.
- Work on improving and growing as a person. Find healthy ways to deal with stress and sadness.
- Do things you enjoy (without harming others), set goals, and try new adventures.
- Get help from a therapist; they’ll give you tools to handle your collapse.
• • •
- How To Embrace Negative Emotions: 7 Most Helpful Ways
- Do Narcissists Like Other Narcissists: Unravel The Paradox
- How To Forgive Someone Who Broke Your Trust & Move On
- Are You Emotionally Damaged But Don’t Know The Signs?
- How To Break Up Without Hurting Your Partner (Too Much)
• • •
Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy — a medical doctor and psychology writer, with a unique focus on mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoicism. His empathic expertise has helped many mental abuse survivors find happiness again. Co-author of ‘Critique of Positive Psychology and Positive Interventions’.
√ If you liked it, please spread the word.