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How to Overcome The Guilt With Borderlines, Narcissists & Psychopaths
Why do I feel guilty?
There is nothing harder than ending a relationship with a malignant narcissist. Whether the narcissist is a spouse, a parent, a sibling or even your child, you are bound to have very strong emotions regarding the relationship. Things often feel unfinished and it can be difficult to achieve closure with a narcissist. There may be guilt because you feel (or are told) you are abandoning the narcissist. Maybe you feel that you didn't do enough to help them. The truth is that you cannot help a narcissist. You cannot fix them. You cannot be their savior. All you can be is a human punching bag (sometimes literally) until they become tired of you and move on. There is no reason to feel guilty for realizing this. No one has the right to abuse you, regardless of how much pain they are in, and regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not.
Sometimes the guilt comes from other places as well. Sometimes, people struggle with guilt because of the things they've said or done to the narcissist. Many people have been pushed to the point of nasty behavior and even violence as a result of the nonstop abuse from narcissists. The way to get over that guilt is to forgive yourself. You are a person dealing with something so horrible that even many trained medical professionals flat out refuse to deal with. Almost anybody will break eventually. What you've done is not OK, but it is OK to be human. We are always so much more understanding of others than we are of ourselves. If you read a story about a girl who had been locked in a dungeon being tortured and abused for ten years and she escaped by killing her abuser, would you judge her? Would you say she was bad and should not have done that? Should she go to jail now? Of course not. So give yourself a break.
Maybe you didn't handle everything perfectly, but who does? It's OK to make mistakes, as long as you own them. You are allowed to have bad days and you are allowed to be human. The guilt you feel is partially because you are a decent person who feels bad about their negative behavior, but it's also from the narcissist constantly telling you that you are evil, that you are bad, that you are an abuser. Or telling you that you are worthless, stupid, useless and crazy. Part of your guilt is from the narcissist demanding absolute perfection from you, from the narcissist not allowing you to be human. It's OK to let go of that. It's not reality. It's a twisted manipulative lie from a miserable, disordered person who wants you to be miserable, too. Don't let the narcissist take up space in your head anymore.
It could also be that your guilt is from leaving. Maybe you are torn about whether you really should or about how you've reacted to the abuse, since this person has a disorder. It's important to remember here that in the end, it just doesn't really matter whether it is the narcissist's fault or not. It doesn't matter. Whether it is or is not something the narcissist can control, this does not somehow excuse what the narcissist is doing, or make it not wrong. If a mean dog got that way from being abused, you would recognize that it is a sad situation but you would not just lie there letting him attack you because he can't help it. You would stay away from that dog. It's the same with people. It may truly be that the narcissist can't help it. But it doesn't really matter either way, because it's wrong. It's hurting you and it's not OK.
How do I overcome the guilt?
The most important thing here is that you recognize that your own behavior was not OK. In the same way that we do not excuse the narcissist's behavior, we don't excuse our own, either. Just because the narcissist was horrible, abusive and cruel does not give us the right to also behave this way. This is what differentiates us from the narcissist: they cannot understand and will never truly accept that their behavior was wrong. They continue to insist that the victim deserved it - and caused it. They may seem remorseful, and they may apologize; they may even cry, but don't confuse remorse with shame. Narcissists can (and often do) feel shame because they have failed, or because they have been forced to face consequences, but this is not remorse. They are not sorry. People who are truly sorry generally do not continue to engage in the behavior that made them feel remorseful, because true remorse prevents that.
We - unlike the narcissist - are able to accept responsibility for our behavior, which means we can learn from it and grow. We - unlike the narcissist - do not have to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. This is a privilege that they will likely never enjoy. A conscience is a gift. It's a privilege, so take advantage of it and become a better person. Own what you've done and learn from it, then forgive yourself and move on.
It's time to heal. Narcissists are the way they are precisely because they cannot do this. They cannot accept things, they cannot forgive themselves (or anybody else), they cannot move on and they cannot heal. You don't need to carry that baggage around anymore. It's not helping you. If anything, it's hurting you and it's preventing you from being whole. Part of healing is not just forgiving the narcissist. It's forgiving ourselves, too.