Updated: Jun 10
By Kim Burkland-Ward, LICSW - June 2nd, 2023
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from narcissistic abuse can be a debilitating and distressing condition. Survivors often struggle with intrusive thoughts, emotional dysregulation, and a persistent sense of fear and hypervigilance. While the journey towards healing can be challenging, there is hope in the form of Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. This innovative therapeutic approach provides a transformative path to recovery by empowering individuals to explore and heal their internal landscape. In this blog post, I will explore how IFS therapy can assist in treating PTSD arising from narcissistic abuse, offering survivors the opportunity to reclaim their lives and find lasting emotional well-being. IFS therapy for PTSD can be an essential tool for healing the scars of your abuse.
Understanding Narcissistic Abuse and its Impact
Narcissistic abuse occurs when an individual with narcissistic tendencies manipulates, devalues, and exploits others for their own gain. Survivors of narcissistic abuse often experience a range of psychological, emotional, and even physical trauma. The trauma can manifest as PTSD, with symptoms such as flashbacks, hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, and an impaired sense of self-worth.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD and refined by a team of skilled therapists, offers a unique framework for understanding and healing trauma. It recognizes that within everyone, there exist multiple parts or subpersonalities, each with its own beliefs, emotions, and desires. IFS aims to establish a compassionate and non-judgmental relationship with these internal parts, enabling healing and integration. Through this process you get to know yourself and increase mindfulness skills. Additionally, IFS goes beyond Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It changes your core negative beliefs permanently so you so not have to work hard to “manage” them on an ongoing basis.
How IFS Therapy Treats PTSD from Narcissistic Abuse:
1. Identifying and Understanding Internal Parts: IFS therapy provides a safe space for survivors to explore their internal landscape and identify the different parts that have emerged as a result of the abuse. This includes the protective parts that were necessary for coping during the abuse and the wounded parts that experienced the trauma. By understanding the purpose and intentions of each part, survivors can begin to develop self-compassion and empathy.
2. Developing Self-Leadership: IFS therapy helps survivors cultivate their internal self-leader, also known as the Self. The Self embodies qualities such as compassion, wisdom, and curiosity. By accessing the Self, survivors gain a sense of empowerment and stability. The Self serves as a guiding force that can foster healing and provide support as they navigate the trauma-related memories and emotions.
3. Healing Traumatized Parts: Through IFS therapy, survivors can establish a healing connection with their traumatized parts. This involves creating a safe environment where these parts can express their pain, emotions, and unmet needs. By offering understanding and compassion, survivors can begin to integrate these wounded parts, facilitating their healing and reducing their influence on daily life.
4. Rebuilding a Healthy Sense of Self: Narcissistic abuse often results in a shattered sense of self-worth and identity. IFS therapy aims to rebuild a healthy sense of self by reconnecting survivors with their authentic, unharmed essence. By fostering self-acceptance and self-compassion, survivors can develop a renewed sense of confidence and reclaim their personal power.
5. Cultivating Relationships with Internal Parts: IFS therapy also focuses on building relationships and fostering communication between different internal parts. By promoting cooperation and understanding among these parts, survivors can experience greater internal harmony and integration. This integration helps reduce the distressing symptoms of PTSD and encourages overall well-being.
Healing from PTSD resulting from narcissistic abuse is a challenging journey, but Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy offers a profound and transformative approach to recovery. By acknowledging and engaging with internal parts, survivors can embark on a path of self-compassion, healing, and integration.