11. Integrating Sexual Identity After Narcissistic Abuse

“….It is the opening of the up and out of here, [out] of being bogged down, down into the dumps, into the depths. Depths of despair and uncertainty and un-reality of caring. Caring for my wound. His wound.”

Narcissists don’t know how to truly engage with us emotionally, and that means sexual interactions with them are empty and abusive as well.

Emotional intimacy feels threatening to a narcissist, because it requires vulnerability, transparency, and trust. They can’t present themselves as perfect and in charge when they’re so intimately engaged…so they’ll avoid it at all costs.

And, in turn, sexual interactions with a narcissist are not emotionally intimate. Some narcissists may appear distant, like their mind is in another place, they’re especially short-tempered and judgmental when it comes to physical intimacy, or they avoid it altogether…coming up with excuses not to devote energy to this part of your relationship.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve experienced a narcissist who seemed hyper focused on sexual interactions with you. This might feel fun at first, but becomes demanding and objectifying, and again…devoid of true emotional connection.

At its worst, sexual interaction with a narcissist can become more overtly abusive…with rape and other forms of sexual assault not uncommon.

All this said, I think it’s very normal for survivors of narcissistic abuse to have a tremendous amount of emotions to unpack around their sexuality, femininity, and how to relate to men in various ways…including sexually. Just like all other aspects of our identities that get confused, enmeshed with the narcissist, or flat out lost altogether…this is one area that’s very important to explore.

On today’s episode of Art That Overcomes, I’m sharing a painting I completed a few years ago that really helped me integrate the sexual aspects of my identity into my general sense of Self.

Scroll down to view the art image, related free association writing, and Message From Your Future Self that I discuss in Episode 11: Integrating Sexual Identity After Narcissistic Abuse.

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Episode 11: Integrating Sexual Identity After Abuse

Before I worked on this painting the very first day, I stated an intention for my artmaking time. It was:

“I will explore that ‘ugh’ feeling in my gut. I will learn more about it. I will see what it has to say to me. I will listen to it.”

From my writing after the first day of painting:

“…in there in the middle of it all. Of the chaos and red and orange and green. The slashes, so many slashes and orange lines.

What are the orange parts?

The orange is the heaven in there. It is the opening of the up and out of here, [out] of being bogged down, down into the dumps, into the depths. Depths of despair and uncertainty and un-reality of caring. Caring for my wound. His wound. The dirt…

There’s so much fire! Blue and orange…

What are they?

The helpers. The believers…”

On another day, later in the process, I wrote:

“This feels chaotic. The end of known time. This is unknown realms up in here, up in the air. What will I do with it? I don’t know. I can’t. I can’t anymore today….

The dark part is coming and I like it and I don’t…

What are you teaching me?

TO BECOME…. She took shape like the other one (referring to a previous painting). The orange one found meaning and light through her form — the light. The light that made me feel uneasy.

But I found I had to go through all the orange stuff to get to her. She was more beautiful, initially – in a way. Now oh so much more complex. Ugly in places. Not making sense. But every part is there….all underneath and in between and fighting and together and beautiful and unwarranted and wanting and needing and lusting and calling and coming out alive in the dust, and the ridicule of losses and gains and ins and outs of wanting. I love her…in all of me…

Will she come out?


A Message From Your Future Self

“What parts of you feel wrong today?

Where do you feel like you’ve messed up, fallen short, or failed to be enough?

I want you to hold those thoughts and feelings. Hold them tight, for just a few moments. Ball up your fists, imagining that they’re tangible objects you’re grasping in your hands. Press them tight…and count to five…1, 2, 3, 4, 5…


Relax your hands and imagine those failures, mistakes, feelings of guilt and the weight of never measuring up…they all just float away. You watch them…floating…floating….moving farther and farther away into the distance, until they’re only tiny specks. Then…they’re gone completely.

Look down at your empty hands and envision then filling up with light, beauty, love, compassion, confidence, creativity…so much worth.

I’m here with you.

I’m your Future Self, waiting to unfold the fullness of who I am, hour by hour, day by day. It’s in these little moments of letting go, and filling back up, that you move toward me.

It doesn’t *always* have to be complicated.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of being present, and willing to let go.

-Your Future Self”

We are a community of Overcomers!

Looking to connect with other women who get itClick here to join my FREE Facebook Group, Women Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse. It’s a private community designed just for you.

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Femininity – a loaded term.

Image created by Hearts Made Visible workshop participant (used with permission of the artist)

I was so inspired by the women who participated in my Summer 2019 Hearts Made Visible workshops. Their bravery, vulnerability and insight were truly a blessing for me to witness. One of the areas of identity we explored together was “femininity” — a loaded term in our culture today.

Here are some thought-provoking and often polarizing words and phrases that came up during our intro discussions:

Gentle, Subtle, Weight, Depth, Curves, Unique, Difficult, Identifier, Limiting in workplace, Strong, Lots of hats, Not subservient, Deep conversations, Appearance, Vulnerable, Delicate, Empathetic, Power differentials, Expectations, Specific “right” way to be, Norms?, Children (bio, adopt, choose not to, losses), Single vs Married, LGBTQ vs Heterosexual, “Emotional” = bad/wrong, Old vs New, Nurturing, Creative, Freeing, Limiting, Boldness, Less-than, Comforting, Slavery, Ideal vs Reality, Radiance, Softness with firmness/inner strength, Beauty, Leader, Intuitive, Personal, Changing/Transformation, Hidden strength, Endurance, Solid, Always evolving…

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “femininity”? Is it largely positive, negative, or filed with contradictions?

In the coming weeks, I will be announcing new, monthly workshop dates for 2020! Contact me through the Connect page to ask questions or to be added to my email list so you can receive updates.

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