Self-knowledge or “introspection” is the first and most important first step to overcoming abuse from narcissists. Yet, so many people get this step wrong or skip it altogether, leading to failure. In this post, I’ll share a fool-proof introspection technique that I developed to overcome my own experience with narcissism.
What Many Introspective Methods Get Wrong
So many victims of narcissistic abuse have trouble recovering because they fail to take responsibility for their own emotional reactions to the abuse they suffered. While this may seem strange to so many people still stick in the cycle of abuse, the best way to overcome it is to take personal responsibility for as much of what happened as we reasonably can.
As I discussed in my previous post, “The Biggest Mistake People Make When Healing from Narcissism”, all forms of trauma require opposing emotional reactions from both the abuser and the abusee. And, I shared the story of a Buddhist monk who overcame the trauma of torture by taking responsibility for his how compassion toward his abusers.
The biggest mistake most introspection methods make is that they inventory all your perceived faults and try to lay blame on their abuser. What I see is this —
- Victims develop a long laundry list of complaints or shortcomings on their part
- They develop a narrative — in excruciating detail — that explains why their abuser caused them to be this way
- Over time, they increasingly identify with this version of themselves.
I hope it is obvious to you at this point exactly why this method has no hope of working (if not, read the post I linked above). Yet, it is extremely enticing to those of us in vulnerable conditions because it allows us to shirk all responsibility for what happened.
Blaming our abusers — no matter how justified — only leaves us more under their control and locked into the cycle of abuse. That’s why we see people that go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship. Seemingly doomed to relive the same horrors over and over again.
The only remedy to abuse is to reclaim our power over the situation by accepting responsibility.
Why the “Four Me’s” Method is So Effective for Abuse Recovery
The Four Me’s method is so effective for overcoming narcissistic abuse because it recruits every aspect of ourselves to help with finding a way out.
If you have ever experienced the benefits of long term meditation or had a deep psychedelic experience, you probably have realized that there are more “Me’s” in here than just the one “I.” In one profound meditation experience I uncovered four independent personalities that exist within all of us, which we must get working together to relive our full potential and ultimate power —
- The Animal Self — fearful, avoidant, and survival-oriented
- The Egoistic Self — Emotional and status motivated
- The Rational Self — Hyper-rational. Your own Mr. Spock
- The Higher Self — Spiritual, timeless, altruistic
While this theory is closely related to various religious and psychological interpretations of the psyche, I find this view easier to understand and extremely useful.
The Animal Self is the deep and primordial part of our mind. Alone, it would leave us living like a lizard. Find food, eat, rest, run away, mate, repeat. Above all else, it wants to make sure our body is unharmed.
The Egoistic Self is our two-year-old self. It wants what it wants. And it wants in now! If it feels good, then it does it. This self feels like it deserves all the attention and seeks to make itself look as good as possible.
The Rational Self is our “adult” brain. It plans and tries to find good reasons for what it does. It is cold and unemotional. Its highest aim is to live an orderly life.
The Higher Self is the source of our selfless aspirations. Doing for others, searching for direct religious experiences, and having a higher calling are hallmarks of this self. Its ultimate goal is to find and experience meaning in its life.
No other introspection method that I’ve seen adequately aligns all four of these internal motivations in one place. And begins recovery from the standpoint of finding out what you want.
The “Four Me’s” Method Instructions
The Four Me’s method aims to discover what you got out of the abusive relationship you were in. This is the first step to taking responsibility and breaking out of the abuse cycle.
While there is certainly blame to go around in any traumatic event, do not allow yourself to explain your motivations through other people’s actions during the course of this exercise. For this practice to work, we must accept that we acted the way we did because we choose to act that way and explore the consequences of this perspective.
Here is the process:
- Choose a particularly traumatic event that you remember well.
- Write down everything that you can remember about the event, as detailed as you can, using emotionally neutral language.
- Go back through and highlight or underline actions that you took. Fill in any that you might be missing.
- For each action you took, answer the following questions
- How did this action seek to fulfill my Animal Self?
- How did this action seek to fulfill my Egoistic Self?
- How did this action seek to fulfill my Rational Self?
- How did this action seek to fulfill my Higher Self?
- Summarize the event by looking at your previous responses, and answer the following questions:
- What was your dominant motivation during this event?
- How did your actions attest to serve this motivation?
- Did you get what you were seeking?
- How did your actions contribute to how the situation progressed?
- Can you see a better alternative to the actions that you took now in retrospect?
- If you were in the same situation with the same motivations, would you likely take the same actions as before?
I recommend that clients make this practice a core element of their recovery process. Whenever you are reminded of a traumatic event that still has emotional weight for you and makes you feel victimized, sit down for 15–30 minutes and go through the Four Me’s process.
These sessions serve as the basis for taking back control over your life. And are essential for later and more powerful means for redesigning your experiences around new goals and belief systems.
What Do After the “Four Me’s” Process
While I offer over a hundred free articles on my blog at this point, those seeking immediate relief and recovery should check out my recommended resources page, or apply for an opportunity to work with me directly in their recovery process. See: