Trust takes shape over time with a person you can truly count on. But if your trust muscles were not strengthened as a child, it will take endurance to build them as an adult. Many years may be needed, even if you’re willing to be faithful to the process. Find your people—those who are steadfast supporters and also want to travel this trust journey with you. By investing in yourself, you’re already on the road to more meaningful intimacy and in turn less likelihood of relapse.
Warning. As I said before, engaging more deeply with others is a wise idea, but it’s okay to be cautious. Relationships are complex and unpredictable, and moving beyond self-centeredness and into other-centeredness can be disappointing. Occasionally you’ll let down other people. At times your friends and family will disappoint you. This is inevitable. Dealing with those frustrations or disillusionments is how you’ll grow.
Carl Rogers, a founding father of humanistic psychology, coined the terms unconditional love and unconditional positive regard. Ideally, you at least got a taste of these experiences as a child, but most of you probably felt a gap between the love and attention you desired and the distractible, anxious, depressed, and narcissistic behavior your parents actually expressed. Your desire for love faces the task of bridging this intimacy gap with your relationships today. Fortunately, thanks to neuroplasticity, you can learn new behaviors over time despite your well-worn habits. With determination and tenacity, it’s possible to move from isolation to intimacy.
You already have the mindset, and possibly the heart-set, to seek help and consider a more fulfilling future. It shows enormous courage and humility to embark upon the road to intimacy. Just remember that you’re not alone. Others have shown the way, and you can carve out brand new neural pathways as you navigate beyond narcissism and into the world of meaningful, sustainable connection.
- Dogs are role models of unconditional love and acceptance. If you have a dog, be mindful of your relationship with your beloved pet and notice moments of deep connection. If not, foster a pet to learn from this unique love instructor.
- Lean into the love around you. Take stock of your relationships and make a list of emotionally reliable individuals in your life (or those you would like to depend on more). Also keep a gratitude list of all sources of love in your life.
- Narcissism is part of being human. Acknowledge the healthy narcissism within you and take stock of times when you feel confident and comfortable in your skin, while also recognizing occasions when narcissism distances you from others.
- Entitlement, envy, and judgment are traits that both protect and distance you from others. Track examples of these coping strategies as a way to build awareness of these patterns.
- When you were sexually compulsive, your generosity went dormant. Make a daily list of your other-centered activities, no matter how small. This paradigm shift moves you out of your own head and into the world. Consider the following:
a. What do I have to offer others?
b. How would I like to contribute to my community?
c. How can I make a difference in the world?
- Loving relationships are built one person at a time, and the more trustworthy connections you cultivate, the more solid your recovery will feel. Improve existing relationships by giving more of yourself. Be a dependable friend to others without expectation.