As Easter draws to a close, I hope you have had a happy time of rest and renewal, as well as time shared with loving family and friends.

Easter is also a time of reflection, and I have found myself contemplating how being in a narcissistic relationship has much in common with being held captive. Your life is not your own; your well-being or survival depends on a brutal and controlling ‘other’.

These thoughts were sparked when I recently learned about the Stockdale Paradox. This mindset was originally described as American prisoners-of-war in Vietnam, but it also defines what is necessary to survive and Thrive after narcissistic abuse.

Let my latest Thriver TV episode explain this fully by reading the transcript or clicking on the video below.



Video Transcript

Welcome to Thriver TV, where you learn about narcissists and discover how to detach, recover and Thrive after narcissistic abuse – in direct, powerful and fast Quantum Ways. If you know someone else who would benefit from these understandings, please share this with them, and if you have not yet subscribed to my YouTube channel, please do so.

Before we get started, I hope you are having a happy and safe Easter break loving family and friends, and have been able to create boundaries around narcissistic individuals.

Today I want to talk to you about renewal, clarity, a clear path forward, and the fascinating Stockdale Paradox, which I’ve only just learned about. I believe this powerfully relates to our true recovery from narcissistic abuse.

Jim Collins discussed this concept in his book Good to Great. It was named after Admiral James Stockdale, former American vice-presidential candidate, who was the highest-ranking United States military officer imprisoned in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prisoner-of-war camp between 1965 and 1973, at the height of the Vietnam War.

In essence, Collins spoke about three groups of people: the two that didn’t survive the Vietnamese concentration camp and the one group of people who did.

I couldn’t help but think about how this relates to narcissistic abuse recovery because there are direct parallels with the people in this community who recover, heal and Thrive – or don’t.

Let’s unpack this.


Group Number 1 – Victimhood

Of course, this is understandable. There were people in the concentration camp situation who couldn’t accept what was happening to them, were deeply distressed by it and felt incredibly powerless due to it.

According to James Stockdale, these people did not survive their horrific circumstances. Because of their victimised approach, they got sick and withered away or put themselves into situations where they were abused further and harder, which led to their demise.

Some of these people sunk into such a deep depression that they gave up, and the light of their souls and life force vanished. Or they lost their mind and went insane.

I, too, have seen this happen. People victimised by narcissistic abuse become deeply resentful of what is happening or has happened. They can be very stuck and sick with their life force diminishing, and horrible things continue to happen.

Even if these people are discarded or somehow leave and get free from the narcissist, they don’t start recovering unless they are determined to shift from their victimised view.

Nothing can change unless we accept it and move through it into another state. Whatever we resist persists.

As well as the barrier of non-acceptance, these people did not help themselves. Rather they hoped to be saved instead of being their own saviours.



Group Number 2 – Extreme Positivity

James Stockdale observed that the people who said, “We are going to be fine, we will be out of here by Thanksgiving / Christmas / Easter”, were trying to live in a bubble of positivity and ignore the day-to-day issues of what was taking place. It was too difficult for them to accept.

He noticed they would get through a few of these red-letter days passing with no change in their circumstances, and then they died of a broken heart.

The gap between reality and fantasy was closed, the cognitive dissonance collapsed, and they did not survive the shock.

Similarly, I believe there are people in narcissistic abuse situations who try to ignore the issues, stay ‘positive’ and hope for the best.

They tell themselves, “No, this person won’t do something that bad to me”, “He/she will get it eventually”, “I’ll be out of here one day”, and other unrealistic comments. These amount to believing in a future ‘promise’ without facing and taking affirmative action today.

This reminds me of the New Age Law of Attraction. People believe that if they decide it is so, it is so, rather than dealing with reality in a human form.

Just as with Group Number 1, these people don’t accept the reality of their situation and don’t prepare or help themselves. They, too, hope to be ‘saved’ instead of being their saviours.

Then we have the last of the groups…


Group Number 3 – Accepting Facts with Realism and Empowerment

These people survived the extreme conditions and lived in the concentration camp situation.

James Stockdale said the survivors were the ones who accepted that this was the position they were in and decided, “Okay, now I know what I am dealing with, what can I do to empower myself to get through this?”

This was the paradox – these prisoners had the psychological duality of accepting the brutal reality whilst fully believing in their ability to overcome it. They lived in the now to do whatever it would take to make it out.

There is evil in the world – narcissistic and even psychopathic people. We know this by seeing their actions, no matter what we would like to believe about them. Facing reality means facing facts, listening to ourselves, critically thinking, being alert, and protecting and empowering ourselves. It means doing whatever is necessary to stay strong, positive and safe.

The people in our wonderful Thriver community who are willing to let go of victimisation, drop their cognitive magical thinking, and squarely face the truth can do all they can to heal and take action towards their freedom, power and new lives. They don’t just survive, they Thrive.

This takes nothing away from the seriousness of narcissistic abuse. In many ways, it is like being held captive, and my heart goes out to the people in the former two Groups.

I have been there myself and experienced both states – being overly positive and hoping it would all turn out the way I wanted it to be and being deeply mired in powerless victimhood.

It was not until I moved into ‘Group 3’ that I got through the abuse in amazing ways that set up the rest of my life. I achieved wins and successes that I could never have had the fortitude and power to create before narcissistic abuse.

Thrivers are empowered by the situation, not diminished.

I want you to know that.



If this makes sense to you, my very best recommendation is to join the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program (NARP). This is the best place to begin your healing journey, as the modules will help you shift out the trauma that keeps you from facing the truth or from doing what is needed to get safe and have the space to go within. Join me and other NARP members who have been where you are and know how to help activate you into true Thriver recovery.

And if you are currently struggling in the darkness and captivity of abuse, please know that you do not have to remain a prisoner. Let this Easter become your rebirth into a free and Thriving life.

I hope you enjoyed this article and I’d love to hear your comments on this topic. Have you ever heard of the Stockdale Paradox?

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Commments (23) + Leave a comments

23 thoughts on “Narcissistic Abuse Recovery – The Stockdale Paradox

  1. Hi Melanie: More powerful punches of truth here! No, I’ve never heard of Stockdale Paradox (Stockholm Syndrome, with overlaps to abuse during kidnapping, yes I have heard of that). I enjoyed your excellent explanation and “pivot” into all sorts of parallels to our abusive pasts. Even if my present has abuse, I live in the day where “empower myself to get through this” does “get me through this!” It sounds simple and it is but words are simple, actions are forever (in the past). NARP’s principles work for me, even knowing I have the rest of my life to hone these skills…with shifts that are real and powerful. Thank you for your ongoing awesomeness.

  2. This reminds me of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl, who survived the nazi concentration camps. He made essentially the same observations. He book is well worth reading.

  3. Dear Melanie!
    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful insight once again!

    This year, as I went through Passover alone again and Easter alone again, in contradistinction to the previous four years, since I was discarded, I found a healthy semblance of “acceptance”…..

    When I found myself “pining” for the past, I realized how fruitless all of that is or was…

    I was so glad that you had sent different messages out to us describing how we can manage times like this. Your wisdom end guidance was so valuable this year.

    As a result, I made it through these past few days pretty much unscathed without crying my eyes out as I’ve done so many times before.

    It was interesting that as I made efforts to connect with little Peter, the two of us together, found solace with each other. That experience, in itself, was worth so much. 💞👨‍👦💞

    I’ve said to myself so many times the past few years, “what would I do without NARP?” That was certainly true this past week! 🌻

    Each time that I go through something like this and am helped by your incredible teachings and the amazing articles you share with us I am so thankful.

    Thank you so much, Melanie!
    Much love, much gratitude, and sincere thanks!

    1. Hi Peter,

      that’s so awesome that you felt more “acceptance” through this significant time alone.

      Sending you so much love Peter – you and little Peter are doing amazingly!

      I love your honest and humble shares!

      Mel 🙏💞🦋

  4. Dearest Mel!
    HAPPY EASTER TO YOU TOO! What a Beautiful, succinct article. I’d never heard of the Stockdale Paradox. Initially I thought She means “Stockholm syndrome”! lol Although I have heard of similar things in similar camps in history. The same phenomena I think. They were saying that as certain things were happening around them, some people seemed to rise above it. These were the ones that survived. It seemed to be that it brought out the best in them in the worst circumstances. Acceptance and Surrender, Inner Strength I guess 🙂 As soon as I saw group number 2, I knew, this is fear. This is not wanting to face their own fears. There is very much of that going on these days. It stops people from going through it and healing. Anyways, I can see all the parallels and why you’ve written this article! It certainly sums up just about everything about humans healing trauma and transcending. The Easter story is in there. Forgiveness, Arising and so on. All the good stuff. I think you put it best.
    With Love

    1. Hi Kondwani,

      Happy Easter Dear Man!

      Yes, correct re number 2. It is fear – it is “not wanting to know”. Cognitive dissonance is an epidemic in the world right now (Western)… other parts of the world realize much more …

      Very soon people will need to brace – every day truth is rising up in greater magnitude. It’s like a fire hose now, with conversations breaking through into the general public.

      It really is a beautiful theme for Easter – rising into truth, transcendence – authenticity and personal power for ourselves and others.

      Exciting times.

      Much Love

      Mel 🙏💞🦋

  5. Hi Melanie, so well said! Thank you so much for sharing! It just confirmed my experience. I’m currently transitioning in the 3rd group and every day feel more empowered and like I can do this. As well I have gone through both first two groups. After now already three year of consistently doing NARP, I wrote 15notebook and made God know how many shifts 😅 I am proudly saying that I recovered from my narcissistic husband and divorced. I have my own apartment and I am slowly but surely healing from my narcissistic family and at my PhD narcissist boss and coworkers where few years ago I stopped my PhD because I was believed I was stupid and not able to finish my PhD, I came back last year in the same institute and lab and helped change French laws of PhD where they had to change law in order to let students reenroll again and let them finish. So I’m now in process of doing this. As well more and more I’m healing from my narcissistic family which allows me more and more to be independent and work on my side hustle, my photography business which I postponed it for so long because I was so dependent on my father and his financial help. My dear Melanie, you have no idea how much your program, hearing your voice helped me. It was moments where I felt so alone that I felt I can only trust you and that you’re the only person who can understand. You created a tool that is helping so many people and you’re such an inspiration to me! I would love to help people go through this trauma cycle because now I know there’s a way, it is possible! Thank you for showing me with your example that this is true! Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Marina,

      you are very welcome 🙂

      I love you are reaching for group 3!

      LOOK how well you have done!! I am honoured to have partnered with you energetically in your shifts and you should be so proud of the inner transformational work you have done.

      Maybe you will come out to Cape Tribulation for Quanta Freedom Healing training when that starts?

      Thank you for being a fellow Thriver on this beautiful and incredible journey!

      Much Love

      Mel 🙏💞🦋

      1. Hi Mel 🤗,

        Thank you very much for you’re loving and supporting reply! I learned to be my own source of self of approval and validation but it feels really good to receive it from you. Thank you 🥰🙏💗😇!

        I’ve just googled your Cape Tribulation training and I stumble upon your blog post where you and your partner made this sustainable paradise of your home ✨🦚🏆🍀! What a luck and blessing!! So proud of you Mel 💝🙌🏼😌!! It’s incredible what a potential is hiding below all these traumas and you’re truly inspiration and example to everyone to keep digging and releasing all this BS so we can live our true selfs and highest timeline 🦚🏆😇🙏🥇!!

        It would be my pleasure to join your training 😌. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia and was been calling to go there, even though wild life there a bit scares me 😅 but that will just help me even more to connect to divine and have ultime trust in God and that everything will be alright 😇✨🦚.

        I’m now doing dating bootcamp and still NARP in parallel and I know there’s still a lots of healing to be done but boy oh boy with every one of the shifts I can see myself transforming into my beautiful true self and I’m super excited and happy to see what’s more to come 💓🍀🤗🥳🥰😇 cannot even wait 😄 so impatient at times hehe 😜 I’m even doing around 6+ hours per day shifts besides two jobs 😄 that’s how committed I am to my healing ❤️‍🩹😄 nothing is stopping me anymore, I’m full force going to the greatness 😄😎😇🙌🏼🙏🦚✨🥇🏆🥰🍀💕🥳🙌🏼.

        See you soon in the bootcamp and cannot wait for your new blog post 🙌🏼 They are such a nuggets of wisdom and knowledge!! Thank you very much 💕😘

        1. Hi Marina,

          please know how welcome you are.

          Thank you Marina, I has taken much energy and commitment up here in Cape Trib, and still does but it is so worth it!

          I 100% know this all came about because of letting go and allowing Source in. I could not have planned this place better! I love that you are feeling the incredible relief and expansion of letting go of the Old Self.

          Im looking forward to catching up with you in Bootcamp tomorrow. I love this group, our sessions are already amazing!

          So Much Love

          Mel 🙏💞🦋

          1. Hi Mel 😊,

            Thank you 🙏🥰!

            Beautiful 🥰! I’m so happy for you! 🤗
            It seems like a lot of work and I believe you feel prouve of you for how far you’ve come with this commitment.
            Bravo 👏🏻!

            I love as well the workshops and all the people in there 🥰🙌🏼 We’re such a great team!! 🙌🏼☺️
            I’ll join you next Tuesday as I was called to continue doing shifts tonight and healing after profound yoga 🧘🏼‍♀️ session earlier today so I have to do what feels right. I wish you great q&a session and I’ll check it in the reply 🙌🏼.

            Say hello to everyone from me 🥰🤗

          2. Hi Mel 😊,

            Thank you 🙏🥰!

            Beautiful 🥰! I’m so happy for you! 🤗
            It seems like a lot of work and I believe you feel prouve of you for how far you’ve come with this commitment.
            Bravo 👏🏻!

            I love as well the workshops and all the people in there 🥰🙌🏼 We’re such a great team!! 🙌🏼☺️
            I’ll join you next Tuesday as I was called to continue doing shifts tonight and healing after profound yoga 🧘🏼‍♀️ session earlier today so I have to do what feels right.
            Say hello to everyone from me 🥰🤗

  6. I had not heard of the Stockdale Paradox before. Having the 3 groups explained has really helped me realise and gauge more accurately where I am in my healing journey and more specifically what is holding me back. I have not been truely accepting of the fact that there really are mean and cruel people out there in this world and that I married one of them. It’s been decades and I just really found it hard to believe. Now I do realise I have been too optimistic and in “Fantasy Land” in those areas and how that disbelief would definitely be holding me back from a more empowering future. Thanks for sharing that, I can really grow from that information, it makes a lot of sense to me and I needed to hear that.

  7. Melanie,

    I have no words to explain how grateful I am for your work. You just saved me AGAIN.

    AGAIN you put your finger on exactly what I have to shift in my understanding. (I think your observation about the three groups deserves to be developed its own course of study with tools for application that can help people bridge the gap into Group 3.)

    I thought I was in Group 2 and made it out unscathed without a broken heart.
    (I always knew that I actually had outsourced much of the work of recovery to YOU. So I did not self-empower, I just received your help.)

    But I think Group 3 is the quality of Character I should have aimed for. Thriving after NARP seemed the highest I could have ever possibly aimed for. It was cosmic to be free and to understand the new dimension of my Self after NARP.

    But here’s what happened. After NARP and just on the heels of my recovery, in fact the VERY day I was supposed to fly out to your Conference in Australia, Covid closed all travel around the globe and the world went into a spin.

    Thankfully, Covid restrictions were brief where I live, but the global & domestic political stress kicked in and my friends and family in other states were not free. My grip on life was being broken. I had done a great job in my own life, but the rest of the world was coming apart. Literally.

    A year passed. Then two years passed. Then the third year passed. And the news media uncovered evil in every corner. We were in mass global Narcissistic abuse crisis complete with Betrayals, Controlling, Gaslighting, Lies, Punishment, Cognitive Dissonance, Cancel Culture, etc. It has not stopped. Now it was global.

    Three years later, I have survived several major life crisis in my family , health, finances, church -all in sequence and I can’t seem to get lift. Like an airplane that can’t find the right runway, let alone take off. It is like I am OK, but no one else is. Group 2 survival was not enough. It was survival I received from you, not survival that I worked for.

    Group 3 is more equipped for the long run – and life is a LONG RUN.
    My neighbor, who still runs marathons in his 60’s, does not take his fitness for granted. He runs and trains every day. He is preparing for the Boston Marathon! He survives by focused self empowering action.

    Optimism is a state of mind, but it is not an answer for the LONG RUN unless we are empowering ourselves daily. Optimism without action is self deception. Optimism outside of challenges is just plain deception.

    Although, I am beyond optimistic to fully persuaded that all is firmly in God’s hands and that He is good, and though I understand that all battles are for only against my faith, and if I can return from death, survive Covid, raise others from death and dying, detour hurricanes, expect recovery in finances, accept the passing of my mom, and feel that my family is safe and their security is also de fiat, I am not so sure about the future of our species.

    I have always said that being saved through NARP and your love, dedication, prayers, meetings, I must have ways to help others too because Health and Happiness are experienced in the collective. Health is not personal even if expressed individually. So how can I be well, if my world is not? Optimism fails me when it involves other people’s welfare outside of my control. I must have power to help myself AND others.

    Group 3 Character is the next stop. Seems getting a grip has start with Acceptance of other people’s failures. I can not believe that, but it is the challenge I am still having. It still broke my heart that my world collapsed and that I couldn’t stop it.

    Being an optimist -which I definitely was. -or resigned to death if necessary – which I also definitely was, (it’s not really a paradox, reader understand) is not optimal.

    Optimism even though it is prophylactic as a state, is still not Optimal.

    OPTIMAL is Confidence.
    OPTIMAL is Empowered.
    OPTIMAL is Everyone wins.

    YOU healed me. And yes, I felt like a 5D person!!! But for the LONG RUN, for my world’s sake, I must be Empowered to help Everyone Win.

    Is there a Group 4? These would be people who survive and help others survive.

    Please keep blessing us with your love and life-saving work.

    1. Hi Iris,

      I agree going to stage 3 is a cool concept and you could be very right about this.

      (So needed in the world right now.)

      I’m not sure about you NOT self-empowering as well – we are always doing this work TOGETHER Iris. You are the individual expression of Source being the lovely, wise you!

      And there you go you just did that evolution LEAP again!

      It seems that lots of things are in a holding pattern right now … it feels like “let’s batten down the hatches, survive and thrive and be ready to pivot, adapt and fully accept where and how we need to.”

      The world is a “concentration camp” right now, going through the throes of shaking off the twisted boot on the throat, pretending to be a hand up, an old obsolete order … to make way for the new.

      I believe our existence and ascension are already confirmed, it needs to look like this is in doubt for Group 2 people to become Group 3. Im not sure if Group 1 people can make that leap – unless they decide to LET GO of victimisation.

      (I agree with you as eternal spirits connected to Source we are already home anyway – no matter where this goes).

      I truly could read a blog of your making Iris EVERY day – the channeling YOU do is incredible. Please write a BOOK to help awaken others and bring them back to Source / God. The words – such as Optimism and Optimal!! Pure channeling genius! I LOVE it!

      Yes darling soul you are here to be empowered for all of THIS time – and to be Group 4. That is coming. Human 5D reality.

      I love you

      Mel 🙏💞🦋

  8. Hello Melanie,
    Thank you for posting this video. A lot of people in my home country, which was occupied during WWII, died or survived in concentration camps, and their stories are everywhere in our history and literature. I’m omitting the names since this is an open blog. So this feels personal in a sense. Yes, some intentionally abuse their power over ordinary people. I also look around, read the world news and realize that the people who suffer due to the abuse do not deserve it and neither do we who are following your blog. From this perspective, like we’re a lot who are in this together on one level or another, worldwide, it becomes clearer what it means to face reality. And the end of your usual greeting “because there’s nothing else to do”, makes sense on a deeper level.

  9. Thank You, Melanie!

    As Always, and especially the last few articles, this is very timely and so needed. I am relating now to this balancing of pragmatism and optimism to get out of a tough situation as meaning that there is a right way and a wrong way to connect with outside help and support, or even connect in relationship. To seek the peace and fulfillment of communing in a way that lets you be heard, believed, valued or accepted may just draw in more persecution, parasitic domination or reflect back more of what you are hoping to escape. If we reform that pattern of going outward and go inward instead, to surgically remove that bad feeling, with surgical-like caring focus and skill, (NARP) we can connect healthily and thrive. The challenges that brought us this opportunity to graduate to self-empowerment can then be seen as having divine purpose.
    I wonder what days and times the twice-a-week relationship healing bootcamp thing is happening?
    So so grateful for your light in this world, Melanie!


    1. Hi Doug,

      So great you are feeling the balance of realism with empowerment!

      And that you get “this” on a deep level.

      Come along Doug to DBC- it’s been great for guys in the last group.

      It’s Tuesdays and Thursdays for the USA and if you can’t make a session live – it’s no problem.

      Thank you for your lovely words Doug and Much Love

      Mel 🙏💞🦋

  10. The biggest take away for me was: “There is evil in the world – narcissistic and even psychopathic people. We know this by seeing their actions, no matter what we would like to believe about them. Facing reality means facing facts, listening to ourselves, critically thinking, being alert, and protecting and empowering ourselves.” By seeing their actions no matter what we would like to think really hits home since it clarfies what I need to believe. The love bombing confuses our brains so much compared to what they do to us during the discard, which is what we need to keep in mind. There is no way a person who loves us could be so hateful or full of contempt and that is what we need to remember to move on. That is facing reality. Keeping that in mind will help us take the steps needed to move on and stop the cognitive disonance that is so destructive to our mental health. It doesn’t really matter why they did it but that they did do the mean thing that hurt us so deeply without even caring that they hurt us. Thank you for putting it so succintly. I have to accept the reality of the situation and plan for the future instead of hoping he’ll come around and realize the error of his ways! It’s just going to be very hard after my reputation has been trashed but I’ll do my best to move beyond this. Thank you!

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