Gaslighting is one of the more common forms of a narcissists’ manipulation. As they are gaslighting us in almost if not everything they do, gaslighting is used to change one’s reality, so they lose their sanity.
The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 film gaslight. It is psychological manipulation to distort someone’s reality, to make another doubt themselves and their sanity, to question their own judgment so much they feel like they are going crazy, often by the very person who’s sending them that the way with the narcissist saying. ”You’re crazy. You’ve got mental problems. I think you need help.” so that we doubt ourselves and doubt reality all the more. Often unwittingly turning for support to the very person who’s gaslighting us.
It’s not a case of they walk into our lives and start obviously lying to us, they walk into our life and covertly lie to us, they hide the truth of who they are from us, they exaggerate achievement, they claim to be loving, loyal and kind, they play the victim from the past, so it pulls on our empathy to compel us to help them. Some things that happened could be true, making it all the more believable and all the more upsetting, they mirror us, sweep us off our feet, idealise us, get to know everything about us, so they can slowly turn us against ourselves, so they further their dominance and control over us.
They do this by showing us the person we’d like them to be, by having good times with us, by treating us well. With parents, we just didn’t know any different, with a partner, they have us believing they love us, and that love is intense.
They can use sleep deprivation as a tactic, either asking us to stay up and watch that movie, guilt-tripping us if we say no, “If you loved me, you would.” Asking us to nip out with them, waking us in the night, waking us in the morning, and it can become so extreme that they’ll tell us when to go to bed, where to sleep, done slowly over time. They can simply keep us that busy during the day, fawning to their demands for fear of reactions if we don’t do as they say, that we just become so exhausted. Sleep deprivation causes us to feel irritable, making us more likely to react when they provoke us, we can start to find it difficult to concentrate on the simplest of tasks, ending up getting into minor car accidents, making mistakes at work, it can lead to us making poor choices as it distorts our judgment, we can then withdrawal from friends and family, from social events, because we are so confused and drained, that’s without the added triangulation, project, blame-shifting and silent treatments from the narcissist, not only are we more susceptible to their gaslighting words, we are also more willing to believe them, as what they say can match how being around them makes us feel.
Then we have reactive Abuse.
A narcissist in that idealisation has learned all about us. They will use our biggest insecurities to invalidate us. They’ll use our weaknesses to place fear into us. They’ll use our strengths, pick them apart to place self-doubt into us. They’ll use the things we care for the most, as these are the things we will most passionately defend.
A narcissist will provoke you, to get a reaction out of you, to blame it all on you.
The hope from the idealisation when they can treat us well, the hope of getting those moments back, that we once shared with the very person who’s manipulating us into believing we are crazy.
They bait us, this is used to make us feel, scared, guilty, jealous, responsible, anxious, even hopeful, which makes it easier for the narcissist to manipulate us further.
Once they’ve provoked us enough into defending our thoughts, feelings or intentions, and we react, by screaming, throwing insults, throwing items, shouting and lashing out, that’s all the narcissist needs to confuse us even more, they will stand back looking all calm, asking “What’s wrong with you.” Just to push you some more, or saying “You’ve got anger issues.” “You need help.” We then look at our own behaviour and feel guilt and remorse. We question if we are the abuser if we are the narcissist if we do need the help, often turning to the very person who’s sinking us for support, without realising they are indeed the route cause to our, mental, physical, emotional and financial problems.
They will also use triangulation to gaslighting us. “Even they think you’re crazy.” “Everyone thinks you’re unreasonable.” “What would they think if I told them what you did.”
When they are treating us this way, lying, provoking, blame-shifting it makes it all the more easier for our minds to become susceptible to their gaslighting.
Gaslighting takes away our confidence our voice, with gaslighting we begin to doubt ourself and doubt events and reality all the more so we become too afraid to speak up for ourself, continually questioning ourselves, overthinking everything and anything.
Signs you’re being gaslighted.
- Becoming more anxious and less confident in your own abilities, thoughts and feelings.
- Wondering if you are being too sensitive, insecure or emotional.
- Feeling like you can not do right for doing wrong, overthinking what you do as you feel like nothing you do for them is right.
- Thinking that everything that goes wrong in the narcissists’ life or your life, is your fault, and everything that goes right is down to them.
- Apologising to others often, not only the narcissist, saying sorry a lot to people, even if you’ve not done anything.
- No longer feeling like the person you used to be.
- Making excuses for other people’s behaviour, or not thinking someone’s behaviour or treatment of you is as bad as it is.
- Finding it increasingly difficult to make your own choices, running everything past the gaslighter, or not doing things you enjoy for fear of being in the wrong.
- Feeling isolated or have become isolated from friends family and support.
- Feeling lost, drained, hopeless and in despair.
- Feeling confused about past and present events, unsure of your future.
Tactics they use gaslighting in.
- Idealisation. “I love you. I’ve never met anyone like you before. We were made for each other.”
- Future faking. “Let’s get married. Let’s have a child. We shall be together forever.”
- Mirroring. “I love that too. That’s exactly how I want my life to be also.”
- Devaluation. “Are you going to wear that. You can not do that. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I was only joking.”
- Discard. “You’re bitter. You’re jealous. You’re insecure. You’re crazy.”
- Hoover.” I miss you. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t. But I need you. It wasn’t my fault. I’ll go to counselling. Let’s start that family.”
- Invalidation. “You’re too sensitive. You’re not capable. That didn’t happen. Not my problem.”
- Intimidation. “I wouldn’t if I was you? Are you really going to do that? If you do, they I’ll. I was only joking.” That stare.
- The silent treatments. They might not be gaslighting us with their words, but they’re gaslighting us into finding fault with ourselves and to apologies/make it up to them.
- Triangulation. “They don’t like you. They interfere too much. They said this about you. My ex would. Your siblings can.”
- The smear campaigns. ” They’re crazy. They abused me. They took all my money.”
- Projection. “If only you. Why do you have to ruin everything? I’m not looking for an argument.”
- False apologies. “I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry but.”
- Baiting. “You’re imagining things. You’re overacting.”
- Provoking, using you’re weakness against you or falling silent on you, guilt-tripping you, emotional abuse.
And they can cross those phrases over into the different Manipulation tactics.
They use these various forms of manipulation. As they feel entitled to exploit others and get their needs met with a lack of empathy to care for the feelings of those they hurt. They will criticise you, use your own insecurities against you, they will invalidate you, saying something happened when it didn’t, or something did when it did not.
They will deny the facts. They will blame you. They will try to shame you. They will guilt trip you. They will put fear into you. Anything they can do to sink you further under their spell, they will. They are like a virus that affects everything about who you were and who you are; they don’t have to change who you become now.
They will throw their word salad our way, which when we don’t see what’s happening leaves us all the more confused, especially if we just asked them a simple question. As well often get, ” I don’t want to argue. I never said that. You’re so dramatic. Why do you have to ruin everything? If you hadn’t. I was only joking. Not everything is about you.” I wouldn’t recommend questioning one, the disorder is on a spectrum, and some can be extremely dangerous so no contact would be the only way to go. I do believe some know exactly what they are doing, others it’s just an automatic pattern of behaviour, either way, they’ve been that way a long time, it’s who they are. If you can not go no contact, due to shared child custody, or cutting of good family members, then most narcissists will still try to control and gaslight you. So the next best approach is grey rock, and to know their manipulation games￼, and know your own mind, so they can no longer impact your emotions.
Narcissists have to remain above all others and in control, even if you know exactly what happened, if it criticised them, goes against them, or they fear losing control, they will deny, deny and deny some more, they will switch the blame onto you to escape accountability—leaving you with more self-doubt and unanswered questions.
No one throws a bigger tantrum than a narcissist, losing control of someone else’s mind.
How to handle.
With a lot of what the narcissist says, it often comes down to your word against their word, if you can keep communication with a third party present, via email or messages, so you have written evidence, if not especially if your at the start of learning about their manipulation games or might need proof, keep a written diary, so when they are making you doubt something they did or did not say or something you did or didn’t say, you can check this, especially when it comes to making any child care arrangements.
Your mindset is also crucial, they are not in charge of you, they are not in charge of how you feel, your mind controls your emotions, and you control your mind, take back control of your mind, every step of every day, until you are you, your life or who you want to be, so if they’re trying to confuse you. You know exactly what happened, look inward to yourself and give yourself the answer, do not respond or react to them, they will not suddenly say “Oh yes sorry, you’re right.” The best you’ll get is more gaslighting of ”I’m sorry you. I’m sorry but you.” and when they get what they want, they’ll no longer be interested in you. You have to learn to look to yourself and leave them be in their own false reality.
You do not have to defend yourself or rationalise to the narcissist. This is only giving them more attention, more reactions and more ammunition to use against you, keeping their control over you and your mind, just know what you know and leave them be, the only person you need to answer to is yourself. When they try to trigger you, Retreat, Rethink and only respond if you need to do so.
When you do have to communicate with them, do your best to stay relaxed, do not show them any emotions, look just over their right ear. If they are reasonable, be reasonable back, if they are being harmful or hurtful, do not engage, just like two wrongs don’t make a right, two people locked in negativity, don’t bring either happiness. You can scream and cry let those emotions out once they have left. This is why it’s best to stick to limited contact, using messages and emails, especially at the start, some are dangerous so it would need to be no contact.
George Bernard Shaw.
“Never wrestle with pigs, you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”
If you say. “It was like this”, and they say “your wrong.”
If you have to respond. “That’s ok I know you and I think differently, my opinion is for me and yours is for you.” Then leave it at that.
When they are having a dig at you, trying to put you down Things like. “That’s your opinion of me. However, it’s not mine.”
When they are twisting things around about feelings. ” I’m sorry you feel that way.” Yes narcissists do use this one, and I’m all for treat people how you want to be treated, however with a narcissist, sometimes you just have to manipulate how they manipulate, they don’t understand our communication, we can learn to understand theirs and communicate through their words to them.
Always remain calm and forever remain firm with your own beliefs, and your own boundaries, no response is always best, yet sometimes it’s not that simple. You need firm boundaries of what you will and will not accept from them. Your NO needs to mean NO.
You have to relearn your own values and beliefs system, build up your self-esteem and no longer let the narcissists beliefs, affect you.
To become free, we have understood the narcissist, just wants our attention, our emotional reactions, and wants to keep control over our lives and keep our mind all over, as this makes it easier for them to manipulate.
You do not and can not control what they think or what they do. You can not change them into a happier, better person. You can not love them better. They have a disorder, you can, however, learn to leave them be, let them do what they do, you can learn to ignore them, create a new much happier life for you, you can learn not to react.
The less reaction they get from you, the more likely they are to leave you alone, they may try to up their games, as long as you continue not to play, they should eventually leave you alone, instead of reacting to them, put that time and effort into yourself.
With narcissistic work colleagues or family, try to avoid them as much as possible, don’t feed their ego, respect their manipulation it’s who they are and leave them to it,
When they use the children, the more they don’t get reactions from you through what they do to the children, the faster they will stop the games with the children.
Let your children know. They have a right to their own reality and own opinions, the game ”what’s your reality.” you say I think the sky is red, they say it blue, and you let them know they are right. ( age depending.) Do not try to fight fire with fire by telling the children your version against the narcissists. The children just end up caught in the middle with no one to turn to, if the children know they can come to you without, the fear of judgement, they will grow a lot stronger and wiser for it, parenting isn’t easy at the best of times, it can be even more draining when the other parent is simply counter parenting, so get rest, look after yourself, get a support system in place for yourself, someone or somewhere you can reach out and not feel so alone.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.
Don’t argue with a narcissist.