Time spent around narcissistic people can leave us feeling confused, anxious, full of self-blame and self-doubt, heartbroken, with cptsd, to name a few. It can wipe out our old belief system to the point where we no longer know who we are or what to believe in. Feeling lost and overwhelmed, not trusting in our own judgment.
The internal conflict we have from being around a narcissist without realising what’s happening, between their admiration seeking face and their envious seeking face, between those Jackie and hide characters the narcissists show us to sell us an illusion of our ideal while we catch glimpses of their shadow side, which they project into us and gaslight us into no longer knowing what to think it can be crippling for your sanity, draining emotionally, physically and mentally.
What is cognitive dissonance?
This is a state of mind where your beliefs or opinions don’t match up with attitudes or behaviours, where your reality no longer matches your beliefs, so you’re always looking for ways to match them up, or you’re living two different reality’s. When the narcissist future faking words don’t match their actions, then their gaslighting stories get you questioning your actions and your memories and not their broken promises.
How do they do this?
You meet them, and they love to bomb you, through various ways, if you like movies you go to the movies, long conversations if you’d like marriage and children they’ll make all those plans with you, if you don’t want those things neither do they, they message you call you, be there for you. Then at some point, it all stops. All you get is some half-truths. “I went to watch that for you, and I don’t like it.” Or “I would have if you hadn’t.” Conversations turn into them talking about themselves, and they’re no longer interested in you. They’ll guilt trip and say things like. “You don’t do this for me.” ”after all I’ve done for you.” those silent treatments. They will project all their faults onto you. You then blame yourself, beg, plead, apologies, change to suit them and the nice narcissist returns, making your mind believe it’s you, they are all those nice things, only for it to cycle back to them showing their true colours, leaving you a little more confused each and every time, slowing losing who you are, slowly losing your reality and slowing losing your mind. They’ll then call you “crazy.” Or say, “you need help.” They reinforce. In your mind, it’s you. When in actual fact, it’s what they do to you.
Gaslighting is one of the more common forms of narcissistic manipulation. Yet, when we are unaware of what this is, it isn’t easy to see it happening to us while it is happening, however with more awareness, once we know, we can see it a mile away.
Gaslighting is psychological manipulation to distort someone’s reality, to make someone doubt themselves and reality so much they feel like they are going crazy, often by the very person who’s sending them the way, the narcissist saying. ”You’re crazy.” so that we doubt ourselves and doubt reality all the more, the common gaslighting phrases are.
There gaslighting starts at the beginning starting that cognitive dissonance within our mind. They learn who you are and what you like and dislike, what your beliefs are. They start by showing you the reality that they match you in every way, Emotional bond, to love and care.
They mirror us and sell it back to us, so we feel understood by them, we share the same interest as them, have lived the same experience as them, share the same beliefs, values, and feel completely at ease with them.
Those long conversations with them at the beginning where they learn all about us and collect the date they will one day use against us.
We feel we can be vulnerable around them, opening up to them, not realising any past wounds we have they’re going to tear right open and use the things that hurt us the most to hurt us the most.
In the beginning, their arrogance can come across as confidence. We admire them, compliment them as they lap up the attention.
As we feel so in tune with them, we care for their opinions, whether we ask them for advice or not, we have that emotional connection we care for them, and we care for what they think. We feel, believing they do us, with their lack of object consistency, meaning if there is anger, disagreement, distance, conflict, and their lack of empathy, they don’t care in the same way we do, and they switch off. They can hurt us if they feel criticism then walk away.
Once you’ve fallen in love, they then begin to use it all against you in many ways. There are a few ways they use cognitive dissonance against you.
As at first, as they show you the reality, and you lived that reality that matched your beliefs, then when they believed their needs were not being met, they gaslight, devalue as we care for them, we care about their opinions, we look to them for communication to receive those silent treatments, causing us more confusion and pain. They might provoke us into stepping out of character and reacting, so we feel guilt and work harder to please them, they project any mistake, flaws weaknesses in them onto us, they pass all the blame for anything wrong in their life onto those around them, and problems with our life they also blame us. So we believe we did wrong, then they’ll show you that false reality that matches your own beliefs, so you think it was, in fact, you that did wrong, your mind becomes torn between the fundamental truth, the alternate reality they are gaslighting you with, to cover up their bad behaviour towards you.
Then they’ll offer that intermittent reinforcement of the ideal future ( future faking.) to give us the hope if we do right by them, they’ll do right by us.
Because of the above treatment towards us, it causes a state of confusion within our own mind, as we fight the actual reality of who they are, with the false truth of who they pretend to be that matches who we thought they were and want them to be, believing we are at fault, so our mind will downplay their behaviour towards us. The narcissist will also gaslight with ”that never happened.” they will downplay their toxic behaviour and exaggerate ours. So we are left in a trance with our mindset not matching, not trusting our perceptions, people and ourselves. As we are holding two or more contradictory beliefs, or reality’s at the same time, it leaves us in a state of confusion, and often with anxiety, which narcissistic people can use to gaslight us all the more, they’ll say things like. “look at the state of you.” And “I told you last week.” Or “you’re insecure.” And “you’re paranoid.” Which when we are already full of self-doubt, those words reinforce this reality, as their opinions of us matter from the beginning when we felt so understood by them, we’re continually looking for a reality check. Yet, mostly when we’ve been isolated, that reality check is coming from the very person who’s sinking us.
Narcissists will happily watch our head go under the water, to offer us a hand and raise us back up, just to dunk us back under.
As you experience cognitive dissonance, it makes your mind hold onto two or more beliefs, reality’s, ideas or values, it causes a hazy memory, brain fog, that fog also appears from the narcissist using fear, obligation and guilt to coercive control you. When you can see the facts and the truth, yet it’s not matching those beliefs, people find any reason or excuses to relieve the discomfort within our own minds, making incidents not as bad as they were, blaming ourselves etc. the psychological abuse received in this way, leaves you confused, full of heartache, with mixed feelings of betrayal and you feeling to blame.
The gaslighting they use against you. That psychological manipulation, where the narcissist plants seeds of self-doubt within your mind, making you question your own memories, perceptions and sanity. Which results in you having cognitive dissonance, leaving you often confused, isolated and going to the narcissist for reality checks. They slowly take more power and control over your mind.
Our minds can then unwittingly self harm us. Trying to remove this cognitive dissonance. By twisting our own truth, the reality feels too uncomfortable to bear, so our minds twist it, not knowing we are running away from the truth. It makes us feel worse. It’s the minds way of protecting itself from pain, temporarily, yet long term, it causes more pain. Our minds find ways to eliminate facts. We don’t want to accept creating dissonance.
Evasion. We are avoiding what we don’t want to know, creating a sense of denial within our minds, creating that dissonance.
Seeking validation, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, that validation we find is often from the narcissist, which only reinforces that cognitive dissonance.
What can you do?
Healthy ways to reduce cognitive dissonance and get your mind back on track and working for you.
Write it out. Keep a written diary, write down the reality and facts precisely as they are no matter how painful, facing that pain and stepping over that pain will, in the end, free your mind from the pain it’s suffering now, every time your brain tries to tell you a more straightforward story, read the truth out until you’ve got reality in your mind and can naturally leave it in the past.
Speak with trusted people, those who will relate with you, let you know your thoughts are healthy, why it’s happening and that it’s ok to think how you do, back to vulnerabilities. When good people open up and understand vulnerability within themselves, they can connect with others.
When your beliefs and reality don’t match, it helps to understand what your beliefs are and recognise the reality isn’t matching, instead of making excuses in your own mindset.
Change your beliefs, and this can be hard, especially if it’s important to you.
Change the situation. If the reality of the situation isn’t matching your beliefs, get out of that situation, leave it behind. It’s not working for you. It’s working against you.
Change your actions. Whatever it is may have caused your feelings of guilt, pain, fear, step into those, and work through them, acknowledge them, don’t run if you run, you don’t heal.
In future, become more mindful.
- Keep a written diary.
- Read and learn new things.
- Talk with others.
Keep track of your beliefs. If you need to change them, you can. If you need to change something in your life that’s not matching beliefs, you can.
You can, and you will recover from this.
The narcissist mind games of fear, obligation and guilt.
How narcissists invalidate you.
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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.