A narcissist’s gaslighting is an art form.
They can make you believe that you need them as much as you need air to breathe.
They will tell you, “I wonder what will happen to you without me…” Then, the next day, they can ghost you or dump you.
Narcissists can gaslight you so well that you believe that the offense you’re blaming them for was actually planned by you.
But you won’t realize the truth beneath because you’ve trauma bonded with them.
That is true of practically all six types of narcissists. They aren’t all equal in other ways, but they’re all excellent at gaslighting.
What is narcissistic gaslighting?
Narcissistic gaslighting is a form of abuse in which a narcissist manipulates their victim into doubting and distrusting themselves. They can make you question your own thoughts, memories, feelings, and instincts. Gaslighting can make you reject your own interpretation of reality and accept the narcissist’s version.
Narcissist gaslighting aims to gain power and control over the victim, but they can also use it to avoid taking responsibility for any wrongdoing they have committed.
A narcissist partner’s gaslighting can lead to intense emotional and physical stress for certain people, leading to collapse, self-harm, or suicide in the worst-case scenario.
The term “gaslighting” was coined in 1938 by Patrick Hamilton in his play “Gaslight,” which was later adapted into a film starring Ingrid Bergman in 1944.
The gaslighter regularly denies saying or doing certain things, or that you said or did certain things. They try to convince you that you are:
- drawing the wrong perceptions,
- pulling up false memories, and
- losing your sanity.
Narcissistic abuse and gaslighting can be highly traumatic experiences. Here’s How To Leave A Narcissist, When You Have No Money (And Never Look Back)?
When you disagree with their version, they lash out at you with such ferocity that you get scared into believing them.
“That’s not what I said. Here is what happened. Get this through your thick skull once and for all.”
Narcissists will not let you leave when they hurl insults at you. They force you to feel the full heat of their narcissistic rage.
If you break down in tears, they accuse you of being too sensitive and hyper-emotional.
With a narcissist, you never know where you stand or what to expect next.
They can offer you bliss and then deliver damnation. They will promise to never leave your side, and then disappear from your life without any warning.
Somehow, you never feel completely safe or relaxed with them.
Moreover, repeated cycles of abuse create an emotional numbness in you over time. You forget how to express your happiness, sadness, or distress.
Why is it hard to reject the “narcissist’s” false reality?
The narcissist’s false reality is so believable because of the way they present themselves.
They are always charming, charismatic, and well-spoken. They have a polished appearance and come off as confident and knowledgeable. Those first impressions are part of the hallmark signs of a narcissist.
“You think I can lie to you, or anyone?”
They are always flaunting their accomplishments and telling you how great they are.
It’s hard to believe that someone like this could be lying to you about something so important. You may think that you rather doubt your own perceptions and thoughts than theirs.
“No one ever doubted me or my intentions before this. Why are you doing this?”
After being with the narcissist for a while, you’ve probably started to doubt your memory and recall things that happened. You may have been so caught up in their false reality that you’ve started to question yourself more often.
“You know, how you keep forgetting and misremembering things.”
The narcissist may have told you so frequently what a wonderful person you were and how much they loved you, that you start to believe everything else that they tell you.
They remind you of the times you made many promises that never came true, so now you can’t trust yourself to accurately recall things that actually happened.
“You made me plenty of promises that you didn’t follow through. And now you are blaming me for all those.”
You may have stopped thinking for yourself. It may be the ugly fact of your relationship with them that they come first, always.
Narcissists typically put their own needs before yours. They constantly tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
Gradually, it becomes difficult to remember that you have your autonomy and voice.
“You’re not listening to me. You never listen to me. Your mind is elsewhere when I’m talking to you.”
Narcissists like it when they get their way, and they’re able to manipulate others into giving them what they want.
They are constantly telling you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
You don’t even realize when you became the anxious person you are today, always worried about what might anger or displease them.
With constant abuse, they have turned you into a shadow of your former self.
“Next time, get me to confirm what happened before assuming things.”
How to stop being gaslighted by a narcissist: Steps to recover
Narcissistic abuse is a form of mental abuse that can be difficult to stop and recover from. Be aware of the classic gaslighting phrases they might use.
1. The first step is to recognize that you are being gaslighted and are, in fact, being abused.
2. The second step is to keep notes of what you saw and said, what they said and did, and show them when they try to gaslight you.
3. The third step is to stop blaming yourself for the abuse, which can be hard if you have been told the abuse was your fault for so long.
4. The fourth step is to find a support system, whether it’s friends or family members who will listen without judging you. Get therapy and validation for your experience.
5. The fifth step is to work on rebuilding your self-esteem by doing things that make you feel good about yourself, like going out with friends or volunteering at an animal shelter.
6. And lastly, the sixth and final step is to start making new relationships and going out on dates (even if they are solo dates) again.
Narcissist Gaslight Example
Here’s an example.
- Suppose you started an argument with: “I saw you cheating on me!”
- They would tell you, “It’s an outward projection of your inner stories, you don’t realize.”
- Then, it may well end in you telling yourself, “I might have seen it wrong.”
It’s similar to how magicians like David Copperfield can make massive landmarks like the Statue of Liberty vanish.
The magicians merely shift your reality for entertainment. The gaslighters, on the other hand, do it to deliberately make you appear insane.
In the movie “Gaslight,” the husband contradicts his wife’s reality and tries to make her doubt herself.
She complains that every evening, the gaslights flicker and dim, which he does secretly. But he insists that the gaslights are bright, and she’s hallucinating.
When a narcissist gaslights, they distort your version of reality so much that you may believe something that is the polar opposite version.
Get help. It is okay to seek the help of a mental health professional to recover from narcissistic abuse and rediscover your sanity.
When you rejected them, did you spot any of these 13 signs of Narcissistic Hoovering?
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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