Have you been told that your feelings don’t make sense, that something they said was never said, or something you know took place never happened?
If so, you may have been gaslighted. This article will explore gaslighting and narcissism and how to deal with such behavior and people.
What is a gaslighting narcissist?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and a common form of emotional and psychological abuse.
It is the act of making someone doubt themselves even though they may be correct so that the gaslighter doesn’t have to face up to responsibility or accountability.
They twist their victim’s sense of reality so that they, the gaslighter, remain in the right, or ‘good,’ even noble light.
Gaslighting victims often question their sense of reality, memories, and feelings.
The doubt planted by the narcissists distracts the victim from whatever harm or mistake the narcissist made and leads them into believing there was no harm done or that one is making too big a deal out of things.
Gaslighting is one of the many tools in a narcissist’s toolkit.
It’s easier for narcissists to blame external factors instead of accepting responsibility.
It’s easier to project their fears onto others instead of owning them.
The result is a personality type that many others find incredibly difficult to deal with.
Narcissistic gaslighting examples
Narcissists are often caught out by the words that come from their mouths. Here are some ways to know if a narcissist is gaslighting you.
1. Denial and doubt
Narcissists tend to deny things that you know happened.
For example, a narcissist may experience some jealousy around your success. Imagine you’re up for a job promotion offering higher pay and other benefits.
Your potential success may bring up feelings of inadequacy in the narcissist, who will attempt to cope with that inadequacy by bringing you down.
Before you hear about the promotion, they suggest that you probably won’t get it and advise you to put some eggs in other baskets.
When you finally get that promotion, they act happy for you, like they never doubted you.
Even if you confront them about their lack of support, they will claim they always supported you.
2. ‘You’re crazy!’
Narcissists will call you crazy for feeling a certain way.
They’ll claim that your feelings about a situation are over the top and that you’re ‘too emotional’ or ‘making too big a deal out of things.
Even when you know you’re not ‘crazy’, and your feelings are valid, the narcissist’s emotionally abusive behavior can make you doubt yourself.
They are so skilled at manipulating tactics that you’ll question your perception and beliefs out of pure logic.
A healthy person understands that they may be wrong sometimes, so they’re willing to do some self-investigation.
In the throes of narcissistic abuse, one’s convictions and perceptions can become blurred. The narcissist’s tactics are harder to see, leaving even healthy people to enter a state of self-doubt and uncertainty.
When a narcissist senses that they’re losing control or influence over you, they want to regain it as soon as possible.
Not having you under their influence means they have less of their narcissist supply, the supply of attention, respect, and support they feel they need to survive.
When control seems lost or starts to wane, a narcissist uses another common manipulative tactic – comparison. They may point out flaws in your personality.
Alternatively, they may highlight the positive qualities of other people and focus on your lack of those qualities.
The result is often that you feel bad about yourself.
You may not fully believe them, but somewhere in your mind, a seed of self-doubt or inadequacy has been planted, and uprooting can be challenging.
You’re far more likely to remain under the narcissist’s thumb with that compromised self-esteem.
4. Authority and intimidation
A narcissist in a position of power may misuse their position for their gain.
Assertion of authority and intimidation tactics are used by narcissistic parents, bosses, or any narcissist who holds some power over you.
A narcissistic parent may use assertion of authority over a child who asks too many questions. The child may wonder why the parent acted guiltily or shamefully. They may threaten the child with punishment if they continue to bring up the topic.
A narcissist will try to convince you that you should not feel like you do. By invalidating your emotions, they plant that seed of doubt.
You need to figure out if you’re the crazy one; all the while, they get to avoid confrontation or responsibility.
The truth is that you must validate your feelings.
Even the most well-intentioned people can’t fully do that for you.
The better you offer yourself unconditional love and validation, the less easily manipulated you are by the narcissist.
How to deal with a gaslighting narcissist
It may be intimidating to deal with a narcissist, especially one who gaslights you. But here are techniques to deal with them.
1. Confront one issue at a time
Narcissists are skilled manipulators, meaning they’re not easy to catch.
Even when you think you’ve seen them, they’ll slither from your grasp and regain the upper hand in an argument.
For example, imagine the narcissist offers you a backhanded compliment.
They say something like, “That dress is nice. It makes you look slimmer than your other dresses.’
This is a backhanded compliment – an insult disguised as a compliment and a common narcissistic, manipulative tactic.
This may not be the first time they’ve said something like that.
However, if you want to call them out, focus on the present. Don’t bring up vague memories of other times they insulted you or used manipulation.
You may not remember exactly how things went, and they’ll play on your shaky memory to gain the upper hand.
That’s why it’s best to stay in the present. It’s best to focus on issues one at a time and as they arise rather than letting problem after problem build and then trying to confront everything at once.
2. Stay grounded in the truth
Your calm, groundedness is one of your greatest weapons in the fight against narcissistic abuse.
In abusive relationships with a narcissist, they may use false claims, distorted truths, and outright lies to convince you that you’re wrong.
They’ll even make an extra effort to point out other correct details to make their side of the story more believable.
In addition to the lies, a narcissist may use other abusive tactics to wear you down.
They may insult you directly, causing you to feel upset and attacked, thereby distracting you from the main issue.
They may even apologize for the insults to prolong your distraction.
Don’t get distracted from the truth by the narcissist’s manipulative tactics. Remember why you need to confront the issue and focus on it.
When you notice yourself reacting to their tactics, take a second to breathe, step back, and ground yourself.
Politely explain that you two are going to stay in the conversation at hand and not stray.
It helps to share your concerns and issues with friends and family members.
Talking to them and explaining things will help you get your story straight and clear, which helps when the time comes to confront.
3. Cultivate a strong support system
A romantic relationship with a narcissist can gradually become toxic if you don’t know the warning signs of narcissistic abuse.
If you’ve found yourself in an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship with someone you believe is a narcissist, you must reach out for support.
Begin by seeking the support and love of close, trusted friends and family members. Those who genuinely love you will be honest and tell you how you’ve changed in the relationship or how you seem to be struggling.
They may notice these changes long before you do, so keeping them around is essential.
Isolation from friends and family is a typical result of being in a relationship with a narcissist. Still, keeping them around makes you less likely to become a victim of long-term intense emotional abuse.
4. Reach out for mental health support
It’s also wise to speak to a mental health professional if you’ve been involved with a narcissist.
You don’t need a mental illness or a diagnosed disorder to visit a therapist.
These three issues are some of the most common worldwide mental health issues and contribute significantly to all other health issues and risks.
5. Practice unconditional love and self-acceptance
People who suffer through narcissistic rage, lies, manipulation, and general toxicity face a high risk of issues surrounding their mental health.
Depression and anxiety are rampant among those who have grown up with or been in long-term relationships with narcissists.
Those fortunate enough to receive therapy or counseling after their experiences are often taught to cultivate a deep sense of self-love and compassion.
This is not always easy but possible. The more we connect with ourselves lovingly, the sooner we can heal from the overwhelming experiences we’ve been through.
Unconditional self-love can act as armor against narcissistic abuse.
It didn’t stop the narcissist from trying to manipulate you. Still, it will make it a lot easier to remove yourself from a toxic situation and not believe the narcissist when they tell you mean and nasty things about yourself.
Why do narcissists manipulate people?
Narcissists often rely on gaslighting to avoid feelings of shame, insecurity, and blame.
It’s very easy to villainize narcissists, and you don’t have to go far to find an article or post about their dangers.
However, it’s crucial to understand that narcissists are people like the rest of us and should not be demonized.
Their behavior stems from deep-rooted fear and insecurity about not being good enough, unworthy, and unlovable. These feelings are so overwhelming and real for the narcissist that they go to great lengths to avoid them.
Instead, they try to appear confident and perfect and thrive on admiration and attention.
Often, narcissists are the way they are because they grew up with narcissistic parents in the household.
For such a child, lying and not accepting responsibility – the roots of gaslighting – may have been much safer than admitting one was wrong and facing the consequences, which from a narcissistic parent may mean holding back on love and affection as a punishment.
Often, but not always, narcissistic behavior results from a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and the official diagnosis is found in the DSM-V.
NPD is a severe case of narcissism and requires compassion and support rather than vilification and demonization.
Further, people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may also show narcissist traits in their behavior due to their condition.
Still, understanding the reasons behind narcissistic behavior doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Being subjected to narcissistic abuse is exhausting and, without adequate intervention, can negatively affect your mental health.
When you’ve been hurt or manipulated by a narcissist, it’s normal to want to seek justice. You may feel angry and frustrated as though you want to call the narcissists out for their behavior and finally set things right.
It’s crucial to stand up for yourself when someone tries to abuse you emotionally, but doing so effectively is difficult when dealing with a narcissist.
The best way to confront, expose, and deal with a narcissist is to focus on your well-being above everything else. That includes learning to stay calm, respond rather than react, rely on your support system, and set healthy boundaries.