Gaslighting is a tactic meant to shut you down and shut you out by using your worst fears and insecurities against you… No, you are not crazy!
Have you ever been in a disagreement with someone that started out completely calm and rational and quickly spiraled into disaster? Gaslighting is a powerful tool that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder use to twist and turn things with lies and manipulation.
And for the person being gaslighted, they go from broaching a situation with absolute certainty to walking away with their tail between their legs, after having apologized and being completely torn apart emotionally. No, you are not crazy…You have just been gaslighted!
What is Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is unlike any other type of abuse because it is one of the most harmful emotional battery that someone can endure. The reason why it is so caustic is that, for most, the victim doesn’t even know that it’s happening. And once you get sucked into a web of a Narcissistic Personality, it is difficult to maintain your own sense of worth.
A narcissist will use gaslighting not only to shut you down but also to shut you out. And they will use it to also make you believe that you are the one to blame, no matter what the situation is. In an effort to protect their fragile ego, a Narcissistic Personality will play on your worst fears, your innermost secrets, and your most hurtful insecurities to maintain power over you and to win at all costs. That way, they never have to take responsibility for their actions or behaviors.
What is a Narcissistic Personality?
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have a pattern of an exaggerated sense of self or self-importance. They need constant praise and admiration from those around them and exhibit a lack of empathy for others. The goal of the Narcissistic Personality is to achieve power over others and their surroundings. They tend to take advantage of people in their lives, which makes it very difficult to be in a loving relationship.
And, unfortunately, therapy for the Narcissistic Personality is often unsuccessful because they typically refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem. If narcissists do, then it hurts their exaggerated sense of self and their ego. It is more common in men than women and usually in younger people rather than older. But the real tragedy with a Narcissistic Personality is typically the people who have to endure their abusive traits.
What is Gaslighting?
When a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is threatened, they typically respond with gaslighting. It is a way that they manipulate those who question their sense of self by twisting and turning things.
Gaslighting is a very powerful tool that can easily manipulate anyone. It is also a technique that is used by abusers, cult leaders, and dictators. Gaslighting is intended to switch the conversation, and the narrative, to confuse you so that you end up questioning yourself and reality, instead of the Narcissistic Personality.
1. You Live in Constant Fear
When you are in a relationship with someone who uses the tactic of gaslighting to retain their power over you, you live in constant fear of them. Gaslighting is not just a once and done thing. It is a progressive wearing down of your self-esteem and your self-worth. It might begin with just a couple of lies. But it grows in ferocity with every argument or disagreement to a point where you are trained not to speak.
Over time, you learn through being beaten down and abused not to challenge a narcissist. You realize that you won’t get anywhere with them. And also that when you do confront them and are put into another gaslighting situation, the emotional punishment of put-downs and hurling of hurtful things is too much to bear. So if you feel fearful of conflict and walk on eggshells all the time in a relationship, then you aren’t crazy…you are being gaslighted.
2. You Don’t Feel Like you Anymore
We all have a notion about who we are. It is how we conduct ourselves and what we believe we are capable of, both good and bad. A person who is gaslighted, over time, will begin to question themselves. Due to a constant assault on their character, it can become difficult to decipher what is real. Narcissists will take your innermost fears and the things that you like least about yourself, and hit you over the head with them.
Whatever it is they feel you are most insecure about or dislike most about you, they will use it against you. When you are the victim of gaslighting, no matter how hard you try to be the better person, the narcissist will seek to make you feel like you aren’t good, and you aren’t who you think you are, which robs you of your self-confidence.
The key to a Narcissistic Personality is to strip their partner of all of the power they feel within so that they can maintain the upper hand. The worse you feel about yourself, the less you will fight back. And the more you will give in to them.
3. All you do is Apologize
There comes a time in everyone’s relationship when you have to say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. But there are always two sides to every story, and you can’t be wrong all the time. When you are a victim of gaslighting, you feel as if everything is your fault. You can go into a conversation thinking what you are saying is totally reasonable and harmless and come out fifteen minutes later, crying and begging for forgiveness. Gaslighting is a tactic to make someone feel that they are always wrong.
And it’s a tactic to not just make someone feel that they are wrong, but their actions require forgiveness or are unforgivable. If you find that all you do is say you are sorry over and over, and you don’t even really know why you are or should be, then you are being gaslighted.
Projection is a narcissist’s best friend. And the only way they can keep their ego intact is by projecting their own insecurities and failures onto you. That is why you continually feel sorry; you are absorbing it all.
4. You Make Excuses for Your Partner’s Behavior
Although you might not be able to see what is going on in your relationship, those around you can. The people who love you will begin to see a difference in your level of happiness and confidence.
And if you start to talk about your partner or a situation you are going through, they will probably state the obvious. And they might question whether it is really your fault. Or, they might suggest that there is something off about the relationship itself.
But like most people in an abusive relationship, you end up defending your partner’s actions. And you take the blame for whatever is going on. You make excuses for how they act and the way that they talk and treat you.
To outsiders, the abuse is obvious. But internally, you have been worn down enough to believe that you deserve the abuse. Because you begin to lose your self-esteem, you not only rely on your abuser; you internalize all that they say about you. And you refuse to hear that it is anyone but your own fault for their abusive treatment towards you.
5. You Don’t Know What is True Anymore
Gaslighting is a way that an abuser twists and turns the truth with such mastery that you don’t know it is happening. Narcissists don’t operate or conduct themselves as other people do.
So, since you can’t make sense of their lies and manipulation, you begin to think you are crazy. The only way to rationalize the overt lying and retelling of a story is to start to believe that you aren’t seeing things correctly.
And, therefore, you start to feel that it must be you. Soon the relationship will begin to take its toll on your daily life and your other relationships. You might start to feel confused about what the truth is, about who you are, and what your friends and family feel about and toward you.
The goal of gaslighting someone is to tear at the fabric of what they think is real, not just about themselves, but also about what other people think of them and the other relationships in their life.
They seek to spread doubt about things that you once thought were a certainty. A narcissist will poke holes in your other relationships to isolate and take any social support that might boost you up. The tactic of gaslighting is to strip someone not just of their self-esteem, but also of their support network, and all that they once thought they knew was true.
It is Possible to Break Free From Abuse
Gaslighting is a tactic used in narcissistic abusers. And it is one that will tear at the very fabric of all that you know to be true. It is difficult to break free from narcissistic abuse because, over time, you begin to feel as if you deserve the treatment you receive.
You begin to tear away from your social network, you are apologetic all the time, and before you know it, you start to question who and what you are. Confusion is vital, as is keeping you in a subordinate position so that you can’t threaten the fragile ego of your narcissistic partner.
Overcoming narcissistic abuse is not easy nor is walking away from an abusive relationship. But if you don’t, you won’t be able to feel whole or to find the happiness that you deserve. If you see these five signs in your relationship, it might be time to evaluate it for what it is, and also to consider moving on to save yourself.
The professionals at Chat Owl are here to help. We know how difficult it can be to leave a relationship, especially an abusive one. But we also know that you deserve a healthier way of life. Contact us today to discuss how your relationship is making you feel. And also to discuss how we can work together to fix your current situation.