Narcissistic gaslighting is one of the most painful manipulation tactics you can experience. If you’ve suffered from gaslighting at the hands of a narcissist, you might feel like you’ve gone crazy or can’t trust your own memories. You may question what’s real and what’s not, and the self-doubt can make you feel more isolated than ever.
The goal of narcissistic gaslighting is for the narcissist to gain control over you. By recognizing what’s going on, you maintain your power and stop your abuser from manipulating you. Healing from narcissistic abuse can be difficult, though. It leaves lasting psychological wounds that can continue to harm you until you fully process and recover from your experience. If you have a narcissist in your life, you should understand what gaslighting is and how you can recognize and overcome it.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse that makes you question your own reality. Your abuser may twist the truth or outright lie to make you think that you have false memories. This often starts small and gradually escalates, but it’s always a repeated pattern of behavior. Over time, you become more and more confused and disoriented. When you can’t trust your own perception of reality, you become more dependent on your abuser. This gives them a sense of power and control over you.
What Is Narcissistic Gaslighting?
Narcissistic gaslighting is essentially the same as normal gaslighting. Your abuser subtly makes you doubt your reality so that you lose your sense of confidence and self-agency. Narcissists can be especially skilled at gaslighting, though. Their behavior can become so extreme that you feel like your whole world is falling apart around you.
Narcissistic gaslighting can also be extremely dangerous because of the role it plays within the cycle of abuse. When you first meet a narcissist, they can be incredibly charming. You may feel a strong connection to them right away, and you might feel flattered by how much attention they give you. This “love bombing” stage of the cycle gets you hooked. Then, once you’re attached to them, the narcissistic abuse starts. You’re less likely to notice the abusive behaviors at this point because the narcissist has pulled you in so effectively.
Narcissists are experts are deflecting when you call out their behavior, too. If you accuse them of lying, they may turn the accusation around on you and call you a manipulator. They’ll blame you for their toxic behavior or bring up a past argument instead of addressing your concerns. Arguing with a narcissist can result in you feeling even more lost and confused.
Examples of Narcissistic Gaslighting
Narcissistic gaslighting can take on many forms. It can also happen in any type of relationship. A narcissistic friend, family member, romantic partner, or coworker can gaslight you, and the effects are always harmful. Here are just a few examples of what narcissistic gaslighting may look like:
- Your partner makes fun of you in front of your mutual friends. When you later confront them about it, they insist that they didn’t say anything hurtful.
- Your mom tries to exert control over every area of your life. When you ask her to give you space, she says, “I do this because I love you, and you should be grateful.”
- Your coworker blames you for a mistake they made. When you try to clarify the situation with your supervisor, your coworker says you have a terrible memory.
- You start a conversation with your friend about something hurtful they did. They respond, “Why are you so sensitive? It was just a joke.”
- When you try to enforce boundaries with your sibling, they suggest that you go to your psychiatrist and have your medication adjusted.
- Your spouse discredits what you say in front of your family so that you look unreliable.
- Your parent tells you that you don’t love them enough or that you’re not really a part of the family.
Recovering From Narcissistic Gaslighting
Narcissistic abuse can have a profound and long-lasting impact on your mental health. Gaslighting may keep you trapped in an abusive relationship because you think you’re the problem. Your self-esteem becomes so low that you feel like you can’t live without the narcissist. If or when you confront the narcissist or try to end the relationship, there can be intense conflict. The narcissist may tell you some of the most hurtful things you’ve ever heard, and these words can continue to haunt you in future relationships.
Healing from narcissistic gaslighting is an active, ongoing process. First, you have to remind yourself that the narcissistic abuse is not your fault. Narcissists are experts at deflecting and shifting blame, but you are not responsible for their actions. You are always deserving of respect and support.
Strengthening your support system is critical when dealing with narcissistic gaslighting. The less you rely on the narcissist to meet your emotional needs, the better. Try to reach out and reconnect with friends or family members. Even if you don’t confide in them about what’s going on, having this support system can be great for your mental health.
Educating yourself about narcissism and gaslighting can be a helpful part of the healing process, too. When you’re actively experiencing narcissistic gaslighting, you may feel like you’re the crazy one. As you learn about narcissists’ patterns, though, you can recognize the tactics that your abuser is using against you. Understanding how narcissists operate can better equip you for future instances of gaslighting, and it helps you realize that the abuse isn’t your fault.
Therapy is another powerful tool as you recover from narcissistic gaslighting. If you feel anxious, depressed, angry, or hopeless most of the time, reaching out for professional support is essential. Counseling is a private, safe environment for you to process your experiences and express how you feel without fear of judgment. Your therapist can also help you explore and strengthen your other relationships to prevent the gaslighting from having a continued impact on your connections with friends or family.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling for individuals overcoming narcissistic gaslighting and other abusive tactics. We recognize how painful narcissistic abuse can be, and we’re here to support you as you recover. If you’re looking for therapy in Beverly Hills, please contact us today.