Have you 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 victim, 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.
Gaslighting is a tactic meant to shut you down by using your worst fears and insecurities against you. While there are 5 key signs of gaslighting you should be aware of, there are also some key ways to avoid gaslighting and to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
If you’ve been gaslighted, or you think you are being gaslighted, learn more of what you need to know concerning the subject, how to protect yourself and loved ones, and gain information about valuable and free, downloadable tools that can help.
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.
But, what is narcissistic abuse? Narcissistic abuse is unlike any other type of abuse because it is one of the most harmful emotional batteries anyone can endure. The reason why it is so caustic is that, for most, the victim doesn’t even know that it’s happening. Once you are sucked into a web of a Narcissistic Personality, it is difficult to maintain your sense of worth.
A narcissist will use gaslighting not only to shut you down but also to shut you out. They will use it to make you believe that you are the one to blame, no matter what the situation is.
“The words “defend, divert, deny, and disengage” pretty much sum up their resistant behavioral repertoire when they’re found fault with.”
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. Let’s find out more about the 5 signs of gaslighting.
5 Signs of Gaslighting
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. Let’s explore the five signs of gaslighting.
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 one-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. Moreover, when you do confront them and are put into another gaslighting situation, the emotional punishment of put-downs and hurtful accusations may become too much to bear. Therefore, if you feel fearful of conflict and walk on eggshells all the time in a relationship, then you aren’t crazy… you’re being gaslighted.
2. You Don’t Feel Like You Anymore
Most people have a solid notion about who they 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 others of the power they feel within so that they can maintain the upper hand. The worse you feel, 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 they are always wrong.
If you find that all you do is say you are sorry over and over, and you don’t 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 insecurities and failures onto you. That is why you continually feel sorry. It is because 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 in 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. You refuse to hear that anyone else is at 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.
“Excessive or destructive lying can irreparably harm your relationship.”
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, who you are, and what your friends and family feel 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 what other people think of them and the other relationships in their life.
They seek to spread doubt concerning 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.
When you need professional, actionable advice, don’t wait. Here are key methods to avoid gaslighting and to protect yourself and those you love.
Key Methods to Avoid Gaslighting
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.
First, Virtual help and therapy can be a great alternative to provide the readily accessible help and support you need at a moment’s notice. Mental health coping mechanisms like a free, downloadable therapy app can help you with actionable relief.
Second, walk away. 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 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, to discuss how we can work together to fix your current situation.
ChatOwl’s anonymous virtual app shares ways to navigate gaslighting, social anxiety, loneliness, and depression and can help you more readily alleviate anxieties and concerns so you can be on the path to a happy, connected social life.