Gaslighting is a tool that narcissists use to manipulate their victims into doubting themselves. They want the victim to question everything – their memories, perceptions, judgments, understanding, and ultimately their sanity. When the victim becomes unsure of themselves, they become easier to control and manipulate and are more likely to accept the abuser’s perspective.
If you took our ‘Am I Being Gaslighted’ quiz, you already know many examples of narcissistic gaslighting. In fact, all the statements in that quiz are examples of narcissistic gaslighting. Today, let’s look a little deeper into this tactic and how to recognize it in your relationships.
1. “You are overreacting!”
If a narcissist tells you that you are overreacting, they are likely trying to downplay your feelings and accuse you of being unreasonable. Most likely, they want to escape responsibility for their actions and deflect blame onto you.
2. “You are too suspicious.”
Once again, it’s an attempt to redirect blame and change the subject. By accusing you of being too suspicious, the narcissist wants to shift attention away from what they did and onto the supposed problems with your character.
Additionally, accusing you of being suspicious serves another goal: to make you doubt your own judgment and, perhaps, even your sanity. If you see things that aren’t there, that is indeed concerning, and that’s what the narcissist wants you to believe.
3. “You are too clingy.”
Oftentimes, this is the exact opposite of what it may seem. By withdrawing and then accusing you of being too needy and clingy, the narcissist is actually trying to maintain control in the relationship because they are not getting enough attention and admiration.
Withdrawal is a sure way to get your attention back; and making you feel like you are too much to handle is another bonus in their mind. By instilling self-doubt in you, they make you more vulnerable. When you begin to think that your own feelings are unreasonable, this insecurity carries over to all other relationships as well. You might begin to hesitate to express your feelings to other people, which in turn makes you even more isolated and vulnerable.
4. Lying and distorting the truth
Narcissists often lie and distort reality. You may be wondering if they actually believe their version of events.
There are several reasons why they may want to do this:
- to make themselves look better and get more praise and admiration,
- to manipulate the situation to their advantage,
- to escape responsibility for their actions,
- to deny saying or doing something hurtful,
- or simply to make you doubt your memory.
The last three are closely interconnected because they all make you doubt your judgment and perception. If you begin to doubt yourself, you become more reliant on the narcissist to guide you and tell you what to do.
5. Telling others that it’s all your fault
Narcissists don’t just manipulate those who are close to them; they manipulate other people too. By convincing others that they are the victim and you are the perpetrator, they achieve several things:
- they gain other people’s attention,
- they convince others to side with them against you,
- they isolate you from others by making you look bad,
- they make you feel guilty or ashamed.
This further weakens your position and makes it easier for them to manipulate you into behaving in line with their desires.
Narcissists may want to isolate their victims from their outside support network and even other sources of information to make them dependent for their physical and emotional needs.
Cutting the victim from alternative sources of information increases control even further because the victim doesn’t have access to other perspectives that could potentially challenge the narcissist’s views. Not only does this help increase control over the victim, but it also protects the narcissist’s ego.
7. Putting you down
Narcissists have many tools that they may or may not use, but this one they use almost every time. They may constantly criticize and tell their victims that they are good for nothing to instill insecurity and self-doubt in their victims, increase control and also maintain a sense of superiority. If you, according to the narcissist, are good for nothing, then they are definitely much better than you – more talented, educated, experienced, sophisticated, you name it. Narcissists themselves are very insecure people, and they need such tricks to feel better about themselves.
8. Projecting their behavior onto you
Projecting is a manipulation tactic that narcissists use to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. When a narcissist projects their behavior onto their victim, they accuse the victim of doing something that the narcissist themselves did. For example, they may begin yelling and then accuse the victim of yelling. They shift the focus from their behavior to the supposed flaws of the victim. As always, narcissists use this tactic to redirect blame, escape responsibility, instill insecurity, and increase control.
You can find more narcissistic gaslighting examples here.
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