What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a technique of manipulation narcissists use to distort our perception of reality.
They use this to control, both the situation and the other person for their own needs. Over time, gaslighting can cause you to doubt yourself, second guess your opinions and perceptions and withdraw socially. It’s all about control and the balance of power between two people in a relationship. Remember, gaslighting works as a form of emotional and psychological abuse because it’s confusing. It makes people question their judgment, their memories, and even their sanity.
The term originates from the 1944 film titled “Gaslight” where the main character’s husband slowly manipulates her to make her believe she’s going mad. The film’s title originates from the gas lights used in the apartment in the film. The husband uses the gas lights in an upstairs apartment which causes the lights in his apartment to dim. The wife asks her husband about the dimming lights. He convinces her it’s merely her imagination, making her feel insane which is a primary intention of gaslighting.
At its core, gaslighting is a formidable tool of manipulation so narcissists can inflict emotional abuse on their victims.
My Narcissistic Father Loved to Gaslight me
When I confronted my father after an argument, I didn’t recognize he was gaslighting me, at the time. I repeated back what he said and did. First, he responded, it was a misinterpretation. He wouldn’t explain what was misinterpreted or who misinterpreted what. Then he said it was a joke. This should’ve been a red flag. There was nothing funny about the subject matter or his actions. He never elaborated. He then concocted an elaborate retelling of the facts, including events that never took place. I corroborated his story with the other person involved a true innocent. The innocent, who had no skin in this game, told me none of the above three versions of my father’s responses occurred. My father changed the past to fit his recollection – he saw himself as the victim. He was always turning the tables. When he recounts that story, he only remembers it his way, believing all his own lies.
This is what gaslighting sounds like:
I wrote about this in my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships: How to Identify, Live With or Leave the Narcissist in Your Life.”
“Here is a likely conversation between an Innocent (I) and a Narcissist (N) after an argument about the events of the night before.
I “Last night, you hurt me when you said I looked terrible and then flirted with Petunia all evening.”
N “I never said that. You have a terrible memory.”
I “You told me when we got to the bar, I looked terrible, like I hadn’t spent any time on getting ready.”
N “You’re just being paranoid. That never happened.”
I “What about your flirting with Petunia all night?”
N “Stop being so dramatic. I wasn’t flirting with her. You’re exaggerating.”
I “Then why did Bob say something to me about it?”
N “Bob’s just jealous of me. I was just joking. Can’t you take a joke?”
I “I don’t think it’s funny at all.”
N “I’m sorry you think I hurt you. Let’s just move on. It’s all water under the bridge.”
I “OK. I accept your apology.”
N “Good, if you’re lucky, I’ll forgive you.”
What should you do if you are the victim of gaslighting?
All types of narcissists employ the tactic of gaslighting to control: employers, parents, friends, spouses, and partners. This strategy’s success often depends on the balance of power between two people in a relationship. The tactic reinforces the narcissist’s need to be right, be in control and be superior to his victim.
At some point, you must evaluate whether or not you want to stay in the relationship. If you choose to stay, you’ll need some evidence because the narcissist will never believe your claims. Take screenshots of texts and emails and use your phone to record conversations. This evidence isn’t for legal purposes. It’s really for you, to help you realize the person on the other side is a narcissist so you can gain peace of mind. You’re not going crazy. You must speak up at some point if you want to remain in the relationship. You also must remain confident and committed to your version of events.
Showing evidence or proof at this point may help convince them to back down. If they decide to argue further, refuse and stay calm. Refusing to engage in another argument is a way of controlling the situation and protecting yourself. It’s important to practice self-care and relaxation techniques. Make sure you have an outlet for yourself both as meditation and a support network comprised of friends and family. Don’t let the narcissist isolate you from them.
I suffered for years while my father continued to gaslight me. I just didn’t know there was a term for it. I had no idea this was narcissistic abuse. All I knew was that he wouldn’t act like the father I thought I had.
If you’ve suffered narcissistic abuse, it’s critical for you to talk to someone. However, it’s important to talk to someone who gets it. I believe that in this particular form of abuse, it’s best to talk to someone who’s had a similar experience. I have experienced this insidious emotional abuse.
You see, I didn’t get here by accident. I didn't set out to become a narcissistic abuse recovery coach. But after I’d suffered this kind of abuse, I realized that my story and my experience could help so many people who’ve suffered similarly.
Often, we stay in these cycles of abuse because we don’t believe we deserve something better. I kept trying to make our relationship work, but he didn’t want me in his life. It took me a long time to understand that I deserved better.
You deserve better, too.
When you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, it feels like you are stuck forever.
You are not stuck.
Narcissists are less likely to ever change. But you can.
You can start making a change today. I have a new program starting soon.
If you’re ready to change how you think,
If you’re ready to change how you feel,
If you’re ready to change your path,
Click this to begin
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