Gaslighting is one of many strategies used by narcissistic abusers, a term used to describe the kind of abuse that takes place between an individual with a narcissistic personality and their chosen victim—a dynamic I will go into detail in this book. Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation tool that is just one of numerous strategies in their arsenal to control, demean and belittle their intended victim.
Contained in this book is a description of the following topics:
What is Gaslighting?
Are You Being Narcissistically Abused?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The Goal of the Narcissist
The Addictive Process with a Narcissistic Partner
The Mind-Body Connection
The Psychological Process of Narcissistic abuse
Characteristics of Narcissistic Abuse
The Desensitization and Conditioning Process
The Impact on the Victim
The Narcissist: Can they be fixed?
Reasons for Narcissism
The Narcissist/Victim Dynamic
Many people spend years in survival mode both during and after the narcissist. But survival isn’t living. Surviving is merely existing. In order to move on, people must heal from their pain by emotionally detaching, identifying the underlying issues and healing the damaged self.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a DSM diagnosis that can only be made by people with diagnostic credentials, typically a Psychiatrist or Psychologist.
The question is, how often do you think these charming, lying, manipulating people are actually seen by a Psychologist or Psychiatrist? And if they have been seen, would they show their true colors? Or would they show the charming, personable, “functional” version of themselves?
If you think about it, in what scenario would a narcissist like yours ever be under scrutiny long enough for his inner beast to truly come through? The narcissist is a seasoned professional. In most cases he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. He can talk the talk and look like a typical species of human to most people and especially if they have a vested interest in maintaining a normal façade (like being diagnosed with a personality disorder!)
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“And the day came
when the risk it took
to remain tight inside the bud
was more painful
than the risk it took
Are you tight inside the bud, still with the narcissist, hoping he will change or trying to figure out how to get out of the relationship and survive on your own? Or have you taken the risk to blossom and have left and are making changes? Both of these steps are part of the process, but healing and releasing the trauma takes this process one step further. Getting rid of the toxic pain that is trapped in your mind and your body is a huge job. It’s takes a tremendous commitment, but if it is done, you will not only Blossom in your life, you will Flourish.
Stages After Narcissistic Abuse
Still Tight Inside the Bud: If you are still inside of the relationship and you still aren’t sure if he’s a true narcissist. With this option you can discuss the dynamics of your situation and I can help provide feedback and insight into what is happening. I will help coach and guide you toward coming up with a plan for what to do—remain or leave.
Taking the Risk to Blossom: You are in the process of leaving or have recently left. You are struggling with the real-life difficulties of life after the narcissist. You are in the throes of despair, trying to fight off the intensely visceral desire to return to the abuser. You are facing the post-traumatic effects of exposure to narcissistic abuse. You are dealing with the fallout of the relationship (children, legal issues, financial problems and how to manage direct contact). In this stage I will coach, guide and support you through the extreme highs and terrible lows of this stage.
Moving on to Flourish: In this stage you have deal with the intense post-acute difficulties of having left and are putting yourself and your life back together. You are ready to let go of the hurt and angry thoughts associated with the abuse. You want to feel healthier and get rid of the toxic pain that is lodged in your body. In this stage, I will continue to coach, guide and support you but I will also move you further, to an all-encompassing, holistic healing.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation where situations or information is purposely “spun”, minimized, or completely ignored to the advantage of the abusive partner. Many methods are used to disorient the victim, including producing inaccurate details with the goal of making the victim confused, feel “crazy” and wonder if they can trust their own sense of reality.
Gaslighting is one of many strategies used by Narcissistic Abusers. It is a psychological manipulation tool that is just one of many in their arsenal to control, demean and belittle their intended victim.
Where Did The Word Gaslighting Come From?
The term Gaslighting was coined after the 1940’s film ‘Gaslight’ where a young woman named Paula falls head over heels in love with a man named Gregory. Their whirlwind romance results in marriage, at which point Gregory’s narcissistic personality traits are slowly revealed.
The title of the film refers to the dimming of the lights in the home of the couple, when Gregory uses gas lights in the attic to seek hidden treasure. When Paula comments on the dimmed lights, he vehemently denies it and tells her it’s all in her imagination, which makes Paula question her memory and her sanity. The term gaslighting is now widely accepted and used to refer to a narcissist’s pattern of behavior against their intended victim, much like Gregory, who uses deliberate emotional and psychological manipulation tactics on Paula.
The destruction of someone’s sense of reality is an extremely dangerous manipulation tactic. It is a method used by Narcissists and Psychopaths who use it in their repertoire to exploit people, charm others, lie and deny culpability. Most victims of narcissists and psychopaths feel unable to accurate rely on their sense of reality.
Gaslighting takes place in various different relationships. Romantic partners, parent-child relationships, friends, workplace affiliations where there is a power imbalance between managers and staff, medical professionals and patients, and even as a political strategy by politicians to belittle or demean as a way to control.
A defining marker of gaslighting is poor boundaries between individuals. The perpetrator projects negative mental constructs onto the victim while the victim simultaneously integrates these negative constructs. The how and why this happens I will explain further in later chapters, but I believe this sums up what happens for many people, but more often, specifically women:
“Girls learn the lesson of cognitive deference most clearly, perhaps, growing up in patriarchal families. Taught to discount their own judgments and to depend on those of the family's dominant men, they lose self-trust and cannot take themselves seriously as moral deliberators. I argue that through the telling of counterstories, which undermine normative stories of oppression, it is sometimes possible for women to reclaim these families as places where they have cognitive authority.” - Hilde Lindemann Nelson, feminist philosopher
Have you ever been Gaslighted? What is your experience with Gaslighting and Narcissistic Abuse?
Every person on this planet has had contact with people who have the incessant need to tell us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why. Immediately, this person threatens our sense of control over our lives, and their overbearing character is heightened further if they are opposed, resulting in anger, resentment and hostility.
It is a basic human need to be in charge of our own lives. The main task of adulthood is to Individuate from one’s parents, meaning to separate and be independent and responsible for one’s self. This is the sign of a healthy, normal individual.
A problem occurs whenever one person tries to control another, be it a parent, a sibling, a co-worker, or a spouse. A bully is a person who needs to control other people. A bully can be male or female, young or old. In this book, I am specifically speaking of spouses or in general but will use the he/him pronouns to refer to the bullying spouse.
If your spouse is a bully, he may look confident and composed and appear to be in control of himself and his life. But if you were to look inside, deep down into the inner workings of his brain, your bully spouse struggles from a deep-seated insecurity which fears feelings of fear, anger and anxiety. Thus the need to control.
Bullies are hard on themselves and have a tendency to be critical of everyone around them, including their spouse, their friends, family and workmates. Ultimately this stems from a fear of failure and they bully and control others in a misguided attempt to avoid failure. Even though insecurity is at the root of the problem, you’d never know it by looking at him or talking to him. He will mask his anxiety with a bravado that makes them appear to be calm and collected and in control of his life.
It’s tragic, really. If a bully is merely an insecure individual who ultimately feels powerless and tries to regain a sense of security by controlling others, he is doomed to fail as it is a false sense of security. Ultimately, people cannot control other people.
The real tragedy happens when the bully is unable to control the other person. At first, he will get angry and may resort to hostility and intimidation in an effort to regain control. If this fails to work, he may grow even more agitate and choose to threaten. If this too, fails, he may feel despondent and defeated. What a horrible feeling, and especially since it is completely avoidable.
Have you had to deal with a bully as a spouse? How did you handle it?
Above is the banner for my support group for people healing after their abusive relationship with a narcissist. What do you think of the visual?
My next post I'll talk about the characteristics of a narcissist, but for now I just want to share some resources I have found useful:
Dr. George Simon, Manipulation Expert and Author of "In Sheep's Clothing"
Little Red Survivor blog - Freedom from Narcissistic Abuse
Melanie Tonia Evans - Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
The term Gaslighting was coined after a 1940’s film, ‘Gaslight’ where Paula, a young woman, falls head over heels in love a man named Gregory. Their whirlwind romance results in marriage, at which point Gregory’s narcissistic personality traits are slowly revealed.
The title of the film refers to the dimming of the gas lights in the home of the couple, when Gregory uses gas lights in the attic to seek hidden treasure. When Paula comments on the dimmed lights, he vehemently denies it and tells her it’s all in her imagination. The term gaslighting is now widely accepted and used to refer to a narcissist’s pattern of behavior that is much like Gregory, who uses deliberate emotional and psychological manipulation tactics on Paula.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation where situations or information is purposely “spun”, minimized, or completely ignored to the advantage of the abusive partner, or even inaccurate details are given with the goal of making the victim confused, feel “crazy” and wonder if they can trust their own sense of reality.
Here are some great resources I've found on gaslighting:
Are You Being Gaslighted? Psychology Today MORE
Gasighting is a Common Victim-Blaming Abuse Tactic - Everyday Feminism MORE
Gaslighting: The Mind Game Everyone Should Know About - Elephant Journal MORE
Wondering if you are being Gaslighted? Want to run your situation by me for feedback? Feel free to contact me for more information.