What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse where the person makes you feel like your thoughts and feelings are wrong and can even make you question your sanity. The other person will say and do things and then lie and twist the truth telling you that they didn't say or do those things, that you have misunderstood or remembered incorrectly, didn't hear them properly, that you are overreacting or that you are crazy. They often do this so convincingly that you question your own view of what really happened.
What is Narcissist gaslighting in relationships?
This is when gaslighting occurs between two people who are in a relationship, this can be romantic relationships (your partner, husband/wife) but it can also occur within other trusting relationships such as between siblings, and between parents and their children (both young or grown up children) and even between friends.
How do you know if you are being gaslit by a narcissist?
Are you being gaslit? It's often tricky to know, you might be if some of the following apply; you used to be sure of yourself, your self confidence was good and your mental health in check but now you questioning yourself, how you have perceived situations, and even question your own sanity on a daily basis or whenever you have been in contact with this individual. Your self esteem is low and you are anxious and worried. The other person used to be charming and charismatic but they have changed as you got closer to them. They demonstrate other narcissistic traits such as believing that they are always right, defensiveness and hyper sensitivity to any form of criticism (often resulting in anger), lack of empathy for others and believing they are better than or above others.
How can you deal with being gaslit by a narcissist?
Be firm and certain in what you say.
Create clear boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not and stick by them, don't make idle threats and ultimatums because you must be able to enforce these boundaries. (Warning: they may not like this so it can be challenging to do).
Try to remain calm and emotionally neutral with them, showing them you are angry or flustered will fuel their narrative.
Address your anxiety outside of the relationship so that you have tools and techniques to cope. Speak with other people (friends, family or a qualified therapist) to seek reassurance.
Build your self esteem, dealing with a narcissist can chip away at your self esteem so make sure you look after yourself by practicing self care and positive self talk.
Ideally create space between yourself and the narcissist, although this isn't always possible. The fewer interactions you have with them the less impact they will have upon you.
Do narcissists know when they're gaslighting you?
This is a really good question and I believe, from my experience, that this varies. However, in general, most narcissists think that they are always right and so may not see that what they are doing is wrong. They are stubborn and headstrong and will argue black is white if it fits their narrative. Thus they would never be reflective enough to see what they are doing is wrong. They are likely to blame the other person or persons around them labelling them as "crazy", "anxious" or "out of control."
It is worth noting that narcissists tend to be drawn to empaths (people with an incredibly strong sense of empathy for others). Empaths are often people pleasers and prefer to avoid confrontation, so they may struggle to challenge the narcissist. Empaths will always try to see the good in people and so may explain away much of the narcissist behaviour or give the narcissist too many second chances.
If you worry that you are in a abusive relationship or that you are abusing someone yourself below are some useful contact details, please reach out for help and support;
Refuge- The national domestic abuse helpline. nationaldahelpline.org.uk 0808 2000 247 For women and children experiencing domestic abuse.
Respect- The men's advice line. mensadviceline.org.uk 0808 801 0327 For men experiencing domestic abuse.
Respect- Respect phone line for perpetrators. respectphoneline.org.uk 0808 802 4040 For men or women who believe they may be abusing someone.
Author: Gill Jackson of Gill Jackson Therapeutic Counselling, BA Hons Counselling, Diploma in Couples and Family Therapy, Diploma in EFT, Assoc. CIPD, SMACCPH
Bio: I am a Therapist/Psychotherapist, Accredited Mentor and Trainer in private practice in the UK, qualified since 2007. Working with adults and young adults. I specialise in Anxiety Disorders and Depression.
This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, if you are suffering from any physical or mental ill health please seek advice of your Doctor where necessary.
Images used with permission from Wix and Unsplashed.