~Author’s note: This is Part III in the series: “Tools of the Narcissist”. The various behaviors of a narcissist (narc), someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), often have well-known names and identifiers. As we discuss this behavior you may in fact be familiar with some of these terms, or they may be altogether new to you. Either way, we will be naming and explaining these behaviors in a series of articles for further education and awareness about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). While not an exhaustive list, this series will address many common behaviors, their names / identifiers, as well as explanations of what the behavior ‘looks and sounds like’, and the driving narcissistic motivation behind the behavior. In this third installment of the “Tools of a Narcissist” series, we will be discussing ‘Gaslighting’.~
You may be wondering why I am singling out ‘Gaslighting’ for an entire article devoted to this singular abusive tool. The reason for this is that gaslighting, a common tool of the narcissist, can be so damaging and destructive it deserves as much attention as we can give it. Simply stated, ‘Gaslighting’ is the very attempt by a narcissist AT CHANGING YOUR REALITY.
“At their very foundation, a narcissist is supremely invested in destroying their target(s), and will employ tools and tactics to do just that. One of the most destructive forces a narcissist will subject their victims to is ‘Gaslighting’. The very denial by the narcissist that REAL events NEVER occurred and/or words were never said, is to deny the victim THEIR own REALITY. No one on this planet has the right to tell you that events didn’t occur, and that words were not said. As survivors, we MUST fight against this abuse as strongly as is possible.” L.A. Gilliam
In short, the narcissist wants to DENY your reality of what you experience via their abuse; their goal is to undermine your very mental processes, your memory, your perception of events all in an effort to further THEIR OWN AGENDA. Remember, by and large the reality of the tactics / tools employed by a narcissist are recognized as emotional and mental abuse; therefore, what WE experience at the hands of a narcissist IS ABUSE. Secondarily, a narcissist is unable to ‘own up to’ or take responsibility for their abusive behavior; we are just expected to take it. Survivors must speak out and up loudly to further educate those that are making their way through the confusing and tumultuous awareness of their own abuse.
Narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths will use Gaslighting to erode the very reality their victim experiences. While taking on many forms, Gaslighting at the core, is the denial that specific events have happened, and/or the that specific words have been spoken. Some common forms of Gaslighting are as follows:
- Lying about events. A narcissist (narc) will attempt to deny the victim and what has been experienced, through lying. A narc will look you in the eye, and lie to your face, denying the actual truth and reality of something YOU have experienced. Let’s take a phone call, for instance – and this actually happened to me. As the narcissist in my life was ‘finally’ working to remove drug addict family members from the house (they had been living there for a long time; I was told they were visiting – another lie), who were actively dealing drugs out of the home, the narcissist was still talking to these dangerous people, but lying about it. I overheard a phone call between one family member and the ex narc, but was told it was a different family member. This was a LIE. I heard what I heard, I confirmed with another family member that the phone call, as told to me, did not take place. The narcissist attempted to re-write MY reality through lying about this phone call. This is one small example. The purpose for lying like this is because the narc is unable to ADMIT FAULT. The ex narc knew that continued contact with the drug addict family members was already a strain in the relationship, and would be a deal breaker. Sleeping in a bed with a fully loaded gun on the top headboard in case of a break in, while the addicts were still allowed to live in the house, was nothing short of chaos. THAT WAS MY REALITY and eventually, I decided enough was enough. The final straw was sitting on the couch, listening to the narc ex threatening their primary care doctor that if a new prescription was not filled for yet ANOTHER drug addict family member, a new doctor would be found. THAT was the last straw, as I could see clearly what my life was about to become.
- Lying about what you have been told, or what others have been told. You might find yourself wanting more information about what you have been ‘told’, when the narc’s actions do not match their words. So, let’s say you have been promised something, or overheard the narc say something to someone that you want more information about. Perhaps you have even heard the narc tell lies to others, and question them. In my case, the narc – now a practicing Pastor – would lie to the senior pastor about their whereabouts, when in the car with me. Instead of being honest, there were lies about being in certain places at certain times. Upon asking about these lies, I was told “You didn’t understand me. I didn’t say that.” Well, YES. YOU. DID. I heard it, with my own ears. Again, narcissists are unable to ADMIT the horrible lies they tell to others, so their mode of operation is to LIE, to attempt to CHANGE OUR REALITY. Questioning this behavior will be USED AGAINST you; your rightful questioning of how someone could tell such lies will be turned around onto YOU, as being ‘paranoid’, or ‘overly sensitive’, or ‘making something out of nothing’ – which is gaslighting AND deflection – all rolled into one! DO NOT STAND FOR THIS BEHAVIOR. Anyone able to live lying constantly is a dangerous person. You must remove yourself from someone who lives this way. THAT is the only way to begin the healing process; total elimination of said person from your life.
- Denying their own responsibility for causing pain. Any relationship with a narcissistic person will be full of PAIN. Narcs cause pain to those that are closest to them, with others often do not ‘see’ what is truly going on in the relationship. So, let’s take statements that demean you, sometimes said in a joking way – even disguised as humor. Let’s say someone tells you ‘To get off your high horse’. That’s one I heard, in direct relation to the drug addicts living in the home (see a common trend here)? When I rebuked that statement, I was told I was being too sensitive. Let’s say the narc calls YOU controlling, when in fact THEY are the controlling person. If you stand up for yourself, as you should, you will likely hear something like “OMG. I didn’t even mean it THAT way.” Oh no? WHAT way DID you mean it? Or, let’s say the narc refuses to listen to your concerns, dismissing THEIR OWN responsibility by saying something like, “It is ALWAYS about YOU, isn’t it?” Well, no. It’s not. In fact, YOU are not taking responsibility – you are pushing off YOUR responsibility by twisting things around on ME! Do NOT STAND FOR THIS! Respectful, reciprocal, and HEALTHY relationships do not have these dynamics!
So, here we are – again. And let me tell you, I am beyond thankful to ALL of you, from all over the world, reading my articles. As you can see, there are many layers to a narcissist’s behavior, ALL meant to deny YOU your rights, deny you your very experiences. This is emotional, mental, and soul-sucking abuse. Over time, the victim (if he or she chooses to stay in the relationship, or continues to have exposure to the narc) may in fact start to QUESTION themselves. “AM I making too much of this?”, or “Am I the one in the wrong here?” are common thoughts the victim will have over time. A victim will likely start feeling their very world and life are no longer safe, that unpredictability is now the new ‘normal’, and start to stay quiet, instead of standing up for themselves. Remember, narcissists rely on control and power over others to ensure compliance, servitude, and the eventual destruction of their targeted victim. Gaslighting is one tool the narcissist will use, to achieve just this goal. NO ONE ON THIS PLANET has the right to tell you what you heard wasn’t said, or that what you experienced DIDN’T occur. Standing up for yourself with a narcissist, is an opportunity for them to further ACCUSE you of being too sensitive, or overreacting. This too, is abuse. This is a double whammy: You have been exposed to harmful words or events, THEN DENIED THE RIGHT TO REACT TO THEM!! There will be NO ‘taking responsibility’ coming from the narcissist. You must protect yourself – you must. The only way to fully protect yourself is to eliminate narcissists from your life – completely and totally. You are worth so so so much more than this treatment. Best, L.A.