The pattern of narcissism is defined by the need to control you, to maintain an edge of superiority, to manipulate and exploit, and to minimize your emotions and perceptions. Being unnaturally self-absorbed, narcissists constantly look for ways to maintain an angle over you.
One of their favorite tactics is gaslighting, a proactive attempt to create confusion within you and to interpret events for the specific purpose of maximizing the narcissist’s psychological dominance. The goal of the gaslighting narcissist is to wear down your resolve, to diminish your confidence in your perceptions, and to establish themselves as the ultimate arbitrator of correctness.
Your independent thinking threatens a narcissist, so if they can succeed in making you look or feel foolish, or if they can prompt you to doubt your version of events, they presumably win. So, with that in mind, let’s identify ten of the most common gaslighting comments you will hear from a narcissist. Being aware of their psychological tricks, you will be less susceptible to collapsing under their controlling efforts.
Their top ten:
- “I’m just trying to help.” Very commonly, narcissists will become critical, bossy, intrusive, and invalidating. When you call them out, they can feign innocence by insisting that their directives mean to be for good. If you deem their “helpfulness” unnecessary, that implies you are unappreciative.
- “Who told you that?” When you offer your separate perspective to the narcissist, there is a very low likelihood that a fair-minded exchange will ensue. Instead, the narcissist will look for someone to scapegoat. You clearly have been misinformed, so it is essential (to the narcissist) to cast dispersions upon your sources of information.
- “I’m sorry if I offended you.” (No, they are not.) This is the classic non-apology apology. When a problem has occurred, they put the focus onto your presumed fragility. The implied message is that you are thin-skinned and have poor interpretation skills. They may as well say, “It’s too bad you can’t handle the truth, as defined by me.”
- (Huff…sigh). Without words, the narcissist can heave hot air, as if to say: “I don’t even know what to say right now…you are so off base.” When you point out their rudeness, they can deny the problem, reminding you they have actually said nothing.
- “No one does more for you than me.” At times narcissists will indeed perform favors or act cooperatively, but later you learn they are collecting chips. Then, if you express frustration, they will cash in those chips with the insinuation that you are in their debt or that you are an ingrate. Of course, the frustration is not addressed, and that is the narcissist’s goal.
- “You’re the one who has issues.” Let’s suppose the narcissist is completely inappropriate and you draw attention to it. While that person may not deny the wrongdoing directly, they may shift gears by pointing out when you have been in the wrong. Or they may insinuate that if they erred, you caused it. Then they take delight as you start defending yourself. (They are off the hook at that point.)
- “You are so argumentative.” (or controlling, or stubborn, or defensive, etc.) To keep themselves off the hot seat, narcissists will project onto you what they refuse to adjust within themselves. They reason that if they accuse first, your counter-arguments will fall flat.
- “I was really stressed out.” Sometimes narcissists cannot deny their errors, so they will fall back onto the vague complaint that stress made them act ineffectively. Never mind that everyone has some measure of stress…this comment implies that you do not have the right to hold them accountable.
- “You did well, but…” Sometimes your excellence cannot be denied, but even then, narcissists cannot let you have the positive spotlight. They can minimize you by offering a compliment with a caveat. For instance: “You did well, but you had lots of help along the way,” or “You did well, but the task wasn’t that complicated.”
- “Let’s get together soon when we have more time to talk.” Narcissists can be aware that some situations deserve a full discussion so clear minds can prevail. But they also know that if they enter those discussions, they may have to make concessions. So, they pretend they are willing to hear you out, but later it’s obvious they never intended to have the conversation. This comment is a prelude to you being ghosted.
But wait, there’s more
These are just ten of the most common gaslighting comments you’ll hear from a narcissist…the number of comments is limited only by the narcissist’s limits for speaking in half-truths, disguised accusations, and veiled insults. Make no mistake, their gaslighting is a form of abuse. It is a projection of their own unfinished psychological tension onto you. It illustrates how they utterly despise taking responsibility for their flaws. And it is a covert way of gaining mind control over you.
Your challenge is to become keenly aware of the narcissist’s tactics. And as you do, you can choose instead to consult your own inner voice. The narcissist does not want you to trust yourself, yet as you know yourself to be a person of integrity, committed to growth, self-trust is entirely appropriate.
Don’t allow the narcissist to slyly bully you into subordination. When possible, remove that person from your inner circle of advisors, then act upon your good intuitions.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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