A key feature of narcissism is the insistence upon establishing how things are supposed to be. Narcissists are agenda driven, assuming you should filter your opinions and preferences through them. Though frustrating, it makes sense that they think this way since narcissism is defined by self-absorption, control, false superiority, exploitation, and a lack of empathy.

A favorite tactic used by narcissists is gaslighting, which is defined as creating confusion by manipulating how you interpret people, events, problems, and differences. If they can keep you mentally and emotionally off balance (so the reasoning goes), they win.

Common examples of gaslighting include:

  • Minimizing your needs.  (“Oh, that’s not important.”)
  • Playing mind games, such as changing the rules of engagement, or expecting you to comply with procedures without the benefit of clarity.
  • Wrongly interpreting your motives.  (“You just want to be in charge,” or “You’re always complaining about me.”)
  • Questioning your memory or recollection of events.
  • Insisting that you caused their problems.
  • Mocking or ridiculing your emotions.  (“You’re just like your mother.”)
  • Faking positive sentiments toward you, even as they gripe about you behind your back.

The examples could go on, but just know, narcissists are far too impressed with oneself to care what you think or feel, and they are not at all shy about dismissing your perspectives.

Once you see the inappropriateness of their tactics, you may be inclined to call them out or you may seek a reasonable, fair dialogue.  But when challenged, it is very common for narcissists to increase their efforts to shut you down.  They cannot and will not think of you as equal, so it becomes imperative to reinforce your lower status.  At that point, a whole new set of attitudes and behaviors can arise as they make sure you understand just how wrong you are and how problematic you have become.

In other words, once you attempt to establish decency and civility, they gaslight you after they have already gaslit you! Examples of this trend include:

  • Lying point blank about what is being discussed.
  • Accusing you of: being argumentative, angry, not a team player, controlling, defensive, contrarian, stupid, or delusional.
  • Insulting you with: “You’re too sensitive,” or “I just wish I could have an intelligent, adult conversation with you.”
  • Giving you the silent treatment, shunning you.
  • Elevating themselves by insulting you: “I’m trying really hard to be open-minded, but you are absolutely impossible.”
  • Blowing up loudly, spewing venom, hatred, and being verbally overwhelming.
  • Asking cornering questions for the purpose of shaming you. For instance: “Why are you being such a jerk?” or “Where did you come up with such idiotic ideas?”
  • Making a major effort to destroy your reputation.
  • Clinging to ongoing disgust and contempt toward you.

Have you ever been exposed to these types of invalidations? If so, understand that this is abuse. More than just being non-insightful, the gaslighting narcissist is making a deliberate effort to harm you and to convey how you have no value, that you are undesirable.

When narcissists gaslight, and when they double down by gaslighting even more after you protest, they illustrate serious internal turmoil. 

These are unhealthy, troubled souls.  Such behavior reveals a profoundly cynical mindset stemming from a long-standing inability to trust.  Likewise, it arises from pervasive neediness, in the sense that they must feel validated, even if it means belittling you in the process.

Narcissists have a poor conception of love, with its accompanying patience, kindness, humility, helpfulness, and approachability.  Listening to you is not even an option, nor is affirmation or healthy curiosity.  Instead, their gaslighting illustrates a commitment to invalidation and creating confusion.  Objectivity and open-mindedness are absent.

Is it any wonder that narcissists have a long list of people they have treated poorly throughout the years?  They illustrate repeatedly that they are not the standard bearers of truth that they think they are.  What you hear from them outwardly reveals their own inner angst.

Since narcissists will gaslight after gaslighting, they show themselves to be unsafe and toxic.  That being the case, seek affirmation, coordination, and stimulation elsewhere.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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