How journaling combats gaslighting & frees you from narcissistic abuse

7 minute read

Part of the devastating impact of narcissistic abuse is that when you are in the thick of it, you’re not necessarily aware of what the hell is going on. This is all about the very nature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the abuse sustained.

During the relationship, you experience two key phases. The first is idealisation. The narc worships you, ‘love bombing’ you into submitting to their whims, and hypnotising you into believing that you are made for one another.

The mutual adoration creates an addictive quality in the relationship, which is entirely intentional and necessary for the narcissist as a form of supply which is the fuel they need to function.

Securing this spellbound state is also essential to keep you hooked in the second unavoidable phase of the relationship: devaluation. The narc expects perfection from those they surround themselves with. When inevitably your gorgeous flawed humanity peeps out, or you begin to detect the narc’s shortcomings, the cycle of punishment kicks in.

In devaluing you, the narc brandishes their weapons of manipulation. Denial, projection, invalidation, gaslighting, smear campaigns, triangulation, alienating you from support systems, possibly physical and/or sexual violence and many other tactics are applied.

All of this is employed to retain dominance over you. And all of this is abuse.

gaslightingWhen considering the sum of these strategies, they reflect the definition of gaslighting which is the manipulation information and/or the environment to confuse you into questioning your perception of reality and make you feel crazy.

Do not underestimate how very potent gaslighting is.

Let me ask you.

Are you feeling lost and confused? Do you know who to trust? Do you even question whether you can trust yourself? Do you doubt the truth of your reality? Are you possibly questioning your sanity? Maybe, you can’t even answer these questions, and have no idea what you think and feel?

These are symptoms of abuse. This state is a direct result of the strategies used by the narc who has been steadily chipping away at your self-belief, confidence, and trust in yourself. Your abuser needs this to occur to keep you tethered as a form of supply.

This state of feeling unsure about yourself and your reality, is not ok. I know you know this deep down inside. Underneath the fog caused by the narc, your inner voice is screaming out THIS ISN’T RIGHT! You may be temporarily deaf to your inner voice because the abuse is working.

You must reclaim your voice and truth, and find a way out.

The almighty power of your own words as testament to your truth

So, here’s the thing, you CAN reconnect to that inner voice, and retrieve self-trust to break free even while still in the relationship*. Expressing your truth and your reality by journaling is a powerful way to give yourself the impetus to sever the cycle of abuse.

Journaling is about expressing your thoughts, feelings, observations, and stories down on paper or screen (or whatever method works for you!). It is a ritual that allows innermost truths to be externalised in a safe way.

The art of expressing our inner world is super positive in many ways. It promotes productivity and higher level cognitive functioning by fostering goal setting, creativity, critical thinking, observation and recall skills. It also benefits health with studies showing it reduces anxiety and depression, whilst improving immunity and sleep quality. Pretty impressive practice right?

journaling combats gaslighting

Journaling has additional value for narcissistic abuse recovery. Many (arguably most) victims have sustained either Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). A symptom of these disorders is seeking to avoid events, thoughts, and emotions associated with the trauma.

Tricky thing is that healing necessitates working through the pain. Hence finding ways of releasing in safe ways the experiences, thoughts, and emotions that are keeping you stuck is critical to recovery. Writing out your inner landscape supports this process and is often used as a therapy tool to retrospectively work through trauma.

Thing is, journaling can also be your ‘right now’ saviour and help you break free from the abusive cycle you’re in.

The gaslighting has you asking what is real and what isn’t? What is the truth and what isn’t? Who can I trust? Can I even trust myself?

Yes, you can. Journaling combats gaslighting by recording your truth and your reality about what is happening. Read up on the different forms of manipulation and observe when the narc is using these on you (for information on this process please read Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how).

Start documenting:

  • the details of what happened during different events
  • what was said by the narc
  • when the event happened (this will help you notice patterns of behavior)
  • what you think and feel about the event

No more excuses

By doing this you are creating your own testament to the reality you are experiencing. This keeps you clear on what is and isn’t happening. It shines the light on the real face behind the narc’s mask. When the narc continues with the games and the doubts start eating you up, you now have a point of reference to return to for confirmation of what is what.

Diligent recording, and fact checking will gradually dissolve the power the narc has when telling you ‘that never happened’, ‘you’re confused about what happened in reality’, or maybe even ‘you’re crazy’. The discrepancies between what you are being fed and what you have recorded as truth become glaringly obvious.

Your recorded facts become your antidote to gaslighting. It’s hard to argue with what is before you in black and white. The more you write your truth out, the less you are able to minimise your distress.

Re-reading the evidence offers a level of objectivity in coming to terms with what is completely unacceptable. Equally, making excuses for the narc becomes increasingly difficult. You come to realise that by doing this you are letting yourself down and accepting continued harm.

Creating your narrative about a situation which is largely out of your control also enables a level of sense-making, in that you are forced to confront the senselessness (madness!) of it. This encourages acceptance that the narc will never change, no matter how much logic is used to communicate your position. It also reinforces that it IS NOT YOU!!!

eli-defaria-14557-unsplashSo, the first lifesaving gift of journaling in this way is to awaken you to the truth of the narc and that you must free yourself from the entanglement.

The second gift is that the act of journaling itself reconnects you to internal resources needed to get you out. By scribing your truth and the reality of the situation you naturally begin replenishing your depleted stores of confidence, self-belief, and trust in yourself. Reclaiming your power and freedom is now something you KNOW you can and must do. And do NOW.

The third gift is that in recording how you think and feel in response to the abuse, you are actively engaging in mindfulness. This practice contributes to healing your eroded sense of identity by linking you back into your thoughts and feelings. The ritual of journaling reintroduces reflection into your daily life. ‘How do I feel?’ is reinstated as a necessary question for both survival and pursuing the path to your best life.

Added bonus

I mentioned the addictive quality of the relationship. Let me tell you, withdrawals are a very real thing when leaving the narc thanks to the ploys used to keep you hooked through idealisation and trauma bonding.

You can anticipate moments when you might romanticise the relationship, or question whether things were really as bad you thought. When this comes up, grab your story. Your testament will conquer these moments of temptation and remind you of what was what. You own words will save you from the trap of getting hooked back in and enduring more abuse.

Practical stuff

An unmasked narc is at best not nice, and at worst dangerous. You know this. Making sure you are keeping this information in a secure location will be important to your feeling of safety if you happen to be living with the narc. You might want to try password protecting anything kept on a computer or locking away a paper-based journal.

So my courageous friends, grab yourself a lovely journal, or your friendly device and get started now. You will start to notice the positive effects of starting this practice almost immediately.

Retrieve your inner voice and give yourself the proof you need about the unjustifiable reality you’re living in. Unlock your truth and strength. Take this step towards freedom now!

Please leave your comments below on your experiences with this approach, and any advice to others on your own insights on gaslighting and breaking free. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us in recovery!

*NOTE – This approach works for any toxic relationship, whether with partners, family members, friends, colleagues, or any entanglement where your gut is telling you something isn’t right.

With gratitude,

Maggie x



  • Jirek, S.L. (2016). Narrative reconstruction and post-traumatic growth among trauma survivors: The importance of narrative in social work research and practice. Qualitative Social Work, 16(2), 166-188.
  • Tarocchi, A., Aschieri, F., Fantini, F., & Smith, J.D. (2013). Therapeutic assessment of complex trauma: A single-case time-series study. Clinical Case Studies, 12(3), 228-245.
  • Ullrich, P.M., & Lutgendorf, S.K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244-250.
  • Wallerstein, R.S. (1973). Psychoanalytic perspectives on the problem of reality. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21(1), 5-33.





14 thoughts

  1. Born to two narcissistic parents, I unwittingly believed this was how life should be, and ended up with a violent abuser who rendered all aspects of gaslighting. Escape, and years later, I wrote a book about my experiences, and the process was somewhat cathartic, but to some degrees, CPTSD still lives.
    Thanks for your insightful posts.

    1. Hi agoodlittlegirl, thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry you have experienced such abuse. I’m keen to read your book. Your spirit must be so very almighty & resilient to have come through all of this as you have. There are different treatments for C-PTSD via therapy that can be effective, perhaps these might help a little? Wishing you the very best, Maggie x

      1. You wouldn’t believe the various therapies, drugs, and weird things I’ve tried with little success. I think once you have CPTSD, it’s yours forever to some degree.

  2. Tend to agree with you there, I’m unsure the effects of a lifetime of abuse can be ‘cured’. I do think however there are many ways we can retrain some of the more challenging aspects that impact detrimentally on living our lives. I recently started using the Emotional Freedom Technique, which I must confess I classified prior to trying as one of those ‘weird things’ – turns out it has actually been really powerful, hurrah! Look after you – p.s. was scanning Amazon yesterday and your book came up on my feed 🙂

  3. Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for this insightful and helpful article! It is quite challenging to deal with people that exhibit characteristics and/or traits that are narcissistic. It is actually very draining and frustrating. I am currently using Journaling as a way to express my emotions and channel out any negative energy or thoughts. It is a wonderful tool to use! And you’re right, going back to my notes and reading past entries, Ive seen a pattern of the person’s actions and behaviors, and then I realize, wow, this person has been like this all along and I chose to see the good and was hoping that perhaps they would change. The best feeling is when you realize you don’t deserve poor treatment from anyone and you must keep your distance from toxic individuals, to protect your own peace.

    1. Dear Ana, thank you for your kind words. Well done to you for identifying what isn’t OK, and for putting a stop to it despite hoping that they will eventually change. This is such a monumental achievement. Kudos. May your days now be filled with peace and positive people as you move forward 🙂 Light & love to you Ana, Maggie x

  4. Its all so true, I’ve known since a very young age Id be exactly where I am today and gotten here exactly as i thought. My mother is a very accomplished narc. every abusive word, action, thought ,feeling.. every scenario read and all the information and knowledge describes here to a T, scarry enough and Im having to live with her and honestly do not have any choices, i have no friends she runs them off no man would last a day my children are on her side( money bags). she has stripped me of my livilhood and inheritance while all others reap. i don’t know what to do Im so tired everyone ive ever know believes she is just the cats meow and couldnt be any sweeter and so kind, excuse me while i throw up, if they only knew and how cant they know why dont they just once see what is right in front Ive done nothing in life no criminal activity no wild person no nothing compared to others but she has sabatoged me forever all i want is to be able to show its not me i have recordings, notes comparision, the way she treats me alone is so overwhelming. they think because i react with anger because of what she does its inconcievable what could she possibly say that would render such a reaction, how wrong. i wish i could play u some recording to make sure its not me see still questioning. BTW im 62 she is 89 and aint going anywhere. i just found this site so i have alot of reading and absorbing more if there is any space left in my mind it is all consumed with thoughts of her sadistic abuse running inside my head 24/7

    1. Dear Cyndi, thank you for sharing your story (& for the support you have offered others in the Narc Wise community – you are good soul :)). I have no doubt there is much, much more beyond what you have shared. I am sorry for all that you have endured.
      You have come to a place of solidarity – all of us here in the Narc Wise community understand how outlandish, duplicitous & false pathological narcs can be. All of us know the loneliness of feeling doubted because of these narcissistic traits which do not sit with us, yet engulf our existence when still in the greedy grip of the narc. You are not alone here.
      From your message it seems you feel you must remain in this situation that leaves you feeling the way you do? I believe we do always have choices. Always. Even if it is within extremely tight parameters, change is always possible. Changing others, not so much (& particularly not those with NPD as I’m sure you know!). Changing ourselves, what we are in control of, yes. This is no glib statement. The cost is often extremely high to make change happen, undeniably this is a truth. I don’t know how very tight the parameters are that keep you stuck. Is my take right that you believe you must remain in this unhappy situation? I’m thinking it must be, hence looking for ways to change within yourself how it affects you through education & awareness? Dear Cyndi – I wish for you freedom & joy. With every bit of me. Maggie x

  5. Thank you so much for this. I am still suffering an abusive cycle and I am struggling very hard to free myself. I already am a lifelong lover of journaling and writing (although I gave up both for a long time in the process of being broken down by the narc) so this is great advice. I have very little consistent outside support too, so thank you for being one of my only clear objective and loving voices. Thank you.

    1. Dear G, I am so very glad that some of the words may have edged you in the direction of reconnecting with your pen (or keys). Given this has in the past been your thing, I have no doubt that etching your story will open the door more fully to your new chapter. Your voice, your truth is rising up. Let it surface.
      I’m sorry dear G that you find yourself in the chapter you currently inhabit. Though you may feel you are struggling to turn the page, believe that this very turmoil is indicative of you being mid process rather than at the very beginning of it. I can’t wait for you to claim this knowledge, and your own gorgeous self. Freedom is happening for you gorgeous one. And I’m so excited for you. From one lover of truth, light and love to another: you’ve got this. Pick up that pen. With gratitude, Maggie x

  6. I’ve done a number of versions of journaling, such as keeping track of my parents’ abuse of me. I’ve recently added writing out my feelings in a completely informal way just to myself, and I think it’s helping.

    1. Dear Nouseled, that is wonderful to hear. It can only help. Particularly if you’ve been silenced since childhood. It’s time to hear yourself gorgeous one. Set yourself free. Much light & love to you. Maggie x

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