8 minute read
The first step to counteract gaslighting is becoming aware that’s what’s happening. The pickle is that if you are a target of gaslighting the principle symptom is mistrust of your take on reality – so how do you know if you are being gaslit or not?
Rest assured gorgeous ones, everything you need to cut through the fog of gaslighting and conquer it, you have inside you right now. It’s just a matter of connecting with these resources.
This article arms you with exercises to rebuild trust in yourself by doing just that. Using these practices, you will firmly root yourself in reality and come face to face with the brutal truth of what the narcissist is, and what they are doing to you.
Although a jarring wake-up call, the gift of this is that with recognition of the abuse you are enduring, you can begin detaching from the narcissist and end the soul-destroying entanglement (for more tools on breaking the narc’s spell, read Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how).
So, let’s get busy saying goodbye to gaslighting narcissist, and hello to freedom & joy.
Gaslighting is the intentional manipulation of information and/or the environment to confuse you into questioning your perception of reality and sanity.
Although most often referred to as a single strategy, arguably the definition covers the intent and outcomes of all narcissistic manipulation (e.g.: projection, smear campaigns, triangulation, lies, moving the goal posts etc.).
In this article, gaslighting refers to the sum effect on you of all the narc’s abuse.
Effects of gaslighting
Why is the narcissist so fond of gaslighting?
As always, the answer is, to dominate and control you ensuring your compliance as a reliable source of supply. Securing this submissive state, occurs through the process of breaking down your spirit, a.k.a. gaslighting.
How do they do it? Repeatedly denying the reality of their actions and behaviours, and yours, achieves your disorientation. This coupled with reiterated devaluation statements (e.g.: ‘you seem to ‘remember’ things that never happened’, ‘I’m concerned about your mental health’), causes you to start questioning yourself.
As the erosion of abuse wears you down, eventually you are unable to trust yourself. This increases your reliance on the narcissist for ‘reality checking’. And bingo. The narcissist becomes the author of your reality.
Although you may be suffering from symptoms of narcissistic abuse, you may even feel a bit like a zombie, you are no fool.
Somewhere within you, the truth of the abuse is trying to work its way to the surface. This is causing an internal tug of war known as cognitive dissonance. It is the product of simultaneously knowing the truth of your abuse and denying it in order to survive.
It’s time to ditch this approach to survival. It is officially maladaptive when your spirit does indeed begin to break.
The antidote to gaslighting is to embrace the voice of truth struggling to be heard. Doing so enables you to once again become the empowered author of your reality.
Practices to counteract gaslighting
Counteracting gaslighting relies on being able to access touchstones of concrete realities you can trust. You will be building these for yourself here.
Recording your work is strongly recommended (e.g.: journaling*) for future referencing when the need arises until all traces of gaslighting are eradicated.
The practices below are in two parts:
- Mindfulness to gain appreciation of how deeply gaslighting is affecting you to compel you to take action and protect yourself.
- Reality checks to overturn the denial and diminishing of reality that has become second nature due to gaslighting.
1. Listen to your sweet self
When you hesitantly hear that voice inside you that’s whispering something isn’t right, what happens?
Do you hear it for a moment only for it to be countered by a second voice that swoops in silencing that SOS?
What does this second voice tell you? Is it maybe you don’t remember things the way they really happened…or perhaps the narcissist is right, nothing ever happened at all…or your over-reacting…or too sensitive…or crazy etc.
Take note of this second voice.
Does it sound familiar? Does it sound like you or does it sound more like the narcissist’s voice they have programmed you to internalise?
My bet is, that it is their voice, not yours. It is the product of gaslighting and devaluation at work, pervasively and effectively tearing you down.
It also highlights your cognitive dissonance, and loss of trust in your take of reality.
Not one thing this voice is haranguing you to believe is in your best interests.
Not. One. Thing.
Now, do the same with that quieter first voice. Start focusing in on why you think something isn’t right. Really foster the attention you give it. And take note.
Of the two voices, which do you think you really think you should be listening to? A call to action is coming through from both sides – which will you take up?
2. Tap into how you feel
Now you are alert to the warring dialogue inside you, also take note of how you feel.
Some possible indications of gaslighting include anger, anxiety, depression, obsessive and/or compulsive thoughts, fear, exhaustion, confusion, nausea, panic, lethargy, inability to cope etc.
Where are you at? This is likely a tough question if you are a victim of gaslighting, so let’s dig in:
- How do you feel most of the time?
- Several times a day check in with yourself ‘what am I feeling at this moment’?
- Slowly build on this last question by asking yourself how you are feeling in any given moment, as it relates to the narcissist.
Now gorgeous one, I’m guessing the predominant theme to your answers is pretty negative?
I know you though, denial is your thing right now and your risk of diminishing the magnitude of how you feel is high. So, go back through the questions…how would you divvy up time between feeling positive and negative emotions? 50/50? Or is it more a case of 30 positive, and 70 negative? Or worse?
Do you really believe that you could feel so thoroughly yuck if that voice whispering ‘something isn’t right’ wasn’t bang on the money?
Is this any way to live?
Reality checking practices
1. Record keeping
The fog that settles with gaslighting causes confusion which links to memory challenges. Did it really happen the way you think it did?
In the face of constant denial and warping of reality, holding onto facts is extremely difficult. This of course how trust in oneself begins to shatter.
Your journal can become your bestie in counteracting these effects. Let your own words be your testament to the truth.
Begin documenting the situations that cause you negative emotions, including what happened, what the narcissist did and said, and what you think and feel about what occurred. Date your entries and revisit these to notice behavioural patterns.
Read the journal entries back to confirm for yourself the validity of your concerns. In your own words, you will find reality staring you in the face. Hard to ignore.
You can also use the journal when the dastardly programmed voice sets in. When this happens, you could consider sharing some of your entries with someone you trust.
What do they think? Do they agree with your second voice that you are being unreasonable/selfish/too sensitive/crazy? Or perhaps that something is really wrong and you need help?
Of course, it’s the latter.
For more on the power of testifying to your own truth read, How journaling combats gaslighting & frees you from narcissistic abuse.
2. Your child self’s plan for your best life
Think back to when you were your child self. Before the disappointments and hurts in life had you minimising the importance of what you really want in life.
What were your hopes, plans, dreams? Who did you want to be? What did you want to do? Where did you want to go? What did you want to experience? Who did you want to fall in love with?
What kind of picture did you have for your one precious life?
My gorgeous one, stop and take a deep breath before this next bit…
How far removed is your existence right now from your hopes, plans and dreams?
You may think, ‘you can’t live in the idealistic bubble of childhood, this is real life’…but is it?
Is the controlled false bubble created by the narcissist truly real life?
Most importantly, is it in any way good enough for you?
Think back again on all those hopes, plans, dreams, and contrast with the reality of your life at this moment: is it really in any way good enough for you?
3. Being your own carer
When you are all caught up in doubting reality or parroting internally the ugly programming the narcissist has given you about being unreasonable/selfish/too sensitive/crazy etc., try this.
Think of the situation/s that has triggered your questioning of reality. Now assign the situation to a stranger and imagine them sharing with you the details of what you have experienced.
What would your view be? Objectively, with this being someone else’s story, would you think ‘wow, they really need to suck it up…obviously they have issues with being unreasonable/selfish/too sensitive/crazy etc.?’
Or would you perhaps consider ‘something’s not right here, you need help’?
Now, swap out the stranger with a child (perhaps even your child self) or a friend, and repeat the same scenario.
What do you imagine you would think and feel now?
On top of concern that something’s not right perhaps sadness, rage, deep compassion, hugely protective?
Why gorgeous one, should your thoughts and feelings for yourself be any different than those elicited by the stranger, the child, or the friend?
Ground yourself in reality
This work isn’t easy**. But is it worth it? A thousand times over, YES!
The only way to tackle gaslighting is to see it for what it is and grounding yourself in that knowledge. This is where reality lives.
You get there by repairing the fractures in your self-trust through reconnection with your true inner voice and what you feel.
These are your most powerful weapons in counteracting gaslighting. You can rely on them as your guideposts to reality.
You’ve got this gorgeous one.
Now, take action with the truth you’ve just worked so hard to surface. Be your own carer, set yourself free, and start taking those steps that will bring you to the best life you once dreamed of.
As always gorgeous ones, please share your insights, tips and experiences on gaslighting and ways to cut through it. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.
*Keep your recorded info secure so you can feel safe in doing this work. You might want to try password protecting anything kept on a computer or locking away a paper-based journal.
**Don’t hesitate to seek out additional support through appropriately trained therapists and/or other resources available in your community.
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
- What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out
- When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse
- No Contact vs. the narcissist’s silent treatment & ghosting: The differences
- The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it
- Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now
- Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents
- Narc Speak: Words as weapons
- Getting past fear & leaving the narcissist
I was left broken and abused by my diagnosed narc BPD husband.
Dear CR. I’m sorry to hear of your experience. I hope you are getting support and healing from the pain you have endured. Sending you light and love, Maggie x
This is my 92 year old Dad. Mom used to be the peacemaker but she passed a year ago. My dad will almost always disagree with me just to disagree and make himself feel big. he will have occasional episodes where he becomes emotionally and verbally abusive. he honestly believes he is god. he is never wrong and is the authority on everything. he can do no wrong so no matter how he acts its always ok. he argues his innocence like his life depends on it.
I’m on to him and I do not back down. I take care of him so he does need me…he cant take care of himself. There were a couple times right after Mom passed that I almost walked out. I understand that he neither loves nor cares for me. I am a convenience.
That said i cannot ever convince him he is wrong etc, But I can and will decide what is right and what my course of action will be. I cannot ever trust him nor believe him. Nor can I ever let myself be in a position to rely on him or let him make decisions for my life. You cant get thru to them but you must always, always be in control of yourself. If it means WW3 then so be it.
Try to not get close, dont get attached or entangled…step back from any situation and breath. they cannot make you do anything unless you let them. Separate them off into a quarantine zone mentally and emotionally. trust no one but yourself.
Stand your ground, yea time to grow up and be tough…your life literally depends on it. they will try and possess you, it feeds them.
It sucks never being able to relax, trust. My dad has mental and emotional and physical issues. he doesnt get why he feels like he does or some of his issues. i explain it to him or suggest he go see the doctor and just because its my idea he either ignores or denies it. They try and hurt you by ignoring or belittling you. What you do is consider the source because you know whats going on. just stop making suggestions. Stop trying to help.
Good article, thank you
Dear Tachi, thank you for sharing your wisdom with the Narc Wise community. I am grateful. I’d love for you to write an article for the site on the issues you raise in protecting oneself. If you are interested, my email is email@example.com. You are one wise, strong individual. Take care of you. Light & love to you dear Tachi. Maggie x
I’m in the process of having a court situation with a narc i no longer get easily manipulated by my narc family thank goodness even tho they brought me back to live with them by manipulating the police and locking for smthn i didnt do
Dear James, you stay focused on not being manipulated. Be true to you. Stay close to your truth. Light & love to you dear James. Maggie x
Really good insight you provide here Maggie. I particularly like what you said about the two voices. Narcissists rely on you ignoring your gut feelings. And like you said, then provide the narrative to your reality. Then they control your reality. That’s why it’s so important to listen to your gut!
I’m glad I found this site. I’m currently going through the early stages of a separation. I’ve been married to a narcissist for just over 19 years. I left our home last year to try and live with my parents but that didn’t work out as my dad is also a narc. While I was there my wife was gaslighting me daily. I could have ignored her comments but didn’t. I ended up going back home and now, over a year later things have escalated to a very dark point. It hasn’t been easy especially with Covid restrictions. The saddest part of this situation is my daughter no longer talks to me. She’s been brainwashed by her narcissistic mother but she’s too young and impressionable to think otherwise. I’m currently seeking legal advice on how to proceed. I plan to leave by months end. It has been a very difficult last 3 days. I may have to leave earlier if things don’t improve but we need to resolve some financial issues. This is what’s triggered her recent outburst and ensuing silent treatment.
Thanks for the great info and resources.