Have you been a victim of narcissist gaslighting?
Those who have dealt with narcissistic abuse oftentimes don’t even know what gaslighting is.
As with everything related to dealing with a narcissist, education and knowledge are the first steps in untangling the cycle of abuse.
I remember the first time it dawned on me that I was dealing with a narcissist. It was a meme I randomly saw on Pinterest and it exploded so many lightbulbs in my brain!
From that moment on I knew what I was dealing with and could begin to change my tactics in order to better resolve the situation – not completely resolve it, just make it more manageable.
In my journey of trying to figure out exactly what I had gone through, I learned about the different ways narcissists will try to manipulate and control their victims.
One such way is gaslighting and it can be very difficult to deal with.
So if you are struggling with a narcissist or a narcissistic ex, here’s what you need to know about gaslighting as well as how to overcome its negative effects (and how to handle your children being gaslit too!):
What is Gaslighting?
The best way to explain gaslighting is to explain where the term originated from.
In the film Gaslight, the main character’s reality is manipulated by her husband. He does things like hides jewelry, accuses her of stealing it then places it in her purse.
Most notably, he dims and brightens the gaslights in their home and tells his wife that it is all in her head. Eventually, she begins to feel like she’s going insane.
Gaslighting is a power-gaining tactic used by narcissists to control their victims by forcing the victim to question their own perceptions and memories. This way, they can hold power over the victim by oppressing them.
Narcissists do this by lying, denying what has been said, and accusing you of doing things you didn’t do. Afterward, they use love and flattery to create a sense of confusion and guilt.
They will also rope in other people in your life and tell lies about you to turn them against you.
Gaslighting happens slowly and deliberately, just as it did in the aforementioned film. The tactic can be hard to spot in the beginning but, once you know what gaslighting is, you can begin to counteract its effects.
How to Deal with Gaslighting
1. Stay Focused on the Truth
When your gut is telling you that something the narcissist is saying and doing is wrong, it probably is.
You know your own truth and it’s important to stay focused on that. Never question or doubt yourself when the narcissist is telling you that you are wrong.
To help you stay in tune with what is real, use a journal to write down your thoughts and feelings. When the narcissist makes an accusation, write it down and what your true perceptions of the situation are.
This way, when the continue this behavior, you can refer back to your thoughts and be confident that you know what is really real.
2. Collect Evidence
Oftentimes, narcissists are going to make claims or accusations and then turn around and deny they were ever said.
When I talk about parallel parenting with a narcissist, one of the most important tactics is to have everything in writing – whether this is by email or text.
This way, you can gather proof of what was really said.
Keep in mind that the narcissist is not going to care that you have proof – they’ll just continue to spin more lies to cover up what they said and try to manipulate you.
Having proof is for you and the benefit of your mental health. While it may be hard to avoid calling them out or proving them wrong (because it won’t work), you’ll at least have a record of reality and will be less likely to buy into their lies.
3. Don’t React or Retaliate
Ugh, this is probably the hardest piece of advice to adhere to when it comes to a narcissist since we are innately wired to defend ourselves to other people. I know it was hard when I was dealing with my narcissistic ex.
The thing is, you can defend all you want but the narcissist is so wrapped up in their own delusions that you will never change their minds.
Plus, narcissists need conflict and attention to perpetuate the image of importance that they have created for themselves. The more you react or retaliate, the more you are giving in and encourage them to continue their abuse.
Refusing to give in to gaslighting, as well as other behaviors of a narcissist, is going to give them less and less reason to continue this abuse tactic.
4. Reduce Your Contact with the Narcissist
Like I mentioned above, it’s best to reduce your contact with the narcissist to written form. Not only does this help to deal with gaslighting but all other forms of abuse you may experience at their hand.
For one, you can practice parallel parenting when a child is involved. This means only contacting the narcissist when it is absolutely necessary, such as information regarding the health of the child, major life changes, and visitation schedules.
Otherwise, another effective tactic is to “gray rock” the narcissist. This means being as interesting as a gray rock to them by not sharing personal details about your life and blocking them on social media.
The more a narcissist knows about your life, the more they can use that against you – especially when it comes to gaslighting and involving your friends and family.
Have them gray rock the narcissist too. This will dramatically decrease their source of “ammunition”.
5. Talk It Out with a Friend
At the core of gaslighting is the feeling of confusion when it comes to knowing what is real and what is not.
Sometimes it helps to talk it out with a friend or close family member in order to get perspective on your situation as well as validate your experience.
Those who truly know you are going to be able to see the abusive treatment for what it is. Even if you feel that the narcissist is right about certain accusations, these are the people that are going to know the real you and know that they are not true.
6. Practice Self-Care
Dealing with a narcissist and gaslighting can certainly do a number on your head. It’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally in order to be healthy.
You can do this by practicing self-care which, as a mom, you should do anyway.
Self-care involves taking the time to relax and partake in enjoyable activities that help you reduce stress. This could be having warm baths, reading a book, having a nice meal, or going to the gym.
When you parent with a narcissist, even separately, the stresses of doing so never go away. The stronger you can keep your body and mind, the more resilient you will be to their abusive tactics.
7. Speak to a Professional
Gaslighting is a form of abuse which means that you may struggle to overcome the effects of it.
There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help when it comes to dealing with a narcissist. Their behaviors are intentionally cruel and their goal is to break you down mentally.
Never feel bad if they succeed. Their tactics are inconspicuous in order to trap you before you really know what’s going on.
Sometimes it helps to have someone objectively guide you through the healing process.
What if the Narcissist Gaslights the Children?
Gaslighting is a power play used by narcissists to maintain control – and their children are no exception.
Because narcissists are so self-absorbed and hyper-focused on maintaining their delusions, they will use their own children as pawns to maintain the fantasy, without caring if they get hurt along the way.
Unfortunately, narcissist gaslighting and narcissistic abuse is a hard thing to bring to family court, since narcissists know how to charm outsiders and create a situation that works in their favor.
Even if this isn’t something that can be dealt with legally, you can take control of the situation and help guide your little ones through the gaslighting by providing them with safety, comfort, and support.
How Narcissists Gaslight Their Children
There’s never a guarantee that a narcissist will gaslight your children since each narcissist is unique in how they operate.
However, here are some signs that your ex is gaslighting your children:
- They blame their children for things that are not their fault.
- They make fun of your children’s emotions.
- They tell your children what and how to think.
- They are always right and everyone else, including your children, is always wrong.
You may notice that they use these tactics to turn your children against you.
While the way your narcissist treats your children may be terrible, you can be the determining factor as to whether this is the norm in their life or not.
Supporting Your Children
Even if you’re just realizing what your narcissistic ex is doing, it’s never too late to help your children heal from the damage.
By following the above tips to dealing with gaslighting when it comes to yourself, you are already paving the way for your children to live a less stressful life together.
Depending on your children’s ages, you can even help them implement them as well.
Otherwise, here are some other things you can do to help your children navigate through this mess:
- Be honest with them. This doesn’t mean dishing the nitty-gritty details about your ex. It means listening to them and validating their feelings without sugar-coating the situation.
- Show them what love is. By definition, narcissists can never truly love their children – but you can. Always show your children respect, care, and compassion.
- Talk about boundaries. Because children see parents as authority figures, they oftentimes assume they have to automatically obey them. Talk to your child about what they are willing to put up with and how they can navigate that situation.
- Always put your child first. It’s important to approach your situation with a narcissist in a calm manner – not only to deny them the pleasure of seeing you upset but to create as much of an atmosphere of peace for your children as you can. No matter how you deal with the narcissist, always put your little ones first.
It can be an uphill battle for sure since the narcissist will fight you at every turn, but you ultimately have control over how you choose to parent your children.
Take Your Life Back, Mama
The best defense you have against a narcissist is to show them that their behaviors cannot derail your life.
Even if you are destroyed and hurting and have to put on a show – eventually you will buy into your confidence and be able to live a life free from the effects of narcissistic abuse.
This is the best thing you can do when it comes to how to deal with a gaslighting narcissist.
Have you ever dealt with gaslighting? Or narcissistic abuse in general? If your eel comfortable doing so, I’d love to hear your stories!