Narc Mind Games: Gaslighting

The more I learn about narcissism and the techniques used by narcissists, the more I understand what was happening in my own life. My Narcissist used gaslighting to the extreme, and I finally now understand why I felt so freaking confused for so long. So first, what is gaslighting?

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

Warning Signs of Gaslighting*:

  • Second-Guessing: living in fear of doing the wrong thing
  • Asking “Am I too sensitive?”: Looking for approval before doing anything
  • Apologizing: constantly apologizing for never doing anything right
  • Lack joy and happiness in life: Feeling confused, lonely, frightened and unhappy
  • Withholding Information from Others: Shame causes you to defend and withdraw
  • Knowing something is terribly wrong, but cant figure out what: the more the victim doubts their own reality, the more they depend on the abuser.
  • Trouble making simple decisions: losing autonomy, basing decision-making off of the wants and needs of the abuser.
  • You have a sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, fun-loving, and relaxed: losing yourself by placating, complying and appeasing the abuser.
  • You feel hopeless and joyless: What once seemed like heaven turned into hell.

My Story of Gaslighting:
On-top of the ‘standard’ mental and emotional abuse that comes along with marrying a narcissist, my Narcissist became physically abusive pretty early on. I withstood three years of relatively constant physical abuse. It ranged from slapping, pinching, poking, pushing, hair-pulling, and choking. He never left visible marks, and very rarely left any physical evidence behind at all. In the entire three years I can only remember a few bruises and a purple lip. I became the outlet for the Narcissist’s full range of anger… everything from the traumas he had experienced at war to the trauma he had experienced in childhood… I somehow became the whipping post.

I eventually reached my breaking point, and found the courage to pack up and leave. I flew across the world, took all of my belongings, and went home to my parents. As with many stories of domestic abuse, I eventually believed the Narcissist’s pleas and promises and I ended up going back. My one condition with the Narcissist was that I would only return if the physical abuse ended. The real mind-f*ck and beginning of the gaslighting in my story began from this point on. You see, the Narcissist actually stopped physically abusing me. In the early days of my return he had a few flare-ups and regressions, but within 6 months of my return the Narcissist stopped the physical abuse completely. The last 5 years of our marriage have been chock full of emotional and mental abuse, but not a single instance of physical violence.

From this point on, the Narcissist made me the monster. I was dealing with significant trauma from the years of abuse, and I had developed some intense triggers and intense anger towards him for the things that he had put me through. The Narcissist used every single reaction, every single tear, every single defensive reply, and every single sign of anger from me as a way to show me that I was not thankful for him, I was not compassionate, I was unforgiving, and ::gasp:: I was actually the one abusing him. The Narcissist regularly pointed out to me that he loved me enough to stop his anger and stop his physical abuse… and then turned the tables to point out that I must not love him enough to be able to give up my anger.

For the past 2 years at least, I have been in a fog of self-doubt, I have constantly felt like I was not being good enough, and I have been severely depressed. I have read more self-help books about controlling anger, calming triggers, changing reactions, choosing love than I can even remember. Ironically, the thing that drove me into therapy to begin with was that I honestly thought that I was battling an issue with anger and that if I didn’t get help that I was destroying my marriage. Within the last 4 months of our marriage I began attending accupuncture and EMDR therapy to help me with my triggers and my angry reactions, thinking that I was the problem and that I needed to seek help to be the type of wife that my Narcissist deserved. (Lucky for me, the EMDR therapy sessions actually helped me start to sift through the mental mess, and realize what was really going on.)

The gaslighting literally left me feeling like I was crazy. I felt like I couldn’t figure out reality. I felt deep inside of me that something was very wrong… but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I would enter into a conversation with the Narcissist feeling convicted and knowing my perspective and I would get so turned around that I would come out of the conversation agreeing with him… and usually apologizing. I felt like I was being abused, I felt like I was being mistreated, and I felt like things in our marriage were anything but normal. Yet somehow the Narcissist would always remind me that he stopped abusing me 5 years ago, and that I was the one who was angry.. I was the one with triggers… I was the one who was depressed. I couldn’t quantify anything, I couldn’t win any argument… I literally believed that my marriage was crumbling because of me, and yet no matter what I did to try to fix myself and fix the problems, things never got better.

Even now, the few random texts I will get from the Narcissist (that I do not reply to) will say something along these lines: “You are the one who walked away from our marriage, you are the one who gave up on us. I was there supporting you to the very end, and you didn’t want to choose love, so you chose anger instead. You think you know the man I am, but you are confused with the man I used to be. You are stuck in the first 3 years of our marriage and cannot see the man I grew into. You don’t know me.. you just think you do.”

It still takes work, almost daily, to be able to see the marriage for what it really was and not get caught up in the self-doubt, blame, and crazy-making that the Narcissist put me through. Distance definitely helps me keep my perspective and not get sucked into the gaslighting again. Going full-on no contact was the absolutely best thing that I have done through this divorce.

If you think you are in a situation where you are being gaslighted, there are a ton of great resources available on the internet. I have listed a few good ones below. My other advice is really just to listen to you gut. You know… deep down somewhere that you are not crazy. You know that if you told your family, your friends, even complete strangers about the things you are dealing with that they would tell you – its abuse. Don’t get sucked into to the narcissist’s techniques! If you are going through a break-up or divorce with a narcissit – cut off all communication, it is the fastest and easiest way to clear their gaslighting out of your life and begin to see reality.

Are You Being Gaslighted?

The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (*Source)

16 thoughts on “Narc Mind Games: Gaslighting

  1. I have been divorced from a narcissist for 6 years, and he still manages to ruin my life. I am trying to parent our two kids with him, and sometimes I just wish my life away because I don’t want to deal with him anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh Lovely Haze, I can only imagine. Trying to coparent with a Narc must take constant work on your part to not get sucked into the crap all over again. Has he remarried, or is he dating anyone? I would think that if he had someone else to fill his ego you might get off the hook a bit…

      Like

  2. Wow I could not believe how much my life with my ex partner mirrored your version. Mine just seems to be a condensed 2 year version. When the relationship ended I also started some heavy duty therapy for my ‘angry outbursts’, and anger I felt. So that I didn’t ruin a future relationship. In the early days trying to co parent with him was just out of this world and I was still in the midst of the gaslight blur. Even a year on, I still feel the after effects as I try to navigate my way back to me.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lizzieloveslife16, that has been one of the crazy things for me – realizing how similar my story is with so many other people. NPD is a diagnosable personality disorder because it follows a pattern and they are so similar. It has definitely been eye opening. I can’t remember how many times I sat there in a situation feeling like “no one would ever understand this”, or “I dont even know how to explain it”, and yet I have found so many people who know it all too well. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been reading more of your posts and was inspired to post something that I wrote a while ago in note form when I almost felt like I was writing about someone else. It feels very personal to put myself out there but also cathartic in its own way. Tonight I read your post about the past being used against you. In the end throes of the relationship, my past was constantly thrown at me, leaving me feeling worthless and reliving earlier traumas rather than the present. X

        Liked by 1 person

      2. lizzieloveslife16, it is so damaging when someone who you think ‘loves you’ warps your own perception of self until you hate yourself. I still find myself working on the self-love piece of the equation because The Narcissist did so much to me in that area. I hope you are on your path to healing too. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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