“If it’s destroying you, then it isn’t love, my dear.” – Unknown
You almost don’t remember how bright and beautiful your smile used to be. You’ve become a shadow of your former self because of the manipulative and unkind words from your partner. At first, you thought it was just a passing cloud and they probably didn’t mean what they said. But you now hear it every day; how you can’t do anything right, how you’re so sensitive, how crazy and dramatic you are, why you’re always wrong…. anything to make you the villain.
Which part of it is positive criticism and which is gaslighting? You can’t really tell because you’re not sure there’s a difference anymore. You may be dealing with narcissistic gaslighting.
I want to start by saying, it is brave of you to want to know more about this topic because it’s a sign that you want the dysfunctional cycle of abuse to end and you want to do right by yourself – that’s commendable! Let’s break it all down.
Gaslighting happens when someone (the manipulator) intentionally twists the events, memories, perceptions, reality, and thoughts of another for their own selfish gain. It can happen in any form of relationship – work, friendship, family – but it’s common in abusive intimate relationships.
When the victim’s thought process is constantly undermined, brainwashed, and distorted by the manipulator, he or she may begin to question their sanity and self-worth so much so they no longer feel confident in who they are. It often starts slowly and one may not even realize it until they’re no longer themselves.
Examples of Gaslighting Behavior
1. Blatant denial and intentional forgetting – telling lies to avoid accountability or take responsibility for mistakes. They even demand proof of things they said.
“I don’t remember saying that.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “You’re confusing me with someone else.”
2. Trivializing their victim’s thoughts – making them feel small, unimportant, or unnecessary to erode their self-worth or make them question themselves.
“You’re always wrong.” “You don’t do anything well.” “I can’t believe you said that.”
3. Diverting the attention from the problem to personal attacks – manipulators quickly change the subject and twist it to make it seem like it’s the victim’s fault.
“How many times do we have to go through this?” “You’re always bringing this up.” “You always want to fight.” “You’re so provocative.”
4. Making the victim question the validity of their own thoughts and memories by providing countering information – trying to discredit what the other person knows or remembers by replacing it with false events.
“You don’t have a very good memory.” Get your facts straight.” “I can’t trust your judgment.” “You’re always making stuff up.” “You’re imagining things.”
5. Always playing the victim – if something bad happens, they project it onto their victims to the extent of blaming them for their personal failures.
“It’s always my fault according to you.” “Why I’m I the bad guy?” “Can’t you be the bigger person for once in your life?” “I’m the one who should be mad not you.”
You Are Experiencing Gaslighting If:
1. You feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells. You are afraid to speak your mind in fear that it might upset your partner. You don’t feel safe enough to express your deepest concerns and show your vulnerabilities because they might be used against you in the future.
2. You have developed self-esteem issues. Your abusive partner doesn’t see anything good in you and always highlights your weaknesses. This has made you believe that you’re not good enough and that there’s something in you that needs fixing. You feel miserable about yourself and you don’t remember who you were before the abuse.
3. Your mental health is suffering. You’re more sad, worried, and depressed. You’re constantly crying and unmotivated to face life. All the abuse and shaming you’ve endured has stripped you of your joy and sunshine. You’re mentally tired from all the emotional labor and it’s manifesting as fatigue and anxiety.
4. You have questioned your sanity. With all the counter information and lies, you often feel like you’re crazy and don’t remember things as they happened. You’re so confused and you’ve become unsure of everything. You don’t trust your own judgment or record of events and it’s like you need permission from your partner to think and exist freely.
5. Others have mentioned that you’re no longer yourself. Your friends and family can see through you and you may have had comments about how you’ve changed – and not for the positive.
They can tell that there’s a difference in how you speak, dress, behave, etc. And more often than not the concern is like, “What happened to you? You used to be so full of life!”
5 Things You Can Say to Someone Who Is Gaslighting You:
1. “My feelings are valid and I hope you can respect them.”
2. “I know my truth and I’m sticking to it.”
3. “You are not really listening to my point of view like I’m doing with you.”
4. “I recognize how you feel but this is also how I feel.”
5. “I am sure of how I remember things and it’s not how you’re saying it.”
Gaslighting can have lasting impact on the survivor’s wellbeing. If this article resonates with you, keep in mind that abuse happened to you but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Healing is possible and even if the process can be a bit hard, recovery is possible. Speaking to a therapist or coach trained in narcissistic abuse is the second step you should take with the first being recognizing that something is wrong – which you already have!
“The wound is not my fault but the healing is my responsibility.” – Marianne Williamson