What is Gaslighting? To any person just waking up, it’s the essence of Narcissistic Abuse. It’s a noun, verb, and adjective that has “become a thing” in pop culture self-help movements, a word used to describe a classification of social interaction, an actual physical activity, and it is a word that can be used to describe someone’s conversation style (or personality).
People who gaslight others to an extreme are typically incredibly egocentric and narcissistic. Most often times, gaslighting arguments (meaning conversation assertions made in a social debate or discussion, not knock down-drag out WWE style wrestling events) are simply polite ways to say things to other people using doublespeak to convey a meaning or hint at true psychological status. When people ask how we are doing, most will respond, “Fine!” or “Great!” out of habit to strangers and friends alike.
Because if we are having a hard time or tough day, Flying Monkeys (Enablers and mild Covert Narcissists) and people with full-blown personality disorders have taught us diligently as children that to respond to other people in duplicitous and misleading ways is both morally correct and socially appropriate.
If you are seeking to avoid a long conversation and hoping to set a healthy privacy boundary when and if someone asks how you are doing, resist the urge to gaslight them. If you are gaslighting, you tell them everything is, “Fine.” But guess what? We all know what the word F-I-N-E means in real life…
F’d up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional.
So, to avoid gaslighting, try — as a new habit challenge — responding with something more honest. A simple statement that conveys an honest gist is all it takes to stop yourself from misleading a person for the sake of what… elevating the status of your own prestige by misleading people in order to keep ego inflated?
Try telling a person something like…
“I have been working like crazy, am absolutely exhausted, my house could use a good spring cleaning, but seriously. Seeing you today and hearing you care enough to ask? That means so much to me. Thank you for caring. I am doing wonderfully at this moment thanks to seeing YOU. How are YOU doing? Seriously?”
See what we did there? Validated our own place of psychologically and emotionally exhausted truth while avoiding going too deep for a casual conversation but staying true to the truth. Then, we shared something personal as a common empathy denominator (playing the Vegas odds that no matter who you talk with on a personal level, nearly everyone can relate to the feeling they have dust bunnies big enough to stalk family pets in their house). Following the “admission” that allowed an empathic connection, we shared a heartfelt word of thanks to the person taking the time to bother to inquire about how we are doing. After that, we gave them the opportunity to both feel recognized, valued, validated as a kind person, and from a Pavlov’s dog behavior standpoint alone are likely to have positioned ourselves in such a way that the next parts of any conversation likely to ensure will have more spiritual, social, and emotional depth.
Shift gears for a moment to the gaslighting professional.
Yes — we said gaslighting professional, using the term like an adjective to give the noun a verb context.
Gaslighting is what occurs — meaning becomes a real thing… as in a NOUN (meaning person, place, or thing) — when one person makes a verbal statement with intent to lead. With intent to lead may or may not involve a conscientious awareness that we, as human speakers, are trying to deceive.
Roll with us on this one.
You are in the supermarket. The cashier asks, “How are you today?” We answer, “Fine, thank you… and you?” <not caring>
THAT is gaslighting. It is the most common and simple form of gaslighting, something that comes from a narcissistic impetus to make ourselves look better than we actually are at all times while keeping us distanced well beyond arm’s length from other human beings who may inquire.
Is it evil? Nope — unless you consider lying to other people to self-promote or for personal gain. In this case, personal gain may have been as simple a thing as not wanting to add data to our brains that might be input by a yammering cashier.
If you are a person who is hoping to live an honest life… one who teaches their children not to lie (for instance)… understand that honesty — meaning brutal honesty — is seldom the best policy. But some deliberate kindness and re-framing of our conversational replies to other people can net huge human gains if humanity resists the simplest urge to tell white lies.
Telling a cashier or a co-worker or your boss zip, zero, nada about your personal life and mental status is arguably outside the bounds of “need to know” status. But if we spend all day lying to strangers — especially engaging in this habit over and over in front of children — something that is evil (meaning the opposite of live) starts to happen.
Magically, when we lie by habit in one area of our lives, lying becomes part and parcel of our character. This is where the professional gaslighting players start to set up camp on our doorsteps — people we knowingly welcome for some odd reason into our home and hearth.
Enter the professional gaslighter.
Everything they say in conversation is both competitive — meaning seen as a competition — and is used to steer.
The more narcissistic the person (meaning egocentric and lacking the natural ability to process a full range of human emotion including but not limited to empathy), the more likely they are to be pathological liars. And guess what? Pathological liars who have high IQs don’t need a professional set of degrees to manipulate other people. They simply always have to stay on their toes, ready to mislead a targeted victim any given way without regard for the truth in any given situation.
The professional gaslighter is the person who no one knows has family problems at home.
The professional gaslighter is the serial cheater who convinces their spouse that their cheating is all in their head, blaming them for being “jealous”, “suspicious”, and “untrustworthy” (of all odd narcissistic flips instead).
The professional gaslighter is the politician who cons less intelligent citizens into focusing on an irrelevant issue in order to keep media and social awareness spotlights off clear and present dangers. It’s arguing about gay marriage rights and generating news leads about women’s bathroom habits or talking about whether or not someone is dateable when world issues like refugee starvation or Cluster B personalities infiltrating all the religious organizations of the world keep happening.
They are the consummate verbal magician — the one who will punch you in the face then verbally explain why it is your own fault for causing it, who will tell you that “it’s not that bad”, “you brought it on yourself”, “stop crying”, and “you are over-reacting”. If truly caught; caught and they cannot weaken the mind of the victim to the point of getting away with vicious deeds, then lies about the incident start being told to anyone who will listen to them. Seriously. Narcissistic predators are compulsively attention seeking. Constantly demanding their name be in the spotlight, they cannot wait to tell you all about how awesome they are and how “crazy” anyone is who refuses to take their verbal, physical, psychological, emotional, financial, or spiritual abuse while naked, bent over a barrel, and/or prostrating.
If they hurt you (intentionally or accidentally), a professional gaslighter will use the technique called gaslighting to confuse the victim and any prospective social judge or juror into believing whatever spin angle or B.S. convenient fiction (read: partial truths spun in a creative weave of epic bullshittery) that the gaslighting professional wants them to believe.
What is gaslighting, really, then?
More than telling a person you are fine when you are not.
A professional gaslighter tells his wife he’ll be home in an hour… then waltzes in the door 3 days later incensed at his wife for her feeling unloved, lied to, unsupported, and angry.
A professional gaslighter tells her husband the bills are paid, hides the bulk of them, and heads to the local mall to go shopping. She promises to cut back on spending verbally but hides the packages, applies for more credit cards, and continues to spend, spend, spend recklessly, selfishly, and wildly.
A person who has been pervasively gaslit may believe they are the cause of their Abuser’s ill temper. If the Abuser had a bad day at work then comes home and rages at the children, kicks the dog out of the way while walking, and bitches out a spouse, the spouse being abused may spend her entire life walking on eggshells while teaching the children how to actively enable.
The “worthless” spouse cannot do anything right. Neither can the adult child of a narcissistic parent.
Kind words are reserved for strangers in the home of a gaslighting professional. The Abuser appears charming in public but at home? In real life? In situations where the gaslighting expert has time alone with victims without witnesses?
That’s when the real gaslighting conversations happen.
Innocent spouses are made to feel like they are to blame for every woe or foible of the narcissistic predator. So are children.
It does not matter if the abuser has NPD, BPD, HPD, or is Anti-Social by nature, all are experts at lying and manipulating. All are gaslighters.
If they tell you to believe that you are going to hell unless you join their church, they WANT you to believe them. Why? Not because they have your best interest at heart.
If they tell you to stay with them, that they are going to change, or that they are sorry (when they really aren’t) — and you believe them — you have been “narcissized”. People who are told someone else’s behavior is going to change are being gaslit when and if the person doing the apologizing is insincere.
Gaslighting is being dragged to pre-school Sunday school sermons and being told you are born flawed, are a “sinner” who must submit to conforming to religious ideologies and repent your wicked empathetic ways or burn in hell.
Gaslighting is being told a parent who beats a child relentlessly at the slightest provocation or who routinely lashes out irrationally and erratically in anger is acting in any way, shape, or form like a good human being or loving parent.
Gaslighting is overlooking a child’s age-related challenging behaviors and deliberately overlooking the worst of them while claiming “kids will be kids”.
Gaslighting is telling millions of people on television that children should be kept out of adult circumstances at all times for their best interest — handicapping intelligent and highly sensitive emotional children who witness grown up situations and/or traumatizing events and have questions about how to deal with it. Lying to them and minimizing is child VICTIMIZATION — depriving them of honest role models who — without assigning blame — could be role modeling how to deal with things like grief, upset, anger management, and emotional loss, using traumatizing events experienced or witnessed by a child to help them learn how to set healthy psychological boundaries that will help them learn how to make better life decisions when they are teens or young adults facing the same or similar situations.
Gaslighting is speaking in all or nothing terms without leaving room for situational ethics — and by that we do not in any way, shape, or form mean minimization, writing revisionist history, or invalidating any honest person’s subjective perspective.
Gaslighting is being told life is not fair — when actually every action by physical law has an equal or opposite reaction one can gently, lovingly, and quite simplistically steer.
It’s being told anything worth having takes hard work.
It’s being told an abusive parent is over-disciplining a child “for their own good”.
It’s blaming a date rape victim for leading their attacker on or blaming them for putting themselves in an environment that they “let it happen”.
It’s victim shaming a child into believing their birth “ruined” the life of a Malignant Narcissist parent — or worse… made it.
It’s telling friends and family members we stay in abusive relationships “for the sake of the children” knowing full well our own fear, selfish desire to remain in our homes, and to keep sentimental or material goods prevents us, as domestic abuse victims, bound and determined to stay put.
It’s telling a child we stayed in a hateful, hurtful, or destructive environment for their best interest — implying they are somehow to blame or responsible ethically for harming their own parent for their childhood good.
Gaslighting is a noun, one that classifies a human social conversational construct. It’s doublespeak at best — epic thriller horror movie brainwashing and mind control at worst.
Some children are raised to believe that they are going to burn in hell if they do not pledge their lives to Jesus and swear an oath of loyalty to be bound by the laws of the pastor at their local church. Can you believe it? Others are told if you cannot convert a person to your religion, they are your enemy. One set wears baseball caps — the other? Head wraps.
Are you starting to catch the narcissistic drift?
Gaslighting is the art of telling people part, some, or all you know — or making up stories specifically tailored to manipulate the mind and emotions of the LISTENER.
People who gaslight the most effectively from a non-judgemental status follow a hierarchy of sorts. Dark Triads are the best. Malignant Narcissists with Psychopathic tendencies, they have the least ability to feel empathy on a purely physical level. Always grandstanding and attention seeking — especially when striving to convince people they are “normal” — they will work and rework the truth from their own publicity spin angle to the point that outright lies fly out of their mouths… lies and tall tales they defend as honest truths without guilt, shame, or remorse emphatically.
Such people study other people looking for insights and clues about how to mirror their behaviors to win trust and/or sympathy. But that’s not the super scary part.
People with Cluster B personalities size everyone around them up constantly looking for their vulnerabilities.
Worried about your weight? Bam — the more malignant the predator, the more like he or she is to work jibes about it into the conversation. Expect them to leave constant passive aggressive reminders in your inbox, too — letting you know that although they tell you that you look fine that they really want you to feel insecure about yourself in order to make you more easy to trigger (thereby giving them the power rush of knowing they were able to psychologically dominate and emotionally control).
Worries about a physical feature you cannot change? Every time you start to feel good about yourself for something positive, guess what conversation topic gets recirculated? Got a great job promotion that made you smile? Awesome — but your teeth look weird.
It’s all a game to psychologically dominate. Dominate. DOMINATE.
What does that mean? It means that if a person seeking attention or who gets off on power and control wants to pee in your proverbial cornflakes every time you are happy so the focus in your mind stays on their superiority or their IMPRESSION of your own “inferiority”, they are actively all chips in while playing the poker-style game.
Poker is a great way to understand how the narcissistic psychology operates with regard to social convention. The Narcissist is egocentric and wants to win; he or she (albeit completely irrationally, illogically, and delusionally speaking) perceives each human being as a competitor.
Constantly striving to one up or “win”, they only seem to feel a sense of personal accomplishment when and if their triumph involves eliciting hurt and spiritually bewildered emotions from the best, brightest, and most loving of targets. That leads to the greatest gaslighting con of all — making an Empath or HSP (an intellectually and emotionally gifted child or adult with a Highly Sensitive Personality) believe they are hard to get along with, over-sensitive, not trying hard enough as a People Pleaser, and/or that they are unlovable straight out of the box as-is.
It’s the ultimate coup for a bully to terrorize a perceived attention rival to the point their light dims, they psychologically and emotionally are crushed, and left in a heaping sobbing mess of a discard pile while the truly toxic and morally abhorrent person flits off to celebrate their social gains. For real — the scapegoat dying or a horribly painful, long-term illness or committing suicide is their actual AIM.
Make no mistake about it, the narcissistic person in YOUR peer group or family unit has no one’s interest at heart but their own. No matter what the situation, narcy people lie. If their lips are moving — telling you how much they love you or how terrible they think you are — seriously, ladies and gents… understand you cannot take a word they say without factoring in their motivation. If their lips are moving they are probably lying — unless they tell you that you are too good for them or being too nice in some small way.
Narcy people with selfish intent tell gaslighting stories to children first and foremost that turn out to be grown up passive and active beliefs. Narcy people can change — meaning they can mature psychologically and emotionally as well as recover from terrible abuse and even the worst of cult brainwashing with regard to religion, lifestyle, personal relationships, and family problems in a way that people with NPD, ASPD, or comorbid conditions like Anti-Social personalities can’t.
Narcissists are people with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). The key point of the diagnostic condition is pervasive, immutable, caustic behavior with functional limitations extending to biology. If a person’s brain has a limited capacity to “feel” the sensation of empathy, getting them to even conceptually understand what the word means is more tricky than communicating with Helen Keller pre-socialization.
Narcy people can be educated to see dysfunctional thinking and lifestyle patterns. The more malignant a person’s personality, the less likely they are to feel empathy for victims or to behave in ways that demonstrate they have even the most rudimentary ability to comprehend that their own narcissistic lifestyle habits lead to nothing but a terminal end both for their relationship potentialities and ultimately for them.
Narcy people in recovery can benefit from working 12 step programs, noting that Narcissism is at the core of most addictions. The substances change. What remains is a pervasive lack of care for how an addict or alcoholic’s behavior while under the influence affects people in the world around them. Addiction, whether to drugs, sex, work, money, shopping, complaining, insulting, bullying, behaving in grossly brash or immature ways, or aggressing, has everything to do with entitlement-based thinking — a problem common to all people with Cluster B personality disorders that range from partially scoring on the DSM-5 criteria range to meeting all the diagnostic criteria bullet points in a way that makes Ted Bundy look tame.
Narcy people can be “saved from themselves” from a technical aspect. It requires a team effort of all their friends and family. It requires group think about how to change behaviors using a mix of 12 step, psychotherapy, and behavior analysis to set new NLP programs in motion to help the narcissistic person start learning to think more from a WE win mentality by habitual nature than a me-me-me perspective. Narcy people who stopped psychologically or emotionally maturing at the age of 13 because they started adding alcohol, illicit drugs, and/or pain medications into their daily living routine can literally be brought back from the edge of social and moral collapse… if they are not true Narcissists or people with ASPD.
People who are sadists — people who constantly manufacture chaos then deny responsibility for provoking others reactions in a second and more defiantly malicious act of gaslighting — those are the kind of people to simply cut ties with immediately upon social detection. People who laugh the loudest at America’s Funniest Home Videos or Wipeout. People who can’t watch enough Jackass movie or TV series episodes. Those… those are the people most likely to be the most covert manipulators you can imagine.
Because people who don’t feel powerful in and of themselves or who covet happiness tend to think illogically. It’s no more sinister than that. The people at Alcoholics Anonymous tend to call it “stinking thinking” — a habitual undercurrent that commingles self-sabotage on the part of the narcy person with outright hostile (albeit covert) actions.
Covert Narcissism is the modern psychology term for what our grandparents and great-grandparents called “passive aggression”. Once you wrap your head around that juicy little detail, the, “Ah ha!” moments connecting covert psychological manipulation to gaslighting.
Are you fine? If not, don’t say it.
Are you fine? DO say it… but not in such a way that your success depends on another human being’s abject failure.
Stop competing with other people for love, affection, attention, or to impress. The world takes a while to come into focus but honest — it truly is like stepping out of the cave and into the sunlight that Plato and Socrates probably described best. Television series writer and book author Shondra Rhimes describes it according to contemporary terms as people having a choice whether or not they make the decision to, “Stand in the sun.”
People who gaslight miss the sun. That’s the only way we know how to express what it feels like to understand that success in life depends on successfully gliding through a series of now moments.
By speaking our truths in a compassionate way, we shift from egocentric and terminal decay-causing perspectives to something more honest. Limiting gaslighting doublespeak in casual conversations to the best of our functional human capacity is the first step to Narcissistic Abuse recovery for victims as well as abusive antagonists.