How did Ross Rosenberg create his Observe, Don’t Absorb Technique?
“The Observe Don’t Absorb technique was created without knowing what I was doing,” Rosenberg told me, adding that it was 30 years ago when he’d been in an extremely abusive relationship. His partner at the time had BPD (borderline personality disorder).
“I realized had all the power over me if she could trigger me and get me mad, because she, like any person with BPD, would get angry, hurt me, and then cycle back and become in love with me again,” Rosenberg said. “And so the best way that she could feel better is if she could make me as angry as she was.”
Once he realized what was going on, he knew he needed to do something to protect himself.
“So, I developed this technique to safely and in a healthy manner disassociate from the environment and the person trying to trigger me or activate me,” he said, adding that the lesson comes from a George bernard shaw saying that goes, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”
How does the Observe, Don’t Absorb Technique work?
Rosenberg said that the whole point of the Observe, Don’t Absorb Technique “is the narcissist, when they want power over you, they want to get you into what I call their wrestling ring, and that is where they always are in control, and they have all the power.”
“So once they get a reaction out of you, through many techniques (including induced conversation technique), you lose your power because narcissists know how to fight,” he said. “They know how to manipulate, they know how to guilt and shame; and an SLD or codependent can never stand their own.”
“Essentially, the Observe, Don’t Absorb Technique is a way to safely disassociate from a narcissist who gains power by triggering your emotions and making you fight them in a fight that you can never win,” Rosenberg said.
What is Self-Love Deficicit Disorder?
Rosenberg said he’d never liked the term codependency because “codependency” is antiquated and it doesn’t really mean anything anymore.
“So I decided to come up with a replacement term, and it took me a while to figure out, but ultimately it was Self-Love Deficit Disorder, and that’s the problem,” he said. “And the person (with the problem) is self-love deficient, so SLDD for the problem, SLD for the person.”
He said he came up with these terms to help people understand that “what they’re suffering from not only has a name that fits the problem, but also gives you direction on what to solve in order to not to have that problem anymore.”
Ross Rosenberg’s definition of narcissism
Rosenberg said that as he was writing his book,The Human Magnet Syndrome, it was incredibly important to make specific diagnoses so that people knew what he was talking about.
“There are so many people out there on the internet, Youtube, TikTok, everywhere, that use the term, and they don’t have a mental health background,” he said. “So I don’t use the word narcissism; I use the word pathological narcissism.”
“These individuals have personality disorders as defined in the Diagnostic Statistic Manual used by psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and psychologists,” he said. “So I don’t use the term narcissist to talk about someone because that’s an ex that’s a description of someone is being narcissistic, but when I say pathological narcissist, I am talking about someone with a personality disorder.”
He added that pathological narcissists are harmful to the people around them and unable to understand or know what they’re doing.
“So, therefore, when I use the word narcissist, I’m using a term that is a clinical explanation of a mental health disorder.” Rosenberg continued. “So now there’s little dispute on who’s a narcissist or not because therapists, doctors. professionals such as I cannot use a term unless they fit the diagnostic profile.”
Ross Rosenberg on Gaslighting
“Gaslighting is a manipulative ploy used by pathological narcissists who have sociopathic traits,” Rosenberg said. “In other words, they know what they’re doing. They’re not the garden variety narcissist who’s oblivious to their narcissism.”
“Gaslighting is a manipulative, systematically perpetrated strategy that pathological narcissists use to control and often hurt their victims,” he continued, adding that narcissists do this by instilling a narrative about a person that something is wrong with them, when nothing was.
Or, he said, narcissits will manipulate you “with a problem they had that was originally mild, while systematically manipulating the environment to prove their narrative.”
Of course, the victim eventually recognizes this fake narrative and identifies with the problem. And, Rosenberg said, “As the gaslighter manipulates them to identify with the problem, he then builds a narrative that they are needy, unlikable, and would do better if they isolate.”
The Cherry on Top of the Gaslighting Sundae
“The cherry on top of the gaslighting sundae is then the gaslighter portrays himself as the only one that loves, accepts, and will protect the victim; therefore, the victim has taken on a psychological problem or disorder, feeling broken unlovable, and encouraged to isolate,” he said. “And then picking the person that has designed the whole plan. And then no one in their outside world – friends, family, or loved ones – can get to them to try to bring them back to reality. And therefore, they are trapped – and sometimes forever trapped – by the scheming, sociopathic, gaslighting narcissist.”
Just in case you’re not familiar with the term, gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique often used by narcissists to make you doubt your thoughts, your ideas, your own judgment, your ability to understand, and even your own perception of the world around you.
How can you gaslight yourSELF?
See, we really CAN gaslight ourselves – and it’s a phenomenon that isn’t just seen in people who have been in toxic relationships with narcissists. Of course, it’s probably most prominent among this particular population. But it doesn’t have to be the story of your life. There are ways to identify self-gaslighting and ways to overcome it. So, let’s talk about self-gaslighting.
What is self-gaslighting?
Self-gaslighting, sometimes referred to as “internalized gaslighting,” is what you’re doing when you’re suppressing your own thoughts and emotions, and when you’re actively telling yourself that your own thoughts, ideas, feelings, and perceptions are inaccurate or invalid.
An easier way to understand self-gaslighting might be to see it as a sort of remnant of the narcissist’s voice in your own head, in which you sort of “do the dirty work” on the narcissist’s behalf. In other words, you minimize and invalidate yourself and your own thoughts, rather than waiting for someone else to do it. This is often a result of years or decades of conditioning by the narcissist.
Why is self-gaslighting a problem in narcissistic abuse recovery?
When you’re going through narcissistic abuse, you may have developed the self-gaslighting habit as an attempt to pre-screen your conversations with the narcissist in order to reduce stress on yourself and the relationship. It might have been safer for you to sort of censor yourself before speaking.
This mindset isn’t uncommon with survivors, but it’s problematic for you because it causes you to be overly cautious and not trust yourself and your decisions. This keeps you emotionally and psychologically stuck in the toxic relationship, even if you’ve physically left it. It makes moving forward and creating a life that makes you feel happy and fulfilled nearly impossible.
It keeps you stuck in victim mode and never allows you to evolve beyond the role of “survivor,” even if you do manage to remove yourself from the direct influence of the narcissist. It makes you feel not good enough, not smart enough, not “enough” in general. You become a disconnected, fragmented shell of your former self.
What are the signs you’re self-gaslighting?
1. You don’t trust yourself.
Whenever you have to make a decision or a change in your life, you worry that you’ll make the wrong choice. This can be debilitating, especially if you don’t have anyone you can trust to discuss your choices with. In reality, you might even prefer that someone else just tells you what to do – otherwise, you worry you’ll ruin everything, and that you’ll only have yourself to blame.
2. You don’t know who you are these days.
You don’t know how to talk about yourself, and if someone asks you to do so, you’re quick to change the subject. You find yourself feeling numb, or lost, or like you aren’t even sure who you really are anymore. You might not know what you like or what you want, and even if someone directly asks you, you can’t explain who you are in any meaningful way. After spending years or decades focused on the narcissist’s needs, wants, and whims, you have lost the ability to talk about yourself. You’re far more comfortable letting other people talk about themselves, and will quickly change the subject if it turns to you.
3. You’re quick to assign blame…to yourself.
If you’re being honest, you don’t even really like yourself, and your self-confidence is practically non-existent. You’re comfortable in the role of scapegoat, it seems. No matter who’s really at fault, if things go wrong, you instantly assume that you’re wrong and that no one else is responsible. Even with the evidence of someone else being responsible laid out in front of you, you’ll figure out a way to make it your fault. You might imagine that you could have said or done something differently to affect the outcome, or that maybe if you’d just offered the right kind of support, it would never have happened.
4. You’re always apologizing.
You find yourself saying “I’m sorry” so much that healthier people in your life tell you to stop apologizing so much. You are sorry when someone bumps into you, or when you state an opinion or thought – even if no one around you objects. You can’t stop apologizing, and when someone calls you on it, you apologize for that too.
5. You feel like a fraud.
You often worry that people will discover you’re not “enough” or that you’re not even a whole person. Maybe you even have full-blown imposter syndrome. Everything you do leaves you feeling like you’re pretending. You assume everyone around you is more qualified or effective than you, and you are either terrified that people will find out, or you’re already assuming that everyone knows it.
How do you overcome self-gaslighting?
Once you’ve recognized that you’re using self-gaslighting, you’ve already taken the first step toward resolving it. But what comes next? How do you stop gaslighting yourself so you can continue to heal and move forward in your life?
Remember that these aren’t your own thoughts.
As I explained earlier, very often, self-gaslighting feels a lot like a remnant of the narcissist’s voice in your head. So, ask yourself: where do these thoughts really come from and why am I thinking them? Take some time and really think about it. Ask yourself:
Are these thoughts accurate?
When and where did I first think this way?
Who taught me to think this way about myself?
How does thinking this way affect me long-term?
Try this healing list exercise.
One exercise I do with my narcissistic abuse recovery clients to help them create some awareness around this kind of thing is to have them write a list of all of the negative self-perceptions they have picked up along the way. Then, during a session, we go down the list and first identify where they got these ideas from initially. When that’s done, the client will go down the list and cross off these negative self-perceptions and replace them with their truth (or what they want to be the truth). These truths then become new affirmations the clients can use to help them grow forward in their narcissistic abuse recovery.
Think about how you’d talk to your child or another person you love unconditionally.
Survivors often have a really difficult time figuring out how to appropriately treat and speak to themselves. Not only have their parents and other people in their lives not given them the skills they need to love themselves, but they’ve actually worked against the idea of independent thought and autonomy. In order to work through this and speak to yourself in a way that is appropriate and self-validating, think about how you’d speak to your child or someone else who you love unconditionally – and speak to yourself that way. I have found this to be an incredibly effective way to shift my own self-talk.
Use pattern interrupts.
Pattern interrupts are highly effective for so many different aspects of narcissistic abuse recovery, and this is one more way they can be used. When you have been self-gaslighting for so long, it almost becomes an automatic behavior – a pattern – that you fall into without thought. So, when you begin to work on letting go of self-gaslighting, you can use mindfulness to pay attention to your thoughts and ideas, and then you can choose to use a pattern-interrupt to change it.
Easy-to-Implement Pattern Interrupt Ideas
Pattern interrupts are part of NLP (Neurolinguistic programming). Sounds complicated, right? But it’s so simple. Here are some quick and easy-to-implement pattern interrupt ideas for you.
Try a simple affirmation you repeat to yourself in the moment.
Try standing up and moving into a different room of the house.
Try taking a quick shower.
You can brush your teeth or hair or wash your hands.
Try to count all of the items in a room that are a certain color.
5. Work on understanding yourself and your own emotions better.
We become so disconnected from ourselves when we’re involved with a narcissist that we can’t even remember who we are. So one of the best ways to push through self-gaslighting is to take a deep breath and dive into the emotions when we can.
So, if you’re feeling sad, allow yourself to cry if you need to. Then explore the tears: what do they mean? Why are you crying? What is making you sad?
Validate your own emotions and figure out how to resolve them. Take the time to find out what you really want and need, and work on developing more connection to your own intuition. Journaling can help a lot with this because it lets you process and understand your thoughts and emotions.
Ultimately, you can stop gaslighting yourself with a little self-compassion, intention, and mindful action.
Question of the Day – This brings me to the question of the day: Have you ever experienced self-gaslighting, or are you going through it now? Have you found ways to cope? Share your thoughts, share your ideas and share your experiences in the comments section below this video – and let’s talk about it.
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery, right now.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
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Narcissists have a way of communicating that can be very deceptive. If you’re looking for advice on how to decode the language of narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, and other toxic people, you’re not alone. Despite what many people believe, there are far more people who might qualify as malignant narcissists than you might expect.
One of the most common manipulation tactics narcissists use is called gaslighting, a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity and even your perception of the world around you. Today, we’re covering common phrases used by narcissistic abusers in gaslighting (and what they actually mean when used).
Why are narcissists all so similar?
So often, people wonder if there’s some kind of narcissist playbook. Why? Because narcissists are all so similar, across the board. This makes it easy to predict what they’ll do next, if you educate yourself on their specific traits and disorder. In fact, whether the narcissist in your life is a spouse, partner, parent or another relative, friend, or even a coworker, there are certain kinds of phrasing they’ll use, and in many cases, they will use nearly identical word-for-word statements. Surprisingly, this is true regardless of a person’s race, culture, religion, nationality, and financial status. Malignant narcissism does not discriminate – it can affect anyone in any circumstance, from the jobless drug addict to the wealthiest person on the planet and everyone in between.
“You’re angry? I don’t need to deal with this nonsense right now. I will leave you alone until YOU get back to your senses and come back to me later.”
Translation: I know I’m the reason you’re angry about MY antics. I don’t care, I will never care, and don’t expect me to apologize for MY behavior because I am blameless and perfect, and you need me anyway….”
“I’m sick of you accusing me of cheating. It’s getting old!”
Translation: I don’t get why you won’t just get over it. Clearly, I’m cheating. We both know this. But I am over actually hearing about it, and I’m tired of having to pretend I’m not doing it. Additionally, I will never take responsibility for it and I’ll go ahead and expect you to tolerate whatever I throw your way. And if you don’t, I’m totally going to act like the victim in this whole deal.”
“I WANT TO BE ALONE!”
Translation: “I want to spend time with someone else and you’re in my way!”
“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Translation: “I’ve done ALL the things you pointed out, and probably a whole bunch more you don’t know about. But I think anything I do is okay because I’m the one who did it, and I don’t do things that are wrong. Also? Why do you keep calling me out on things I actually did? I don’t like that!”
“You have an anger problem!”
Translation: “I’m going to provoke and poke at you until you can’t take it anymore, when you finally blow up at me for continuously disregarding your boundaries, I’ll just say you’re an angry crazy person so I can play the victim instead of accepting any actual responsibility for my behavior.”
“I thought you were the last person I was going to be with.”
Translation: “I totally underestimated you and thought I could be with you while also doing whatever I want with whomever I want while you patiently wait for me (and on me) and keep my house in order.”
“You are too sensitive! You need to have thicker skin.” Or “Can’t you take a joke?”
Translation: “I don’t understand why you don’t just accept my cruel and unfair criticism as fact. What is wrong with you?”
“You’re going to have to work so hard to get my attention again.”
Translation: “You’ve caused narcissistic injury by somehow exposing one of my many flaws, and you’re going to pay for it by begging for my oh-so-precious attention while I blatantly ignore you and treat you like dirt on the bottom of my shoe. And while you’re at it, I’m going to make you feel like you’re the one who needs to apologize even though I’m the one who did something wrong.”
“You’re crazy.” or “It’s all in your head.” or “You need help.” or “You’re delusional”
Translation: “What you said is absolutely right. You totally hit the nail right on the head…but I don’t know how you figured me out and I dont want to admit that you’re right, so I’m going to make sure you feel crazy and look crazy. This way you’ll be more focused on what’s not really wrong with you instead of what’s actually wrong with ME.”
“You are always saying the same thing.”
Translation: “Why do you keep telling the truth over and over again? I hate when you call me out like that.”
“Everything is all about you!” or “You’re so selfish.”
Translation: “How DARE you try to make ANYTHING about you? Don’t you know it’s all about…ME?”
“I can’t have just a little time alone, so I have to be telling you every 5 minutes I love you?”
Translation: “You’ve somehow interrupted something I was doing or hiding from you, and now you’re asking me for validation? What am I, an actual human? You’d think you would know by now that I’m the only one who matters in this relationship!”
“Everyone says…” or “Everyone agrees that you’re…”
Translation: “I’m pretending that some imaginary group of people are silently agreeing with me about everything I say about you, because not only do I hope you’ll feel humiliated to think all of these so-called people are talking about you, but it’ll help me prove my point. Plus, as an added bonus, telling you that everyone thinks bad things about you will further isolate you and that means I’ll be in more control.”
“You’re a nice guy.” or “You’re such a sweetheart.”
Translation: “Because of your sweet, empathic nature, I can get you to do anything I want you to do by manipulating your emotions.”
“OMG! You’re so boring! Can we please talk about something interesting?”
Translation: “How dare you talk about anything YOU care about that isn’t me? You’re not saying enough things about me. I don’t like talking about things that aren’t all about me, or at least me-focused. Did I mention that I’d like to talk about things related to me?”
“I don’t think your glasses are working properly.”
Translation: “You saw what I was doing, and you understood it correctly, but since I will not be accepting any responsibility for it at all, I’ll just gaslight you real quick so you’ll doubt yourself and your own perception of the world by claiming that something is wrong with your glasses.”
“You treat me like a child!”
Translation: “Even though I require you to take care of me, do everything for me and otherwise act like you’re my parent, I need to pretend you’re trying to control me when you ask me where I’m going or where I’ve been or anything else I don’t want to tell you. But you better not stop doing all these other things for me, or I’ll further abuse and manipulate you.”
“I never said that! You made it up!”
Translation: “I totally said that, but I’m not really happy that you’re reminding me of it. So, I’ll just pretend you’re insane so you’ll start doubting yourself again. I always like to watch you squirm and feel confused. Keeps you busy so I can keep doing whatever I want.”
“I prayed to meet you,” or “I manifested you,” or “You’re my soulmate!”
Translation: “I am going to make you believe that our connection is divinely inspired so that you’ll feel like leaving would be doing something against God or the Universe or whatever you happen to believe in.”
“I’m sorry I seem to have done things to make you not trust me!”
Translation: “I’m sorry you’re calling me out on the things I’ve actually done, but I will not be acknowledging the very specific actions I have actually committed against you or our relationship. I mean, yeah, I totally DID those things, but I’m not capable of taking responsibility for them, so my fake apology will have to suffice. And don’t question me on this one. Accept it, or I’ll rage on you like always.”
“Everything that happens going forward is on you,” or “The ball’s in your court now.”
Translation: “I guess we can be together as long as I can be a horrible human being and you can continue to pretend that I’m perfect. Otherwise, you’re on your own, toots. At least until I need another shot of supply from you. Ok?”
“You just don’t listen!”
Translation: “I don’t like when you don’t go along with whatever I want or whatever I say. You’ve got a lot of nerve to say the truth as opposed to my twisted version of it – so I’m going to focus on diverting attention from what’s actually true by focusing on your hearing.”
“Why do you always insist on arguing with me about everything?”
Translation: “Why are you so obsessed with the truth? Despite the fact that I make up facts to back up my lies, we both know I am superior and it’s all my way or no way.”
“Can’t you see that I love you?”
Translation: “Why do you keep making me take responsibility for things I’ve done to you? Isn’t the fact that I use the words I love you enough to make you shut up and pretend everything is okay?”
“Why can’t you love me for who I am?” or “That’s just who I am – I won’t change for anyone!”
Translation: “I want to do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and treat you however I want – but I don’t want you to notice or stop acting like I’m the best thing in your life. And if you do ask me to stop doing something you don’t like or to compromise or bend in any way, shape, or form, I will make you so miserable you’ll be begging me for mercy.”
“Why can’t you be like everyone else?”
Translation: “Why can’t you just shut up and do whatever I want in any given moment? Why can’t you read my mind and accept whatever I say, think or feel as fact?”
“If you cant see that there’s a problem with this relationship, then there really is a problem!”
Translation: “Oh look! We’ve just entered the devalue phase and you’re a little shocked at how mean I’ve suddenly become? Clearly, this is all my fault, but you know I’ll never take responsibility – therefore, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and start making you question everything – including, and especially yourself and your own inability to perceive the non-existent issues I’ve just made up to confuse you. Boom!”
“Weird, your tears don’t phase me, even though I’m a total empath.”
Translation: “I don’t care that I hurt you. I’m a liar, not an empath. Got ya!”
“I didn’t mean to cheat on you, it just happened.”
Translation: “I refuse to accept responsibility for cheating on you because I am not interested in your emotions and I don’t care how you feel.”
“I’m the most honest person you’ll ever meet,” or “I never lie.”
Translation: “I’m the biggest effing liar on the planet, but I have an image to uphold to seem innocent, and likable. Plus, I’m really good at lying to MYSELF and I tend to believe my own lies when it’s convenient for me.”
“So, you’re making this about you…?”
Translation: “I really don’t care how you’re feeling, because everything is always about me, even when it’s really about you. And the idea that you would think otherwise really peeves me right off.”
“I just want things to be good between us”.
Translation: “If you don’t behave the way I want and accept all my lies and crappy behavior, then you’re making things not good between us, so it will be your fault that I will have to be mean to you and/or leave again”.
Any of this sound familiar to you? Could you be in a toxic relationship with an abusive, malignant narcissist? If so, the following resources might be helpful for you.
A narcissistic abuse recovery coaching client told me that when she was school-aged, her mother would have a lot of trouble getting up on time in the mornings to get her off to school. Back then, no one had cell phones, and my client’s mom hadn’t bought her an alarm clock of her own yet – so she had no way to get up on time herself. My client would later learn that her mother had been dabbling in certain activities that were messing with her sleep schedule, but at the time, she wasn’t aware of it.
Anyway, she told me how, each time her mother would wake up late, she would be sort of verbally attacked. Her mother would say things like, “Well, you’ve made us late again!” And then would tell the school that her tardiness was because her daughter wouldn’t get up on time.
Another client shared that the one thing that gave her comfort growing up in her toxic family was her cat. Sadly, he passed away when my client was 14. And when he found out about it, her father told her to stop crying because she never really loved that cat anyway.
That same client ended up meeting and marrying a narcissist in her early 20s and was going through an ugly divorce when she first reached out to me. She told me that her soon-to-be ex-husband had a way of playing the same kinds of games with her. She said he was always making her doubt herself. He’d say things like:
“I never said that!” (When he’d CLEARLY said that!) followed by “You’re always making up stories,” when she insisted on what had actually happened. It made her feel like she was losing her mind. She literally started doubting her own perception and experiences. She said it went on for years and it wasn’t until she found an article I had written that she realized it really WAS NOT her.
And then there was the client who told me that her mother was always trying to make her think everyone was using her and would leave her when they were done with her. For example, her best friend in high school, her mother said, was only friends with her because no one else liked her. And when she got married, her mother told her that her husband was only tolerating her and that he would leave her when someone better came along. The underlying message was that the client better stay connected to her mother, lest she find herself lying in a ditch and alone when the bottom fell out of her life, which, as her mother said, it inevitably would.
I heard another story where a man kept telling his girlfriend that she smelled bad. This went on for so long that she became obsessed with being clean. She would ask perfect strangers to smell her, and of course, no one ever caught a whiff of anything unsavory – except for her boyfriend. She would later learn that his father had told her to always tell his girlfriend that she was smelly, because, he said, it would make her be extra clean and not want to get too close to other men.
Identifying and understanding Gaslighting in Narcissistic Abuse
What do these stories have in common, besides the fact that each of these people was clearly dealing with toxic people who might have also had narcissistic personality disorder? Each is an example of a very specific manipulation tactic that is used by narcissists and other toxic people called gaslighting. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about, today – gaslighting. And I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about it – what it is, how it works, the signs and how to recognize it in your own life – and what to do if it happens to you.
Gaslighters actively and intentionally confuse their victims in some pretty terrible ways. They might cut you down and build you up in the same day – and then tear you down again. And while they might come out with an unexpected positive point (think of this like a “crumb of affection” – it’s intermittent reinforcement and it leads to trauma bonding), they will often alternate this with outrageous accusations toward you with no logical reason.
The thing is that gaslighters make you feel crazy because they act like your reactions to their abuse aren’t rational. So if you find yourself feeling like you might be a little crazy (which is, of course, the end goal of the whole gaslighting technique) or even if you’re aware that you’re dealing with a narcissist and want to recognize it as it happens — understanding the signs can be the first step to making your life a little better.
That’s because, when you’re aware of the behaviors that cause the narcissist to engage in gaslighting, you can react differently and change the course of the outcome. Plus, this gives you the option to sort of look at it like a scientist – as in, logically and not emotionally. For me, that was one of the most important things I learned during my own recovery. I needed to be able to categorize and label the behaviors on a logical level. Once I understood on that level, then I was able to go back and figure out how my own emotions had been affected. At that point, I could connect the emotions and the facts, and move forward in a healthier way. I want to help you do the same thing.
Even the so-called normal relationships in our lives can suffer from misunderstandings and miscommunications, but when someone starts using the manipulation tactics involved in gaslighting, chances are they might also be a narcissist — and if you’re going to maintain a sense of self, you’ve got to understand what this is and learn what you can do about it.
The gray rock (or grey rock) technique was named and first published by a writer called Skylar, who advises that you act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. The tactic is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience. If you’re going to use the gray rock method, you’ll need to do so carefully if you are dealing with any physical abuse, as the narcissist may not react well.
Today, we’re going to talk about narcissists and gaslighting and whether or not it can be intentional. If you’ve ever had a friend, family member or co-worker who is a narcissist or who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), chances are you have been the victim of gaslighting, which is a manipulation technique they often employ to get what they want.
In case you’re new around here, let me define gaslighting for you. Used by most narcissists, gaslighting is a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate you by psychological means into questioning your own sanity. Or, in layman’s terms, gaslighting is when a toxic person intentionally messes with your head to make you doubt your reality and your sanity. And, if you haven’t already guessed, gaslighters make you feel crazy because they act like your reactions to their abuse are not rational.
But is it intentional? Are narcissists and other toxic people using gaslighting on purpose? Do they think about it first, or is it just in their nature? Do people who are utilizing gaslighting tactics even know they are doing that?
Can gaslighting be unintentional?
In the examples I gave, do you think that the gaslighting was done on purpose or by nature? Were the narcissists I talked about calculating or was this just the way their minds work? Well, let’s discuss that. It could go one of two ways.
In some cases yes, a narcissist can be well-aware of what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t call it “gaslighting,” but they have studied you and long-practiced the strategy and how it works in order to manipulate others. It is all about gaining control. The ones who intentionally manipulate and do so in a calculated, focused way tend to be more intelligent as well as higher on the cluster B spectrum. They’re more likely to qualify as sociopaths and psychopaths.
However, in other cases, there are abusers and narcissists who utilize gaslighting tactics without even realizing it as well.
In those instances, they are still wanting to gain control to manipulate others, and when that happens, gaslighting is one of those tactics they use. But that does not mean the gaslighting is intentional. It just comes with the territory. In many cases, children who were raised by narcissistic parents or one narcissistic parent would have learned those tactics along the way by watching what the parent does. It can just be their nature, or a learned behavior. It might look like a bad habit.
For example, if the parent had an addiction and they did not want the children to tell anyone about it, they would use gaslighting tactics to keep the child quiet. This would involve some form of manipulation by the parent. Another common gaslighting tactic that toxic parents use is that they do what they can to alienate the child from the other parent. Especially when the parents are separated or divorced as they will depict the other parent as the ‘deadbeat’ even if that is far from the truth.
The worst part is that oftentimes children who are abused and manipulated sadly repeat history. Some realize that they need to break the cycle so they don’t do that to their children. This can ensure that the toxic legacy doesn’t continue. But those who do pick up those tactics will be more likely to be manipulative towards others even if they are unintentionally gaslighting. They still are doing it to get what they want. And whether or not the manipulator is aware of gaslighting, they both are a pathological way of cruelly manipulating the mind to get what they want. They don’t care if you get hurt in the end.
Bottom line: it is true that gaslighting can be unintentional. But remember this: that does not make it any less problematic than those who are intentionally doing it to you.