“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.” ~Jeffrey Kluger
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is an ongoing form of manipulation that causes you to doubt what you see, hear and experience; in fact, to doubt your own perception of the world around you. Often used by toxic narcissists, it’s a type of brainwashing that can cause you to lose your entire sense of self. Repeatedly experiencing gaslighting will destroy your self-worth and cause you to question reality.
Where does the word Gaslighting come from?
The word gaslighting comes from Gaslight, a 1944 American film, adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light, where a husband tries to persuade his wife to believe that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.
What Does Gaslighting Look Like?
It can be hard to detect gaslighting from outside the relationship. It is insidious, oddly subtle and emotionally/psychologically debilitating to the victim. During gaslighting, the toxic person makes declarations and allegations which are typically based on deliberate untruths and intentional efforts.
“Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction — whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness — in the person they are dealing with,” writes Yashar Ali in a Huffington Post article. “Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.”
While the signs you’re being gaslighted may seem “obvious” to some people, the fact is that when you’re being manipulated by a narcissist, you can’t always see the proverbial forest for the trees.
So if you find yourself feeling like you might be a little crazy (part of the whole gaslighting technique)—or even if you’re aware that it’s happening and want to recognize it as it happens—understanding the signs can be the first step to making your life a little better.
When you’re aware of the behaviors that cause your narcissist to engage in gaslighting, you can react differently and change the course of the outcome. So what are the signs you’re being gaslighted?
Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted
1. Your Fears Are Used Against You
Many narcissists are very charming, at least when they want to be. Often, they will listen to every word you have to say and file away any vulnerabilities you reveal for later use. For example, if you told a narcissist you felt insecure about your weight, they might later make discreet pokes at it, or in a romantic relationship, make comments about others who are thinner than you are – in any case, they’re out to feel “better” than you, and to tear down your self-esteem so you don’t think you can do better than them.
Some narcissists will claim to know what you (or others) are thinking—and if you deny that your mind’s working the way they believe it is, they might just secretly think you’re lying. They might make a face or a gesture to indicate it—or in the most extreme cases of NPD, they might actually tell you that you’re lying—and even accuse you of lying to YOURSELF. Because of course, as narcissists, they can’t be wrong.
3. You Don’t Know What’s Normal
If you are regularly being told that things are normal when, deep down, you know for sure they are not, you’re likely the victim of gaslighting. For example, say your toxic boss asks you to blatantly lie to a client about the safety of an item. When you refuse, you might be told that ALL employees lie on behalf of their employers and that if you don’t want to be a team player, maybe you should find another position.
4. You’re “Diagnosed” With Major Issues
When a narcissist is lying or manipulating a friend, coworker, or loved one, and isn’t getting their way, they may turn up the intensity by questioning your sanity. You might be called paranoid, stressed out, too sensitive, or even hormonal. They might even tell you that you need therapy or meds to get through it. Again, it’s all about being in control.
You’re told that what you know to be true is not real. For example, if your narcissist mother tells you that your significant other is a loser and that you need to dump him, after a while, you could start to believe it and might even end up sabotaging the relationship because you begin to question your own judgment, thanks to regular conditioning during visits, phone calls and emails with her.
6. You Can’t Remember Anything Anymore
The narcissist is infamous for selective memory; that is, they will deny that he said something that upset you if you confront him on it, or they will promise to do something and later tell you that it never happened. They might also use creative language to downplay their own behavior and act as though your reaction is totally out of line.
7. You Lie to Keep the Peace
You aren’t a liar by nature and you don’t lie to other people in your life. But due to the extreme stress caused by upsetting or angering the narcissist, you might find yourself at least bending the truth a little in order to avoid the verbal/physical abuse that is sure to follow any discussion or situation that is against the narcissist’s “rules.”
8. You Stop Trying to Be Heard
As humans, we are programmed to share our experiences and thoughts with the people in our lives. But when you’re dealing with a narcissist and there are signs you’re being gaslighted, you eventually might just give up. You stop talking about yourself around the narcissist, and depending on the depth of your relationship with him or her; you might even stop talking about yourself altogether. Then one day, when someone asks you a question about yourself, you’re stumped. You might even forget HOW to talk about yourself.
9. You Start Thinking Maybe You Really Are the Crazy One
The intensity of a narcissist’s manipulation tactics can really get to a person. And when you are looking for a solution (AKA a way to just END the disagreement or argument), you might just convince yourself that the narcissist is right – that there are things you could be doing better. And maybe you start to think that maybe their behavior WAS a logical reaction to your mistakes. Maybe you are the one who owes them an apology. And when you apologize, they eventually (probably) accept your apology, only to later throw your “bad behavior” back in your face when it serves them to do so.
10. You Are Depressed
As a narcissist wears you down with repeated and consistent manipulation and controlling behaviors, you may become depressed and anxious. You will constantly question yourself and feel generally hopeless. If you’re in this situation, you might feel exhausted from the roller-coaster ride the narcissist has been taking you on – and you might even think you’re just a little oversensitive (thanks to the NPD manipulation tactics to which you’re being subjected.) You get confused and start to feel disoriented. And thanks to all those references to your paranoia and memory issues, you’re likely to seek help for depression rather than the actual problem – the gaslighting narcissist in your life who is subjecting you to narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship.
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 start making some changes in your life.
Gaslighting is common tactic used by most narcissists. It is a pervasive and highly-effetive tactic meant to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. Try this gaslighting test to find out.
Are you dealing with gaslighting in relationships?
When I was in college, I rented a basement from a friend and her boyfriend.
Things went great until their relationship began to deteriorate, at which time my friend moved out.
We all agreed that I would continue to rent the basement, at least until they decided what to do with the house.
In the few weeks I lived there after my friend moved out, her boyfriend began to go into my things while I was gone, taking things and doing who knows what else.
He made it no secret either–on several occasions he confronted me about various items or information he found among my private belongings.
And then, one day, I woke up and found that he’d climbed into my bed while I slept. That was the last straw. He had violated my privacy and now he was violating my personal right to choose who was allowed in my bed.
Since I couldn’t wait until I found an apartment to move out, I crashed on a friend’s couch for a few days while I located a new place.
When I finally did, I was very happy–except for the overwhelming anger that kept looming in my subconscious. Every time I turned around, something reminded me that he had hurt me, violated me, upset me. And that he wasn’t the only one who, by the time I was 19 years old, had done so–some in even more harsh ways.
Negativity begot negativity, and I started seeing more and more of it in my life. I struggled with it for months, falling into depression after depression. I felt like I was completely worthless, drowning in my own thoughts.
One day, as I sat wracking my brain about how to get over this anger, I thought I heard something. I was alone in my apartment, with the exception of my cat.
And I know this is going to sound crazy, but I would swear to you that I heard someone whisper, “You have to forgive him,” in my ear.
And, more strangely, I knew immediately what the “whisper” meant.
Even though I’d stuffed it all down and tried not to focus on my anger for all of these months, it still stayed there, like a parasite, nibbling away at anything positive that came into my life.
So I picked up my notebook and started writing him a letter. I told him why I was so angry at him and what he did that hurt me so much. I told him why I thought he was wrong. I called him every name in the book and said cuss words that I invented for the occasion.
And at the end of the letter, I told him that I forgave him–not for him, but for myself. Because I deserved to live in peace, without the negativity of my past with him (or anyone else, for that matter) corroding my beautiful world.
When I finished the letter, I felt an amazing sense of peace come over me, almost immediately. And, while I’d fully intended to mail the letter (or at least an edited and polished version of it) to that man, I never did. It turned out that I didn’t need to.
Once I’d written down my feelings, owned them, and moved on–the healing began. Such a simple act allowed me to release months of pent up feelings that were holding me back. I was finally able to begin to feel GOOD again, and suddenly my life was back on the right track.
How about you?
Are you holding a grudge? Do you have some old anger lingering in your heart? If so, it’s time to begin to heal. We all know logically that we cannot change the past, so why live there?
Here’s my challenge for you today. If you are plagued by anger or holding a grudge that you just can’t shake, try writing a letter today to the source of your frustration. Say what you mean, and don’t censor yourself. Let it all out.
And then, offer your forgiveness.
Then, if you like, write a more “reader friendly” version of your letter and mail it to the person or people who have hurt you. But more likely, you might find that the simple act of getting it all out is enough, like I did.
The bottom line here is that if you are holding on to toxic anger, it’s only hurting YOU. The person or people you’re angry at are probably not aware of it–and if they are, it’s not affecting them nearly as significantly as it is you.
The best revenge, they say, is living well–so if you don’t want to let go of your anger just for your own sake, then let it go to be the bigger person.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from Catherine Ponder.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
What do you think? Do you have someone to forgive? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below!
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” ~Wayne Dyer
Have you ever been in a situation where someone has underestimated you in some way? Whether the offender misjudged your intelligence, your abilities or your strength, how did it make you feel?
Did you begin to believe that person was right, or did you feel defensive or angry because you knew he (or she) were wrong?
Nearly everyone has been on the receiving side of an unfair judgment. People judge you on your looks, your age, your weight, your financial (and parental) status, your address, your religion, your career choices (or lack thereof)–the list goes on and on.
This is especially true if they don’t know you personally, but it can even happen within families and friendships.
Even people who have high levels of self-esteem can find themselves feeling frustrated when they’re misjudged–but those who sometimes feel like they’re not good enough anyway can really struggle with feelings of inadequacy if the right insult gets hurled their way.
So how do you deal with people who underestimate you or misjudge you?
Let It Roll Off Your Back
In some situations, you can just ignore the person because you’ll never see or deal with them again. For example, if you’re at a clothing store and a salesperson or fellow customer makes a rude comment to or about you–it can be really upsetting. But if you think about it, once you leave that store, you may literally never see those people again.
And remember, you get to decide who has the power in this situation, so claim it! Don’t give some stranger the power to ruin your day–choose to be happy instead. (And if it helps you, remember that whole “the best revenge is living well” thing.)
Prove Yourself. Or Not.
If the underestimator is someone you know personally, you’ve got some choices to make. If it’s important to you to change that person’s mind about you, then try to do it through actions rather than words.
Don’t confront him or her or try to defend yourself–if you’re being underestimated, the judger is not likely to actually listen to you anyway and you’ll grow more irritated when they won’t hear you or acknowledge the validity of what you’re saying. That’s just inviting negativity into your life.
But really, you need to first get comfortable with yourself, and who you really want to be. When you are comfortable in your own skin–mentally, physically and emotionally–you aren’t likely to feel the need to prove yourself anyway.
When It Hurts
Sometimes, being underestimated can hurt, especially in personal and professional situations. Whether it hurts your feelings or your pocketbook, it can make you feel badly about yourself and/or the people and situations in your life.
The most important thing to do when this happens is to keep it in perspective–are the people who are judging or underestimating you perfect? It’s highly unlikely. Everyone has flaws–and in most cases, one man’s flaw is another man’s treasure. Embrace yourself and remember that you are perfectly YOU–and that’s really all that matters.
Even though it’s easy to feel negatively when you get judged unfairly, you’re only hurting yourself by doing that. Remember that what you put out into the world comes back to you–like attracts like, so if you’re feeling like you’re unfairly judged all the time, you definitely will be.
Remember too that people who feel the need to constantly judge and belittle others are most likely insecure in themselves in one way or another. That means there’s something wrong with them–not you.
You’re Not Alone
Like I said, nearly everyone has been in this situation. Take me for example. I once worked with someone who seemed to think I wasn’t smart enough to pour myself a cup of coffee, let alone actually do the job I’d been hired to do.
I’ll admit, it really pissed me off–especially because I knew for a fact that I was more experienced and capable than this person. I felt like telling her exactly what I thought of her, too.
And–another admission–I was not having very many nice thoughts of her after she blatantly misjudged me without even asking me who I was and what I could do. (She made an incorrect ASSumption. And you know what happens when people ASSume right?)
But even though I had a strong emotional reaction to this behavior, I stepped back and took a logical look at the situation. If I were to blow up and do the diarrhea of the mouth thing, it would very negatively affect my career–and certainly that particular job. So, I decided to change my mind, and I managed to maintain a professional and fairly friendly relationship with this person, despite my personal feelings. And eventually, she got the clue that I knew what I was doing. We actually became “work friends,” even.
And, for me, making peace and finally being recognized for my abilities was a far better alternative to blowing up and ruining the chance that it would ever happen. The moral of the story? Think before you speak–and don’t let the bastards get you down. 🙂
So how about you? Have you ever felt misjudged or underestimated? How did you deal with it? Tell me your story in the comments!
“ Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place we find the deepest heartache.” ~Iyanla Vansant
Most people encounter some obstacles to finding their so-called bliss in life. Sometimes, the obstacles are within our own selves, and other times, they come from external sources. Toxic relationships, in particular, can be an extreme source of stress and discord in our lives – and can even lead to our own lives spiraling out of our control. It’s one thing if the narcissist in your life is a coworker, neighbor, or friend. But what if the toxic person in your life isn’t just a friend, but a family member?
What is a toxic family relationship?
Many toxic relationships involve malignant narcissists or people who might be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Toxic family members are generally at the mercy of one individual person who acts as the center of the family and the one who must be obeyed, pleased, and otherwise satisfied by the other members of the dysfunctional family.
In most cases, toxic families are lead by a narcissist and/or an enabler. The issue so many narcissistic abuse survivors struggle with as they become adults is that they end up feeling like “toxic” is normal – so they may also end up in marriages or other romantic relationships with narcissists and other toxic people. This leads to their ongoing self-esteem issues and people-pleasing behaviors, assuming they don’t just become narcissists themselves.
How do you know if you have a toxic family relationship?
In general, if you feel like you’re being emotionally, physically, spiritually, or otherwise abused, manipulated, or mistreated by any family member on a regular basis, there is an element of toxicity.
These family members can include your spouse and other nuclear family members, but also extended family members, such as parents and in-laws, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and other relations.
Some family members may take it to a whole other level and actually attempt to wreak havoc in your life or even to control, destroy or alter your nuclear family, domestic situation or other outside relationships.
Other Signs of a Toxic Family Relationship
Psychological boundaries are defined as perceptions or beliefs that people hold in relation to their social group memberships, including but not limited to families, as well as their own identities and overall self-concepts. In part, boundaries help us to distinguish ourselves from other people–you know, that thing which separates “I” from “We.” Boundaries also help us define how we are linked together within our families and extended families. Toxic family members often have trouble with boundaries. That is, they will often feel entitled to involve themselves in your life on an unhealthy level. They may try to make you feel responsible for their emotions or their circumstances, blame you for things that you have no control over, or try to control you and your choices.
Unfair or Unrealistic Requirements
Toxic family members generally have different beliefs or perspectives than you when it comes to things like trust, responsibilities, money, time and attention. They may become angry if you don’t do as they wish, even if it doesn’t directly affect them–but especially if it does. For example, if you are unable to attend a family gathering, a toxic person might try to make you feel guilty or simply stop speaking to you.
Many toxic family members hold tightly to their own double standards. For example, they may expect you to keep their secrets or “have their backs” when other people gossip negatively about them, but they can’t or won’t offer you the same courtesy. Or, they may say you’re not allowed to do something, but they do it often and without apology. And you’re not allowed to mention or even notice that discrepancy without unleashing the narcissist’s rage and manipulation.
Toxic family members are master manipulators – and they will deny it if you call them on it. They will use every manipulation technique at their disposal in order to control you. They may cry, scream, argue, beg–anything they can think of to get you to do what they want, even if what they want isn’t what’s best for you. And, if the first technique doesn’t work, they’ll often move down the list.
Co-Dependence and Enmeshment in Toxic Family Relationships
Enmeshment and co-dependency are two unfortunate byproducts of toxic family relationships. In a co-dependent relationship, one or both family members involved are psychologically influenced or controlled by the other–or they may need that other person to help fulfill their own needs or even to feel whole.
While the term “co-dependent” was originally coined by the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery group, it has since been adopted by psychologists and other mental health professionals.
“A co-dependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior,” says author Melody Beattie, in her book, Codependent No More.
Enmeshment goes hand-in-hand with co-dependence. When you are enmeshed with another person, it means that you depend on that person to define your identity, your sense of being good enough or worthy of having good things in your life, your overall sense of well-being, and even your own safety and security. Or, to put it more clearly–you are enmeshed when you can’t feel like a whole or satisfied person without the approval or presence of another person.
Being enmeshed with a toxic family member is unhealthy for all involved–it isn’t compatible with being an individual. Enmeshment takes away your personal power and the ability to manifest your true desires.
Toxic Families: Dysfunctional Family Rules and Roles
How do you know if you came from a dysfunctional family? One easy way to find out if your family was toxic is to consider what most dysfunctional families consider to be the “rules.” Another thing you should consider is where you fall in the typical set of “roles” within a toxic family.
You might think it should be evident to anyone involved, but sadly, the fact is that being part of a dysfunctional family isn’t always obvious to the members of the toxic family.
In fact, mental health aside, even if you are just co-parenting with a narcissist, you can really feel confused by how the dysfunctional family roles play out. While you might love your dysfunctional family, you also find yourself dealing with anxiety and depression as you navigate this kind of family life.
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.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Last time, we learned how to identify toxic friendships. So, once we’ve figured out that a friend IS toxic, what can we do about it? How do we deal with a toxic friendship?
Recognize the Problem
When we start feeling bad about spending time with or talking to our friends, it’s time to take a look at the relationship. Identifying the friendship as a toxic one is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Own Up to It, People Pleaser
Friends of toxic types often have something in common. According to Charles Figley, a spokesman for the American Psychological Association, “It’s a pleaser personality — you want people to like you, you want to get along, and it’s hard to say no. But you can pay the price in one way by having toxic friends.”
The fact is that, whether you can see it or not, you’ve got some responsibility in this relationship too. Maybe you’ve allowed your friend to treat you negatively or to make you feel bad about yourself because you want them to like you, or because you don’t like confrontation.
Often, people pleasers aren’t good at setting boundaries. When your friendships become toxic, it’s time to stand up for yourself and let friends know what isn’t acceptable. One anonymous reader tells of a friend who always does the “one-up” thing when she talks about problems or accomplishments.
“It happens all the time. Just the other day, I told Jessica about a promotion I received at work, and she was like ‘oh yeah, I heard I might be getting a promotion too.’ Then she went on to tell me how much better her promotion would be than mine,” says our anonymous reader. “Another time, I told her about a problem I was having with my husband, and don’t you know her problem with her boyfriend was far more serious.”
So, in our reader’s case, she might set boundaries by explaining her concerns to her friend and asking her to avoid the “one-up-manship.”
Talk It Out
Talk to a trusted (non-toxic) friend or family member about your concerns if you can. Many times, it’s easier to figure out the problem when you’re “outside looking in”–that is, when you’re not the one with the problem, the solution to it can seem crystal clear.
If you can’t find an “objective” third party, it’s a good idea to seek outside counseling. By employing the skills of a trained therapist, not only do you get the objectivity you need, but you may also get answers or learn coping techniques you wouldn’t on your own.
You could also journal or blog about the problem. Sometimes, just putting our thoughts into words is enough to help us figure out our issues.
If All Else Fails
If you’ve tried setting boundaries and discussing the problem with your toxic friend and have not been able to resolve the issues, it may be time to consider limiting contact or ending the friendship. It’s not an easy choice and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, but when it comes down to it, your sanity and mental health are more important than any toxic friendship. Take care of yourself first, and then you can take care of others. People pleasers often forget this little piece of wisdom.
BitchBuzz writer Kate Kotler offers the following advice on dumping a toxic friend.
“There are many ways you can do this: email, phone call – you can just stop talking to the person. The best way to do this, though, is in person. Invite the person to coffee or lunch. Before meeting them think about why it is you don’t want them in your life anymore and figure out how to phrase it in non-judgmental ways. Using “I Statements” – a statement used to be assertive without putting the listener on the defensive,” says Kotler. “Let the friend know how their behavior makes you feel, ‘Bob, I feel upset when you ask me for advice and then tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’Be clear and assertive. Let the individual know that you do care about them; but, don’t feel like you can be involved in a friendship with them any longer. Give the person a chance to respond, they may not even be aware of their behavior and the idea of losing a friend might give them impetus to think about their own behavior. If the conversation turns towards the negative cut it off and walk away.”
*Note: People pleasers sometimes have self-confidence issues too.