One of my YouTube viewers recently left a moving comment in response to a video I released a couple weeks ago called Toxic Relationships: This is the real reason you haven’t left your narcissist.
“You take all their emotional abuse. You take it and take it and then you finally explode verbally. You call him a piece of shit, low-life, asshole and more. He just ignores it, smirking the whole time because he got me upset,” my viewer said. “Now he uses this against me. Now, he says I’m verbally abusive! I was just fighting back for my sanity. Could you address this in a video?”
I promised I would, so here I am.
Unfortunately, this is a very common manipulation tactic that gaslighters use. It’s when you’re being abused but your abuser tries to convince you that you’re the abusive one. Or maybe, if you’re female, they blame it on “that time of the month,” or accuse you of having horrible PMS.
They may label you unreasonable, crazy, an over-reactor – even say you’re making it all up. They assign all blame (literally for every issue or concern) in the relationship to you, and they become offended and angry if they don’t think you seem like you want to accept it.
If you dare to question them or god forbid, get upset and yell back at them, the narcissist will quickly turn the tables and accuse YOU of being the abuser. He or she will do everything possible to run a good smear campagin on you, too, telling everyone around you how crazy or difficult you are – and making you look and feel like someone you’re really just not.
The Narcissistic Flip
One of the most effective kinds of gaslighting is when a narcissist sort of “flips the script” on you during an argument.
I have dubbed this practice the “narcissistic flip,” and have found that it’s a regularly employed manipulation technique for many narcs.
The “flip” happens most often when you make a valid point or have the nerve to question the narc about anything.
That’s about the time everything turns around and suddenly, you’re the one who’s sorry (mostly that you bothered engaging in yet another pointless argument).
Denial: It ain’t just a river in Egypt.
Real quick – let’s define denial for our purposes. In this case, we’re talking about the psychological term, which means that someone literally claims that something that DID happen didn’t occur.
So, in the case of narcissists, they use denial of their own behavior when it’s convenient for them – and almost always in situations where they can be considered “at fault” for anything negative.
Denial can be used as part of the whole “brainwashing” process that a lot of narcissists use to control their victims. Think about it – while they may have originally employed denial in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior, a lot of narcissists have discovered that denial can be a very effective part of gaslighting.
Narcissists will intentionally say things they know will provoke you into reacting. They’ll bait you and then wait for a response. If you don’t react quickly or dramatically enough, they may poke you further and aggressively antagonize you until you explode.
Then, they tell you that you’re crazy, that you need help – that something is just plain wrong with you.
How do you deal with this kind of manipulation?
Obviously, and almost always, going “no contact” is the ideal solution to dealing with a toxic narcissist. But in the real world, there are other circumstances and things to consider.
Sometimes, you get stuck dealing with a narcissist for whatever reason – you’re co-parenting, you haven’t yet managed to escape – or maybe, it’s a relative or in-law that you can’t practically just “disconnect” from…so you’re forced to deal.
So, the way to deal is to first recognize that the narcissist is trying to get you to react, and that if you do, he or she will absolutely use it against you.
The Blame Game
You have heard of it, right? The so-called blame game is just what I described before – when a narcissist constantly deflects responsibility for his bad behavior and projects it right on to the nearest unwitting victim – often, his or her primary source of supply.
This puts you (as the primary supply) on constant alert, and you feel the mental and physical effects of always being in a state of stress. It affects your blood pressure, your neurological function and even your ability to eat and sleep. Other physical effects succh as changes in weight and even generally falling ill more often have also been reported by victims.
Examples of the Blame Game in Action
- A narcissistic wife is caught lying to her husband about spending an evening alone with a male colleague. She claims, when found out, that she only lied because he always over-reacts to everything. In reality, he lives in fear of her irratic and seemingly unprovoked emotional attacks and general invalidation of his character.
- A narcissistic husband is found to be cheating on his wife with her best friend. When confronted, he claims that he was treated poorly by his wife, neglected and overly criticied by her. He claims that he tried to fix the relationship and in reality, he is the one who was mentally abusing HER, and he has engaged her friend as a very toxic flying monkey.
- A narcissistic woman has a lunch meeting with a new colleague who she is secretly a little threatened by. She shows up an hour late, and when the colleague tries to get back to the office on time, she cuts her down for being so uptight and neglecting the opportunity to get to know her.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.