Being in a good frame of mind helps keep one in the picture of health. ~Unknown
You know all about toxic families and toxic friends, but have you ever considered that your own thoughts can become toxic?
This is especially true if you love a narcissist–and even more especially if you live with the narcissist.
We’ve talked before about why it’s important to keep an eye on your thoughts–because you bring about what you think about. So, if you’re focused on all good things, then more good things will come your way. But, if your thoughts become toxic, they can and will draw negativity and toxicity into your life, and can even cause physical side effects if left unchecked.
But when we’re feeling negatively and thinking toxic thoughts–like feeling and nurturing rage, holding grudges or wallowing in guilt or self-pity–our bodies release damaging chemicals. This makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.
Narcissistic rage can further complicate the situation, especially because narcissists typically aren’t aware that they have the ability to BE wrong–and if they are, forget about it–you’re going to have a cranky person dealing with a severe narcissistic injury.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of the book Who Switched Off My Brain, says that “stress and anxiety harm the body in a multitude of ways; patchy memory, severe mental health issues, immune system problems, heart problems and digestive problems.”
You may not even realize how often you complain or lament about the things in life you don’t love. Maybe you are frustrated because you had to wait in line for a half hour at the grocery store, or the traffic on your way home from work was so terrible that you actually got out of your car and sat on the hood to get a little sun. Perhaps you found out that your kid failed Science or you didn’t get into the college of your choice–or your dog ate your knitting project.
If you’re a narcissist, you’re probably not reading this anyway–but those of us who are dealing with you are likely to get the brunt of your toxic thoughts. So hey, if you love us, why not try to get a brighter perspective? We’ll love you for it.
And honestly, does it really help you to rehash and focus on these negative things? Nope, it actually hurts you. So, while you should absolutely feel comfortable telling the people you care about what happened to you during the day, try to focus on the positive side of things, even when there doesn’t seem to be one.
For example, if you waited in line at the grocery store, maybe you talked to someone who really needed a good conversation. If you sat in traffic too long–maybe you needed the solitude or you heard your favorite song. You get the idea–find the silver lining in every cloud.
How to Stop Toxic Thoughts: Use Mind Control (On Yourself)
I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize and monitor your thoughts. You may not even realize how often you think negative thoughts. For example, if your friend wins an award that you wanted, you may think “she must be better than me” or “I deserved that award, not her!” But if you can bring yourself to genuinely congratulate and feel happy for your friend, you’ll not only do her a favor, but yourself too.
If you find yourself FEELING negatively, take a minute to listen to your thoughts. You might be surprised to find out that you may be subconsciously thinking toxic thoughts.
Take control of your mind, because you can. All you need to do is mentally cancel those toxic thoughts and replace them with positive and healthy thoughts that reflect your true desires. (Because whatever you think about and focus on is what you’re drawing toward yourself–so why not think about and focus on what you really want?)
Change Your Scene
When I feel like my thoughts are getting a little toxic, sometimes it helps me to just change the scene around me. Maybe that means just going into a different room or taking a walk–or maybe I need to get in the car and go somewhere. But inevitably, if I make the effort to change my scene, it changes my mind pretty quickly.
Try going out for coffee with a friend, taking a walk or a bath, working out–or even busting out the Wii for a little karaoke or golf. Whatever works for you–just get away from the spot in which you started thinking toxic thoughts for awhile.
What do you do to control and eliminate toxic thoughts? Tell me in the comments section, below, or hit me up on Facebook.
You’re at a party and you notice your husband getting a bit too close to another woman. After the party, you confront him. He tells you to stop being so insecure and controlling; that he’s his own man and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have acted like that in the first place. After arguing all night, you end up begging for forgiveness and apologize for the trouble.
Maybe it’s your mom – she’s picking on you like it’s a sport. She’s worried about what you’re wearing, what you’re eating – who you’re hanging out with – but it’s unhealthy. Instead of fighting back, you just suck it up and take it – maybe you’re too sensitive, or perhaps you really are crazy after all. Who can’t take a bit of criticism, anyway?
Or it’s your boss, who told you you had his support on your latest project, only to backpedal when it’s time to present it to the team. Suddenly, he criticizes you for your poor choices and he’s jumnped ship – but when you talk to him later, he tells you it was wrong from the beginning and you need to be more careful in the future. You find yourself wondering if your judgment might really be flawed, after all.
Maybe this stuff doesn’t happen in your life, but for many people, it’s an everyday reality. If you think it could never be you, think again! Some of the most intelligent and capable people are living in painfully toxic relationships with narcissists, and they’re plagued by regular bouts of gaslighting, an insidious form of emotional abuse and manipulation that can be crueler than more obvious forms of abuse because it sort of sneaks up on you.
Because of its insidious nature, gaslighting is one form of emotional abuse that is hard to recognize and even more challenging to break free from. Part of that is because the narcissist exploits one of our greatest fears – the fear of being alone.
The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight in which a husband tries to slowly drive his wife insane to cover up a big secret. There are three primary stages of gaslighting, as it applies to the psychological term. Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation.
“The process of gaslighting happens in stages – although the stages are not always linear and do overlap at times, they reflect very different emotional and psychological states of mind,” writes psychoanalyst Robin Stern in Psychology Today. “The first stage is disbelief: when the first sign of gaslighting occurs. You think of the gaslighting interaction as a strange behavior or an anomalous moment. During this first stage, things happen between you and your partner – or your boss, friend, family member – that seem odd to you.”
So, in layman’s terms, that means you’ll find yourself wondering what just happened. You’ll think the person just “sort of snapped” and that the behavior might be out of character.
You’ll be shocked at some of the things the narcissist says to you and you’ll find yourself going “huh?” when they react or respond to you because the things they say are so far outside of anything anyone has ever said to you before. A gaslighter almost seems to go out of his way to make you wonder, but they’re not really trying to do that. In reality, a gaslighter is using an insidious form of manipulation that aims to throw you off-balance so you can remain under their control. They are trying to make you doubt your own perception, to question reality, and they want to essentially to render you helpless without them.
In other words, they are, in most cases, just acting in a way that feels natural to them. They are just being who they are: a narcissist.
Gaslighting Stage Two: Defense
“In the second stage, defense, the gaslightee has begun to second-guess himself,” writes TheWeek.com’s Shannon Firth.
This means that you start to wonder if maybe the narcissist is right–maybe you are the one to blame. You find yourself being constantly criticized by the narcissist and you being to think that you are really as slow, stupid, bad, lazy, or whatever other rudeness is being spewed your way.
Again, often the narcissist doesn’t even see what he’s doing here–but you won’t miss it. You’ll feel almost exhausted by the constant barrage of insults and digs being thrown your way, and you might even vow to make personal changes in order to become whatever it is the narcissist says you’re not. You lose a bit of yourself, really.
Gaslighting Stage Three: Depression
“By the time you get to this stage you are experiencing a noticeable lack of joy, and you hardly recognize yourself anymore. Some of your behavior feels truly alien,” according to Marriage Advocates. “You feel more cut off from friends – in fact, you don’t talk to people about your relationship very much – none of them like your guy. People may express concern about how you are and how you are feeling – they treat you like you really do have a problem.”
At this point, you’re probably in need of a serious life overhaul. Whether you get professional help or you simply take your power back by recognizing the serious nature of the situation and taking appropriate action to make it change–you’ve got to do something.
Staying in a gaslighting situation is clearly dangerous for you as a person, but in some cases, it can become even more serious since some narcissists will abuse their victims physically too.
Learn More About Gaslighting in Toxic Relationships
What is gaslighting? Why do toxic people and narcissists gaslight you? What does it mean and how can you stop letting gaslighting bother you? How can you overcome toxic relationships? All of these questions (and more) answered in this video that features several YouTube experts, including Angela Atkinson, Ryan Long from Unleashing Potential, Lise Colucci from QueenBeeing, Colleen Brosnan from QueenBeeing, Dana Morningstar from Thrive After Abuse, and Kim Saeed from LetMeReach.com.
Remember: Gaslighters make you feel crazy because they act like your reactions to their abuse are not rational. 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.
“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.
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 them 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?
“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm [that they cause] does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” ~ T. S. Eliot
Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury go hand in hand. While they often claim that their raging behavior is related to stress, the opposite is true. In fact, narcissistic rage is triggered usually by some perceived insult, criticism, or disagreement that results in a narcissistic injury.
The average raging narcissist thinks that her victim intentionally caused this so-called “injury” and that the victim did so with a hostile motive. The reaction to this trigger is often intensely disproportionate to the actual “offense” committed by the victim—and invariably, the victim in these situations sees the narcissist as unreasonable, out-of-control, mean, or even just plain old crazy. If you’re the regular target of narcissistic rage, you need to know that it is REALLY not your fault! The rage isn’t about you, and it never was—it’s always been about the narcissist.
Surviving Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: Diffusing a Raging Narcissist
When you find yourself the victim of this kind of rage, you have to respond logically, not emotionally. “This is the catch-22,” writes Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. “To try to communicate emotions to a narcissist is like discussing atheism with a religious fundamentalist. They employ a myriad of defense mechanisms to cope with their repressed emotions: projective identification, splitting, projection, intellectualization, rationalization.”
Now, when I say respond logically, I don’t mean that you should try to use logic or reason to help the narcissist calm down—this almost never works. In fact, during a narcissistic rage, there really isn’t room for your opinion or side of the story at all—in fact, offering it will just prolong the confrontation.
Remember: it’s not about you—it’s about the narcissist. Try not to take it personally (even though the narcissist will stop at nothing to hurt your feelings and cause you to react—be prepared).
Diffuse a Raging Narcissist: Stay Calm and Avoid Reacting Emotionally
You’ve got to stay calm and if possible, simply remove yourself from the situation. If you can’t do that, take a deep breath be prepared to bite your tongue. Don’t bother to argue or try to reason with the narcissist. Instead, just let them know that you hear their concerns and avoid raising your voice or introducing any emotion into the conversation. This might also be a good time to employ the gray rock method.
Grey rock method (also known as the Gray Rock method), is a coping technique used by narcissistic abuse survivors to deal with their abusers in the most effective way possible. The method 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. Be aware that you will need to use this method with caution if you are dealing with any physical abuse as the narcissist may not react well.
First, understand that not a single thing you say will change the narcissist’s feelings during the rage. It doesn’t matter if she’s arguing that the sky should be red instead of blue—she’s right as far as she’s concerned, and there’s nothing that you or anyone else could say to change her mind. Remember: it’s about controlling the situation and being perceived by you as perfect. Any evidence that she’s losing control or not being perceived as perfect will further incite the rage. In order to end a rage, a narcissist needs to feel safe and in control of the situation—so if you simply want to end the temporary situation, then you may need to say whatever she needs to hear to feel that way again—especially if your safety is at stake, but even if it’s just your emotional well-being you’re trying to protect. The narcissist has specific patterns of abuse – and you need to familiarize yourself with them if you’re going to diffuse the narcissistic rage.
Understanding Narcissism: The Narcissist in Public
An interesting thing about most narcissists—being the charming and outgoing people they are, they project a public image of being “fun” and “laid-back,” but in private, it’s a whole other story. Behind closed doors, a narcissist feels safe to release his rage. And since he’s so often the life of the party, the nice guy, and the charmer that everyone loves to hang out with (in public, anyway), many people won’t have any idea what kind of person they’re really dealing with. So, unless someone personally witnesses this narcissistic rage, they can’t understand what life is like for the victim/target of the narcissistic rage—especially when it’s a lover, parent or family member.
Understanding Narcissism: The Narcissist and Projection
As the victim of narcissistic rage, you’ve likely been accused of being selfish or of ignoring the narcissist’s emotional or physical needs, of being dishonest, arrogant, lazy or any number of other insulting descriptives. But what’s really happening most of the time is projection—narcissists project their own inadequacies onto their victims. So as usual, it’s all about the narcissist, not about you.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
The Narcissist and Selective Memory
Narcissists are infamous for their selective memories. They may claim they said something that they never really did—and then get angry at you for “not listening.” Or they might even deny saying something that you KNOW they did say, but now regret. And, they’re likely to contradict themselves in the same breath, lashing out at anyone who points it out to them. In either case, you might feel like you’re going a little crazy when this happens—and it’s a sign of gaslighting.
When you love a narcissist, you have to understand your role in her life. A narcissist really doesn’t have any interest in being emotionally or intellectually stimulated by the people in her life. In fact, feedback of any kind can be perceived as a threat. People who love narcissists have really clear roles in their lives: they are the primary source of “narcissistic supply;” that is, they are expected to supply the narcissist with the admiration, respect, love, and attention the narcissists believe they deserve. But when these “suppliers” fail in their mission (in the narcissist’s opinion), the rage often turns against them. “A passive witness to the narcissist’s past accomplishments, a dispenser of accumulated Narcissistic Supply, a punching bag for his rages, a co-dependent, a possession (though not prized but taken for granted) and nothing much more,” Vaknin writes. “This is the ungrateful, FULL TIME, draining job of being the narcissist’s significant other.”
Have you been the victim of narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below.
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Maidana agrees, noting that everyone feels “fearful when we are pursuing something big in our lives.”
“It’s scary to drop what you’ve been doing for years and take a different path,” she adds. “It is scary to invest money in a project that we don’t know is going to be profitable. Nothing in this life is certain (well, they say that only taxes and death are).”
“This is not about making others wrong so you can be right. This is about you living your best life. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to those around you (yes, even the non-believers). The best service that you can do for yourself, and everyone around you, is to live your dreams, so you can shine from within and touch others with your light.” Read the full story at The Huffington Post