Toxic Gaslighting in Relationships: Inside a Narcissist’s Attack

Written by Angela Atkinson

If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist, whether it was your husband or your mother or your co-worker, there’s one thing that they all have in common: the gaslighting attacks.What happens inside a gaslighting attack

Gaslighting, of course, is the pervasive manipulation technique that toxic narcissists use to control the people around them and make them do as the narcissist wishes. It’s often about control, but it’s always about meeting some need or desire the narcissist has, not the well-being of anyone else. 

What happens inside of a narcissistic gaslighting attack

The attacks start when you least expect them, and no matter how long you’re together, they’ll always surprise you just a little. They’re triggered by the smallest things.

You ask the wrong question, or you answer the phone with a brisk tone that he interprets as anger or annoyance toward him.

Maybe you just look at him the wrong way at the right time. Or maybe you prove him wrong. Or you see through his lies and have the nerve to call him out.

In any case, he becomes a narcissist, injured. He begins systematically manipulating you and people around you, acting like he’s the victim.

He tells you and everyone who will listen how he tries and tries and you’re just unreasonable. He says he’s the one being abused, even. He has no limits to the levels to which he will stoop to get what he wants.

And that is exactly why he then he uses your own words against you – the ones you expressed the last time you tried to defend yourself when he attacked you.

For example, if you told him that you feel like he doesn’t care about you because of the way he speaks to you during your last confrontation, he may use the same words to claim narcissistic injury during this one. 

He repeats those words, almost verbatim, spitting them at you, projecting his own qualities on you – and making you wonder: is he right? Am I really the one at fault?

You are initially shocked to see how blatantly he twists the truth – and this shocked feeling may well continue each time these incidents occur, despite repeated similar incidents over the years.

And even when you’re an old hand at detecting the bullshit, you’ll still fall for it every now and then, if you’re not careful. 

You will try to explain the truth again. That’s about the tie he’ll begin to devalue you and question your sanity, and if he’s really skilled, you will soon begin to wonder if he’s right.

If you’re new to this kind of manipulation, or if you haven’t yet identified it as gaslighting, the fight will start to end here, because the narcissist will realize that the manipulation has worked and that you are falling hook, line and sinker for it.

But if you know what and who you’re dealing with, and you stand your ground, he may pull out all the stops.

He becomes a narcissist enraged, and this may alternate with the narcissistic injury.

He will dig through his mental inventory about this time, looking for the hot – button issues. You know, the ones that make you feel really raw and hurt on the inside? That sometimes cause you to lose the ability to stay focused on anything else? 

Yep. Those – he will bring them out whenever it suits him, and he won’t be nice about it. 

If you had a bad relationship with your mother, he’ll say you’re acting just like her. If you recently lost your job, he will point to your failure and compare it to this situation some how. And it’ll get worse if he’s aware of any kind of mental, physical or sexual abuse you’ve experienced in the past. 

Related: The Post-Gaslighting Effect – The Aftermath

It doesn’t matter what the real issue is – he won’t ever address it.

Instead, he will find little things to focus on, picks on tiny little made up issues that make you the bad guy and him the innocent victim. Gaslighting begins and the fight never ends – until you end it. Here are some of my best tips for overcoming this kind of manipulation. 

Take Back Your Life – Check out my best-seller on overcoming narcissism and gaslighting in relationships, right here. 

Recognize this stuff? Can you relate to these situations? Maybe you’re ready to take back your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 




  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor 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 personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, 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 Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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